BEYOND THE YELLOW RIBBON
What: A program to help connect military families to various resources.
Where: Kraus Hartig VFW 6587, 8100 Pleasant View Drive, Spring Lake Park.
More information: To volunteer, donate or get help, contact the Kraus Hartig VFW 6587 in Spring Lake Park at 763-780-1900.
On the Web: www.beyondtheyellowribbon.org/spring-lake-park.
Spring Lake Park ties the ribbon
- Article by: ANNA PRATT
- Special to the Star Tribune
- March 22, 2011 - 1:40 PM
There's a new fort in Spring Lake Park -- a metaphorical one, but just as important to armed service members as one made of bricks and mortar.
Fort Spring Lake Park is a support network for military families, part of the city's efforts since it became a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon city last year. BYR aims to connect military members and their families to support services and other resources to help returning troops make the transition to the home front, according to the program's website.
In Spring Lake Park, the "fort" is made up of individuals, businesses, churches, schools, clinics and other organizations that are pitching in. City Council Member Barbara Lee Carlson likened it to a commissary or Post Exchange, where a soldier might go to job hunt or get day care.
"They have everything at the 'fort' that they need, with quite a cut in price," said Carlson, who chairs BYR's citizens committee in Spring Lake Park.
Under the program, a soldier or his or her family can turn to City Hall or the VFW to ask for help with anything from car trouble to counseling.
The topic hits close to home for Carlson, whose husband and son are veterans. "These fellows and gals gave up their lives to defend us," said Carlson, adding, "We're going to help them when they come home."
Spring Lake Park, one of 27 BYR communities statewide, achieved the status last September after the Minnesota National Guard and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved its action plan.
Several other north metro communities, including Blaine, Coon Rapids and Anoka County, are in the early stages of seeking the designation, said Cmdr. Don LaCroix from the Kraus Hartig VFW 6587 in Spring Lake Park.
Spring Lake Park's program builds on the VFW's longtime efforts with the separate Military Assistance Program, said LaCroix. Through BYR, the city has adopted the same five Arden Hills reserve units, which include nearly 600 people, counting service members and their families, he said.
Besides day-to-day efforts to help individual households, the city has hosted a number of events. For example, it has served meals for the military's area Family Readiness Group. A November "Toys for the Troops" benefit raised more than $500 for local military families. The city proclaimed last Dec. 18 as 173rd Airborne Day, marking the homecoming of some soldiers who were based in Afghanistan, LaCroix said.
A bluegrass jam session in February at the VFW brought in $1,827 for the Fisher House in Minneapolis, where families of military patients can stay for free.
Carlson also has a knitting group that frequently donates various necessities, such as baby clothes or wool caps, to military families.
Arden Hills resident John Weis is enthusiastic about the program. As chairman of its business/employers committee, he's phoning 250 local businesses, one by one, asking them to support the BYR effort by providing military discounts or making donations. He also urges them to consider veterans for jobs.
"I have a lot of friends who have children in the service," Weis said, adding that his father served in World War II. "It's a good chance to give back."
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis free-lance writer.
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