Volunteer rips off $4,300 from Vancouver non-profit

VANCOUVER, Wash. - A Vancouver non-profit that works with low income and special needs kids examined its books recently and noticed that a volunteer had been skimming cash from its account.

The Kids Cooking School aims to teach children basic kitchen skills, plus table manners, gardening and shopping skills.

Heidi O'Connor founded Kids Cooking School three years ago. She said in February a volunteer who was in charge of buying groceries used the group's debit card to buy fast food and clothes. The volunteer even used the car on a vacation in Texas.

The family member of the volunteer bookkeeper had been sick, so the extra purchases only recently came to light.

At first O'Connor thought the misused funds only totaled $1,200.

When they confronted the volunteer, O'Connor said she returned the debit card, left a check for $700 and quit.

Only later did it come to light that the volunteer stole $4,300.

"You start adding it up and you're wondering 'why is our bank account so low?" O'Connor said. "There was only $300 in there when I called her."

O'Connor said there may not be enough money left in their account to stay open.

"How do you explain to them? And the special needs kids, this means the world to them," O'Connor said. "And their parents - their parents can't find another place to work with their kids like we work with them."

Another volunteer called the Clark County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday to report the theft. KATU is not naming the suspect until investigators press charges.

Investigators say that since some of the money was paid back this case may end up in small claims court.

The school has set up an online fundraiser page to help replace the stolen funds. O'Connor said they can also use WinCo or Grocery Outlet gift cards to help buy groceries.