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May Care

New Ulmite Les Schultz takes care of his granddaughter May Young while her mother is deployed to Afghanistan

November 28, 2010
By Michael Gassett

NEW ULM - On a typical day, Les Schultz has a lot on his plate.

He is the Brown County Probation director, he is a city councilman in New Ulm's second ward and he is an active member of the New Ulm community.

That already heavy load recently got a little heavier.

Article Photos

May Young is living with her grandfather, New Ulmite Les Schultz, while her mother is deployed to Afghanistan.

A few months back, Schultz learned that Brittney Young, the mother of his only grandchild was going to be deployed to Afghanistan. He told Young that if she needed anything to give him a call.

Little did he know, there would be a call that would change his life forever.

Young had made arrangements for her daughter, May, to stay with Young's mother, while she was deployed. Those plans fell through at the last minute and May had no where to go.

"I had always told Brittany that I would be the backup if she needed me to, never realizing that would ever come to be," Schultz said. "I got a panicked phone call saying, 'you said you would be the back up, did you mean it?' She said her mom couldn't take May at the last minute and wondered if I would still be interested. I said, 'of course I would."'

With in a couple weeks, Schultz whole life changed - for the better.

But before he could go from single man living alone, to primary care giver of a 17-month old little girl, he had to get organized.

Schultz was lucky, he had a lot of friends, family members, coworkers and community members that were more than willing to help him out. They got him some of the things he would need, and he didn't have to purchase very much.

Friends gave him a crib, pack and play, a high chair and a car seat, while others were generous with little girl clothes.

The next thing he needed to do was get her room ready and baby proof the house.

He gave May his son's old room. The room was orange and he painted it off white, decorated it in Sponge Bob Square Pants and polka dots. Then he bought big wooden letters to spell out "May's Room" on the wall.

"I really didn't have to spend much money," he said. "So far the only big ticket item that I did buy was one of those carts to pull behind the bike. I'm an exercise guy and I thought I probably wouldn't be able to go to the fitness center as much. We have used it a lot. Our goal was to visit every park in New Ulm, we didn't quite make it but we hit quite a few."

Being thrown into the sudden role of parent, Schultz said he wasn't scared. He had a relationship with May. He had visited her and her mother in Florida a few times, so they knew each other.

"I think that I was more anxious about having everything ready when she got here," Schultz said. "Like having the house baby proofed, which I didn't know a lot about."

The Army was a big help to. The Young's weren't the first family to go through this, so they have programs that have helped both Young and Schultz out.

"They have forms, that Brittany filled out that gave me temporary legal and physical custody while she is deployed," Schultz said. "Medical insurance is provided and the Army pays for all medical expenses. Which is really nice. We are really working well as a team to make this work."

Schultz said that "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" has also been a great resource. According to the Minnesota National Guard's web site, the organization, is a comprehensive program that creates awareness for the purpose of connecting Servicemembers and their families with community support, training, services and resources.

The group helped Schultz get set up with partial reimbursement for day care. It also would have helped get him things he may need, like a crib, stroller etc.

For the last month, Young has been stationed at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, so modern technology has been a blessing.

"Because of Facebook and technology, we have been staying in contact all along," Schultz said. "Between the grandmother, Brittany, myself and Brittany's younger brother, even though we are many states away, there has been consistent contact with pictures. It's been kind of fun."

Being the proud grandpa he is, Schultz has been busy taking photos and videos of everything May does.

"I want [Brittney] to see something new, each time she logs on to Facebook," he said.

Young was deployed Saturday, and will be out of contact for a while. She isn't sure what kind of communication will be available once she reaches Afghanistan but when she finally checks her email, or logs on to Facebook, there will be a lot of photos and videos waiting for her.

"We do little videos on my camera and send that off. We did one on her first snow and we did one for Halloween," Schultz said. "Since we don't know when she has access to the internet, we will just send her stuff. We will just email pictures and short videos so she can see different things."

Schultz' family has been very supportive as well. He has two older brothers and a younger sister and they are all anxious to meet May at Thanksgiving.

"My older brother has two grandchildren and Christmas will be a lot more fun since there will be a couple of tikes running around," Schultz said.

This isn't what Schultz had planned in this stage of his life. He was ready to start thinking of retirement, maybe travel a little more. Potty training and car seats wasn't what he was expecting - he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Talk about a major change in my life but a what a great change," he said. "My friends have been incredibly supportive and helpful. I am lucky I have people close by to help me out."

And so far so good, there haven't been any problems.

"This has been really fun experience," he said. "She is a really easy girl to take care of. She sleeps 11 or 12 hours in the day and she takes a two hour nap, she doesn't have shy bone in her body. She is just a happy girl that has adjusted well under the circumstances. If she was maybe a couple years older this might be a lot more difficult. But she has such an outgoing personality, I think she will do OK all things considered. I am just trying to keep her very involved and busy and keep her around people that love her."

He can't say enough about Young and the anxiety she must feel at this moment.

"For her to bring this child all the way across the country, to a single grandfather, in a cold state, it's pretty amazing," Schultz said. "I just think the world of her. She is such a good mom, she cares the world for this little girl and wants to do all that's best for her. Hopefully we can get through this. The hardest part is going to be in a year when I have to give her back."



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