MORRIS - After nearly a full year of work by a group of local volunteers, the Morris Area is poised to be designated a Yellow Ribbon Community, a designation for communities dedicated to supporting service members and their families.
City Manager Blaine Hill, who has served as chair of the steering committee working toward this recognition, presented some of the work of the committee this week in advance of submitting the group's work to the state of Minnesota.
The idea of a Yellow Ribbon Community was started by Governor Tim Pawlenty as a way to recognize communities that are doing the work necessary to take care of service members and their families from all branches of the military and armed forces.
When the Morris Area Yellow Ribbon Network was formed last October, the idea was to identify the services and support available to service members in the community and see what gaps remained, said Hill.
Over the last year, a steering committee for the Morris Area Yellow Ribbon Network has been meeting to develop an action plan that demonstrates the community's commitment to service members and military families.
The action plan includes existing services and ongoing plans for city leadership, public safety/judicial officials, faith based organizations, veterans and civic organizations, businesses and employers, social service and medical providers and educational organizations.
"I think anybody that's been part of the committee knows and understands that we were pretty surprised at the extent of what's going on in this area when it comes to dealing with service members and their families," said Hill.
One of the biggest goals of the group, said Hill, is to find a way to identify all of the service members in the Morris area to help provide services and information as needed. One challenge is identifying young veterans, who are sometimes less-connected to local veterans organizations than other service members.
"If you're a young veteran, you may not even want to identify yourself as a veteran," said Hill. "The biggest thing for us is that there are people out there that don't realize that there's help and they're not asking for it, but their neighbor might know that they need help, their minister might know that they need help. If we can get the word out to all the different areas so we can kind of watch out for them even if they're not watching out for themselves, that's the best thing that we can do."
This month, the committee will review the action plan with a representative from the State of Minnesota before it is formally submitted. If the action plan moves forward, Morris could be designated a Yellow Ribbon Community as early as December.