Van Karg stands next to the van they use to transport veterans to appointments. DAV is the adjutant and financial officer for the Hucthinson chapter of Disabled American Veterans. Photo by Scott Thoma
Tucked away on Third Avenue Northwest in Hutchinson stands a one-year-old building that houses the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV)and its Auxiliary.
The warehouse section of the building has the appearance of a large supply store. Included among the items in the inventory are numerous wheelchairs (motorized and manual), as well as other handicapped equipment, such as walkers, shower chairs, beds, commodes, canes and crutches. And the inventory is available to all veterans, their families and the public free of charge.
“We didn’t pay for any of these things,” said Van Karg, a veteran who was injured while serving in the Vietnam War and who is currently the adjutant and financial officer for DAV Chapter 37 in Hutchinson. “These things were all donated to us to be used for veterans and their families. And we do all our own maintenance.”
The two lots where the building is now located were given to the local chapter by Citizens Bank & Trust. Through member fees, grants, donations and discounts, the building became a reality a year ago.
A trailer that DAV uses to help veterans. Contributed photo
While there are 32 DAV chapters in Minnesota, none of them offer the number of supplies and services to veterans that this one does.
“No one in the state has a place like this,” said Karg, who has been involved in the DAV since 1984 and was the state commander in 1993-94. “Basically, the reason I got involved is because the government wasn’t taking care of (the disabled veterans). And when these injured servicemen were coming back from the war, the locals didn’t understand what we were going through.”
Karg said that the locals have a much better understanding now and are receptive to the many services the DAV and its Auxiliary is providing to the community.
“We have 352 members here, and none of them are on the payroll,” Karg explained. “It’s strictly a nonprofit organization. All the money we generate goes mainly to our travel expenses, the amount we pay for our vehicles, the maintenance to maintain those vehicles, and to veterans’ services in the four-county area – McLeod, Meeker, Renville and Wright.”
The DAV credo is: “Fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. We are dedicated to a single purpose: empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. We accomplish this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.”
If a veteran or one of their family members in and around the Hutchinson area has a medical appointment, a ride is available to them at no cost.
“Our members here volunteer their time to drive the veterans or spouse wherever they need to go,” said Karg. “We have four vans now, and two of them are handicap-accessible.”
Karg’s wife, LeeAnn, was the national commander of the DAV Auxiliary last year.
DAV of Hutchinson serves a Thanksgiving meal to those less fortunate. Last year, the group served 380 meals. Contributed photo
The DAV and Auxiliary also serve a Thanksgiving meal for those less fortunate, elderly, and families that have nowhere to go on Thanksgiving Day, and the public. The food is donated, and the members do all the preparation and serving.
“The number of meals we serve is growing each year,” said Karg. “We served 380 meals last year. In 1995 when we first started this, we served only 28 meals. We have currently outgrown the space we were using, and we will be holding our Thanksgiving Day dinner at the Peace Center in Hutchinson at the Peace Lutheran Church. This is always on Thanksgiving Day each year for the past 20 years.”
On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, the DAV and Auxiliary will give out 100 zippered sweatshirts. Two years ago, they gave out vests and, before that, sweatpants and blankets. Each year, they try to do something for the veterans in the four-county area that are shut-ins or in nursing homes.
If a senior living facility has a specific need, the DAV of Hutchinson will donate an item to them, such as a bed or wheelchair.
“We’ve even had other towns contact us if they need something,” said Karg. “We’re happy to help them out if we can.”
To help alleviate costs and to bring in funds to help the servicemen and women, the DAV has 26 bins within a 30-mile radius where citizens can donate clothing and small household items. The cities of Brownton, Cokato, Cosmos, Dassel, Glencoe, Howard Lake, Hutchinson, Litchfield, Silver Lake, Stewart, Waverly and Winsted are all included in this fundraising effort.
“We take 9,000 pounds of clothing into Apple Valley every week,” Karg said. “We get so much money per pound, and it all goes back to veterans’ services.”
Van Karg is a Vietnam veteran who was wounded during the war. Contributed photos
Some of the servicemen are so appreciative of the help they are given by the Hutchinson chapter that they will give something back.
“As an example, we transported the wife of a veteran to Abbott Northwestern Hospital for knee surgery,” Karg said. “The veteran was retired and had some extra money so he gave us a check for $1,000 to help others.”
The group also sells and disposes of flags.
“The reason that the DAV and Auxiliary in Hutchinson are so successful is because we work together in everything that we do,” said Karg. “We are a team, and we know that together we are two times stronger and more productive.”
To receive services, anyone with any kind of disability following service is eligible, including post traumatic stress disorder. If you are in need of any type of assistance or wish to donate money or items, call 320-587-1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.