by Don Heinzman
Special to the Star News
After a year of developing plans to support active military service members and their families, the city of Elk River will be officially certified as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon city at a ceremony Thursday starting at 6:15 p.m.
The ceremony will be at River’s Edge Commons Park in downtown Elk River and will take place before a concert by the Belfast Cowboys.
Gov. Mark Dayton will present the certificate to Elk River Mayor John Dietz, who initiated the organization after a suggestion from veteran Ralph Donais.
This is the first time a Minnesota governor has officially visited Elk River since Gov. Jesse Ventura talked to Elk River high school students.
To mark the occasion, Dietz has proclaimed next week as Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Week, which will begin Sunday with a special prayer said in Elk River area churches.
“Yellow Ribbon” banners, funded by the Elk River Lions Club, have been fastened to poles on Highway 10.
Brig. Gen. Robert Cayton will introduce the governor. Also speaking will be Annette Kuyper, director of military outreach with the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs.
The Elk River Color Guard will kick off the event with a presentation of the colors and the Land of Lakes Choirboys will sing the national anthem leading into the official proclamation ceremony.
Eagle Scout Ryan Toth will recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Officials estimate that there are 184 National Guard service men and women in the Elk River area.
Don Heinzman, chair of the steering committee, said, “Our challenge is to locate these military families who need help and assist them. This ceremony is intended to show our appreciation and gratitude for their service and sacrifice for our country.”
The Military Family Assistance Center in St. Cloud is prepared to answer requests from military families, and in return will connect Elk River military families to the Elk River Beyond the Yellow Ribbon unit.
There is help available from a number of sources involving schools and youth groups, local businesses, human resources, county health services, medical providers, local and county veterans’ organizations, churches, law enforcement and the county courts.
In addition, the effort is connected to local resources: CAER, the local food shelf; Faith in Action; the Boys and Girls Club; and the YMCA.
Members of the steering committee are: Dietz; Heinzman; Kayla Stai, Minnesota School of Business; Gene Graff, Sherburne County Veterans Services; Capt. Ron Nierenhausen, Elk River Police Department; Mary Jo Cobb, Sherburne County Health and Human Services; Carol Greier and Donita Grell, Central Lutheran Church; Charles Blesener and Cory Franson, School District 728; Jim Holt, American Legion member; and Bruce Tyler, Home Run Human Resources.