Note: This article appeared in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.
They call her the Beef Stick Lady. And that’s just fine with Dee Ann Paulsrud who, with her husband Ted, farms east of Danbury. That’s in west central Iowa.
For the last two years, Paulsrud has run the Beef ‘n’ Up the Troops program. That’s where people donate money to buy Iowa-made beef sticks that are shipped as a gift from home to Iowa National Guard troops deployed overseas.
The Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation actually started the program when the War on Terror began in 2002. Late in 2006, when the foundation discontinued Beef ‘n’ Up the Troops, donations of $75,000 — 10 times the original goal — had paid for 15 shipments totaling 3.5 tons of more than 100,000 beef sticks to troops.
Dee Ann Paulsrud says the Cattlemen aborted the program because they could no longer “donate the time and the staff and so forth. It does take a lot of time.”
When the decision to drop Beef ‘n’ Up the Troops was made, she says, Ted Paulsrud was retiring from two terms as District 7 director to the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “He was aware that they were going to abort the project. And he wasn’t a happy boy.”
That’s when Dee Ann decided to take up the initiative. Why?
For people like her husband, who served in the National Guard in the Viet Nam era, and her father, who was a second lieutenant in World War II.
“My dad was gone from home for over four years from training to being over in Europe. He made it home and, therefore, there’s me,” Paulsrud says.
Beef ‘n’ Up the Troops was “just something I could do with the phone, the computer and my kitchen table. But it has gone beyond my kitchen. I have actually gone out and done some speaking. But it’s all about the soldiers, it’s not about me.”
What’s in it for her?
“The satisfaction is, my dad would have loved to get something like this. As much as anything, I may do it out of respect and honor to my dad. My dad died young. He was 60 when he died.”
Her volunteer effort takes a lot of time and effort but “the benefits have been that we’ve gotten to know a lot of people across our great state.”
Since the Paulsruds are beef producers, people had some questions for Dee Ann when she became the Beef Stick Lady.
Was there profit in this initiative for her? Did she create a job for herself?
“No, there’s not a profit. No, the beef does not come from our farm,” she says. “And yes, I did create a job, but everything I do is donated. And there are lots of unsung heroes, people who’ve helped us along the way.”
One of them is Scott County farmer Gerald Boldt of rural Davenport, a vocal supporter of Beef ‘n’ Up the Troops.
“I really believe this is something I had a need to do,” he says. “I have donated several times in the past few years, and I am proud to have been part of the Cattlemen’s effort to help Dee Ann.”
Boldt is referring to the Scott County Cattlemen’s Association. He recently sought donations from members at their annual banquet. Their contribution allowed Paulsrud to order 4,000 beef sticks instead of the 3,000 she had planned to order. That took her over the 60,000 beef stick mark since she’s been running the program.
“That’s a lot of beef sticks, isn’t it?” she asks.
The nine-inch sticks are processed at Source Verified Foods in Ackley, Iowa, at 69 cents each when ordered 3,000 at a time. Then they are shipped to Sioux City free of charge via Fareway Food Stores trucks to the 187th Air Refueling Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard, which flies them at no charge to the troops.
“Each stick is vacuum packed in heavy plastic,” Boldt says, “with a ‘Cattlemen Care’ logo and a message that says they are a gift from friends in Iowa. They have a shelf life of 14 months, even in hot conditions.”
The Paulsruds enjoy doing something nice for the deployed troops. But last August appreciative troops did something in return for them. And it was a huge surprise.
The 185th Air Refueling Wing sent the couple an American flag that had flown on a KC-135R Stratotanker, an aerial refueling tanker aircraft, over Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on a combat mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. It came with a certificate of authenticity and a letter of thanks signed by the soldiers.
When they opened the package, “both of us got the biggest lump in our throats, and we both had tears in our eyes,” Dee Ann Paulsrud recalls.
“And I said, ‘We’re doing this for the soldiers, they’re protecting our freedom and they’re taking the time to do that back.’ It meant the world.”
So Paulsrud keeps raising money — any amount folks want to give — and ordering and shipping more beef sticks. It’s a passion for her.
“The more I can get the story out, the more people want to contribute,” she says. “I just keep putting the money in the checking account until there’s enough, then I order more sticks.”
If you want to contribute to Beef ‘n’ Up the Troops, send donations to Ted and Dee Ann Paulsrud, 4980 320th St., Danbury, IA 51019. Or call (712) 883-2249 for more information.
Boldt says he hopes people will donate to “help put a smile on a soldier’s face, even if it’s just for a moment. A moment can be can be a long time when you are away from home doing your duty like they are for us.”
Copyright 2009 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.