Army of Volunteers in TRF lead by UND Alumna Kiki Goddard Anderson, '03

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School of Law


A small army of volunteers will serve holiday dinner Saturday evening for soldiers in Thief River Falls.

For Kiki Goddard Anderson, it's the least they can do for soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard's Bravo Company, which includes troops not only from Thief River Falls, but from other communities in the region, including Crookston and East Grand Forks.

"We just want them to feel special and valued," Anderson said. "They put their lives on the line for us 24/7/365. Why can't we give them one night out?"

Anderson has another reason for the gesture.

When the Thief River Falls Food Shelf lost its local building more than two years ago, the National Guard offered its local armory building for the twice-monthly food distribution.

"I don't know what we would have done without them," she said.

Anderson served as the organization's executive director for two years, before resigning in September to take another job, as executive director of the Northwest Private Industry Council, based in Thief River Falls.

She still serves on the Food Shelf board of directors and continues to fill in as acting director until a new director is hired.

Last December, when the Food Shelf volunteers were distributing food at the armory, they saw Guard soldiers preparing for the annual holiday event, which includes a formal dinner and dance for soldiers, retired soldiers and their significant others.

It's an event that's been held at least for the past two decades, according to Staff Sgt. Kevin Howard, assistant readiness non-commissioned officer with the local unit, B Company, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry Regiment.

Normally, Bravo Company enlists a group of five to 10 community volunteers to help organize the event. However, last year, the volunteers had to back out at the last moment, he said.

"Kiki heard about it and, the godsend that she is, she said she'd find the volunteers to take care of it," he said. "And they did it."

"They had guys grilling. It was 25-below that night," Anderson said. "We thought they shouldn't have to do that. We should be able to do that for them."

After last year's experience, Anderson decided to make it an annual event.

Local fundraiser

Anderson said she is expecting to serve about 250 active and retired soldiers and their guests. She started a page on the fundraiser website,, to raise at least $3,300 for the event.

She is suggesting donations of $30 per soldier, or $60 per couple. As of Wednesday afternoon, the website listed $1,260 raised by 21 donors. The group also is raising money locally.

Donations also are being accepted by check, mailed to Thief River Falls Food Shelf at PO Box 802, Thief River Falls, MN 56701.

Any extra funds will be used for door prizes for those soldiers in attendance at the dinner, according to Anderson.

Food Shelf demand

The Thief River Falls Food Shelf serves about 200 households per month, distributing about 10,000 pounds of food each month to residents of Pennington County, as well as some nearby communities, Anderson said.

Last year, it served about 1,500 different people, she said.

"There's still a real need," she said. "Even though unemployment is low in this region, there are still folks that just aren't making ends meet."

The food shelf has been distributing the food twice a month at the armory for about the past 2.5 years.

At that time, the food shelf started looking for a new building because the one it was renting was not meeting clients' needs, according to Anderson, who was hired at about that time.

The organization found another potential building and secured a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development low-interest loan for $200,000.

"We thought it was going to be the answer to our prayers," she said. "We had an architect look at it. The architect said there were issues with the building we couldn't see on the surface."

So, the organization backed off.

The food shelf still is looking for a new home and has up to five years to use the Rural Development funds.

"We have to be exceptionally good stewards of our money," said Anderson, who is an attorney. "We have one other building we have our eye on."

If that doesn't work out, the group also might consider building a small facility, one that would be large enough to meet the organization's needs.

In the meantime, the Thief River Falls Food Shelf will continue its twice-monthly distributions from the local armory.

"They've been just wonderful," she said of the soldiers of Company B. "We just want to give something back."