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Honoring mothers, grandmothers: Volunteers host annual military luncheon

Event chair Paulette Olson welcomed 90 women to the ninth-annual Military Mother Grandmother luncheon hosted by Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network volunteers on Saturday, April 29, at St. Michael’s Church in Farmington. Photo by Kara Hildreth1 / 3
The Rev. Elaine Barber from Church of the Advent in Farmington led a prayer before the luncheon was served at St. Michael’s Catholic church in Farmington. Photo by Kara Hildreth2 / 3
Kitchen volunteers dressed in 1950s clothes included (from left) event co-chair Lee Michaels, Kim Hoffman, Lis McCarty, Jodee Kratz and Jake Hoffman. Photo by Kara Hildreth3 / 3

Women willing to send sons and daughters off to serve their country during war and peacetime were honored with a special luncheon April 29.

The Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network volunteers hosted the ninth-annual Military Mother Grandmother luncheon where 90 women were served a sit-down lunch at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Farmington.

"This is a really important event for us because it is a day of pampering for the moms and grandmothers, and it is very important we keep supporting our military families and honor our service members," said Annette Kuyper, founder of Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network.

Kuyper works as director of military outreach at the state level and she has been a workhouse champion to spread the group's mission of how the country and communities need to support military families. Kuyper has even spoken at the White House.

Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network Founder Annette Kuyper said Farmington was the first Yellow Ribbon Network city in Minnesota.

Each mother and grandmother was given special yellow ribbon name tags that listed their names and the names and ranks of sons and daughters who served in the U.S. military.

The party area was decorated with a special Cruisin' to the Nifty Fifties theme. Pink and white carnations in the shape of ice cream sundaes decorated each table. Each lady was invited to partake in relaxing pampering stations with chair massage and special skin products.

Event chair Paulette Olson greeted each woman.

"It is an amazing day and lot of work and fun, but after nine years it is easier because we have learned how to make it easier," Olson said.

Along with her father who served in the military, Olson's brother serves in the South Dakota U.S. National Guard and her nephew works for the Iowa National Guard. She understands the commitment and sacrifice each military family makes when loved ones go off to serve during deployment.

"We recognize and honor not just all the moms, but especially the moms who have lost children — our Gold Star mothers — and that is an integral part of the program," Kuyper said.

Each Gold Star mother was honored by the audience.

Kuyper touted how Farmington is proud to hold the honor of being named the first Yellow Ribbon city in the country in 2008. She said today there are more than 219 Yellow Ribbon cities across the state. Kuyper visited the White House a few years ago to tell the story about military family support programs make a difference. Now six states are working to model Minnesota's family outreach programs throughout the nation.

Military mothers and grandmothers stood for the Pledge of Allegiance before the luncheon. Photo by Kara Hildreth

"We really want it to be a day moms enjoy where they enjoy each other," Olson said. Many women reunited with other mothers and grandmothers they had not seen since last year's event. Some ladies made new connections and developed new friendships. All women seemed to enjoy the pampering stations and special touches at the meal and special personalized place settings.

As event co-chair in charge of meal planning, Lee Michaels became involved with the military outreach group because she wanted to make a difference in military families' lives.

"Because every mother needs to be recognized and grandmothers, too," said Michaels. "I wish I had something like this when my son was in Desert Storm in the Marines as part of the MP (Military Police)."

Volunteers said most all of the mothers and grandmothers spend their whole lives taking care of their families, so this was a day where each woman could sit back and be waited upon. The women were served drinks, a meal and a piece of apple pie topped with a slice of American cheese, a popular dessert served in the 1950s.

The mission of Farmington Yellow Ribbon Network is a cross community organization that offers free support to service members, veterans and military families. The community hosts monthly veterans' dinners and helps families and veterans with yard work, cleaning, car repairs, doctor visits and other things that make military families and veterans' lives easier during and after deployment.

To find out more about the military family support programs through Rosemount or Farmington Yellow Ribbon Networks, call 651-829-1856 or connect on Facebook.