In response to an inquiry by The Temple News, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia advised students to be wary of a man who claims to be soliciting on behalf of the organization, although he has no affiliation.
The man, who claims to be with BGC, has often been sighted near Paley Library, close to the intersection of 13th Street and Polett Walk, Montgomery Avenue and close to the Student Center.
When approached by a Temple News reporter while soliciting candy outside the Student Center in December, the man said his name is Lawrence, but refused to provide his last name.
He was carrying a clipboard and donation box with a BGC logo that didn’t appear to be professionally printed.
“I’m just a volunteer, I don’t get paid,” Lawrence said when asked about the nature of his fundraising. “I’m doing this for free, I want to help out the community a little bit.”
Lawrence said he could only take cash, not checks, for what he called the “local community group” for which he said he is fundraising. He told The Temple News that anyone interested in donating could also do so at BoysandGirlsClub.com, which he spelled out. That website, however, directs to the site for Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana, Calif. The website for BGCP is bgcphila.org.
Despite Lawrence’s claim of fundraising, Marcos Reynaga, a spokesman for BGCP, said the organization does not station representatives to solicit for donations anywhere on or near any university campus in Philadelphia. BGCP has also addressed reports of a street solicitor claiming to be part of the organization in Washington Square.
Lawrence claimed the organization he represents is based in West Philadelphia, “but we can canvass anywhere,” which contradicts BGCP’s official statement.
“BGCP does not solicit donations in this manner and does not currently have any individuals – staff or direct partners – collecting donations with management consent,” a BGCP statement emailed to The Temple News from Reynaga, said. “We have worked with fraternities and campus groups on short collection drives with proper consent in the past but not recently with BGCP staff making collections as has been described.”
BGCP acknowledged that some “charter groups within Boys and Girls Clubs of America” could potentially seek donations through street fundraising. Those organizations do not require BGCP consent, as they are not legally a part of the Philadelphia-based organization. Regardless, BGCP confirmed that any individual on Main Campus is not a legitimate employee or fundraiser of its office.
“We don’t have individuals collecting on any street corners,” Reynaga said.
Several students recalled encountering a solicitor on Main Campus as early as the spring semester of 2013 and continued reporting encounters throughout the end of this past fall semester.
Sophomore business management major Nicholas Bui said a man matching Lawrence’s description approached him three times during the past academic year. He said these encounters took place once outside Paley Library, once outside the Student Center and once outside of the 7-Eleven on Liacouras Walk.
Junior sociology major Michael Kovich said he called the BGC after doubting the individual’s credibility and received the same confirmation that the organization doesn’t have any representatives on Main Campus.
Students said they have seen the man selling both candy and granola bars for $5. Several recalled the solicitor indicating that proceeds of his sales went toward a youth basketball team associated with BGC.
Lawrence told The Temple News his organization is “not selling the granola [or candy] bars, we give them for free with a donation.”
Acting Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said CSS has received only one report, called in on Nov. 20, of a student being harassed by the solicitor. The call notified CSS officers that the man was outside of Johnson & Hardwick residence halls, but Leone said when officers arrived to the scene he was no longer present.
Leone said he aims to identify the individual as soon as possible and has alerted officers to be on the lookout for any individual seen soliciting in the manner described by students.
Leone said CCS’ policy, if it determines an individual’s credibility is questionable, is to issue a trespass warning and require them to leave campus immediately.
Should the person return to campus, officers may arrest the individual. Leone said CSS hopes to address the solicitor as soon as possible.
“We certainly don’t want anyone at Temple to get duped,” Leone said.
Former sophomore criminal justice major Taylor August recalled seeing the solicitor near Paley Library on a Thursday afternoon.
“He was walking around the circle by the Bell Tower,” August said. “I always thought he was friends with the preacher guy. He just seems weird. I never bought [a granola bar] because I was wondering [if he was] really from the Boys and Girls Club.”
Other students were frustrated by the man’s attitude toward their attempts to donate.
“My boyfriend tried to give him a dollar and he said, ‘No, I don’t want that, you can only give [money] in $5s and $10s,’” sophomore early childhood education major Chelsea Leigh said. “My boyfriend took his money back and we walked away.”
Bui recalled when the man “cut in front” of him and his friends and tried to sell them candy, “but he would only accept dollar bills and not any change.”
Leone said students should report any suspicious encounters to Temple Police.
Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @erinJustineET.