A World War II veteran is still serving the community as she nears 100. Here's her birthday wish.
Reaching 100 years old is one thing, but leading a building campaign for your birthday takes the celebration to another level.
Waukegan resident and World War II veteran Lorraine Knuth regards her support of the Midwest Veterans Closet as an extension of her duty.
"This is a must. We have to have a bigger place," said the near centenarian, who will turn 100 on Halloween.
"For my birthday, I would like a donation to help me build a new home for the Midwest Veterans Closet so we can help more men and women just like me," the still spry Knuth says in a short video.
The organization also is asking well-wishers to flood Knuth with birthday cards and hopes to reach 100 by her birthday. Because she doesn't have a computer or a cellphone, cards should be mailed the old-fashioned way to Midwest Veterans Closet at 2323 Green Bay Road, North Chicago, 60064.
Midwest Veterans Closet relies on donations to provide food, clothing, household items and other basic needs as well as leads for employment and housing at no charge to veterans of all ages.
It has been operating in a cramped building on Green Bay Road just north of the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago. Property has been acquired to expand services, such as providing music and art therapy, and start fresh, but about $3 million is needed, according to Mary Carmody, executive director.
"She wants her birthday to be the fundraiser," Carmody said of Knuth, whom she met and befriended three years ago. "Who has a 100-year old as her capital campaign chairwoman?"
Knuth grew up in Langlade County in Wisconsin and enlisted in the Women's Army Corps.
"She joined because she saw a poster that said, 'Join to free up a man to go to war,'" according to Carmody.
Those who enlisted rode by train to basic training in Daytona Beach, Florida. At stops along the way, meals would be ready for them at restaurants called "Harvey houses."
After basic training, Knuth was stationed at Camp Stoneman near San Francisco, the largest port of embarkation for soldiers. More than a million soldiers, as well as German and Italian prisoners of war, were housed and fed there.
Knuth worked in the hospital as a special diet cook.
"We were the first women to take over an Army mess hall," she said. She served for two years and four months until the war ended.
"I signed up for the duration. If the war had been 10 years, I would have in 10 years," she said. "We were terribly, terribly busy."
She settled in Waukegan 60 years ago.
A number of local dignitaries and supporters are expected for the birthday drive-by/fundraiser at the new building site, 1720 Green Bay Road.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Knuth's message on the Midwest Veterans Closet Facebook page had reached more than 60,000 and been shared 444 times.
Carmody said she recently delivered 60 cards that had been received so far and Knuth read every one.