Have you ever noticed that sometimes the most helpful support comes from the quietest volunteers?
“Pastor Brent Klein is someone we can count on to do what he says he will do,” says Michelle Mahowald, co-chair of Northfield Beyond the Yellow Ribbon. “He may not be talkative, but his input is insightful and effective.”
Pastor Klein moved to Northfield in August 2003 with his wife Amy and their three children, to serve as the senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church. He joined the BTYR network in early 2015 at the invitation of parishioner and BTYR volunteer Ray Ozmun. He jumped in with both feet, volunteering many hours as the group defined its mission, recruited participants from the Northfield community, and reached out to military families and veterans.
Northfield BTYR was created for connecting veterans and service members and their families with community support and resources. The group is part of a network throughout Minnesota: BTYR communities work together with local, nonprofit, state and federal partners to provide support to military-connected residents across the state.
Thanks to Klein’s and others’ efforts, the group earned an official proclamation from the governor designating Northfield as a Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Community in November 2016.
Klein became the secretary for the steering committee in 2017 and is currently formulating fiscal policies for the group.
Pastor Klein is a veteran himself, having joined the U.S. Navy in 1997, and serving as a Navy chaplain for six years. During his first tour, he served for 2 ½ years onboard USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), a guided missile cruiser. During his second tour in 2000-03, he and his family were stationed at a Marine Corps Base, Camp Butler Okinawa, Japan, where he worked at CREDO.
Pastor Klein is most concerned with the families of deployed service members, since he and Amy are personally aware of the unique challenges that these people face. “Anything we can do to help families get through that tough time is my priority,” he said.
During his “six-month float,” Amy was home with their three children on the East Coast. Fortunately, they were blessed with support from area naval bases and members of the family’s church. Pastor Klein is aware that deployment for one family member means single parenthood for the other. “You need support you can lean on when you need it,” he said.
Northfield BTYR’s recent activities have included helping a deployed service member’s family connect with a BTYR contractor to complete a deck, assisting a veteran to attain stable housing, and reaching out to veteran families with care packages and messages of support.
Klein’s favorite BTYR event is the annual Memorial Day picnic, held after the community observance at Veteran’s Memorial Park. The picnic is free and open to the public, with food and beverages available for all. This year’s event is on Monday, May 28.
In addition to the picnic, Northfield BTYR hosts a Veteran’s Day celebration in November and an omelet breakfast in February.
Despite Pastor Klein’s many duties at Trinity Lutheran, as well his Northfield BTYR activities, he still finds time for other pursuits. He is a member of the American Legion and is currently finishing his doctoral dissertation in teaching church history to parishioners. He is looking forward to his beloved Kansas Jayhawks returning to the Final Four next year and finishing on top.
“Like all support organizations, our group is only as strong as the many people who choose to be a part of it,” says Virginia Kaczmarek, former BTYR co-chair. “We’re blessed to have someone as dedicated and conscientious as Pastor Brent making BTYR an asset to military families in the Northfield area.”