Ed Behrens said the camaraderie he developed with his colleagues while in the U.S. Navy still applies today when he's asked to help veterans in need.
Behrens, a member of Palatine American Legion Post 690, was among the volunteers who helped lead a recent drive for household supplies to benefit homeless veterans getting back on their feet.
"Service to the vets," said Behrens, a Palatine resident who served in the Navy from 1990 to 2009, with breaks to attend Loyola and Northwestern universities. "I mean, when you're in the military, you develop that camaraderie, the esprit de corps. And you rely on each other. And when you get out, that doesn't go away. Vets are vets."
At least 2,000 household supplies such as bath soap, mops, shower curtains and hampers were donated from April 9 through 14 to benefit Northbrook-based Military Outreach USA's Veterans Exiting Homelessness program. Two cargo vans were filled with the items valued at $5,000.
Palatine resident Eileen McKevitt, a legion auxiliary member, said it was well worth her time to volunteer to help the homeless veterans who cannot immediately obtain some of the basics as they get ready to move into permanent housing.
McKevitt and Behrens not only were part of organizing the household supply drive, but they also spent almost all of a Saturday working a fundraising pancake breakfast and a bingo night to assist Military Outreach's program for Chicago-area vets. Sons of the American Legion members in Palatine also volunteered.
Seeing the strong community response was payback enough for McKevitt, whose son is in the U.S. Air Force.
"The whole week we collected, it was just piled in here," she said.
Military Outreach USA, in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, started Veterans Exiting Homelessness to hold collection drives for basic move-in essentials in a pilot program in northern Illinois in 2015. The program went national in partnership with the VA in 2016.
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.