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Volunteers sacrifice a Saturday to help a Willmar, Minn., soldier

Volunteers with the HomeFront Connection paint a house Saturday in southeast Willmar to help a military veteran make a new transition to active duty. Among the painters were Craig Holmes, on the roof from left, Bethany Bostrom, Dick Pike and Scott Grother along with Trisha Appeldorn, on the ground from left, and Judy Pike. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)1 / 2
Dick Reitsma of Willmar scrapes old paint from the home of Jesus and Laura Estrada on Saturday. Reitsma, a retired Army vet, led the group of painters volunteering to help a local soldier. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)2 / 2

WILLMAR -- Volunteers brought paint brushes and a spirit of goodwill Saturday to a southeast Willmar home to help a military veteran make a new transition to active duty.

The Willmar-based HomeFront Connection, along with the Red Cross of St. Cloud, contributed to a day of painting at the home of Jesus and Laura Estrada.

The goal was to spruce up the 2½-story home so that it can be sold and Laura can join her husband at his new military base. They won't know where that location is until July, but they do know they need to sell their Willmar home.

With Jesus Estrada stationed out of state, his wife also knew she needed some help getting the house ready for the market.

"Laura contacted HomeFront Connection to ask if there were any services to help her get the house ready to sell," said Trisha Appeldorn, Kandiyohi County Veteran Service Officer.

Jesus Estrada was in the National Guard, but after a 2009 deployment to Iraq he joined the Army, Appeldorn said.

He's currently stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., but will move to an active-duty base in August.

Several volunteers pitched in with the project on Saturday.

"The house is huge," Appeldorn said in an earlier interview. The goal was to paint the upper stories so that the family could finish the rest on ladders.

Grand Rental Station of Willmar donated the use of a scissor lift, which made it easier to reach the high spots.

"The community is just really coming together for this project," Appeldorn said.

Having a large listing of people willing to volunteer is the "only way" to complete projects that help military families.

Besides the one-day painting spree, HomeFront Connection is also helping families on an ongoing basis while their military spouses are deployed.

Appeldorn said volunteers with HomeFront Connection are delivering meals and mowing the lawns for two families of soldiers who are currently deployed.

Both families have small children. The spouses left behind are going to be single parents for a year, she said.

"It is our job to help the families when their spouse is not here to get the work that is needed to be done completed," Appeldorn said. "This puts the soldier's mind at ease so they can focus on what their mission is, and that is their position in the military."

If a soldier can't focus on his military mission, he could be putting lives in danger, Appeldorn said. "We like to think that we are providing a valuable service to the military and the veteran by making sure the families' needs are met."

HomeFront Connection is looking for additional volunteers to support local military families. To be part of the email list used to call on volunteers, call Appeldorn at 320-231-6226 or visit

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750