LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- DAV Thrift Stores operated in Colorado for decades with profits going to assist disabled American veterans and their families.
But not anymore as the organization announced last week it shuttered its final two stores in the state.
The nonprofit that has served thousands who've served now needs help itself.
The sign posted to its Lakewood store in the 6800 block of West Alameda Avenue says closed -- permanently.
The DAV Department of Colorado has no income now. It is dipping into its savings to keep their operations running with an important mission: To serve veterans.
"The stores are closed permanently because of this situation," DAV Department of Colorado spokesman Andrew Grieb said.
DAV Department of Colorado closed its last two stores in the state, in Lakewood and Colorado Springs.
Dandelions now populate its Lakewood store parking lot instead of shoppers. It had about six stores in the state at one time.
"As long as I can remember, we've had thrift stores. That's a long legacy. But, unfortunately, the situation has left us high and dry," Grieb said.
The private nonprofit says it can't compete with corporate-owned thrift stores.
And it couldn't overcome a contract dispute with its management company, which the DAV said owes them for property taxes.
"We are over $200,000 right now that is owed to Disabled American Veterans. And that's money that could have gone to aid and assist veterans. And now it's out of our pockets," Grieb said.
Profits from the thrift stores went to support 16 DAV chapters in Colorado, like one on East Colfax Avenue.
"Come on in. We'll get things going for you," said Jim Sharp, who works at Chapter 21 as a service officer.
Here, they help veterans file benefits claims, offer transportation and camaraderie, along with assistance with day-to-day needs -- all for free.
“They helped me greatly. I am now considered 100 percent disabled by the VA. And without that, I would not have been able to send my sons to college," Grieb said.
Now, the organization hopes they can continue helping future veterans with their physical, mental, social and economic rehabilitation.
"We have savings. We are able to operate. We are going to continue to operate as best we can. But we are back to relying on the goodwill of the folks of Colorado, to let them know they care about their veterans who have served," Grieb said.
The Colorado DAV plans to sell its two stores. It anticipates it can continue to operate for another two to three years with that money.
In the meantime, it is hoping for public donations. It is also working on changing its nonprofit status so it can apply for grants.