Wheaton veterans' shelter gaining national attention in contest

  • Dirk Enger, co-founder of the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans, inside its Freedom Commissary. The organization is competing for an award from the Academy of United States Veterans.

      Dirk Enger, co-founder of the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans, inside its Freedom Commissary. The organization is competing for an award from the Academy of United States Veterans. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Dirk Enger, co-founder of the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Wheaton, speaks about the organization's mission.

      Dirk Enger, co-founder of the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Wheaton, speaks about the organization's mission. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Wheaton, co-founded by Dirk Enger, has been nominated for a Vetty award from the Academy of United States Veterans.

      Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans in Wheaton, co-founded by Dirk Enger, has been nominated for a Vetty award from the Academy of United States Veterans. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/19/2021 6:24 AM

The Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans has been helping people since 2007.

It's now asking for your help to win a contest that could provide a significant boost for its efforts.

 

The Wheaton-based charity has been nominated for a Vetty award from the United States Academy of Veterans.

"If you can get attention nationwide, that is huge for our organization," said Dirk Enger, Midwest Shelter's co-founder.

The shelter already has seen an increase in contributions from out-of-state donors who learned about the organization through the Vetty award's website.

Enger said the attention is welcome. The shelter had to unexpectedly purchase masks, sanitizer, thermometers and more in the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

The USAV, based out of Arlington, Virginia, was founded by Assal Ravandi, a public relations executive who was an Army intelligence analyst and language instructor. Its mission is to promote veterans' causes and service organizations in the media and the community.

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Enger, who lives in North Aurora, met Midwest Shelter co-founder Bob Adams at a political rally in Milwaukee in 2001. Both were supporters of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

They got to talking about the struggles military veterans face upon return to civilian life. Adams, a Wheaton resident, had been in the Vietnam War.

"You (the public) never really get to see the wounds of war -- the real unseen war wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and mental fatigue," Enger said. "Nobody knows about it but them."

Adams struggled with alcoholism for 16 years after the war. He eventually became a social worker and therapist.

The organization, which provides transitional housing for homeless veterans, opened its first home in 2007.

Midwest Shelter also has two affordable housing homes for low-income, single veterans and a scatter-site permanent supportive-housing program, where chronically homeless veterans who have a disabling condition can live in a one-bedroom apartment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The organization offers mental-health counseling and other programs to help veterans and their families, including how to budget and how to apply for government assistance.

It also has the Freedom Commissary, offering household goods, hygiene products small appliances and furniture to income eligible veterans.

"It's not charity. They fulfilled their obligation to the nation," Enger said, and now it is the nation's turn to help them.

The Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans is in the "caregiver" division of the Vetty contest. Public votes are being taken until May 12. To vote, visit ausvfoundation.org/nominations.

• Do you know of veterans helping other veterans, doing good things for their community or who have an interesting story to tell? Share your story at veterans@dailyherald.com.

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