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Owen Miller (left), chair of the Douglas County and Alexandria Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, presented a plaque to Matt Strong from ServiceMaster. Annette Kuyper, state director of military outreach, also attended Wednesday’s appreciation luncheon. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)

A special salute to those who helped military families out of a bind

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A special salute to those who helped military families out of a bind
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549

An air conditioner breaks down.

A basement floods.

A home improvement project abruptly ends before it’s finished.

In the grand scheme of things, those problems don’t usually make headlines, but they are very important to the families that have to deal with them, especially families with a military member deployed overseas.

That’s where the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program steps in. It coordinates services, resources and support for military families, synchronizing the resources that are available within a community and directing it to where help is needed.

On Wednesday, organizers with the Douglas County and Alexandria Beyond the Yellow Ribbon held an appreciation lunch at Grand Arbor for those who have helped the effort.

They gave out plaques of appreciation and military coins to the following:

• Matt and Niki Strong from ServiceMaster and Shane Schmidt from Alex Rubbish and Recycling. They stepped in to help a family whose basement flooded and mold started to come in.

“This was not a job for amateurs,” noted Owen Miller, chair of the local Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.

Upon receiving the honor, Schmidt noted his part was one small way to say “thank you” to the soldiers who are serving their country.

• Bill and Nicole Nettleton of Alexandria Motors and Matt Jensen of Broadway Bistro. When they learned that three veterans from the Eagles Nest in Sauk Centre wanted to go fishing, they made it happen. The Nettletons donated money toward a fishing trip, local guide Mike Frisch took the veterans to a hot fishing spot, and Broadway Bistro provided lunch for all of them.

• Alexandria police officers Jeremy Olson and Keith Melrose. A soldier in another town, who happened to be a police officer, was in the middle of re-siding his family’s house and installing new windows when he was called to serve overseas.

Olson and Melrose worked for two and a half days, completing the work and buttoning up the house for the winter.

It’s those kinds of efforts that typify what the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program is all about, according to organizers.

Miller noted that one of the first projects the local Yellow Ribbon program was involved in happened when a family in Litchfield needed help.

The husband, who was a member of a unit in Douglas County, was in Iraq when his family’s air conditioning unit stopped working, leaving the family sweltering in the heat.

Local Beyond the Yellow Ribbon members worked with the Alexandria Technical and Community College to make the repairs.

Annette Kuyper, state director of military outreach, noted that the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon effort in Minnesota was a vision of the adjutant general of the National Guard five years ago – Larry Shellito of Alexandria.

She said that Shellito got to thinking: Could Minnesota communities synchronize their resources to help families with military members deployed overseas?

The answer, she said, was yes.

Today, there are more than 260 communities spread across Minnesota that are designated as Beyond the Yellow Ribbon communities.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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