Dear Sun Spots: It is my understanding that two bills will greatly affect the generous folk who donate food and/or their time hand-making hundreds of mittens, hats, slippers and scarves for the homeless, service organizations, military, local Christmas programs and school children. One will require costly inspections of the yarns used. Most yarns are donated, and for the most part their origin or brand cannot be determined.

The other legislation will eliminate donated foods for public suppers and gatherings. While I sincerely empathize with the reasoning that prompted these bills, I wonder how much thought went into considering the ramifications on the donors, recipients and small businesses that sell such items.

Could Sun Spots please clarify these issues and print the addresses of those we might contact to voice our concerns for the recipients of these donations and for those good people who spend hours trying to help those less fortunate and save the taxpayers support monies? – Sylvia, West Paris.

Dear Sun Spots: Before we went away for a couple months there was dialog in this paper about a federal law requiring expensive testing of fabric and knitted products for children. At the time home crafters and others were asking if this would mean they could no longer make and sell such items. A group of us do this type of project for church sales and other nonprofits and for sometimes for ourselves to sell for profit. I wonder what the status of that ruling is at present and whether any clarifications or revisions have been made or are in the works that would allow us to continue. – No Name, No Town.

Sun Spots apologizes for hanging on to this request; it took some digging to find the legislation you were referring to, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

We found the following information from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is the government group that enforces the act and can give you more information. You may register for e-mail alerts at for announcements and other updates from the commission, or write to the group at 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814. They are taking comments and questions regarding the reauthorization legislation of the act.

The law is meant to protect children from lead poisoning and states that children’s toys with more than 600 parts per million (ppm) of lead can no longer be sold or donated. It will effect anyone who “makes, produces or assembles a product. . . . If what you make is sold or donated, something as simple as adding ribbons to hair clips, knitting hats, or stringing beads into necklaces makes you a manufacturer.”

The commission is currently working to determine exemptions to the lead content limits. Until the exemptions are finalized, you can use certain materials in making products without risk of sanction or penalties by the commission, as long as the manufacturer, distributor or seller does not have actual knowledge that the products have more than the acceptable lead limit.

These materials include “children’s products made of yarn, dyed or undyed fabrics and natural materials such as untreated wood or cotton” as these do not contain lead levels that exceed the lead limits. Therefore, the yarn you use for knitting these items would be exempt.

For those making items to donate, they suggest avoiding making children’s products with soft vinyl or plastic, buttons or zipper pulls, or metal jewelry or embellishment or other pieces that may exceed the lead limits.

A representative from Sen. Bruce Bryant’s office advises crafters to ask for written proof from the companies you purchase from that their components do not exceed the lead limit.

Because this is a federal law, contact Congressman Mike Michaud’s office at 782-3704 to voice concerns or submit your concerns to the Consumer Product Safety Commission at the address listed above.

Dear Sun Spots: On March 28, Kim Couture held her last benefit supper to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis Society. The spaghetti supper was held at the St. Rose Parish Hall in Jay. Her MS walk team, the Jay Walkers, and some friends helped at the supper.

Poland Spring in Kingfield donated a pallet of water for the supper and the walk. There was also a raffle with 33 beautiful homemade prizes, made by family and friends. Kim has been doing the suppers since 1995. In the 14 years that she has been doing this she has turned in more than $33,000 to the MS Society.

Kim would like to thank everyone who has helped her over the years. Kim would like to send a special thank you to the three Castonguay sisters who have helped her every year with the supper. She would also like to thank her four sons and her husband, Shawn, who have been there for her since she was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago. – Kim Couture, Jay.

Dear Sun Spots: Who can I contact to talk to about credit card billing every month on my monthly bill? They charge finance charges even though I’ve paid the amount due on time. Any help on this problem would be very greatly appreciated. Thanks. – RC, Lewiston.

Answer: Sun Spots consulted Jackie Wiegleb, regional director of education and community relations at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Maine in South Portland for assistance with your request.

Wiegleb suggests that you contact the credit card company directly, so you can have an open conversation with them about the finance charges and where they stem from.

She notes that if a balance is being carried on the account each month then you will definitely incur finance charges. After speaking with the company, if you discover that there is a fee system in place even when the card is paid in full, then Wiegleb said it’s time to shop around for a card with better terms.

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