East Central Energy (ECE) has named the Blue Star Moms of Minnesota-Chapter 16 its Touchstone Energy Community Award winner for keeping hometown love and support alive for local military members, veterans and their families.
With just 12 members and four associates, Chapter 16 serve the communities of Pine City, Rush City, Braham, Beroun, Brook Park and Grasston, spearheading projects that might stymie larger groups. The award recognizes the women for donating hours of their time and their talents to enhance the quality of life for those they serve.
Through spaghetti dinners, garage sales, cookbook sales and collection boxes in area communities, the chapter raises money to fill care packages for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, sending boxes four times each year. Their most recent mailing of 68 boxes cost over $1,000 in postage alone. Through their adopt-a-soldier program, they send six small packages each month to troops who don’t receive mail. The chapter remembers military veterans too, with handmade blankets and personal care items they deliver themselves.
“Coming from a military family, I know how important it is for current service members to know we will always be here to help wherever we can,” said Vallerie Effertz, recording secretary for the group. “When we made the tie blankets for our vets in the nursing homes, some of them got emotional and just wanted to tell us their story. We cried with every blanket we handed out.”
The women are grateful for sponsorships from local organizations like the Braham Lions Club and the Pine City American Legion. The Girl Scouts donate cookies for the overseas care packages, and individuals make personal contributions as well.
“Last week, a lady just stopped by our meeting to give us $25 to help pay for the postage on the boxes,” Vallerie said. “How wonderful is that!”
As ECE’s Touchstone Energy Award winner, the Blue Star Moms Chapter 16 will receive a plaque and a $500 cash award and will be entered in the competition for the statewide Touchstone Energy Community Award, which has a cash prize of $1,000. As a Touchstone Energy cooperative, ECE is a partner in a national alliance of more than 700 local, consumer-owned electric cooperatives dedicated to the values of integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community.