Two Minnesota charities are in the running for White House honors recognizing their roles in supporting the military.

The Armed Forces Service Center operates 24/7 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, providing a free mobile canteen for troops moving through the airport.

The all-volunteer force also has a center on an airport concourse where military personnel can sleep, shower and relax between flights.

The other Minnesota charity, Defending the Blue Line, was founded in 2009 by two Minnesota National Guard soldiers. It provides free hockey equipment, grants to help with such things as association fees, free summer hockey camps, and NHL game tickets to military families.

Both are among 20 finalists in the national Joining Forces Community Challenge, which was started by First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, to recognize organizations serving military families. The winner of the challenge will be honored at the White House.

Defending the Blue Line was the subject of an NBC Nightly News segment that heralded its efforts in hockey-crazy Minnesota. The Armed Forces Service Center and its 150 volunteers have a remarkable history of service, providing refuge to 768,000 servicemen and women since it opened its doors in 1970.

The winner will be determined in part by the highest number of votes in an online contest that ends Feb. 23. As of this week, Defending the Blue Line was in first place and the Armed Forces Service Center was in third, behind a program based in Washington state that provides scholarships and grants to families of active-duty soldiers.

You can vote as often as you like, but only once in any 24-hour period.

To vote for the AFSC, go to For Defending the Blue Line, go to • 612-673-4434