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Beyond Yellow Ribbon helps veterans

Bell State Bank & Trust employees Nancy Baker, second from right, and Carissa Roerick, right, donated a portion of their Pay It Forward money to Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of the Lakes organization. Accepting on the organization’s behalf are Mark Sjostrom, Minnesota Military Family assistance specialist, and Carrie Johnston, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of the Lakes chair. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Last December when Lance Akers came in to see Nancy Baker at Bell State Bank & Trust, he was too late to get a donation for the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of the Lakes organization.

But she remembered his name and the organization this year when it came time to donate a portion of her Pay It Forward money.

“Beyond the Yellow Ribbon was the first program I thought of when I was able to participate (in the Pay It Forward program),” she said. “I always kept him in the back of my mind.”

Baker and her co-worker Carissa Roerick donated $1,000 to the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of the Lakes program, which will be used to provide help during Thanksgiving and Christmas for area military families.

“It helps homeless veterans and active military families,” Baker said of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program.

Established a couple years ago in Detroit Lakes, the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of the Lakes chapter is a network of support for those in the military, past and present, and their families.

“Really what it is, is a way for the community to support its veterans and service members, along with their families and extended families,” said Lauri Brooke, veterans service officer for Becker County.

She said the purpose of the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program is for when veterans have a need that isn’t necessarily covered by regular services the state or federal government offer, and this network of people is tapped for help. That could be anything from needing a ride to shoveling a driveway to purchasing bus tokens.

“Any time there wasn’t something covered by a state or federal program, I have always been able to turn to the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon network,” Brooke said.

It’s not just the service organizations, like the American Legion for example, that are providing assistance either, but any member of the community.

“It’s just a wide variety,” Brooke said.

Through the Families Assistance program, Thanksgiving baskets are provided for veteran families in need throughout the state. The baskets are filled with food items for the big day.

Once Beyond the Yellow Ribbon of the Lakes received the Pay It Forward money from Baker and Roerick, Brooke talked to the chapter’s president, Carrie Johnston, and they decided part of the money would be used to provide Thanksgiving meals for more veterans.

“Holidays get to be a tough time, and it’s winter and it’s Minnesota,” Brooke said.

With the extra money, they were able to give out six more gift cards for Thanksgiving, along with supplementing the first 10 baskets they received through the state program.

“They have been thrilled,” Brooke said of those who had already picked up their baskets the day before Thanksgiving.

Beyond the Yellow Ribbon also plans to use some of the Bell State Bank money to provide Christmas presents for military children and gift cards for families in need.

“There are just so many things,” Brooke said. “Very seldom does a need go unmet.”

Baker said it was an easy decision for her and Roerick to donate to the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program, because they both have relatives in the military. 

“I hold it pretty near and dear to my heart,” she said of programs that assist military members. The other program she donated her Pay It Forward funds to was the Patriot Assistance Dogs program.

Since starting the Pay It Forward program in 2008, Bell State Bank & Trust and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to organizations throughout communities where the banks do business. Each full-time employee receives $1,000 and each part-time employee receives $500 to Pay It Forward.

“It’s fun to see where it goes from there,” Baker said of the chain reaction from giving.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.