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Beaver Dam donation drive for veterans has huge response

WiscNews - 12/14/2018

Dec. 14--In divisive times too often beset by negativity, a Beaver Dam woman set out to be an oasis of positivity -- only to find herself surrounded by like-minded people .

Patty Knoll has been organizing a drive to collect donated items for homeless veterans, and the outpouring of support from the community has left her "amazed, overwhelmed and grateful."

"There are so many bad stories in the news, but the response to this drive has been unreal," she said. "My faith in humanity has been restored."

Knoll, a single mother of two grown daughters, said the idea to help veterans came to her last year around the holidays.

"I was sitting alone in my old farmhouse and the windows aren't that great. I was just freezing, watching TV, when a bunch of commercials came on with families wishing soldiers a Merry Christmas. I thought about veterans who are serving and about what happens to them when they return," she said. "Here I had a roof over my head, but was still so cold. I imagined myself in the shoes of a homeless veteran and decided I wanted to do something for them."

Although Knoll does not have any family in the military, she has friends who served and always felt deep pride and respect for them.

"I put out a post on social media last year and collected 10 bags of items right away from friends," Knoll said. "I wanted to get names of veterans who needed help, but I was naive. Because of privacy issues and ... regulations, that information wasn't available to me. So I donated the items to the homeless shelter in town and decided to get ahead of things for this year."

Knoll contacted the Dodge County Veterans Service office in Juneau and was told about a new home for veterans in Lomira called Warrior House. After doing some research, she decided to hold a donation drive and give the items to the nonprofit organization Salute the Troops, which manages Warrior House. The facility assists male veterans seeking transitional housing and support.

Based in Fond du Lac, Salute the Troops helps veterans from Dodge, Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties.

"It was important to me to be able to help our local vets," Knoll said.

According to the organization's website, Warrior House aims to create opportunities to foster positive rental history, collaborate with local employers to initiate employment opportunities, empower veterans to find purpose through supportive programming designed specifically for each veteran, all while supporting the community.

Knoll is a member of Get Fit Health Club in Beaver Dam and asked the club's owner, Marie Cigelskie, if she could set up a collection bin there. The donation drive started in the middle of November.

"She was more than willing to help and the donations came in faster than I ever expected," Knoll said. "Marie was calling me almost daily to say the bin was full again."

Knoll took donations back to her home to clear up the space at the health club. She said two bedrooms of her house are filled waist-high with donations.

Notes and cards for the veterans have been attached to many of the donation bags and a large variety of items have been received.

"There are handmade quilts, afghans and hats, lots of toiletries, some canned goods," Knoll said. "I even had the chance to meet an 83-year-old veteran who drove from Watertown to drop off some coats."

When Knoll said it would take her about 30 trips to Fond du Lac to deliver all the donations, Marie Cigelskie suggested that she contact Don Cigelskie Transmissions in Beaver Dam for the use of a U-Haul.

"I did that and Don said, 'No charge. It's on me,'" Knoll said. "The outpouring of love and compassion this community has for our veterans is fantastic. My hope is someday that there will be a place similar to Warrior House in Beaver Dam."

Knoll plans to deliver the donations on Monday and said she will make the drive an annual event.

For more information on Warrior House, go to salutethetroopswi.org/warriorhouse.

Follow Kelly Simon on Twitter @KSchmidSimon or contact her at 920-356-6757.


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