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Rosemount designated a Yellow Ribbon City

On Aug. 23 Rosemount will be designated a Yellow Ribbon City in a ceremony at Inver Hills Community College. While it's a nice honor for the volunteers who have made that happen, the group knows it only means they have a lot to do.

"It really means we have to start walking the walk," said Renée Hedstrom, a volunteer with the group that organized Rosemount's Yellow Ribbon efforts.

The group of about 15 volunteers has been working for the last year to get a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon initiative going in the community.

Getting recognition as a Yellow Ribbon City shows service members and their families that there is group of people and businesses committed to helping, said mayor Bill Droste. Plus with the National Guard's 34th Infantry Division headquartered at the Rosemount Community Center, making the effort to support military men and women makes sense.

The mission of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program is to support the needs of service members and their families while members are deployed and then again as they reintegrate into civilian life.

To support that mission the group has put together a network of organizations including schools, churches, businesses and government to support service members and their families in whatever way is needed.

Don Sinnwell, who has been involved since the beginning, said more than anything the purpose is to help people who need it.

"As long as we do that, this is a good thing," said Sinnwell.

The help the group offers can be small tasks such as getting a mouse out of a house for the spouse of a deployed soldier, or more significant actions such as helping a military family get back on track after a health scare. Rosemount's group has helped local families through both scenarios.

"We want to help in a tangible way," said Hedstrom.

Besides offering direct help, the group has also provided training to members of the community so they are better equipped to identify and help military families in the community. Last spring the group sponsored a session for educators and school counselors called "How we can support military families in our midst." More programs will be offered in the future.

As a military spouse, Katie Ochs said she knows the struggles families face during a deployment. While she had a strong family support system to aid her through it, many spouses and children don't.

"We want to provide resources and make it easier on them if they don't have a strong support system," said Ochs.

Hedstrom, who has had two sons deploy, said many of the families are young and need mentors to help them with daily tasks they've never had to do before, such as paying bills and handling car and home maintenance.

Going forward the Yellow Ribbon committee hopes to build a community base willing to help service members and their families. One of the biggest objectives will be finding more volunteers.

"We need more people to carry the load," said Hedstrom.

The committee is the process of becoming a recognized non-profit organization and setting up a website.

While Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a Minnesota National Guard program, Sinnwell said the members and families of any branch of the military can use its services and he encourages them to do so.

The Rosemount Yellow Ribbon committee meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at city hall. Anyone can attend.

To volunteer with the group or if you are a military member in need of assistance contact Don Sinnwell at 651-261-0499 or via email at Military members can also call the Minnesota Military Family Assistance Center at 651-282-4748.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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