Military families served early Thanksgiving meal by community

Families of the deployed Minnesota National Guard’s 257th Military Police Company recently received bit of holiday cheer from a familiar corporate sponsor.
Cargill Kitchen Solutions coordinated a “Feast for the Families” Nov. 4 inside the Monticello High School commons, serving up a full Thanksgiving-style feast.
Santa and Mrs. Claus and plenty of Christmas-themed helpers were also on hand to take holiday photos with the families to send overseas to unit members.
“This was an inaugural event,” said Feast for the Families event organizer Jessica Rombach.
“Cargill Kitchen Solutions had been providing breakfast for the troops prior to their deployment in July and, after they left, we wanted a creative way to give the families that same treatment and tell them ‘Thank You.’ ”
The 257th Military Police Company (257th MP) is a Minnesota National Guard company based in Monticello.
According to Rombach, currently, there are more than 120 men and women from the company stationed in Bagram, Afghanistan, with family members living as far away as Iowa and the Dakotas.
There were more than 140 people present from those families during the Sunday afternoon event Nov. 4. Doors for the event opened at noon, and meals were served around 1 p.m.
A number of Monticello and area organizations helped support the event, Rombach said.
For example, Santa and Mrs. Claus were able to make their photo appearance courtesy of the Lions Club of Monticello.
Dee Dee Dahlhiemer of Cargill Kitchen Solutions organized that part of the recent Feast for the Families event.
“She thought it would be great to send a photo of the family with Santa to their deployed loved ones,” Rombach said. Catering was done by “A Catered Event” (funded by Cargill), desserts were donated entirely by Nelson Brother’s Bakery out of the Clearwater Travel Plaza, and an anonymous farmer out of Big Lake donated potatoes for the holiday feast.
A local woman who hand sewed one for every deployed soldier provided the stockings and the Family Readiness Group of the 257th organized the goodies stuffed inside the stockings.
Caribou donated coffee; McDonald’s donated HiC to drink and Blue Egg Bakery in Elk River donated hand-cut donuts for the unit bake sale.
“We wanted to keep this a local event, so we started reaching out to different local venues whose offerings would make the day extra-special for family members,” Rombach said. Cargill employees were involved from the start. “There was a small steering committee of six people including myself and more than 15 volunteers.”
“They came to help set up, clean up, and serve the food. It started off with smaller discussions and many people came and helped out.  There was also a bake sale for unit families on Election Day [Nov. 6]. The care packages that were packed Nov. 4 included stockings stuffed for every single soldier deployed, Rombach said.
The contents came from all over the community. Family members donated candies, toys were donated by local businesses and water bottles were donated by New River Medical Center.
“Family members packed the stockings and personalized the Christmas cards and the Santa photo,” Rombach said. “It was an incredible community event.”