by Joni Astrup
Elk River’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Steering Committee has a new leader.
Henry Griner, of Elk River, is the new chairman of the committee. He replaces Don Heinzman, who has moved out of Elk River.
Griner has been on the faith-based committee of the Yellow Ribbon effort in Elk River, and didn’t hesitate to chair the steering committee when asked. He also replaces Heinzman as president of the non-profit corporation affiliated with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon in Elk River.
“I like what we’ve been able to do so far,” Griner said. “I was excited that I could help do more to connect military families with the community.”
Griner has personal experience in the military, having served in the Minnesota Air National Guard from 1968 to 1974. In addition, his son Nathanial has been in the Army for a decade and currently is a drill instructor at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is designed to connect service members and their families with community support, training, services and resources, particularly when a family member is deployed. Elk River has been certified as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon city since 2012.
Mayor John Dietz initiated Elk River’s involvement in the Yellow Ribbon program.
He said whatever small part they can play to ease the minds of deployed soldiers and assure them that their families are being taken care of helps.
“When we send our military personnel overseas, they need to be focused on what they’re doing over there. They can’t be worried about their families back home because any type of distraction can cost them their lives,” Dietz said.
He said they have many volunteers skilled in a number of areas and ready to help.
“We have recruited people to mow people’s lawns, plow people’s driveways, fix their water heater — whatever imaginable that a veteran’s family could need,” Dietz said.
One hurdle has been identifying the families of deployed soldiers.
Griner said because of privacy issues, they have not been able to get information to email or send mailings to the people who have been activated and deployed.
To raise awareness about Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, Griner hopes to be allowed to attend a weekend drill at armories in Anoka, Cambridge, Monticello and St. Cloud. He also hopes to make contacts with the 934th Air Force Reserve unit in Minneapolis and the 133rd Minnesota Air National Guard unit, also in Minneapolis.
“We just want to get the word out that there’s a lot of people in the community that are willing to help,” he said.
One community outreach sponsored by Beyond the Yellow Ribbon is a bi-monthly military family dinner hosted by local churches. The next one is March 17 at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Elk River.
Military families looking to connect with Beyond the Yellow Ribbon can call 651-282-4055, which is the number for the military’s Family Assistance Center at the National Guard building in Brooklyn Park.
Businesses that want to be involved in Beyond the Yellow Ribbon should contact Cory Franson at 763-241-3520.