Charity leaders settle lawsuit

A local charity that claimed to help U.S. veterans but instead kept most of the money it raised has been shut down by the state. The four organizers of the group, which was called No Veterans Left Behind, agreed to pay $4,800 to the Oregon Veterans' Home as restitution.

In a lawsuit filed last week, the Oregon Department of Justice alleged that David Shane Gilbert, Jeffrey Frank Grishkowsky, Kenda Jean Young and Molly Hicks, and their paid solicitors, set up booths in front of major retail stores in several Oregon counties, selling veterans-related gear and soliciting cash donations.

They told store owners and shoppers that No Veterans Left Behind was an all-volunteer group that gave between 75 to 80 percent of its donated proceeds directly to needy veterans. In fact, the organizers kept at least 80 percent of the donations for their own use, the Justice Department said, with at least $17,000 collected and improperly used.

Under the lawsuit settlement announced Wednesday, the organization will be dissolved and the non-profit's meager assets, which include little more than some T-shirts, banners and a weed wacker, will be turned over to the state. The four defendants agreed to pay a total of $4,800 over the next two years to the Oregon Veterans' Home and never engage in charitable activities again. If any of them violate the terms of the settlement, they must pay the state $75,000.

Gilbert, the organization's president, and Young, the treasurer, said they agreed to the state's settlement offer. But added they were disappointed and dismayed to be named in the lawsuit and accused of wrongdoing. They said they were simply trying to help veterans when they ran afoul of Oregon laws related to the proper operation of non-profit charities.

"There was no intent to ever do anything wrong," said Young. "This is shocking and embarrassing. I was so proud to try to be helping veterans. I feel terrible the government thought we were doing something wrong."

Gilbert, who owns a landscaping business, said he might continue to help veterans on a personal level. But he said he will never again try to run or work with a non-profit.

"It's over," Gilbert said. "I'm done. I wasn't looking for any problems. I was learning as I was going along. But it kicked me in the butt. My advice would be, before you jump in, know 100 percent what you're doing."

Young and Gilbert said each defendant will pay $1,200, their share of the $4,800 settlement.

"I'm paying $50 a month," Gilbert said.

Grishkowsky, the defunct organization's vice president, did not return calls. Hicks could not be reached for comment.

The Department of Justice last week also announced two additional lawsuits against veterans' charities and their fundraisers as well as settlements totaling $180,000 with a professional fundraising firm based in Florida and its client charity. All were accused of improper practices in raising funds for veterans and misleading donors.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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