The IAFF has been made aware of individuals claiming to represent the best interests of fire fighters. However, in the past these same individuals have failed to pass on their charitable solicitations to the groups they were intended to benefit.
Ralph and Barbara Mroz operate the “Foundation for First Responders and Firefighters” and the "Firefighters Support Foundation." The organization describes itself as a 501©(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization dedicated to assisting fire fighters and rescue personnel perform their jobs effectively and safely through free training. The group says it also tries to mitigate the causes and effects of life-threatening on-scene dangers with equipment grants to under-funded agencies and through assistance to families with children of fallen fire fighters. They perform fundraising efforts across the United States.
However, the website fails to mention that the Mrozes are professional fundraisers known for raking in the big bucks without giving much to the charities they operate.
These professional solicitors, along with another couple (David and Jill Kenik), created the Disabled Police and Sheriff’s Foundation in 2002. The group claimed the organization was formed in order to give financial assistance to disabled officers and train police. The group changed its name five times and raised nearly $9 million over a decade – with 85 percent of the money collected staying with the solicitors. Grants to disabled officers or families of fallen officers have averaged less than $9,000 a year.
The Mrozes went on to form Firefighters Support Foundation, a charity that relies on telemarketers which kept 90 percent of $3.6 million raised from the public in 2011. Ralph Mroz serves as president and his wife, Barbara has served in several roles including vice-president and treasurer of the charity organization. Barbara Mroz was a paid administrator for both the Disabled Police and Sheriff’s Foundation and the Firefighters Support Foundation, but it was reported the Mrozes ended their affiliation with the Disabled Police and Sheriff Foundation in 2011.
The couple’s IRS 990 report shows that through a professional solicitor they raised $4,148,093. The professional solicitor received $3,732,269, while heir charitable grants for the year were only $103,000.
There are some reputable fire groups that are helping to raise funds for the charity, which can be found at: http://www.charitynavigator.org/. You can also support the IAFF Charitable Foundation, which helps IAFF members and their families in their time of need, promotes fire and burn prevention and advocates for fire fighter health and safety.
The IAFF is asking that you beware of groups like these and we hope no IAFF instructor is involved in any of the trainings that are presented on the organization’s website.