Planet Aid criminal links questioned by resident

Exeter News-Letter/January 21, 2005
By Christ Bernard

Exeter -- In a letter to the Board of Selectmen, a resident complained about yellow clothing donation boxes set up at the town's transfer station and elsewhere in Exeter.

The boxes are owned by Planet Aid, a Massachusetts-based company that resells the clothing and uses the proceeds for development in Third World nations.

In the letter, discussed at Monday's meeting, Sheila Roberge said Planet Aid is linked with a larger group called Tvind. She cited newspaper articles in Chicago and Boston exposing Tvind as a "criminal enterprise ... that intertwines charities with for-profit business ventures."

Roberge also listed several Web sites dedicated to unraveling the relationship between Tvind, Planet Aid and scores of similar clothing donation companies.

"People in Exeter and the Seacoast area should be donating clothing to Goodwill Industries or to other local charities and definitely not to Planet Aid," she wrote (full letter on Page A11).

Planet Aid New England spokesman Ron Dellmuth said the group has more than 1,100 boxes in New England and almost half a dozen in Exeter.

The boxes have been a success in the region, he said.

"We've gone from averaging 125,000 pounds a week to about 525,000 pounds," he said. "That's each week. We've got 13 drivers."

Selectmen decided to leave the boxes at the transfer station for the time being.

"Until we have some reason to remove them, we're going to leave them up," said Town Manager George Olson. "I don't want the town to have a part in anything nefarious or illegal."

Chairman Bill Campbell agreed.

"I think that's what the board's position is," he said. "(Planet Aid) sounds OK, but there might be some problems - let's reconsider it before we decide anything."

Olson said the board would look into the organization, though he said no criteria had been established for whether or not the boxes would be removed.

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