Palatine veterans helping other vets get back on their feet after homelessness

Jim Dunne's desire to help those who become homeless after serving in the military has expanded into a significant operation.

Dunne, his brother, Dan, Patrick Sweeney and Bob Haas - all Palatine military veterans - are the backbone of Northwest suburban donation drives to benefit the Veterans Exiting Homelessness program.

Jim Dunne, 74, who served in the Army from 1968 to 1970, said he was accompanied by his brother and Sweeney for a meeting with officials at Northbrook-based Military Outreach USA in fall 2016 that led to their volunteerism for Veterans Exiting Homelessness. The program provides life's basics to vets who receive a place to live after being homeless.

"I have a sales background," Dunne said. "I sold for many years, so that's kind of my DNA. And I thought this is a nice opportunity for me to go out and talk to various churches, schools, clubs, organizations in the area, to tell them about what this program involves and get them to support us by giving us what we call move-in essentials."

Qualified homeless veterans typically receive vouchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs that pay apartment rent for up to 36 months. Military Outreach's Veterans Exiting Homelessness fills a gap for those moving into the empty apartments by providing the donated basics, such as kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items.

In just a little more than two years, at least $150,000 worth of household essentials have been collected by Veterans Exiting Homelessness in the Northwest suburbs to help clients from the Chicago area's three VA medical centers. The collections accelerated after totaling $50,000 at the end of 2017.

However, the growth meant the organization needed storage assistance. Sweeney said he and the other Palatine vets had to return to places where donation drives were held to load VA trucks so the items could be delivered.

Word about the storage need filtered to Tom Koenig, owner-operator of Units Moving and Portable Storage in Buffalo Grove. Koenig now donates portable units for on-site collections and storage space for the household essentials, with the three VA medical centers now picking up the items at the Buffalo Grove facility.

Dunne and the other Palatine men volunteering for Veterans Exiting Homelessness say they enjoy the work because they know the need is real.

"As holds true with most, when you give of yourself, you get a hundred times back," Dunne said. "It's just a great feeling to know we're helping people who need it a lot more than we do. We are veterans and we are fortunate. We came out of it, for the most part, OK."

Four Palatine veterans are leading collections for donations if household basics for Veterans Exiting Homelessness in the Northwest suburbs. Here, items were donated at St. Mary Parish in Buffalo Grove. Courtesy of Veterans Exiting Homelessness
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