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DAV collections help provide clothes, care for veterans

The Disabled American Veterans donation boxes collect soft items such as clothes, shoes and blankets for area disabled veterans. Items are often left outside the DAV boxes, such as this woven, broken-down chair, which should have been thrown away. Contributed Photo1 / 2
People often leave items outside of the DAV donation boxes when the boxes are filled to capacity in front of the Cloquet National Guard Armory. DAV does not accept furniture. The senior citizen volunteers end up moving large items in front of the boxes on a regular basis. Clothes, shoes and blankets are welcome donations to share with local disabled veterans. Contributed Photo2 / 2

The Disabled American Veterans are not a garbage service, although they want people to know their clothing donations are very much appreciated.

"We have had glassware, entire toy boxes and craft bins dumped in the DAV boxes," said Scott Bolander, the clothing pickup manager for the Carlton County Chapter 18 of Disabled American Veterans (DAV). "We've had knives in there. Broken glass and knives, those are a safety issue."

Bolander explained the 22 DAV boxes scattered throughout Carlton County are set out to collect soft goods such as clothes, shoes and blankets.

They do not accept any furniture, appliances, desks, vacuum cleaners or junk people just want to get rid of.

The biggest problem with furniture and junk is happening at the boxes in front of the Cloquet National Guard Armory, Bolander said, explaining that nothing should be stacked outside of any DAV box.

Once the boxes have been filled to capacity, people thoughtlessly leave their clothing, furniture and junk outside the boxes for the overworked and understaffed DAV volunteers to take care of.

Keep in mind that the average age of the Carlton County DAV volunteer is 70 years old. Now imagine them trying to lift heavy furniture or extra-large garbage bags filled to capacity or picking up the garbage.

After a rain, everything outside the boxes is soaked and most of it ruined. Once mildew has set in on some of the wet items, it can contaminate the rest of the donations once they are placed together in the van.

"The companies that host the boxes don't want to see this," said Bolander of the mess that sometimes accumulates outside.

He recommended if the DAV box is full, people should locate another box and put their bagged-up items inside.

Bolander prefers donations be placed into plastic shopping bags or garbage bags and tied to keep everything from spilling out.

"Every time I open one of those bins, it's amazing what we find and the sizes of some of the bags," said Bolander.

The volunteers gather about 7,000 pounds from the Carlton County boxes each week. Bolander empties the boxes every Wednesday. They would like to empty them more often, but need a few more volunteers first.

"It amazes me that we get 6-7,000 pounds per week, 52 weeks a year," said DAV Commander Rod Eslinger. "I don't know where they get the clothes from and the numbers are going up every year!"

In fact, business is so good that the Moose Lake location will be getting a sixth box.

"It's a good problem to have, a lot of stuff is coming in," said Bolander. "We will be switching four boxes for larger ones at the Cloquet Armory soon because it's been running about 95 percent full and we're not even busy yet."

According to their website, www.davchapter18.org, the money Chapter 18 collects is used to help veterans primarily in Carlton County. Last year the chapter helped a many veterans with such things as winter clothing, food, heat assistance, schooling. The chapter has also paid for outside medical examinations to help veterans with disability claims. Over the course of 2015, the chapter collected over 113,470 pounds of clothing.

In 2016 they collected about 220,000 pounds with the summer average of 7,400 pounds a month, said Bolander.

Once Bolander picks up the donations he brings them to Savers Thrift Store in Duluth and they process the donations for the DAV. The DAV gets paid according to the weight of the donations, then half of the money goes to the local chapter and the other half to the state DAV. Savers does not accept the donated furniture as the majority of it is in such poor condition.

DAV volunteers also make house calls to pick up donations from unsold rummage sales. Bolander cautions callers not to expect to hear back from him immediately. It usually takes the busy volunteer about a week to have time to return calls from all of the messages he receives.

Bolander decided to post on the online Facebook rummage sales of Cloquet and Carlton County last week when Cloquet held its citywide sales. He let residents know the DAV would have a truck stationed at the Armory from 2-5 p.m. Saturday for unsold rummage sale items. The DAV collected close to 3,000 pounds, according to Bolander. He said it was a successful day and plans to do it again this summer.

Speaking of volunteers, the DAV welcomes anyone interested in helping either with the DAV or as an auxiliary member. The auxiliary is open to men and women with a veteran anywhere in the family tree, even through marriage.

"I would love to have younger volunteers," said 69-year-old Eslinger.

Volunteers can help as much or as little as time allows. Help is needed with rummage sales, running the food wagon, highway cleanup or to empty the DAV boxes.

"We are 100 percent volunteers; nobody takes a wage here," said Eslinger. "Everything goes to the veterans."

Some of the money raised goes towards activities for disabled veterans, such as the annual fishing trips, deer hunting, ball games and more.

The DAV helps veterans in many ways, for example, after a home fire, if there is a sewer issue or if a veteran is in danger of being evicted from his or her residence.

Carlton County DAV works with Carlton County Veterans Services on a regular basis. They keep a fully stocked veterans closet free of charge in case of an emergency.

"We try to help any veteran," stressed Eslinger.

Anyone interested in volunteering or needing a pickup can call the DAV at 218-269-2193.

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Drop-Off Locations

DAV box drop-off sites are located at the Cloquet National Guard Armory, Pete and Sons, B&B Market, Exhaust Pros and Sammy's Pizza in Cloquet, at the Wrenshall Town Hall, Chickadee Coffeehouse in Barnum, near the recycling center near T.J.'s in Mahtowa, at Market Place Foods in Moose Lake, in downtown Esko, and at two sites in Carlton: Carlton Self Serve and Four Season Sports Complex.

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