Melony Butler dreamed of having a place where former service members could go to recover from the trauma of war and find the next purpose in their lives. Eleven years later the Eagle’s Healing Nest has 100 residents living on what once was Sauk Centre Home School for Girls, a 125-acre campus with 24 buildings. The property’s previous owners had the same vision, but according to Butler the property sat empty for years. “The owners wanted to create a piece of property for veterans, but they were relying on government entities and big corporations,” Butler explained. “In seven years they couldn’t do anything.” 

That changed in the summer of 2012 when 500 volunteers brought their tools from home and started renovating the property. The Nest opened shortly thereafter.  

The union building trades joined to help continue the mission of the Nest. “They have been here from the start, but what’s amazing about them is not only do they come as a group or a region but a lot of them come after hours to continue to help our mission,” Butler said. “They’ve come to help with the plumbing, the heating, the electric, carpentry, welding as well.”

The involvement of the union building trades was boosted by former Minnesota Building Trades President Joe Fowler whose friends reached out because they knew of the trades military outreach through the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program. That led to a call with former Big Lake, MN, Mayor Raeanne Danielowski who asked just what the trades could do. 

The trades have not only applied their skills such as pouring concrete for the new patio at the ranch building, but they’ve also recruited residents to join the union building trades. One resident who helped out pouring concrete got a job offer, in fact, “We wanted to put him to work. He knew what he was doing. We wanted to bring him into the trades. He was good because he jumped in there and outworked us,” said Laborers’ Business Agent Steve Zupon.

“They’ve talked to veterans, and some residents have even wound up going into the various apprentice programs,” Butler said. 

Added Zupon, “It’s about giving back. It’s that simple.”



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