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Farmington Yellow Ribbon program hits a milestone

It was a warm, early summer evening back in 2008. A smattering of 50 or so people sat scattered around the cafetorium at Meadowview Elementary School. They were there to hear about a new concept called “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.”

That’s what it was back then — only a concept. It was an idea for a network to support military men and women and their families. And Farmington mom of a soldier Annette Kuyper was right in the middle of it.

Five years later, Farmington is celebrating its fifth anniversary as Minnesota’s first Yellow Ribbon City. The community is invited to help in that celebration during a special ceremony Friday, Dec. 6, at Farmington High School.

The Yellow Ribbon idea was an evolving concept back in 2008. The National Guard was trying to set up a program that helped soldiers return to civilian life after serving overseas. The University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute was involved, too.

There was a goal to develop an action plan that brought together all facets of a community — schools, businesses, civic organizations, city staff, police, churches and, naturally, veterans’ organizations — to create a network of not only support, but empathy and understanding. Some loose guidelines were put together, but it was really Kuyper and Farmington’s early Beyond the Yellow Ribbon team that developed the standards now used statewide.

“They didn’t have a structure, so we just kind of started putting stuff together. What we developed here is still the basis for the statewide program,” Kuyper said. “We wanted to hold the bar high. What we did back then helped create what is the basis for the program that has led 198 others to follow suit.”

That’s right: 198 others. As of last Friday, 198 other communities and counties around the state have earned the title of a Yellow Ribbon City.

A success story

If someone had told her in 2008 how successful the Yellow Ribbon Network program would become, Kuyper wouldn’t have believed it at first.

But now when she thinks about the first five years of Farmington’s program, Kuyper cannot begin to count the number of military men and women, the veterans, and their families that have been touched by the Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network initiative.

“I have almost 300 volunteers to call on. We get requests for support to families in everything from yard work and meals, to helping elderly veterans with transportation or household chores. We go to other communities to lend help and support in many ways. We’re always trying to identify the needs of our veterans and military community here in Farmington,” she said.

A celebration

The community is invited to help celebrate Farmington’s designation as Minnesota’s first Yellow Ribbon City. An anniversary party of sorts is planned for Dec. 6, and Kuyper is hoping for a big turnout.

Special guests for the evening include Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito. Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Richard Nash will also attend.

Music will be provided by the 34th Infantry Division North Star Brass Quintet, based out of the Rosemount National Guard Armory. Farmington police chief Brian Lindquist will be the emcee for the evening.

The free event is open to the public. Light appetizers will be served to guests beginning at 6 p.m. The program begins at 7 p.m. and features Gov. Dayton, Commissioner Shellito and Adjutant General Nash as speakers. Cake will be served after the ceremony.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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