I’m taking a break from the bucket list to talk about my Mom (founder of Operation Minnesota Nice).
Growing up, I was taught to look at volunteering in the same way that some families view military service. It was a civic duty, and not optional. If I wanted to have a stake in the outcome of this world, it was my job to give as much of myself and my talents as I could, foster relationships and create the community I would want to be part of.
I raised in the basements of American Legions and VFW’s, spending my weekends, not playing sports and going out with friends, but at armories, packing boxes for soldiers I had never, and would never meet, with strangers who would later become family. I met and listened to stories from the first female loggers and miners in Duluth, all while they packed mailing boxes, headed for a soldier who didn’t have anyone else to write to.
I decorated holiday boxes filled with small pine trees and ornaments for service members living in a desert during my senior year at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I met people not like me, who didn’t have the same beliefs I did, and I loved them just the same.
The bucket list has been a tangent of living my formidable life with a do-gooder. I was taught how to love tirelessly and to leave no place, no one forgotten.
My Mother has a servant’s heart and when she sees a need, she makes herself available, at any cost. Today my Mom received a box. Enclosed was a letter from a former volunteer that read:
“This American hero doesn’t put on a uniform or carry a weapons, but she is a hero nonetheless… Denise founded Operation Minnesota Nice with the mission:
We provide support and comfort to those serving in our armed forces. We are committed to making a difference in the lives of those serving abroad in a time of conflict. Operation Minnesota Nice does not take a position on where or why the troops are deployed. We are simply here to offer a reminder that they are our heroes. “
With it was a big manila envelope from The White House:
The White House
I recently heard about the outstanding work you’ve been doing to lift up our Nation’s men and women in uniform, and I wanted to let you know how grateful I am for your efforts.
It is because of the sacrifice and selflessness of our troops that we can come home each day, gather with family and friends, and live in peace and security, and I admire your passion for serving these heroes. By providing support and comfort to those in our Armed Forces, you’ve demonstrated that there are few things more fundamentally American than trying to make a difference in the lives of others – especially for those who answer our Nation’s call to serve.
I trust you’ll stay committed to making a difference, and to being Minnesota nice. I wish you and all those working with you the very best.
I have always been proud of her and her heart, no matter how much she believed that it was often more of a curse than a blessing. The calling of a life much bigger than her own brought a remarkable journey but one that colored her life (and mine). I have never been more awe-inspired.
“You have never really lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
Although she has ‘passed the batton’, you can find more info on Operation Minnesota Nice’s website