Whether a veteran needs help furnishing their residence, paying a bill or even a vehicle, the Carlton County Chapter 18 Disabled American Veterans is here to help.
Need a walker? Check. How about a wheelchair? They have that also.
According to Senior Vice President Gary Dahl, 76, the DAV keeps a container full of supplies to meet almost any need of a veteran. Dahl was a corpsman in the Navy from 1961-66 and was deployed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now he stays active helping his fellow veterans.
The average age of a Carlton County DAV volunteer is around 70. There are 400 members. It also has an auxiliary group.
The DAV volunteers with Veterans on the Lake each year. They coordinate seven to 10 boats with the captains, who donate their time and fuel to help veterans fish.
They cook and serve the Thanksgiving meal at Zion Lutheran Church in Cloquet each year and help with delivering meals. The DAV does the same for the Cloquet National Guard Armory Christmas party.
“We work a lot with the Fond du Lac veterans,” Dahl said.
A combination of area organizations from the VFW, American Legion and DAV make up the local Honor Guard.
Donation boxes a big task for DAV
The DAV also has 24 donation boxes set up around the county. Volunteers spend hours emptying the boxes once a week.
Since the Goodwill store in Cloquet closed, donations have increased. It’s a mixed blessing for the organization. While it receives more items it can use, it also receives more garbage and items that volunteers need to spend time sorting and throwing away.
The green boxes are set up for clothing, shoes, boots and jackets only. Volunteers had around 60-75 garbage bags out of just the boxes in front of the armory Tuesday, Nov. 5. Despite the 16-degree morning, the volunteers had a majority of the seven boxes emptied by 9 a.m.
There was one box about 4 feet tall and 3 feet deep full of clothing that was dumped in without being bagged first. Volunteers patiently sorted through the entire pile, noting if an item still had tags, or if it needed to be thrown. They found a full bag of kitchen garbage in one of the boxes. They pulled out toys, tattered purses and shoes, plush animals and a big plastic pumpkin.
They have two big trucks they begin to fill. They also have a wooden trailer with several bags of trash already set inside.
“By the time we’re done, this trailer will be full,” Dahl said.
“We have found baby mattresses out here and golf clubs,” Domingo Martinez Jr., the clothing pickup manager for the Carlton County DAV, said. “People throw their trash in here. If they are moving, they throw everything in here without packing it up, like dishes, and we have to clean it up.”
They have also found an old sewing machine with the wooden stand inside a box as well as pieces of carpet full of broken glass that could cut whoever reached into the box.
The volunteers spend around four hours emptying the boxes and pick up around 8-9,000 pounds of donations each week. The DAV will also pick up usable donations after garage sales.
The Savers thrift stores accept 5,000 pounds of clothes from the DAV every week. Two stores closed in the Twin Cities, so that number is lower than in the past.
Savers is a for-profit professional fundraiser. Savers pays the DAV 39 cents per pound for the bags of clothing.
“One-hundred percent of the money made by us stays in the county,” Dahl said.
Other fundraisers by the DAV include the brat wagon four times a year and the sale of flowers for Forget Me Not Day, similar to the American Legion's National Poppy Day.
The DAV provides about $3,500 annually for scholarships for children of veterans.
Local DAV donation boxes
Doesn't include all DAV Chapter 18 of Carlton County box locations
- Carlton County Transfer Station
- Recycling center, 301 Walnut Ave.
- Harold's Service, 309 Third St.
- Nicholson-Sellgren VFW Post 2962
- B&B Market
- Cloquet Armory
- Exhaust Pros
- Perch Lake Fire Department
- Pete's Phillips 66
- Sammy’s Pizza
- Thomson Township Hall
- Trapper Pete's
- Elaine's house, 400 Third St.
- Recycling center, next to arena
- Marketplace Foods
- Wrenshall City Hall