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THE JEFFERSON AWARDS: Our January winner helps local disabled veterans

ZUMBROTA, Minn. (FOX 47) – Every month FOX 47 features someone in our community who is making a difference and we honor them with a Jefferson Award.

Our January winner hails from Oronoco.

He’s an Army veteran and a Purple Heart recipient.

Now, he devotes his time to helping other veterans.

Every week, Tom Schimek hits the road to pick up clothes from donation boxes across Southeast Minnesota.

Then, he takes the clothes to the Rochester Savers store, where they’ll be sold to benefit the local chapter of Disabled American Veterans.

“We sell the product that people put in the bins and then we use those funds to help the veterans that come in dire need, of course, but when we have so many deployed they need a lot of help here and there,” he said.

Those donations bring in more than $20,000 a year for disabled vets.

It’s an issue that hits close to home for Tom.

“I’m a disabled vet myself. Vietnam era and I joined a local chapter as soon as I got out of the service in ’71 and I’ve been there ever since.”

Besides his work with the clothing donation program, Tom has a long list of volunteer efforts that keep him busy helping those who serve our country.

He’s a member of the Mazeppa Veterans Honor Guard, a chaplain for the local Disable American Veterans chapter, and a board member for the Preston Veterans’ Cemetery, just to name a few.

Fellow veteran Don Buck nominated Tom for the Jefferson Award.

“He doesn’t seek any attention, he’s very humble, he’s very deserving of the award,” said Don. “He’s got dozens of different things that he does that he probably didn’t mention in the interview that he does for the honor guard.”

It’s clear that Tom leads a patriotic life in all that he does, even turning something as simple as piece of clothing into help for our nation’s heroes.

“You can’t buy gas with clothes, you can’t pay rent with clothes, so this is an opportunity to use those extra funds we get to help those out who need it.”

Tom also volunteers each year at the Veterans’ Day Breakfast and at the Chester Woods Veterans Hunt.

He also drives veterans to medical appointments at the Minneapolis VA Hospital.

If you know someone who’s also making a difference, you can nominate them for a Jefferson Award here.

Erin O'Brien

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