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Blue Star Mothers benefit from Blue Jean Fridays

Citizens National Bank employees have started a fundraiser, "Blue Jean Fridays" for local charities. Every employee who wants to wear blue jeans on Friday's must pay at least one dollar to do so. A total of $300 was raised for the Blue Star Mothers group. This is one of several groups that have donated to the Blue Star Mothers organization. Those present in the picture are Carla Schaap (Citizens National Bank), Connie Carmichael and Mae Benjamin (Blue Star Mothers) and Linda Grover (Citizens National Bank).

The Northwoods Chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America is creating a list of all area soldiers in an effort to reach all of them with gift packages this holiday season.

Blue Star Mothers has two main fundraisers. One is the Blue Daisy Sale in August and the other is called Boots for Troops, with businesses around the area setting out a soldiers' boot to collect money.

Money from the fundraisers is used to send care packages that include snacks, pillow cases, cards, spoons and forks, hats and toiletries. They are packed by mothers, fathers and friends.

Connie Carmichael, president of the Northwoods Chapter of Blue Star Mothers, said the group is expanding and has members from Detroit Lakes, Cass Lake, Nevis and Park Rapids.

"We've got nine members now but we'd like to keep growing," she said.

Members of the group support each other along with families who have loved ones in the military.

"It's comforting to know others are going through some of the same things," she said. "Those of us who have children in the military need this group, maybe not very often, but it is so comforting to know that there is a way to connect with such wonderful caring people who are going through or have gone through the same feelings and concerns especially when our child deploys."

Right now, the group is looking to expand its list of soldiers. The only way they know about a soldier from the area being deployed is by word of mouth, Carmichael said.

They will be packaging boxes for soldiers Nov. 16 and would like to have a more complete list of soldiers by then. The group is also looking for additional donations.

The boxes will include items such as socks, soap, baby wipes, macaroni and cheese packets and toothbrushes.

"It's a community effort, I think, to get this going," Carmichael said.

The group has received donations from the Freedom Riders of Bemidji and hope to receive more.

The Northwoods Chapter has a variety of members. Some have children currently deployed and others do not.

Also, many husbands are involved in the group as well. It's becoming a family group rather than just mothers. Friends are also welcome.

Deb Korsgarden is one of these associate members. She was approached with the idea of providing quilts for local service members on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. She participates in Hubbard United Methodist Church's Threads of Love quilting group and her fellow quilters embraced the idea.

Since that time, the group has presented 30-40 quilts to the Blue Star Mothers of Park Rapids for distribution. An additional eight are being made right now.

Recently, the Blue Star Mothers chapter in the State of Minnesota has undertaken to make a quilt consisting of squares made by each of the local chapters. The Threads of Love quilters have already made more than one square to represent Park Rapids Blue Star Mothers chapter.

When completed, the quilt will be donated and displayed at the Valley Forge Veterans Village in Pennsylvania.

Blue Star Mothers display a blue star on a banner for each child in uniform. The stars, typically hung in front windows of their homes, change to gold if a son or daughter dies in military service.

The Blue Star Flags have long been a part of wartime history. They have been hung in the family's windows of service men and women since World War I. These banners first became a way for households to indicate they have family members in service in 1917.

For more information about the Blue Star Mothers, to join or to donate, call Carmichael at 218-252-0086 or Dawn Caracio at 218-573-2628. The Blue Star Mother's mailing address is PO Box 734, Park Rapids, MN 56470.