Imagine living outdoors, in the rough, even during the wintertime here in North Dakota.

By Louise Oleson
DLJ Managing Editor
Imagine living outdoors, in the rough, even during the wintertime here in North Dakota.
That’s what a number of veterans in Ramsey County do, however. For whatever their reasons, they live outdoors, away from other people, year round.

Over the years caring people have identified who these veterans are and where they can be found in our region. They bring them warm clothing, blankets, boots and food - whatever they might need to exist.

In the meantime, they’ve also managed to identify other veterans who, though they may have shelter, don’t have the means to meet all their own needs.
The number of veterans in need throughout the area could be over 100, Ellen McKinnon, Veterans Resource Group told the Devils Lake Journal in an interview a year ago.

You can help

If you are wondering how you can help these souls who are in need, today, Leevers Foods North is hosting a food drive for the local Veterans Food Pantry. They and the folks at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Devils Lake, like Brad Thompson, have put a tree up in the front of the store and provided nearby a list of the items needed.

Here are their suggestions:
canned fruit
canned vegetables
Bush’s beans
Minute Rice
mac & cheese
canned meats
vegetable oil
Miracle Whip
taco shells
taco seasonings
noodle side dishes
laundry soap
dish soap
light bulbs
Zip Loc baggies
toilet paper
paper towels
Ivory soap (bar)
Any non-perishable foods will do.
Next time you stop for groceries, pick up a list and see if there might be an item or two you could purchase and leave in the bin provided for homeless and needy veterans right here in Ramsey County.

They’ll see that the veterans get your donation.
McKinnon worked for a number of years for the Salvation Army as the coordinator for Supportive Services for Veteran Families. She knows first-hand the needs of these men who served our country and came back home to find whatever peace they could find.
She now works for the Veterans Resource Group, under the auspices of the Community Action Agency.
McKinnon says that years ago, when she first started this work most people were incredulous when they were told that there were veterans living outdoors, in the rough, in North Dakota year-round.

Now, however, she says people are becoming more and more aware of what is really happening and she often gets asked, herself, “Did you know there are veterans right here in North Dakota who are living rough year-round?”
That’s been a big change as people have become more and more aware of the needs of those veterans, too.
“We have ladies groups making blankets for them and groups like the Spirit Lake Riders MC that have stepped up to help provide what these men need to survive,” McKinnon said.
“There are lots of individuals and groups that help, but the need continues,” she added.
She says the biggest need is for gift cards from Leevers because when they go out to deliver the items these veterans need, they will have to pick up the perishable items at the last minute.

You can purchase gift cards at the Service Counter or give a cash donation there, too, to help.
Local businesses are welcome to help, as well, like the three Bergstrom Motors in Devils Lake that last year donated a vehicle for McKinnon and the Veterans Resource Group to use as they make their rounds distributing the items these homeless veterans need to survive.