From left: Ernestine Schumann-Heink Chapter 2 Commander Gerald Caldwell, Senior Vice Commander Ralph Travis and Adjutant David Gerke

National Service Foundation recognizes Missouri chapter’s 40 years of giving

When DAV was birthed nearly 100 years ago, founder and decorated World War I veteran Judge Robert Marx planted a stake in the ground that would forever change the way the nation viewed care for disabled veterans. So, too, did it alter the conscience of the American public, bringing into focus the need to support organizations helping to fill the gaps in care for those injured or made ill by military service and ensure promises are kept.

DAV’s National Service Foundation, originally incorporated in 1931 as the Disabled American Veterans Service Foundation, helps to support DAV services at the local, state and national levels, all supported by generous donors.

This year, the foundation is introducing a new donor recognition milestone—the Silver Level award—to recognize exceptional lifetime giving achievements in excess of $500,000. The first recipient of this award is Ernestine Schumann-Heink Chapter 2 in Kansas City, Mo. The chapter has given a cumulative total of $657,020 since its first donation in 1979. The award will also feature two stars that represent giving at the $575,000 and $650,000 milestones.

A Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, Chapter Adjutant David Gerke joined DAV nearly 40 years ago, after his uncle introduced him to a national service officer to assist him in receiving the benefits he’d earned. Gerke is also the board president for the DAV Thrift Store in Missouri, and the success of those stores has helped to fuel the chapter’s annual giving to the foundation.

“I’m not sure how it got started, but ever since I’ve been involved, it’s been something they’ve always told us they needed to do, to give to the National Service Foundation,” said Gerke. “I think it’s near and dear to everybody’s heart in the chapter, so we just continue to support it year after year.”

The chapter is about 3,000 members strong and occupies a new building, which, in addition to facilitating regular chapter business, operates a restaurant that funds local veterans programs. The chapter has also been a consistent supporter of the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. But despite the continuous giving, recognition hadn’t been on anyone’s radar.

“I was quite surprised about the award. I didn’t know the dollar amount, but I knew it had to be getting up there,” said Gerke, who has been working to disseminate the good news to fellow members. “They all think it’s a great honor.”

Throughout 2019, the foundation disbursed more than $4.1 million to assist the national organization in providing essential services to veterans and their families, thanks to generous and committed supporters like the members of Chapter 2.

“We offer our deepest thanks to all the members of the chapter who have helped to reach this milestone and who have been such staunch supporters of the foundation,” said National Service Foundation President Art Wilson. “They should be extremely proud of the work they have done, the impact they have had and the victories they have helped their fellow veterans achieve through their contributions.”

“There are other donors who are also making incredible headway toward reaching the Silver Level award,” added Wilson. “We are grateful for their contributions and for all that their generosity makes possible for the nation’s veterans.”

“DAV helped me,” said Gerke. “This is paying it forward and helping other people.”