7 On Your Side: GoFundMe miscommunication threatens funds raised for veterans memorial in NJ

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Thursday, November 11, 2021
GoFundMe miscommunication threatens funds raised for veterans memorial
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A group of New Jersey veterans teamed up with local high school students to conceive a magnificent new memorial for fallen heroes.

EDISON, New Jersey (WABC) -- A group of New Jersey veterans teamed up with local students to conceive a magnificent new memorial for fallen heroes, but after the plans were drawn and donations started coming in, they hit a problem that could mean surrendering all their contributions.

Veterans Day is a time-honored tradition taking place in small towns across America, including Edison, where the local VFW and American Legion have been trying to update their aging memorial for the last decade.

"Hopefully this time next year, this entire park is going to be redesigned," said Brian Schreck, with VFW Post 3117.

The stalled project got a reboot recently when JP Stevens High School students drew up a new vision.

"In the center, we plan to have the center monument," student Zaina Merchant said. "It's important to educate people and commemorate our veterans because they fought for our country and we wanted to emphasize that in our design."

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Merchant was one of three architecture students whose plan for a park complete with memorial slabs for seven U.S. wars was accepted by the town.

"They did great work," said Gary Thomas, also with VFW3117. "It's amazing how they came up with this stuff."

JP Stevens teacher Therese May said the students were the toast of the school and they worked so hard.

They raised more than $1,000 using a GoFundMe page, but now, their work is threatened after receiving an email from GoFundMe that said all donations would be refunded if they couldn't verify the organization by Thanksgiving.

"Are we going to lose this money? Are they gonna shut us down?" Schreck said. "The clock was ticking in my eyes to get this taken care of."

Sgt. Dave Tingle, a six-tour Air Force veteran who just returned from the evacuation in Afghanistan on September 11, said their memorial page was flagged for being a business.

But the American Legion is a nonprofit, and the group said it emailed GoFundMe for over a week to fix the page.

"People were donating money to get the project up and going, and now, GoFundMe is going to return everything back after all the hard work," the VFW's Phillip Olivero said.

So they turned to 7 On Your Side.

"I couldn't get anyone to actually talk to me," Schreck said. "Then it hit me, I'm going to contact 7 On Your Side."

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Within an hour of us contacting GoFundMe, the veterans got a call all their money would be put into their account.

"GoFundMe got in touch with us and fixed the issue on their side," Schreck said.

GoFundMe apologized for the communication problems.

The veterans never knew GoFundMe requires standard fundraisers to start withdrawing donations within three months of starting the page.

"We're getting our money, it's a Veterans Day present," Schreck said. "Thank you very much for what you did."



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