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'Help the Vets That Trump Forgot' sees windfall

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 22. 2016 2:26PM

A group that helps veterans from New Hampshire and Vermont is seeing a fundraising windfall after reports that Donald Trump did not, in fact, donate to it.

The Washington Post first reported that someone from the Donald J. Trump Foundation had told officials at Friends of Veterans, based in White River Junction, Vt., that it had given the group $1,000 in 2013.

The conversation took place in January after Trump had decided not to attend the final debate before the Iowa caucus and instead spent the evening raising $5 million to support veterans' organizations.

Larry Daigle, the president of Friends of Veterans, said it never received any donation.

“I don’t remember if the person said he was with the Trump campaign or the Trump Foundation but he said, you are on the list that they donated to you folks in the past,” Daigle said during a telephone interview Thursday.

“I have been here 15 years and I think that would stand out to me because we are a pretty small organization. It never happened.”

Ultimately, Friends of Veterans did not receive any of the $5 million that was handed out through late May. Liberty House, a shelter for veterans in Manchester, got $100,000. But financially, this story still has a happy ending for Daigle’s group.

Someone from the Daily Kos political blog helped set up a GoFundMe page for the organization, and in a single week it raised more than $21,500.

The group had a fundraising goal of only $2,000.

“One person pledged $3 per month all the way up to a $2,000 donation,” Daigle said. “Most of them are anonymous; some of them make a comment, something to do with Trump. One lady put it that I am donating because he didn’t. It is working out just fine.”

Friends of Veterans has an annual budget of about $150,000.

“I got $21,000 over the weekend and I didn’t do a darn thing to get it,” Daigle said.

Daigle credits publicity from The Post story, which CNN and other national news outlets picked up.

“We are going to keep the page up; it can only help us and we really appreciate it,” Daigle said.

Trump: Records mistaken

A Trump campaign spokesman claimed this was all a misunderstanding because the Trump Foundation records were mistaken.

“The Donald J. Trump Foundation reflected the incorrect address for a $1,000 donation to Friends of Veterans, Inc. The return inadvertently reported the address as 222 Holiday Drive, Suite 20, White River Jct., VT 05001. The correct address is c/o Mr. Ron Qualls, 274 Norwich, Building L, West Palm Beach, FL 33417. The $1000 contribution went to this Florida chapter,” said Cory Custer, communications director for Trump’s New Hampshire and Maine campaigns.

Daigle said that explanation still doesn’t sound right.

“Do I buy that? I don’t really know if I do,” Daigle said.

Some of the news reports about the controversy have been inaccurate, he explained.

“Some stories write as if we were promised this money and we never got it, but that was never the case,” Daigle said.

Daigle is an Army veteran who served a year in the Vietnam War with the 174th Assault Helicopter Company as a crew chief and gunner. He worked as a plumber until he became disabled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A resident of New York state, Daigle drives nearly 180 miles each way twice a week to volunteer with this group that gives out cash assistance to help veterans pay rent, utility or other bills that are overdue. Friends of Veterans pays the money to creditors and not to individual veterans.

“We try to help provide sustainability for these veterans so we make sure they get referred to an employment agency or the VA so they can get some assistance and not have to need the same help a month from now,” Daigle said.

The all-volunteer group has been around for more than 30 years and it has provided financial assistance to more than 300 veterans over the past five years, according to its website.

Both Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton are reaching out to veterans here and nationwide.

Clinton’s campaign launches a New Hampshire “veterans and military families together” tour on Sunday, with U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., a Marine combat veteran, a guest speaker.

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