Ignoring fire dangers

Thumbs Down: Extremely dry conditions made Douglas County a tinderbox over the Fourth of July weekend but some celebrators still proceeded, without precautions, to carelessly light off fireworks that caused a slew of grass fires. On July 3, four grass fires were happening almost simultaneously, prompting the Alexandria Fire Department to post a message on its Facebook page urging people to use due diligence with fireworks. They shouldn’t have had to do that, and firefighters shouldn’t have had to go on so many fire calls over the weekend when people knew full well just how dry and dangerous the conditions were. Thankfully, a nice rain fell this past Tuesday but what happened over the Fourth should serve as a reminder that “do not burn” advice and red flag warnings aren’t for “other people.” They’re for everyone.

Hire a veteran for the job

Thumbs Up: July is “Hire a Veteran Month” – a good reminder for businesses to not overlook veterans when they’re filling positions on their teams. More than 300,000 U.S. military veterans call Minnesota home and more than half of them are of working age, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Unfortunately, veterans returning from recent military deployments face higher unemployment and more challenges entering the civilian workforce and advancing in their careers, DEED officials say. Yet veterans learn fast, and possess many invaluable skills, such as leadership, dedication, and strong work ethics, said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “Current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces have a range of skills from leadership, team building and problem solving to in-depth knowledge of advanced technology,” Grove said. “Employers have a lot to gain by hiring a veteran – and we owe it to the men and women who have served our country to connect them with good employment opportunities.” Current and former U.S. military members interested in learning about Veterans Employment Services available to them, as well as employers interested in finding out more about the benefits of hiring veterans, are encouraged to view the resources at CareerForceMN.com/Veterans.

A sweet fundraiser

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Thumbs Up: With so many big fundraising events taking place, it’s easy for smaller-sized efforts to get lost in the shuffle but they still deserve recognition. Consider the Belgian Waffle and Sausage Feed that took place June 27. Sponsored by the Evening Lions Club of Alexandria and the Marine Corps League Detachment 1409, the event raised about $1,300 and drew more than 215 people. Elden’s Fresh Foods was also a supporter and the Alexandria VFW provided the location. All of the proceeds will go toward a worthy cause – the Toys for Kids program. The event has been going on for the last four or five years. Watch for it next year and support the cause.

Vaccine goal reached

Thumbs Up: Here’s something to celebrate: Minnesota has reached a goal set by President Biden and the Centers for Disease Control to vaccinate 70% of the state’s 18-and-older population by July 4. CDC data shows that 3,034,281 Minnesotans age 18 years and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Minnesota is only the second state in the Midwest to meet the goal, and it leads the Midwest in the percentage of the overall population fully vaccinated (52%). The vaccine is working. Cases are growing at their slowest rate of the pandemic, and there are fewer than 100 Minnesotans hospitalized with COVID-19. In Douglas County, no new cases of COVID have been reported in the past week (June 26-July 3). But we can do better. The county’s vaccination rate has been stuck at 58 percent since mid-June.There are many ways to get vaccinated: Walk in or make an appointment through the Vaccine Connector at one of the state’s COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program locations: VaccineConnector.mn.gov; call the appointment hotline at 833-431-2053; use the state’s Vaccine Locator Map to find a vaccine provider near you – https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/find-vaccine/locations/index.jsp; check for vaccine appointments using the Vaccine Finder on https://www.vaccines.gov/; search for appointments by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer); contact your primary health care provider or a local pharmacy; and employers may also reach out with information about vaccination opportunities.

A parking space for veterans

Thumbs Up: In our June 25 “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down,” a local veteran wondered why there were no reserved parking spaces in Alexandria for veterans. We have since learned that the Sanford Health Broadway Clinic does have a spot set aside for veterans.

Businesses help others get through pandemic

Thumbs Up: Local businesses deserve a big thumbs up for helping their employees and the local community get through the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program, for example, made a significant impact on central Minnesota businesses, including those in Alexandria. The Small Business Administration loan program provided small businesses with the resources they need to maintain payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off and cover applicable overhead. There were a multitude of ways local businesses showed their “giving back” spirit. Gate City Bank in Alexandria, for example, donated approximately $4,500 toward community efforts in the past year, supporting many local organizations – Junior Achievement, West Central Hunters for Habitat, Parkers Prairie Prom, Alexandria Fire Department, Habitat for Humanity, Alexandria School District, Chain of Lakes Ducks Unlimited, United Way, Outreach Food Shelf and The Salvation Army.

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