Women in Military volunteers provide vets with winter clothing
The St. Cloud (Minn.) Times
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The St. Cloud Veterans’ StandDown offers a wide array of services for those who have served their country.
It also is an opportunity in October to help veterans prepare for the coming winter by having blankets, jackets, scarves, hats and gloves available. When the Department of Defense in 2012 stopped providing cold-weather clothing for the StandDown, DJ Voth knew she had to step in.
The Air Force and Navy veteran and president of Women in Military, Central Minnesota Unit, decided it was up to her and her organization to pick up where the government had left off. So she and other WIM members spent months collecting those items, or finding the raw materials to knit, crochet and create quilts, scarves and throws for the veterans who fill the St. Cloud Armory during StandDown.
Friday marked the second year that Voth and WIM have scraped together the resources to help keep warm as many veterans as they can. And they aren’t planning to stop anytime soon.
“It was like beg, borrow or pry. No stealing,” she said with a laugh, about how she was able to collect 200 throws, hats and scarves. The throws were gone by mid-morning Friday, and only a handful of hats remained when the noontime lunch was being served.
She and other WIM members assembled 300 “ditty bags,” which contain shampoo, soap, a washcloth, toothpaste/toothbrush, tissues and emery board, notebook, pen/pencil, socks, calendar, plastic bag, comb and other similar items.
“What we do is for the veteran,” she said amid the bustle inside the armory Friday morning. “Any help we can give to any vet, we will.”
Voth has spent at least $1,000 of her own money in each of the last two years toward the clothing and bags that WIM distributes. And that’s on top of the money the group generates through membership dues.
“Everything we get is used for StandDown,” Voth said.
She knows that need is greater than what WIM can do with the resources they generate, and from the donations they get. Sometimes those donations come from strangers.
Voth was in the lobby of a title company waiting for an appointment and an employee there saw her knitting an item of clothing for a veteran. The woman asked Voth what she was doing and for whom.
After Voth was done answering, the employee wrote a check for $50. Other donors have provided boxes of cloth for quilts, yarn for knitting and crocheting and cash for buying supplies.
She sets up an assembly line in her garage where she gets help putting together the ditty bags that are available at the StandDown. That assembly line of items has packed her garage so full that she hasn’t been able to park her vehicle inside the garage.
“You don’t dare go into the garage in the dark,” she said.
And when this StandDown ends, Voth and the other WIM members will begin immediately to prepare for next October’s event. They are looking for help with finding supplies to make the clothing as well as people to help them with the knitting and assembly of the bags.
“Basically, we’re looking for everything -- fabric, yarn and people,” she said.