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Denver7 Everyday Hero gives a fresh start to veterans transitioning off the streets

Dorothy Burke creates "welcome home" boxes
Posted at 9:08 AM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 11:14:21-05

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Dorothy Burke has always had a soft spot for our nation's veterans because the subtle reminders of their sacrifices are never far from her side.

"My husband served in the Navy during Vietnam and he now has Parkinson disease probably because of being around the mustard gas," Burke said.

When she learned homeless veterans transitioning into housing have virtually nothing to start their lives with, she just had to act.

"God just put that on my heart," Burke said.

The 83-year-old, along with her local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, created a "welcome home box" filled with all the hope of a fresh start.

"We hear how proud they are to hang up their towels on the rack in the bathroom and to have items that are gonna get them through their first night and the next morning," Burke said.

Each box contains the basics: a towel, a bowl, a pot, a little bit of food, toilet paper and silverware. Four years after launching the program, she has made and handed out 820 of them.

"All of these people get a hug from her and they don’t know that, and we all can do something. It’s just time for everybody to step up," said her son, Michael Burke.

Burke's service won her the 2020 Colorado State Society Outstanding DAR Service for Veterans award, and a nod from Lakewood's mayor. Perhaps though, the most important thank yous are those from one hero to another.

"You put a smile on my face and brought a tear to my eye. … I can’t express my appreciation enough," wrote one veteran who received one of Burke's boxes.

"Oh, the heart just feels warm and a tear is shed because that’s how they all feel," Burke said.

Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.