Organization going beyond itself to service military members

It’s been said that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

“I’ve always believed that you should pay back something for all the blessings you have,” said Bob Boone, Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program chairman.

The Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program is a local network providing support to military service members before, during and after deployment.

Boone, who served in the Army National Guard for 38 years before retiring as a State Sergeant General, understands the significance of recognizing military members for their service in the armed forces.

Boone leads the program’s effort to encourage community service that provides military members and their families with local support to promote the well-being and morale of former and current servicemen and women.

“I’m not sure a lot of veterans talk about their service — a lot of them, like myself, say I was just doing my job,” Boone  said. “Most veterans just want to be respected and appreciated for what they did.”

As a resource for military members, the Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program works alongside other local groups, like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America and American Legion, to coordinate outreach efforts that connect service members with resources that service their needs.

While the program never lacks opportunities for random acts of kindness – like paying a dental bill of a veteran who cannot afford it or raking the lawn of a service member recovering from surgery – it has had a harder time cultivating an awareness that the program exists and is an accessible resource to military members who may need support with goods and services, veteran benefit information, family assistance or housing.

One way in which the program desires to progress its efforts is through the distribution of care packages and quilted bed rolls to military members currently serving overseas.

These efforts have been somewhat hindered by a lack of knowledge of who the program can service with these efforts.

“We have a difficult time getting to know those in the other reserve component or the active component,” said Boone, who emphasized the program cannot help if it does not know who to help.

Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon sends care packages of usable items to troops stationed overseas every other month, which is more frequent than other similar drives that occur during the holidays. A list of such items — like eye drops, coloring books, toothpaste and coffee — and how to donate can be found on the program’s website, www.beyondtheyellowribbonisanti.com.

More than two years ago, the program also began distributing to military members quilted bedrolls made out of the same material used for the uniforms of each particular branch of service.

“It shows them that somebody cares,” Boone said. “It serves as your blanket and a reminder of home every time you look at it. They have been extremely well-received by service members because it is something not everybody gets.”

Thanks to the efforts of volunteers who work on constructing these bed rolls every Monday and the generosity of the city of Cambridge to provide a free space to construct and store the bed rolls, 100 blankets are ready for shipment. The program awaits requests for the bed rolls to be shipped overseas to military members, from the local community, currently stationed abroad.

Families who have someone serving overseas are encouraged to contact the program with the military address of their deployed loved one so that care packages and bed rolls can be shipped to them. Families can express their interest by calling the Veteran Services Office at 763-689-3591 or by emailing the program at isanticountybyr@gmail.com.

The program is much like many other nonprofit organizations in that it relies on the support and generosity of others.

Those interested in joining the organization can attend a committee meeting held the third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Armed Forces Reserve and Community Center in Cambridge. Donations to the efforts of the program can be submitted at the Veteran Services Office in the Isanti County Government Center. Checks can be made out to Isanti County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Inc. and are tax deductible.

As Boone knows, through service and little acts of kindness, giving back is a concept not to be underestimated in its ability to impact the life of someone else.

When it comes to military members and their families, the Isanti County Yellow Ribbon Program is doing just that.

“One of the greatest things (you can do) is just (to say) a simple thank you,” Boone added.

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