ESGR, enhancing the Yellow Ribbon Network, is growing in Morrison County

Kristina VonBerge has volunteered to educate local businesses

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
[email protected]

Kristina VonBerge, the executive director of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau, has put on a new hat. She is now volunteering with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), a program that enhances what the Yellow Ribbon Network of Morrison County is all about. It is for all branches of the military.

VonBerge, retired from the National Guard, is diligently speaking with businesses in Morrison County to tell them about this program.

Kristina VonBerge

“The program educates employers on how to treat soldiers fairly while they are honoring their military obligation,” she said. “It also teaches the soldiers how to treat their employers.

“People and businesses who are involved with the Yellow Ribbon Network are now being asked to become involved in ESGR,” she said. “The program will make the re-employment of the military personnel fairer and easier to understand. It will also show the veterans and service members the community cares.”

Each business that joins vows to support and understand service members and veterans and their obligation to serve and recognize each one in peace, crisis and in war.

When becoming a member of ESGR, a business owner/manager learns how to support current and future employees with service obligations. The business will be educated on hiring and firing service members and veterans. It will learn about the federal law which covers soldiers’ re-employment when they return to civilian life.

“There are rules for both employers and employees,” said VonBerge. “ESGR makes the soldier responsible for his/her job and it educates the employer. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Besides giving the business a tool to find employees who are veterans or service members, it will also be able to take advantage of a state benefit, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, possibly receiving up to $9,000 in a credit.

“Soldiers come home with a good work ethic, they are responsible and have a commitment to their family and their community,” said VonBerge. “When they return, they find that through the Yellow Ribbon Network, their families have been taken care of. Now the businesses need to help the soldiers.”

VonBerge said it’s easy to get involved. Just sign up. So far she has more than 25 businesses vowing to support veterans.

After an employer/manager signs a “statement of support,” they should log on and register on the Hero 2 Hire Web site, as a supportive employer. This site offers past and current service members an opportunity to learn about available jobs in their communities and statewide.

Another hat VonBerge has donned involves her working toward having Morrison County nationally recognized by the United States Department of Defense as a fully integrated Yellow Ribbon Network, which includes the ESGR program.

“In September, I want to see Little Falls and Morrison County receiving a certificate designating the area as a Yellow Ribbon Community,” she said. “To do that, I have to organize the community to embrace the idea.”

For more information on ESGR, contact VonBerge at [email protected]. For more information on the Yellow Ribbon Network, contact Rich Collins at [email protected].