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Giving soldiers a helping hand

Those attending a ceremony in Detroit Lakes that officially designated Alexandria and Douglas County as Yellow Ribbon communities included (left to right) Governor Mark Dayton, Sergeant First Class Scott Kowski of Sauk Centre, Bev Bales (vice chair), Owen Miller (chair), Mayor Dan Ness, Eric Karlstad, U.S. Representative Colin Peterson and General R. Cayton. (Photo by Brian Basham, Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Service members and their families have a whole new level of support in Alexandria and in Douglas County.

Governor Mark Dayton recently presented the county and the city official certification as "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Networks."

"It was a long process taking over a year, involving many entities," said Douglas County Commissioner Bev Bales, who headed the process for Douglas County.

In addition to city and county leaders, others also came on board, including committee members, veterans service organizations, medical, education and faith-based groups, and also local government entities such as social services and public health.

"Yellow Ribbon is an on-going program that assists military personnel and their families in whatever way we can," said Bales, "be it rides, repairs, chores, and many other things. It is a way of saying 'thank you' to those who have given so very much for all of us."

Recently, the Yellow Ribbon Committee provided free child care for military families, along with cooperation of businesses offering discounts, for a "Date Night." Organizers said the event was very well received.


Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a comprehensive program that strives to bring service members "all the way home." It creates awareness for the purpose of connecting military service members and their families with community support, training, services and resources.

It does this by:

--Creating awareness through the Yellow Ribbon Community Campaign and synchronizing sustainable community support networks.

--Connecting and coordinating organizations, agencies and companies to provide resources and support to service members and their families.

--Delivering a series of formal Yellow Ribbon training events to service members and their families before, during and after deployment.

--Providing an opportunity for Minnesotans to support service members and their families.

Governor Tim Pawlenty proclaimed Minnesota's first Yellow Ribbon city, Farmington, in 2008. Every city or county that is certified follows a similar path to creating a Yellow Ribbon network and being proclaimed "Yellow Ribbon" by the governor.

How important is the Yellow Ribbon program?

A spouse of a Minnesota service member put it this way:

"When my service member was deployed, I felt so alone. I was at home with the kids and just had to make things work. But there were days it took everything in me to make it through - when the toilet was plugged on a Saturday night, or our 2-year-old couldn't be calmed as I tried to shovel the car out of the driveway and get her to daycare on time.

"To know someone was willing to support me...if my community would have been behind me in his absence, it would have made all the difference."

Those who know of a military person or military family that can use help, may contact the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at (320) 762-8151.

More information is available online at or by contacting the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Team at (651) 282-4284.

EdenloffAl Edenloff Al Edenloff was born in Alexandria and later moved to Parkers Prairie where he graduated in 1979. While in high school, he wrote sports stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent. Al graduated from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communication and started at the Echo Press as a summer intern in 1983. He worked as a reporter until 1990 when he was named editor. He's earned several writing and reporting awards from the Minnesota Newspaper Association (MNA) and the National Newspaper Association. He was presented with the Minnesota News Council's Journalism Accountability Award and is a three-time winner of the MNA's Herman Roe Editorial Writing Award. In his spare time, Al enjoys golfing, fishing, biking, watching sports, cooking and reading mystery novels.

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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