A ribbon of supportPublished 8:01am Sunday, November 11, 2012
Young organization serving military families and veterans
When Austin received a designation as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon city on July 27, the mission wasn’t complete. It had just begun.
While one hurdle has been cleared, now the objective is to grow the network of volunteers and resources available to military families and veterans in need. Still, some aren’t quite sure what Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Association is. Pam Hollrah-Asleson, who has been instrumental in starting the organization locally, is helping change that.
“There are a lot of people out there who want to help the military because of what they’ve done, but they don’t know who to contact,” Hollrah-Asleson said, secretary of the organization. “And we are the people who connect them with that.”
Hollrah-Asleson, whose father and son have served in the military, routinely meets with a few others, such as BYRA Chair Paul Spyhalski, to plan upcoming events and build a bigger network.
Many more occasionally attend meetings and have offered their support as volunteers, as well. Hollrah-Asleson said about 30 people involved are in contact on a regular basis. She has seen how the organization is already making a difference, such as fixing a leaky roof or helping a family with a sick, struggling newborn. There are plenty of ways to help.
The BYRA network includes people who can help military families fix their houses, baby-sit kids, give them rides and offer other forms of support that otherwise wouldn’t be available to some. Other resources include professionals who can offer discounted services or set up low-cost events, such as an upcoming holiday party for local military families.
Furthermore, to be a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon city, city officials have to be onboard. That makes the organization much more credible.
“You actually have to have the involvement of all the city people and emergency services,” Hollrah-Asleson said.
The local BYRA has a website, info on how to volunteer or how to get help for those who are veterans: beyondtheyellowribbonsemn.com. Local leaders have a main contact, 507-279-3586, at which volunteers or veterans in need can talk to someone.
“People who want to donate some of their time and be involved in the activities, we need that,” Hollrah-Asleson said. “We need people who want to donate some of their services.”
For Hollrah-Asleson, the network is in constant flux, as some people are moving in and out of the area or available at certain times and not at others. Building BYRA isn’t easy.
Another way to grow BYRA, however, is through fundraisers. The local BYRA is holding a tip night from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Pizza Ranch in Austin to do just that. Hollrah-Asleson said the organization needs funds to set up things like its upcoming holiday party or the Military All-Stars baseball game it held last summer.
Still, Austin’s organization is in its infancy, and Hollrah-Asleson realizes that.
“We are still young,” she said. “We’re still a new group.”
Throughout the summer, Hollrah-Asleson could be seen at Tuesdays on Main, spreading information about the organization, making a name. She wants to make it work.
“It’s new, and it’s a growing, changing thing,” she said.