Longtime Pierce County veterans’ charity VIEW may be forced to close due to coronavirus pandemic
The Veterans Independent Enterprises of Washington (VIEW) at University Place will most likely close permanently in September if they can no longer find work.
A 30-year-old charity that has helped thousands of struggling veterans gain stable employment and stable housing is set to close permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the organization’s leadership at non-profit.
“All things being equal, we won’t survive until the end of September,” said Damon Hunt, chief operating officer of the Washington Veterans Independent Businesses (VIEW)based at University Place.
The VIEW operates a warehouse where veterans pack products, perform assembly work, and move and store products for local businesses. Boeing is its biggest customer, but since the coronavirus pandemic, orders for the aerospace giant have fallen sharply.
“We love working with Boeing and for Boeing. But the simple fact is that there just isn’t enough work to do. They’re not able to give us enough work to (keep open),” Hunt said.
He said the operation was losing $10,000 a month and didn’t have the reserves to continue without getting new business.
“If someone could provide us with a warehouse to work from and someone could provide us with work to do, these guys are up for the challenge and they will perform.”
The VIEW was at the center of a survey 2019 by KING 5 which revealed how former VIEW director Rosemary Hibbler embezzled thousands of dollars from the charity for her personal gain.
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Banking and court records obtained by KING 5 revealed that Hibbler spent money intended to help veterans, gamble at local casinos, pay his personal debts to the IRS, personal rent and other expenses.
At the same time, veterans working for VIEW often found themselves without a paycheck for weeks.
The KING 5 survey found it wasn’t the first charity to be a victim to Hibbler.
Hibbler denied any wrongdoing.
The cover prompted the Washington State Attorney General’s Office take action by asking, for the first time in state history, a superior court judge to take over a charity.
A Pierce County Superior Court judge cleared the new direction ten months ago. Since then, veterans employed by VIEW said the organization had seen a complete turnaround – people were being paid in full, on time, and morale had improved greatly.
“We as a team have been fighting to keep this place going for so long,” said Army veteran Scott Schulz of Fife. Schulz has worked at VIEW for 25 years, longer than anyone else.
“Me and the veterans who work here have been through so much and these veterans have stood their ground,” Schulz said. “(And now) we are in dire straits.”
The association also has four houses in Tacoma that provide essential housing for veterans.
“It is crucial that we save him. Because VIEW not only provides formerly homeless people with work, but also homes,” Hunt said. “It supports people, human beings, it supports these veterans.”
Shultz, who is nearly 60, fears being forced into the streets. He supports himself and three members of his family.
“It’s pretty scary. I could face homelessness; me and my daughter and my granddaughters. Shultz said. “For the past two years, not knowing when we were going to get paid, or if we were going to get paid, has wiped out everyone’s savings.”
Click here if you or someone you know can offer work at VIEW or want more information on how to help.
“It’s my prayer the phone will ring,” manager Damon Hunt said. “These guys deserve it. They’ve worked hard, they’ve served their country, and they need a chance.
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