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Minnesota National Guard
Spring Lake Park commits to military families

The city, seeking Yellow Ribbon City designation, is gathering community support

Spring Lake Park Mayor Bob Nelson wants his city to feel like home for service members and their families

So last month, the City Council voted unanimously to seek Yellow Ribbon City designation -- an outward sign of the community's commitment to helping military families get through their loved ones' deployments and to assisting returning veterans in re-acclimating to their daily lives

"I have so many friends from the Vietnam era, and when they got home, they didn't hardly get a handshake," Nelson said "That was very sad I'm glad people as a whole are embracing our warriors These people are important, and they put a lot on the line for all of us"

Nelson will convene a conference that will draw from a spectrum of the community: businesses, churches, schools, city officials, military families, civic groups, health workers and more Together, they will draft a plan to submit to Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, an outreach and assistance program coordinated by the Minnesota National Guard Gov Tim Pawlenty also will sign off on the plan If it's approved, Spring Lake Park will join Hugo, Stillwater, Woodbury and Washington and Isanti counties as localities with official Yellow Ribbon designation, and they will be expected to live up to the honor

Nelson hopes that, at a minimum, service members and their families will receive good treatment from area businesses At its best, he hopes to create a safe haven for returning warriors, where employers and school officials are educated about the special challenges military families can face

Annette Kuyper of Farmington has seen firsthand the good a community can do for deployed Soldiers and their families When her son, Sgt Jared Kuyper, served with the National Guard's 1/34th Brigade in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, she mobilized volunteers to offer help where needed

She's also seen how isolated military families can become Many don't have support from churches or neighbors and try to muddle through deployment and its aftermath on their own

With help from Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and the Humphrey Institute's Warrior to Citizen Campaign, Kuyper and others created their own plan to make Farmington the state's first Yellow Ribbon City

"I thought they would tell me what to do," she said, laughing "They didn't, so I kind of decided to start getting it organized, like I had run the family readiness groups"

Over 18 months, 160 volunteers answered the call to provide everything from snow shoveling to home remodeling, cleaning to meal preparation, tutoring, babysitting and other services for military families The list goes on and also includes events to bring vets and their families out and get them together

"We do anything they need," Kuyper said "We're proud we can say, 'You name it, we can find a way to make it happen' "

Over time, she's learned that caring for military personnel goes beyond CARE packages

"They love that, but they told us over and over, the biggest gift you can give me is take care of my family," Kuyper said "It's not just about the CARE packages but to truly be about the families, and embracing them and surrounding them"
In Spring Lake Park, with a population that's not quite a third of Farmington's, Nelson is raring to go, ticking off a list of the government officials he's approached for collaboration in the effort About 20 businesses are already on board And the Boy Scouts are ready with mowers and shovels
"It's a win-win thing for the community," Nelson said

Last update: March 2, 2010 - 4:47 PM

To learn more about the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign, visit wwwbtyrorg Farmington's website is wwwcifarmingtonmnus Click on "Warrior to Citizen Information"

Article source: http://www.startribune.com

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