Project Got Your Back (PGYB) was founded in 2011 by Colonel Mark Ellson, USA (Ret.), a local entrepreneur and veteran activist. Mark served in the Army and Army Reserves as an enlisted soldier and officer for almost 40 years. While in a senior management position at Ergotron, Inc., an international designer and marketer of flat panel mounting solutions, Mark was deployed to Iraq. Ergotron “held its breath,” and supported him and his team with care packages, video messages and prayers. In this environment, the seeds of PGYB were formed. Mark’s successful re-entry into civilian life was aided by a strong family and an employer that supported his deployment via a corporate culture that was flexible and sensitive to its employees’ needs. However, Mark recognized that among the wide population of service members returning to Minnesota, there was a huge gap between the connectedness of the individual veteran and the overwhelming amount of “veteran” resources available. PGYB recognized that men and women returning from deployment needed to stabilize their lives and establish the security of their families before they could take full advantage of the myriad of employment and entrepreneurial opportunities before them. Mark’s dream was that PGYB would become the pathfinder for returning veterans, from point of discharge to the development of their full potential; providing opportunity, advocacy and access for vets that would prepare them for satisfying, long-term employment and meaningful entrepreneurial opportunities.
Over many years, Ergotron, Inc, remained an integral link to PGYB by supporting their efforts monetarily. During his lifetime, the Founder of Ergotron, Harry Sweere, established a charitable foundation whose future contributions to PGYB enabled them to expand their efforts on behalf of service members statewide. Charlene Nelson, daughter of Harry Sweere and long-time friend, supporter and member of the Board of Directors of PGYB, states “It has been an honor to support and serve alongside Mark Ellson for the past ten years. Despite some difficult times, PGYB has evolved into a recognized and respected leader in advocating for service members in the State of Minnesota and beyond. Much credit is also due to Allison Alstrin, PGYB Project Manager for the past four years, and current board member for spearheading the “connecting service members and providers” movement, thus bringing Mark’s vision to fruition.”