Minnesotans deployed from the Second Battalion, 135th Infantry to the Horn of Africa will receive care packages of toiletries, protein drinks and gym equipment next month.
But first, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon chapters in Faribault and Owatonna invite community members to donate these items to the cause. The Rice County and Steele County Sheriffs offices began collecting items this week, and donors have until Sept. 30 to bring in contributions.
Sarah Frazier, chair of the Owatonna Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, explained that Beyond the Yellow Ribbon works with National Guard service members throughout the state who don’t have bases. The goal of each town with an armory is to have a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon chapter, but the Owatonna group serves Steele County as well as counties without a chapter.
“Our goal is to support the service members and their family,” Frazier said. “We just want them to know that they are cared for ... that we’re here to support them, whether it’s supporting them or their families while they’re gone.”
Six major units make up the Minnesota Army National Guard Second Battalion, 135th Infantry: the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) in Mankato and Owatonna, A Company in West St. Paul, B Company in Rochester, C Company in Winona, D Company in Albert Lea and 1135th Combat Support Company in Faribault. Essentially, that means soldiers from across Minnesota will receive care packages through Beyond the Yellow Ribbon.
Rice County Sheriff Troy Dunn said that the battalion’s army chaplain reached out to Beyond the Yellow Ribbon to request care packages for the soldiers.
“This is something new,” Dunn said of the cause. “We’ve sent some smaller care packages or assisted here and there, but this is the first time we’re taking the bull by the horns.”
The main items needed for the care packages include disposable razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes, Mio Energy or Pedialyte drink packets, individual whey protein packets, and gym equipment like bands, foam rollers and lacrosse balls. The organization also welcomes financial donations to cover the cost of shipping and additional items.
Some may wonder why gym equipment made the list, but Dunn said gym closures during the pandemic led consumers to buy more at-home workout materials. As a result, these items have become more scarce.
“Having those little things besides just their regular duties gives them something to take care of themselves with,” Dunn said.
The Rice County Sheriff’s Office collection is located in the lower lobby, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. After hours, donors can leave their items in the lower lobby box. The Steele County Sheriff’s Office also takes donations between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Following the two-week collection period, Beyond the Yellow Ribbon volunteers will package the products and ship them to the Horn of Africa to arrive in October.