Minnesota first lady Mary Pawlenty was never part of a military family, but she knows what it's like to manage a busy home and work schedule while her spouse is away.
"I do have a spouse who's an extremely busy person," she said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The District Court judge said she did the lion's share of the parenting for their two young daughters when her husband, Tim Pawlenty, campaigned full time for governor. Even after Pawlenty's election, during the busy transition period in December, the first lady said she was overwhelmed by the demands of work and home. Enter the governor-to-be's sisters, who came in to help with household chores for the busy family.
"Sometimes you just need a helping hand," Pawlenty said.
Extending that helping hand to the families of Minnesota soldiers who are deployed overseas is the concept behind the First Lady's Military Family Care Initiative. The service links military families with community and faith-based organizations that are willing to pitch in with such chores as shoveling snow, mowing lawns or performing minor home repairs. So far, about 250 organizations have registered to help military families.
Any group can register by logging on to www.governor.state.mn.us and clicking on "First Lady's Family Care Initiative." Some groups have even indicated to the state that they'd be willing to travel a reasonable distance to help out a needy family.
Want to help?
The First Lady's Military Family Care Initiative links families of military personnel who are deployed overseas and who may need help with some chores with organizations that are willing to help.
Military families who would like help or groups that are willing to assist them may log on to www.governor.state.mn.us and click on "First Lady's Family Care Initiative."
A spokesperson for the first lady said many of the Brainerd area military personnel are serving in Iraq. According to the Military Family Care Initiative's Web site, Minnesota has more than 1,000 soldiers deployed in Bosnia and more than 500 deployed in Europe. Another 800 are scheduled to go to Kosovo later this fall.
The first lady said the Brainerd area has a large number of soldiers who are currently deployed and expressed the hope that Brainerd area organizations would offer their services to military families.
Pawlenty's primary role has been to publicize the initiative by doing interviews and participating in events such as July's "Support our Troops and Families Fishing Day" at Camp Ripley.
"That was one of the most wonderful days," she said. "Oh, we had precious children catching fish. I catch sunnies well. I had a blast doing that."
Some National Guard families have been critical of deployment extensions and the uncertainty it's caused in their lives. Pawlenty said deployment decisions are made at the federal level but she listens to their concerns.
"I can't imagine how stressful this must be on their lives," she said. "What I have told folks is that I don't have the ability to address the fact that their spouse has been deployed. We have no control over it. I hear their frustration. ... I'm only in the position to give them love and support."
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