By Kassie Parisi
HALFMOON — Carol Hotaling, widely known locally as the “Yellow Ribbon Lady,” is back to flooding her small apartment with homemade yellow ribbons in preparation of the Yellow Ribbon Day ceremony in Halfmoon after taking a year off due to hand issues.
New York State Yellow Ribbon Day falls on April 9, but the town of Halfmoon will be holding a Yellow Ribbon Ceremony on April 7. Hotaling’s ribbons can be found all over Southern Saratoga County, including Halfmoon, Ballston Spa, Malta, Saratoga Springs and Watervliet in Albany County.
With massive golden ribbons draped casually over the couches and tables in her apartment, crafting the decorations has become a way of life and a calling for Hotaling. In 1991, Hotaling met Monica Bell, who had formed a support group known as “Operation Mustard Seed,” which sent care packages to troops.
“It’s important that we send packages to these men and women,” Hotaling said.
After linking up, Bell and Hotaling participated in many different efforts to support both soldiers who were deployed and veterans, including meeting soldiers at airports to gift them with yellow balloons and a limo to take them and their families home.
One of the biggest inspirations for Hotaling’s efforts is Matt Maupin, an Ohio native who was the first POW in the Iraq War and was confirmed dead in 2008 four years after disappearing. Hotaling learned of Maupin from her sister, who lives in Ohio. She was able to get in touch with his parents, and continues to work with them, making stickers featuring Maupin’s face.
Hotaling has been making the ribbons for 27 years now, while continuing to work with other groups, including the the Blue Star Mothers of America. She makes all the ribbons herself, with 72 rolls of waterproof ribbon that costs about $5,500, paid for by VFW Post 358 in Ballston Spa.
“I just kept making bows for whoever wanted them,” she said.
Hotaling has been nationally recognised in the past. In 2009, she received the National Guard Community Purple Award for her crafting of the ribbons.
Hotaling’s efforts don’t end with April 9 though. She makes the ribbons for Clifton Park all year for the town to hang on signs. She also sends ribbons to Maupin’s father in Ohio.
She has written letters to politicians, including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, to raise awareness for Yellow Ribbon Day and establish it as a national holiday. Hotaling doesn’t call lawmakers to politicize the day though.
“It’s never, never, to do with politics,” she said. The only thing that’s important, she said, is that people remember the troops, most past and present, every day.
The Yellow Ribbon Day Ceremony will be held on April 7 at 11 a.m. at the Halfmoon Town Hall. This year’s keynote speaker will be Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, and donations will be collected at the event for the NY 2 Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. Donations will be made into care packages for deployed troops.