I have been sponsoring a nonprofit federal 501c3 here on the reservation for the last four years. My wife Carli Gonzalez is the founder and president of Vision Keepers, a 100% Native American nonprofit and has a Vision for the people who struggle with the continuing intergenerational obstacles placed before them. Providing free assistance to tribal members in four distinct areas: Health, social, cultural, and economic interests of the family.
In our quest to become a federal 501c3 we had Lake County Development assist us in the federal technicalities. The Client Services Manager helping us, who we will not name at this time, she helped to ease along the process and we came to trust her completely. In August 2016 after obtaining our 501c3 status and our building at 15143 US Hwy 93 after unknown reasons our LCCD manager left Lake County employment and decided to consult Vision Keepers under her C2 Business Solutions as an independent agent. At this point we were well on our way to finally being able to build infrastructure and stability to bring the people the help they deserve. After working on furnishing our building painting, remodeling, replacing windows, maintenance and putting supposed like minded people in our office and on our board of directors by September 2017 we had received our first grant for the Indian Business Education program. A week later we received our second grant for infrastructure. Up until this point Vision Keepers has been financed and supported by 75% of Carlita’s monthly income and 25% of my income exclusively for the last four years. We have not at any time ever been reimbursed for any financial support. It was at this point that we began to see unsettling behavior in not only our consultant but also the people she was bringing on board to help with our projects. In early October Carli and I were attending the AATC federal Armed to Farm Seminar full time for nine days at Ninepipes and had asked our C2 Business Solutions consultant to manage putting our Native American business class together while we were concentrating on our farm program. A few days into our farm program we received a call from our consultant reporting problems with her employees and feeling overwhelmed. Carli and I were committed to finishing our program and trusted that our LCCD former manager would manage to work out her problems. The next four weeks was a tough one for Carli and I as I fell ill and was hospitalized suffering from an unknown blood disease. In this short period of time our consultant and her employees managed to illegally disperse almost all of the funds from Vision Keepers project accounts into their own pockets. On our return and now everyone knowing the jig is up, they abandon our building taking with them, valuable items including furniture, paperwork, and even the pictures off the walls.
The moral of this story is to be wary of supporters whose motives are to operate their underhanded under the table dealings while working under the protections and kindness of a federal 501c3. I have not mentioned any names to protect the innocent until an investigation has been done by our attorney and the state and federal officials being done now. Carli and I are hurt by the actions of these people who have no interest in helping anyone but themselves. They have not only done damage to our hard work but also a slap in the face to the Native American people here that we tirelessly serve. Vision Keepers is not giving up, we are still here. As a sponsor of Vision Keepers I will continue to support this nonprofit and expect no profit from it. Carlita Gonzalez will also continue to operate Vision Keepers with the Vision for the people and the tireless work to bring hope to those less fortunate than others. As usual we invite volunteers, and would love to hear from grant writers or to openly discuss this matter in public.
Thomas Gochis, Plains