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Article updated: 5/17/2013 11:27 AM

Disabled vets may find new home in Elgin

By Elena Ferrarin

A home for disabled veterans injured in the line of duty, and their service dogs, might be headed to Elgin.

The home would be run by the Save-A-Vet nonprofit organization in the former Bowes Retirement Center at 105 Gifford St., Mayor David Kaptain said. The center closed in late 2010.

Kaptain said he met Save-A-Vet CEO Danny Scheurer in September, and decided that it was time for Elgin to "walk the walk" in its commitment to helping veterans. Elgin would be a great location for the home, Kaptain said.

"Elgin has a large and active veterans' community," Kaptain said. "I am very confident this will move forward."

The building is owned by Mutual of Omaha Bank, which is considering donating the property to Save-A-Vet, Kaptain said.

City council members and neighbors, including the Gifford Park Association, are aware of the preliminary plans, he said.

Pending council members' approval, Elgin might also kick in some tax breaks to help facilitate the transaction, Kaptain said, though he declined to say how much that could be.

This would be the first home of its kind for the Illinois-based organization, which currently operates single homes for veterans in Round Lake and Addison, and possibly another soon in Joliet, said Scheurer, of Addison.

"Last we heard from (the bank's) lawyer, there is a strong feeling to help us out one way or another," he said.

A message left for Mutual of Omaha Bank was not immediately returned Thursday.

Save-A-Vet, an all-volunteer organization, started in 2007, said Scheurer, who said he's a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

About 40 to 50 veterans could live in the Elgin home, along with service dogs formerly used by police, military, Homeland Security and border patrol, Scheurer said.

The veterans would live there rent-free, but each would be assigned a job, ranging from taking care of the dogs, answering phones, repairing vehicles and more, he said. Each would also pay for his own food and portion of the utilities.

"If you are injured in the line of duty, you have disability coming in, so they would use that for their expenses," he said. "It's really hard to live on disability alone, but if you're not paying rent, it's a lot easier."

The veterans would also have to agree to random drug tests, he said.

If the project comes to fruition, Save-A-Vet will ask for people in construction trades to donate labor to help restore the vacant building, he said. "We're going to need tons of help to get it up and running as fast as possible," he said.

Save-A-Vet will be holding its 6th annual Bike and Hot Rod Poker Run fundraiser on Saturday, July 16 at four starting locations including Libertyville, Lisle, Glenview, and Camp Lake, Wis. For more information, visit saveavet.org or call (815) 349-9647.

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