Shelter Director Awarded For Efforts

By: Becky Kreienkamp, Midland Division

Shocked, emotional and finally humbled – Toni Wells experienced all the following emotions and so much more when presented with an award for her work at the Booth House. Her selfless dedication has not gone unnoticed by her co-workers and the veterans who find refuge in Toni at the Booth House. This is why she received the award from the Veterans Assistance Commission of Madison County for her hard work in providing emergency shelter services.

Bradley Lavite, Superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Madison County, awarded her this honor April 19 at the Madison County Continuum of Care annual meeting.

“She was very excited and a little caught off guard that she was actually thought of,” says Lavite. “Her husband was a service member, so that brought it home for her that someone would recognize her as well. I think it pulled some heart strings for her.”

Toni says she responded exactly how Lavite described.

“I was very, very shocked,” describes Toni. “I mean, totally taken aback. I had no idea that they would be honoring me in such a way,” she laughs as she finishes her thought. “They got me pretty good.”

Toni seemed to be so surprised because being partners with Lavite means she does not get singled out for her work.

“We’ve been working pretty close together,” says Toni of Lavite. “I’m always making room for somebody Brad’s got. It’s not all me, I really appreciate that he recognized me, but it’s a team effort.”

Toni Wells is the Shelter Director of the Booth House in Madison County of Alton, Ill., which provides shelter and support for homeless veterans. As shelter director of the Booth House, she acts as the link between veterans in need and the Salvation Army. When a homeless veteran seeks her out, Toni immediately gets them on a path back to success. She examines each case for whatever services the homeless veterans necessitate, and finds support from the community.

Lavite explained veterans have to go through a program that helps them find work and various other life key markers. When veterans enter the program they have to agree to hit milestones of success, and Toni makes sure they follow through with this commitment.

The Booth House is just like any other Salvation Army homeless shelter. It is used as a safe haven specifically for homeless veterans, and a place for them to get their lives back on track.

“We use The Salvation Army as a bridge to get them to immediate housing and get them to work in the community,” says Lavite. “And Toni is always very active in providing that.”

Toni Wells takes this job very seriously, and views it on a personal level. She takes it upon herself to find opportunities for success and more permanent housing for these homeless veterans.

Toni remarked on how the work of the Booth House is so touching.

“My father and my husband are both veterans,” explains Wells. “When the veterans have someone advocating on their behalf…they fought for this country, and now they get benefits that are due to them. It’s remarkable when you see the miracle happen. We make one or two phone calls and everything happens for them, and that’s the beauty of it all.”

Not only is she a hard worker, but she also achieves all of this with the utmost positivity.

“She has a very friendly, personal demeanor,” says Lavite. “She makes it a very easy process. She is very well liked in the veteran population. Toni always goes out of her way to those that are in need of housing.”

It seems these veterans in need could not have asked for a better person to direct them. This is the only kind of shelter that is available in Madison County, and so they work very hard to meet these lost veteran’s wishes. Because of the high demand of this shelter, the Booth House is very fortunate to have such a dedicated director as Toni Wells.

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