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Continued: Rosenblum: Stigma still lingers for female vets

  • Article by: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune
  • Last update: May 7, 2014 - 8:40 PM

“I said, ‘Yes, but not one of them is women-specific and the assumption always is that the plate is for a man.’ ”

Seven other states have female vet plates. Four states have bills in the works. Minnesota’s bill was carried by Rep. Jerry Newton and Sen. Alice Johnson.

Since January, Matascastillo and Troutner have testified in front of at least six committees, called, e-mailed and sent handwritten notes to supporters, requested meetings and updated their Women Veterans Initiative Facebook page.

“We’re very hopeful that [Gov. Dayton] will sign it into law,” Matascastillo said. “I didn’t think it would take this long, but I’m glad it was finally accomplished.”

Update: Happy Feet

Last November, I wrote about Albert Nyembwe’s nonprofit, the Cilongo Foundation of Blaine, which held its first shoe drive with great success. Minnesotans donated 900 pairs of shoes and 140 pairs of socks. Many shoes and socks were quickly shipped to Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone, thanks to the generosity of local churches, which covered the postal fees. But Nyembwe is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where children walk barefoot for miles and the postal service is less than reliable. Could somebody please help get those shoes to needy children?

Betsy Spethmann stepped up. The executive director of the Northfield Area United Way appealed to her Northfield Rotary Club, which took on the project and donated $2,000. (The Woodbury Rotary Club pitched in another $500 and the Rotary District offered a $2,500 match.) The Rotarians then partnered with St. Paul-based Books For Africa. On Thursday, 739 pairs of shoes and 223 pairs of socks (as well as $165,000 in donated books) head to the Atlanta warehouse of Books For Africa, and then in shipping containers to the Congo capital of Kinshasa, where the Rotary Club there will receive them in three to four weeks.

“I am happy!” said Nyembwe, who was helping to move items at Books for Africa in St. Paul last Saturday. Spethmann is happy, too. “It feels so awesome to say, ‘Here’s partner A, B, C and D. If we pull it together, something really valuable can happen.’ ”

gail.rosenblum@startribune.com

612-673-7350

Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum

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