QUINCY — A court appearance scheduled for Monday in the civil case of 2×4’s for Hope vs. Mark and Chris Lawrence was postponed.
The two parties and their attorneys will meet with Judge Scott Larson in a case management conference at 10 a.m. Dec. 13. The parties and their representatives meet with the judge to define the issues in the proceedings, direct the appropriate use of evidence in the proceedings and schedule a timetable before a preliminary hearing. Case management conferences are usually held in the judge’s chambers.
The Lawrences are represented by Don Schuering. Gerry Timmerwilke is representing the 2×4’s for Hope board of directors.
2×4’s for Hope is a local charity which builds homes for homeless and at-risk veterans. The organization’s future is in doubt after its board voted Nov. 13 to remove Mark Lawrence as president and Chris Lawrence as treasurer. The Lawrences, who founded the group, were removed from the board entirely. The Lawrences were served a temporary restraining order on behalf of the 2×4’s For Hope board to keep the couple away from the charity’s finances and property.
Board members and associates removed some 2×4’s for Hope property — computers, tools, trailers and other construction equipment — from the Lawrences’ premises in Melrose Township, where most of it had been stored, on Nov. 13.
More than 30 people showed up on the Lawrence’s property on Nov. 20 with a dozen trucks and equipment to remove the remainder of the 2×4’s for Hope inventory and materials from a shed.
Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha said the Illinois State Police is handling the criminal investigation, which extends to multiple counties where the organization had built homes for veterans and where Mark Lawrence sold donated 2×4’s for Hope equipment and allegedly kept the proceeds for himself.
Farha had confirmed tools donated to 2×4’s for Hope by Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation — a Brookfield, Wis., company which develops, manufactures and markets power tools — began appearing at Jacksonville and Galesburg Warehouse Bargains stores. The tools were meant for use in the construction of housing for veterans.
Multiple sources also said the Milwaukee Tools representatives had given 2×4’s for Hope permission to resell some of the tools. The proceeds had to go to the charity’s coffers, and all proper tax documents were to be filed. Checks from Jacksonville and Galesburg Warehouse Bargains were not made out to 2×4’s for Hope but instead to Mark Lawrence, who allegedly did not transfer the funds into the charity’s accounts.
Farha also said multiple checks for tens of thousands of dollars allegedly were made out from 2×4’s for Hope to Lawrence Construction, a business owned by Mark Lawrence that ceased operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawrence Construction completed work on many of the veteran homes. However, Farha said the transfers were not mentioned to the board or approved by the board.
Sources were adamant that ownership of the Warehouse Bargains locations committed no wrongdoing and were “only doing what was asked of them.” Warehouse Bargains also has donated multiple items to 2×4’s for Hope to be used in the veterans’ homes including washer/dryer units, refrigerators, tile and other materials.
Sources say an inventory of all of those items also is needed to ensure all donated materials were delivered to their intended locations.