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From The Top: Donna Morsovillo, Operation Welcome You Home

Donna Morsovillo is the founder of Operation Welcome You Home.  |  Submitted
Donna Morsovillo is the founder of Operation Welcome You Home. | Submitted

Operation Welcome You Home was started to make sure no military personnel are slighted on returning home from serving their county. That has been Donna Morsovillo’s mission since she founded the not-for-profit in 2007.

“We now have 2,000 people on our emailing listing who all make contributions, and we get requests for welcome home ceremonies from states across the country, including Arizona, New York and California,” Morsovillo said. “Unfortunately we don’t have the funds or the time to send people all over the country, but we try to reach out to other support groups we know.”

The Naperville-based group has since become a successful fundraising machine as well as a magnet for volunteers.

Morsovillo was born and raised in Chicago and lives on the Naperville-Aurora border. She worked as a purchase manager for 15 years with Caldwell Banker, followed by another 10 years as a mortgage broker with Caldwell Banker Real Estate and PHH Mortgage.

But her desire to give of her time and talent as a volunteer, she said, dates back far before founding Operation Welcome You Home.

“I have been volunteering since I was knee high — candy striper, Girl Scouts, including cookie captain, Girl Scout leader, Ladies Auxiliary and more,” she said. “I also have a team, including myself, who crochet and sew hats, scarves, blankets for veterans especially those at Hines VA.

“I could go on and on about my passion of being there showing support to those who put their lives on the line so we can be free.”

The idea for the group began years ago thanks to a VFW connection Morsovillo had.

“A woman I knew asked me how we could welcome her son back at the airport, and we got a limo together and had a luncheon,” Morsovillo recalled. “A few days later, another mom asked about the same thing, and seven years later, here we are, and there is still a need.”

Morsovillo’s daughter Judi Stapleton, of Plainfield, likewise works tirelessly alongside her mother and served as the race director for the organization’s third annual Wounded Warrior 5K race Saturday. It is dedicated to supporting and raising funds for wounded warriors in Illinois.

“My grandfather was a WWII veteran as was my real dad and my stepfather,” Stapleton said.

“This is something we need to do to thank these men for their service. There were many who came home from wars like Vietnam who never got this.”

The first 5K race raised $12,000, followed by $16,000 the next year. Stapleton said organizers hope to reach $20,000 to $25,000 this year, adding that support for OWYH under Morsovillo’s leadership “has grown 500 percent.”

Volunteer Susan McSorley, of Plainfield, who has known Morsovillo the past few years, says “she is friendly and passionate when it comes to her mission.”

“When my son came home, the Welcome group was there, and it was a moving experience for my family and friends,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be welcomed this way by the people who care about you and miss you. Donna does all of this with her heart and soul and warmth.”

Morsovillo says she has no idea how many hours a week she and her daughter and husband Jim, a Vietnam vet, put into the organization. She admits there are days when the work and the phone calls that come at all hours of the night become overwhelming. She says that it doesn’t take much to re-energize herself, though.

“All it takes is one call from somebody about their son or daughter and you’re right back at it,” she said.

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