Homefront Connection extends a helping hand to military, veterans and their families – West Central Tribune | CarTailz

WILLMAR – It can be a very difficult time when a family member is in the military. Not only are there concerns for the safety of the individual, but at home it can be a challenge to keep everything running smoothly without the help and paycheck of the deployed person.

That’s why Homefront Connection was formed over a decade ago to serve the families of military personnel deployed to the region.

“We had some really busy years when our unit was deployed,” said Dick Reitsma, Homefront Connection’s CEO. “We were there to help where we could.”

HomeFront Connection volunteers have been helping military members, their families and veterans in and around the Willmar area for 12 years. When family members are deployed, Homefront Connection helps families with chores and repairs. Back in 2011, volunteers helped paint this Willmar home for a military family.

Ron Adams / West Central Tribune file photo

The group of volunteers help military families with gardening, car repairs, equipment replacement, storm pick-up, and more. The nonprofit group was usually contacted by the unit when a family needed assistance.

“Just a lot of things that these people experienced when their loved ones were gone,” Reitsma said.

As delivery rates slowed in the second half of the decade, Homefront Connection turned its attention to another worthy group of people who could sometimes use a helping hand.

“Let’s focus on our veterans and see what we can do for them,” Reitsma said.

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Homefront Connection has also participated in various military family and veteran events over the years.

West Central Tribune file photo

Homefront has stepped up to help veterans with household chores and unexpected expenses, and also sponsors veteran events such as Veterans Coffee at the Willmar Community Center and a Let’s Go Fishing event for veterans.

Last October, volunteers from the Homefront Connection and the Willmar Warhawks hockey team helped clean up the property of a Vietnam veteran who faced a hefty fine if the cleanup didn’t happen. The volunteers were able to clean up the site in a single day.

“It only took us a few Subway sandwiches and a little time,” Reitsma said.

Homefront was also available to assist individual soldiers who needed assistance. In one case, Homefront bought a plane ticket for a soldier who could not have attended his father’s funeral without help.

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Disabled Vietnam veteran Terrell Myllenbeck, center, is surrounded by members of the Willmar WarHawks and Homefront Connections hockey team after a clean up at the veteran’s home near New London Friday, October 14, 2022.

Macy Moore/West Central Tribune

Homefront Connection has a seven-member board of directors, all of whom are veterans themselves. Reitsma said the fact that Homefront is made up of veterans sometimes makes it more convenient for veterans to accept the help. Veterans understand what other veterans may have been through or are experiencing.

“Things like that help, too,” Reitsma said.

Applications for Veterans Assistance are usually made to Homefront through a county Veterans Service Office. One can also contact Reitsma at 320-894-8946. Homefront will do whatever it takes to help the veteran, including reaching out to other organizations and businesses. In the past, Homefront has partnered with local businesses to help a veteran or military family in need.

“When we receive a request from a veteran, we act on it,” Reitsma said.

Erica Dischino/Tribune veteran Leonard Isdahl, right, enjoys coffee with colleague Doug Ardoff at the Coffee with Vets meetup at the Willmar Community Center Monday.  The bi-monthly meetings are well attended and Monday was hosted by US Representative Collin Peterson.

Homefront Connection helped sponsor the twice-monthly coffee with the vets at the Willmar Community Center. It’s an opportunity for veterans to gather and enjoy camaraderie with other veterans.

Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune File Photo

Homefront wouldn’t be able to do what it does without the help of the community. Volunteers make it possible to complete projects, while monetary donations allow Homefront to help without worrying about getting paid.

“We didn’t do it alone. The community helped us,” said Reitsma. “We’ve been privileged to receive a lot of support from the community.”

Reitsma said there are many organizations that help veterans and military families, but they can’t do everything. Groups like Homefront Connection help bridge that gap and get to the small projects that can make a big difference to a military family or veteran. Homefront Connection will stay on the frontlines, helping veterans, service members and their families keep the fires in their homes burning bright.

“We’re here for them,” Reitsma said.

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