Showing support for veterans

Thumbs Up: Feb. 9-15 is Thank a Veteran Week – an annual observation that gives all Americans the chance to thank the more than 9 million veterans for their freedom by sending Valentines, cards and letters to VA medical facilities. In the St. Cloud area, address Valentines, cards and letters to: Any Veteran, Attn: Voluntary Services, St. Cloud VA Health Care System, 4801 Veterans Drive, St. Cloud, MN 56303. More than 98,000 Veterans of the U.S. armed services are cared for every day in VA medical facilities, outpatient clinics (such as the Max J. Beilke VA clinic in Alexandria), domiciliary sites, and community living centers, including about 350 residents at the St. Cloud VA Medical Center. You can also make a difference in their lives by volunteering. Find out more at, or by calling Voluntary Services staff at (320) 255-6365 or email at:

Coffee talks with a city leader

Thumbs Up: The Alexandria City Council’s “Coffee with the Council” get-togethers are proving to be informative and well-attended. The council hit upon the idea of having a council member meet informally with business owners and city residents over a cup of coffee and cookies at City Hall once a month. It’s an opportunity for citizens to say what’s on their mind, share an idea for the city or just simply chat with a council member who is ready to listen. The dates and times vary but are printed in the newspaper as a news brief or community calendar item. Watch for the next one and attend. You’ll walk away with a better understanding of how local government works. For more details, email:

Illegal tobacco sales

Thumbs Down: Some stores that sell tobacco and e-cigarette products in Alexandria are trying to justify sales to 18, 19 and 20 year-olds by claiming that the city’s ordinances allow them to sell the items to those 18 and older. The trouble is, they didn’t read the entire ordinance, which specifically states that tobacco license holders can’t sell such products “in any manner of form prohibited by federal, state or other local law.” In December, 2019, the U.S. Congress passed a new federal “tobacco 21” law that prohibits retailers from selling tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. The Alexandria City Council is in the process of changing its ordinance to remove any confusion about the legal tobacco age but it’s already clear that selling tobacco to anyone under 21 is illegal.

A shining gesture for prom

Thumbs Up: Dawn Murphy with the Douglas County Developmental Achievement Center shared this heartwarming story: A gentleman who was going to this year’s “Night to Shine,” a prom night experience for people with special needs, also had a funeral to attend that same week and didn’t have enough dress clothes to wear. Murphy took him to The Dashery in Alexandria, expecting to rent new clothes but after a seamstress heard about the gentleman’s situation, the store gave him four dress shirts, a new tie and a new pair of dress pants. “He was a very happy man,” said Murphy. “And I was so happy, I started crying.”

Connecting at a caucus

Thumbs Up: Here’s an advance “thumbs up” to all those who will take the time to participate in grassroots government by attending the party caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Republicans from all precincts in Douglas County will hold their caucus at the Alexandria Area High School, starting at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center auditorium. (Attendees are encouraged to arrive as early as 6:30 p.m.) DFLers will meet at Discovery Middle School. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with a call to order at 6:30 p.m. Because Minnesota is holding a presidential primary on March 3, there won’t be a vote for presidential candidates during the caucuses, but important decisions will be made, including electing precinct officers and delegates, acting on platform resolutions and other business. The Echo Press will be doing a full story about the caucuses next week.

If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.