Features

2016 Community Impact Awards

These Minnesota businesses have one thing in mind — making a difference

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Though it may seem easier said than done, these Minnesota companies are doing just that. While some are donating time and services to nonprofits, others are developing valuable youth training programs or making their business processes more eco-friendly, and the list goes on. Some businesses are small, some are big. Some are just getting started, and some have been doing business in Minnesota for decades. And they come from different industries across the state. But no matter what their act of  service is, these companies all have one thing in common — they’re making a difference.

Selected for their overall impact, here’s a list of Minnesota companies making their communities —  and the world — a little better (and a little brighter) in their own unique ways.

- all photos were submitted by their respective companies -

Judges
Best in Class: Small Company
Best in Class: Midsize Company
Best in Class: Large Company
Youth Initiative
Training Initiative
Sustainability
Professional Services
Long-Term Achievement
Creative Campaign
Social Enterprise
Workplace Giving
Paragon of Leadership

Judges

Ted Risdall
Chairman and CEO, Risdall

As Chairman and CEO of Risdall, Ted Risdall has spent the last 23 years leading the award-winning advertising agency. He also founded the interactive division of Risdall in 1993, helping the agency establish itself as a frontrunner online. Throughout his studies, business career and vacations, Risdall has traveled to every continent except Australia and Antarctica.

Jonathan Weinhagen
Vice President, SPACC

As Vice President of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, Jonathan Weinhagen is an advocate for the St. Paul business community. He sits on the Shoreview Economic Development Commission and the Mounds View School Board, and is also a member of the board of trustees at the Mounds View Schools Education Foundation.

Julie Cohen
Director of Communications & Engagement, Pollen

As Pollen’s director of communications and engagement, Julie builds connections with and between members of its community. She’s known to brag about her adopted hometown as a Make It. MSP. “Maker” and works to foster stronger relationships between donors and nonprofits while serving on the Charities Review Council’s advancement committee.

Amee McDonald
Co-Founder & CEO, jabber logic

Amee McDonald is co-founder & CEO of jabber logic: an ad agency alternative for small businesses & nonprofits. At the end of 2015, Amee also joined Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as an adjunct faculty member. When Amee isn’t working, you can find her paddleboarding around Lake Calhoun.

Beth Johnson
Marketing and Business Development Director, Schechter Dokken Kanter

Completing seven years as the Marketing and Business Development Director at Schechter Dokken Kanter, Beth Johnson serves as the behind-the-scenes provider of tools to the front line team of accountants. Johnson is a firm believer in the power of networks, remaining active and serving in leadership roles for numerous professional and personal associations.

Tom Hayes
Founder, Riley Hayes

Tom founded Riley Hayes in 1991 on the strength of his success as a creative copywriter and business strategist. He helps inform and guide the strategy, and brings a wealth of experience to bear on marketing and business challenges. Tom is the co-author of the book Relevance: Matter More.

Best in Class: Small Company

Recognizes small companies (15 to 50 employees) for overall excellence in positive impact on Minnesota communities.

Winner: Ackerberg

It isn’t enough for Ackerberg to create vibrant buildings; we have an obligation to do what we can to help make the world the best place possible.  As such, we want to be in a relationship with our fellow beings — to be a part of the beauty that comes in so many shapes and sizes and colors. We care about our buildings, but what we really love are the people that live and work in and around those buildings. Different languages, different religions, different economic backgrounds — when they find a way to interconnect, the light just shines through. I’m passionate about Ackerberg being a part of that light, in any way we can, and in helping others to see that we are all one,” says Stuart Ackerberg, CEO. Through volunteering and fundraising, the Minneapolis-based real estate company makes a positive impact on its community. To make this possible, Ackerberg gives each employee two additional days off each year to volunteer and support organizations that matter to them. Additionally, Ackerberg contributes volunteer hours through company-organized opportunities, helping organizations like Hearts & Hammers, Good in the ‘Hood and the Uptown Art Fair.

Finalist: The KNW Group

Financial and insurances services firm The KNW Group has made giving back a core part of its philosophy since it was founded in 2002. In 2015, The KNW Group donated more than $75,000 to about 18 different organizations. In 2015, CEO and co-founder Marty Nanne and his wife co-chaired the Make-A-Wish Ball Gala, helping to raise about $750,000. “My motivation for giving back stems from how I was raised,” says Nanne. “I was exposed to many opportunities from a young age, as my parents were great role models for community involvement. My goal in volunteering and supporting charities and organizations is to make other people’s lives better. It’s rewarding to see the same goal resonate throughout The KNW Group. We don’t make volunteering mandatory and we never will. Giving back comes from the heart. We expose our employees to the rewarding effects of community involvement, and we lead by example.”

Finalist: Mr. Rooter Plumbing Minnesota

“In the past two-plus years, our employees and our company have donated over $140,000 in goods and services to Habitat’s A Brush With Kindness Program, with most of that donated labor by our plumbers. Over 70% of our employees have donated their time to projects as small as unclogging a drain and as large as a kitchen remodel. When a Habitat opportunity comes up, we print it and put it on a board in our office with all the specifics. Most of the time, our plumbers will pick one off the board that has a need in the community in which they live, and take it to the schedulers. They don’t stay up on the board very long! I’m so proud of our employees giving of their time and talents to help those less fortunate; it elevates our company’s cohesiveness and nothing makes our staff meetings more exciting than when we put up completed jobs and recognize those who have donated their time. In the end, our overall company philosophy works well with our Habitat partnership: If all of us lay our individual talents and passions in the middle of the table and make them available to everyone else, we can accomplish great things together.” —Mike Wickam, president, Mr. Rooter Plumbing Minnesota

Best in Class: Midsize Company

Recognizes midsize companies (51 to 250 employees) for overall excellence in positively impacting Minnesota communities.

Winner: North Star Resource Group

"Our motivation for giving back to the community stems from two of our Core Values — service and integrity. As a firm, we communicate from the top down the importance and necessity of serving the communities in which we live and work. With the Scott Richards North Star Charitable Foundation, we have given back to six causes in particular that are especially close to our North Star team. North Star gives 10% of its profits each year to charitable causes — totaling over $2 million in the last 10 years. Community involvement at North Star is not only embraced, it’s celebrated. Our advisors and team members have taken advantage of incentives to give back, such as the SRNSCF’s matching gift program, Volunteer Time Off and year-round opportunities to volunteer with local organizations. Nearly every member of the North Star team is involved in some fashion — whether it’s participating in a Casual for a Cause jeans day or founding a golf event to raise $100,000 for Alzheimer’s research. Community involvement at North Star has become the norm and is something that everyone can be proud of.”

Finalist: Business Impact Group

“Putting a smile on a little child’s face is what the Business Impact Group is all about — especially for a child where most days of their lives they go completely without the things we take for granted. As an organization we are so blessed to not only have the financial strength to make a difference in so many lives but we also employ so many AWESOME people that come together to make a difference beyond our curb,” says Paul Taunton, president and CEO. BIG partners with the STAR Foundation to help improve the health and lives of people and children in need, and with Globe Serve to successfully drill for and pipe water into a small village in Ghana, just two miles from the city of Accra where employee Adolph Akpaglo is from. Previously, people had to walk several miles to a river to get water.

Finalist: Brenny Transportation

“As a trucking company, our motto ‘Driven to Serve’ has a dual meaning to us. Our entire team feels the love for service. We serve our customers, we serve our community, we also serve our team with our team assistance grant. We like to tell our customers that when you ship with Brenny, you help us help your community. At Brenny we believe that we have one sole purpose on earth, and that purpose is to serve others. Each month Brenny chooses a different charity to raise money for. Raising money for various charities impacts our community, but we have fun while we are doing it! We have had dunk tanks, pie-throwing, hot dog-eating contests, you name it! Serving is fun!” —Joyce Sauer Brenny, president/CEO

Charities that have received contributions from Brenny include Habitat for Humanity, Women in Trucking and Place of Hope Ministries. In 2015, Brenny contributed more than $49,000 to community organizations. A highlight was its second annual Trucks for Paws Classic Golf Tournament, which resulted in a donation of $3,878 to the Tri-County Humane Society.

Best in Class: Large Company

Recognizes large companies (251+ employees) for overall excellence in positively impacting Minnesota communities.

Winner: Bell State Bank & Trust

The culture of Fargo-based Bell State Bank & Trust is built on the premise that people matter. Everyone at Bell realizes it’s important not only how we treat our co-workers and customers, but also how we impact the community. We provide employees with paid volunteer time and Pay It Forward dollars to give where they see the greatest need. That grassroots approach to giving has made all of us better stewards, as we are constantly on the lookout for people who need a helping hand.” —Michael Solberg, president and CEO

To date, the bank’s Pay It Forward gifts have totaled more than $8 million, garnering national and international media attention. Every full-time employee receives $1,000 and every part-time employee $500 to give away as they choose. In addition, the bank is a leader in United Way giving, and has strong ties to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Minnesota, thanks to the involvement of longtime Bell Mortgage executive Gary Kirt.

Finalist: Ecolab

“As a service company, community involvement and volunteering come naturally to our employees. Ecolab employees know they are part of a community that reaches outside our workplace. They want to do their part to help make our community a stronger and more vibrant place to live for all of us.” ­—Douglas M. Baker, Jr., chair of the board and CEO

In 1986, Ecolab established the Ecolab Foundation, which has given more than $81 million to nonprofit organizations in Minnesota and elsewhere. In 2015, 50% of Ecolab’s grants were given to youth and education organizations and initiatives. Additionally, Ecolab maintains a 30-year business-education partnership with Humboldt High School.

Finalist: Caribou Coffee Company

“At Caribou Coffee we aspire to be the community place that our guests love. However, we know making a great cup of coffee doesn’t matter much if we’re not being good stewards of the environment and of the communities of guests for whom we brew it. So we strive to make choices that will leave this world a little better than we found it. We care passionately about causes like women’s health through Amy’s Blend and responsible coffee sourcing through Rainforest Alliance. And we make a conscious effort to support and empower our team members to give back to their communities through paid volunteer hours, coffee donations and grants.” —Michael Tattersfield, president and CEO

Youth Initiative

Recognizes companies for creating or supporting programs designed to enable youth to develop abilities in areas such as leadership, social responsibility, skilled trade, education and community involvement.

Winner: Proto Labs

In response to the need for future generations of engineers and scientists in the manufacturing industry, manufacturing company Proto Labs developed its own foundation to give back. The foundation was also a way to encourage employees to give back to the community with their own skills and talents. Today, the Proto Labs Foundation provides support for youth involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education areas, as well as other charitable causes. Each year, the foundation gives away more than $200,000 in grants to nonprofit STEM organizations to help garner STEM interest and talent among youth. Since 2014, the Proto Labs Foundation has provided nearly $350,000 in large grants to nonprofit organizations for their programs and initiatives that support STEM education. Code Savvy is one such organization that has received support from the Proto Labs Foundation. Through the grant, Northside Code Clubs was excited to be able to reach more than 210 young people from the North Side, logging more than 1,200 hours of coding in languages like CSS, HTML, Javascript and others.

Finalist: Hiway Federal Credit Union

Hiway Federal Credit Union’s “Think Tanks,” led by Hiway’s president and CEO Dave Boden, were the source of the idea of a student-run credit union branch. Hiway’s first school branch recently opened in Johnson Sr. High School in St. Paul. Through this branch, Hiway employs three Johnson students to work there as employees. The student-run branch provides an opportunity for teenagers to learn about financial services and credit responsibility through hands-on experience. A second school branch in Highland Park High School in St. Paul opened in early 2016.

Finalist: Buffalo Wild Wings

With a passion for sports and a commitment to giving back, Buffalo Wild Wings began supporting youth sports in underserved communities through its Team Up for Kids initiative in 2013, in conjunction with its partner, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Through this partnership, Buffalo Wild Wings is dedicated to creating and enhancing flag and tackle football and cheerleading programs at clubs across the country. From 2013-2017, Buffalo Wild Wings has guaranteed a $1 million minimum donation to the Boys & Girls Club of America each year.

Training Initiative

Recognizes companies for creating or supporting training or mentorship programs designed to build workplace skills within the company, the state’s industry or its community.

Winner: Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America

A group of Allianz employees created a series of professionalism classes for people with disabilities seeking jobs. Classes feature topics like building trust in the workplace, dressing for success and how to make a good first impression. Allianz has put on the classes for clients of Lifeworks, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities. The success of the program has prompted other companies like Prudential Financial and Thomson Reuters to adopt it. “Our employees make the difference by enthusiastically donating their time, talent and resources to nonprofits that have a positive impact on thousands of lives. Last year our employees volunteered more than 13,000 hours of their personal time.” —Walter White, president and CEO

Finalist: Prime Digital Academy

Founded by the creators of The Nerdery, Prime Digital Academy is a custom software development company founded to help Minnesota’s tech industry develop talent. Its 18-week accelerated learning program equips students with technical, behavioral and apprenticeship skills. Since its launch in 2015, Prime has helped 58 people start new careers. Prime Digital Academy has also worked with dozens of employers to provide curriculum input, host career fairs and mock interviews.

Finalist: DAYTA Marketing

Social media marketing company DAYTA developed an accelerated social media marketing internship program with schools such as the College of Saint Benedict, Saint John’s University, St. Cloud Technical College, St. Cloud State University and Minnesota School of Business. Interns receive hands-on training developing campaigns for four to six local businesses under the guidance of a brand manager. They attend weekly workshops that help them further develop their social media skills and knowledge. DAYTA also recently launched a similar internship program for St. Cloud area nonprofits.

Sustainability

Recognizes Minnesota companies for implementing or supporting eco-friendly programs that benefit the environment both within and beyond the workplace.

Winner: Biltwell Restaurants

Restaurateur Kim Bartmann and her team have been working on all fronts to increase sustainable efforts at all of her restaurants, which include the popular Bryant-Lake Bowl and Barbette, among others. By focusing on things like sustainable agriculture, energy use, waste reduction, use of tap water, elimination of plastic water bottles, improved air quality and serving healthy foods, Bartmann and her staff are on their way to helping create healthier, more eco-friendly communities. In 2007, three of Bartmann’s restaurants partnered with Hennepin County, the city of Minneapolis and Eureka! Recycling to test and create a commercial composting program for restaurants. Now, dozens of restaurants are composting in the Twin Cities and composting is offered by several local haulers. In 2014, Bartmann opened a permaculturally-designed restaurant, the Tiny Diner, which features onsite water filtration earthworks, pollinator gardens, edible perennial and annual gardens, solar energy panels, as well as composting and recycling onsite. The Tiny Diner also participates in Hennepin County’s composting program, offers classes about soil, insects and water conservation, and hosts a farmer’s market showcasing organic farmer products and artisans.

Finalist: Saint Paul RiverCentre/Xcel Energy Center

Since the Saint Paul RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center started its “50-50 in 2” waste reduction program less than two years ago, it has reduced trash by 50%, increased annual recycling to more than 61%, added two large solar energy systems, upgraded the efficiency of almost 2,500 lights, implemented a comprehensive green-purchasing program and have become the first complex in the world to be certified by LEED, Green Globes and APEX-ASTM for its environmentally friendly operations. “When we started out on this journey, our goal was never about awards or recognition, it was simply about doing what was best for our community and our business.” —Jim Ibister, vice president of the Minnesota Wild and general manager of Saint Paul RiverCentre

Finalist: YOXO

YOXO CEO Jeff Freeland Nelson says it was originally his wife’s idea to make YOXO toys eco-friendly. Now, YOXO’s main goal is to be the most sustainable toy company in the world. YOXO creates recyclable Y-, O-, and X-shaped links that connect in a variety of ways with everyday household items like paper towel rolls and cereal boxes. They even link with other toy-building sets like LEGO, KRE-O and Mega Blocks. YOXO manufactures its kits using energy from Xcel Energy’s Windsource program and waterjet cutters from Minnesota-based Jet Edge Waterjet Systems. The company sources all raw materials and packaging for YOXO kits from Minnesota and Wisconsin. “As a mission-driven company, we’re lucky to have a passionate, thoughtful team of people who work to make that a real possibility,” Freeland says. “Eventually, after years of play, kids can actually recycle YOXO to become something new.”

Professional Services

Recognizes companies for providing professional services — such as tech, legal or accounting services — to Minnesota nonprofits or other worthy causes on a pro bono basis.

Winner: Orion Associates

Golden Valley-based Orion Associates provides management services for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, working mainly with companies that administer social services. In 2005, Orion Associates established the nonprofit Headwaters Relief Organization, as the company’s primary community engagement program. Headwaters Relief provides support in response to disasters in such ways as mental health support, disaster site clean-up and damage removal, and rebuilding assistance. Additionally, due to all of the administrative support that Orion provides to Headwaters, 100% of all donations to Headwaters are used to directly support the victims of disaster. From 2006 through 2014, donations averaged more than $150,000 a year, with total donations since inception standing at more than $1 million. “We believe that volunteering is transformative. Standing side by side with someone in need is an incredible privilege as well as a responsibility,” CEO Dr. Rebecca Thomley says. “Nothing matters more than connecting with that person in that moment in time. We have, through volunteerism, created a strong corporate culture that values compassion and leadership, that creates deep ties to the community, and that inspires others to do the same.”

Finalist: Mytech Partners

IT company Mytech Partners provides an average of 575 hours of pro-bono services a year to nonprofits such as Cookie Cart, Youth Service Bureau and Metro Work Center. In 2015, Mytech hosted its first Network Makeover Contest. A panel of judges chose a deserving organization to receive donated hosting services, hardware and other services. “Creating success goes beyond our clients,” President Lyf Wildenberg says. “It is equally important that we create success with our employees and in our community. We hope our impact makes a difference in those we love, live with and lead.”

Finalist: Neuger Communications Group

Neuger Communications Group donates at least 5% of its profits in a combination of pro bono, reduced-rate services and cash donations. As the company has grown, so has its nonprofit support, donating $80,000 in service hours for website development, design, media placement and strategic planning with support from 15 marketing team employees. Some of its donations come from the Common Good Breakfast Series, which features businesses and nonprofits that are taking uncommon actions to solve challenges and create opportunities.

Long-Term Achievement

Recognizes a Minnesota-based company for demonstrating a long-term commitment (at least 10 years) to positively impacting the state’s community of nonprofits or other worthy causes.

Winner: Marco

From its inception in 1973, technology services company Marco’s motto has been, “It’s not enough for a business to do well, it must also do good.” Putting this into practice, Marco donates up to 5% of its annual profits to the communities it serves. Along with financial contributions, it also sponsors events, participates in fundraisers and has a number of employees serve on local nonprofit boards and committees. Employees are encouraged to get involved with local charities and nonprofits, and are compensated if they volunteer during Marco business hours. Marco’s Corporate Sponsorship Committee also reviews company-wide, financial sponsorship requests on a quarterly basis. Additionally, Marco partners with United Way and conducts a payroll deduction employee campaign annually. In 2015, employees in Minnesota pledged $126,408 to area communities through this campaign, and together with the company donated an additional $12,067 to the United Way through special events and promotions.

Finalist: Pentair

For 35 years, filtration company Pentair has partnered with Rise, a nonprofit helping people with disabilities or other barriers in employment, housing and personal growth. Pentair started with one employment site and three workers. Today, Pentair employs more than 60 Rise individuals. “Each Rise employee at Pentair is a vital part of our workforce and we value their strong work ethic, productivity and great attitude,” says Alok Maskara, president of Technical Solutions.

Finalist: Loffler Companies

Since Loffler Companies began in 1986, president and CEO Jim Loffler believed strongly that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Today, that same notion rings true as the company continues to serve its community in a multitude of ways. One such example is that of St. Josephs Home for Children, to which Loffler Companies donates $10,000 each year. In 2015, Loffler Companies’ efforts of participation in charitable organizations helped raise more than $750,000.

Creative Campaign

Recognizes a Minnesota-based creative agency for campaigns or other marketing services provided to nonprofits or other worthy causes on a pro bono basis.

Winner: Little & Company

Little & Company, a design and branding agency, has done pro bono work for more than 50 organizations. In the past decade, the company has focused on early childhood education in partnership with Way to Grow, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that believes the answer to poverty starts at home with early childhood learning. “Education is the solution to generational poverty, one of the most critical issues affecting the well-being of our community,” says Joe Cecere, president and chief creative officer. “With partners like Way to Grow, our teams are inspired to use our design talents to make a real difference in the lives of families and children in our own neighborhoods. In addition to branding, websites and fundraising efforts, our teams have implemented internal grassroots campaigns to support WTG with annual drives for books, food, personal care items, school supplies and even winter apparel. We love that our efforts help them change the trajectories of children’s lives.” Working with families and educators, WTG empowers parents to be their children’s first and most important teachers. Little’s contributions to WTG’s annual fundraising event have helped the organization achieve record donations for the last five years, with total donations more than doubling. Additionally, the company has helped WTG develop and implement marketing plans, which have helped grow its social following by 10%, increase audience engagement levels by as much as 900% and double the number of individual donors.

Finalist: Media Relations Inc.

Media Relations is in the business of telling stories, and through its pro-bono work it tells stories that can change people’s lives. The causes range from helping children get mentors to supporting water well programs in India. One big effort has been to help protect students abroad by getting media coverage for the nonprofit ClearCause. One result has been in the formation of transformative laws for transparency in higher education and K–12 study-abroad illness, injury and death, which became the model for a federal bill.

“As a creative company, we feel very fortunate to be able to use our passion for strategic marketing and publicity for the good of our community, as well as for our clients,” says Robin Kocina, COO. “When we help others succeed, we are nurturing a better business and social climate for all of us. We all win.”

Finalist: Ciceron

Each year, digital marketing agency Ciceron takes on a pro-bono client as a way to give back to the community. In 2014, Ciceron chose Minneapolis Firefighters Operation Warm — a program dedicated to helping families in need collect new winter coats for their children. Ciceron treats all pro-bono clients as they would any other paying client, from evaluating the competition to creating an action plan to achieve their specific goals. In the case of Operation Warm, Ciceron created social profiles, content and calendars, email topics and schedules, visual assets, influencer messaging, and drove traffic to a new consolidated website. As a result of the campaign, Operation Warm raised $60,000 for kids in need, coming in 100% above its goal. The organization also saw a 21% increase in total social following.

Social Enterprise

Recognizes an outstanding social enterprise in Minnesota — companies that exist primarily to address social or environmental issues.

Winner: Vision Loss Resources and Contract Production Services Inc.

In 2014, Vision Loss Resources and Contact Production Services Inc. celebrated its 100-year anniversary. Operating as a for-profit business, the company’s primary goal is to provide services and support for people who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired. Services include in-home assessments, rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility training, support groups, counseling and recreational activities, among others. Contract Production Services invests 100% of its profits into Vision Loss Resources, which amounted to about $240,000 in 2014. Recently, Vision Loss Resources was honored by the City of Minneapolis for its positive impact on the disability community. “As an organization, we have been ahead of our time,” says president and CEO Kate Grathwol, PhD. “Vision Loss Resources was an early champion of the social enterprise business model, recognizing a demand in the marketplace and the potential to translate for-profit best practices into a social good. As a social enterprise for the past six decades, Contract Production Services has made it possible for people who are blind, deafblind or visually impaired to access services and support at Vision Loss Resources.”

Finalist: Latino Economic Development Center

The Latino Economic Development Center is dedicated to “creating economic opportunity for Latinos” by assisting entrepreneurs and job seekers. Notable successes inlcude the Cooperative Mercado Central, Plaza Latina and Midtown Global Market. In 2014, the LEDC collaborated with Dayton’s Bluff Community Council to open the East Side Enterprise Center, which hosts the East Side Local Food Incubator, linking local immigrant farmers with urban markets. “I’m an immigrant,” says Ramón León, founder, president and CEO. “We must realize that we have not properly recognized the contributions an immigrant can make when offered tools and resources in order for them to become a contributor, rather than obstacles. Even the most humble, less educated person has skills and abilities that if offered help to fully develop can become something beneficial for all.”

Finalist: Homes for Heroes

Homes for Heroes was established by a realtor after the tragic events of 9/11 as a “thank you” to the men and women who serve the nation and communities every day. “We are devoted to providing firefighters/EMS, law enforcement, military members, healthcare workers and teachers easy ways to save money on a home and other everyday purchases,” says Ruth Johnson,co-founder, president and CEO. “What began as a Minnesota effort has expanded into a national brand in 48 states.“ To date, Homes for Heroes affiliates have given discounts of more than $12.7 million in savings to heroes. In just a three-month period in 2015, the Homes for Heroes Foundation provided more than $40,000 in assistance to community heroes in need.

Workplace Giving

Recognizes a Minnesota-based company for creating a focused employee-giving program or volunteer campaign.

Winner: Sunrise Banks

St. Paul-based Sunrise Banks makes giving back easy for its employees. Each employee gets an unlimited amount of volunteer hours throughout the year, opportunities to volunteer are posted on the bank’s intranet website, and each employee gets $25 to give away as part of its Pay It Forward program. The only instruction is to give the funds to someone less fortunate. Likewise, Sunrise expects all managers and officers of the bank to participate in a meaningful way at a nonprofit organization. “Because Sunrise is a values-based bank, we foster an environment built on doing good,” says CEO David Reiling. “Our employees participate in various giving activities throughout the year. We’ve adopted a daycare center and spend time reading to the children; we also have employees who spend many hours at Second Harvest Heartland packing meals for those in need. Giving at Sunrise, either monetary or non-monetary, is a part of an everyday habit. We choose to do the right thing day in and day out.”

Finalist: RSM US LLP

Over the past two years, RSM US LLP has raised more than $860,000 to help charities where its employees work and live. The tax and financial services company partners with the Davis Love Foundation, the host organization of The RSM Classic PGA tour event to raise funds to help children and their families, among others. The RSM Minneapolis office has chosen to partner with The TreeHouse — an organization that provides transportation, a safe place to live, and counseling services for local youth and families. The company chose the organization due to overwhelming support from colleagues in the office and TreeHouse’s commitment to helping at-risk youth in the community. In July 2015, RSM set a goal to raise $25,000 for TreeHouse to purchase a van for student transportation. Through various office fundraisers, activities and competitions from July through October, RSM raised more than $33,000 for TreeHouse.

Finalist: Wells Fargo

Every little bit makes a difference. That’s the notion behind Wells Fargo’s “Small is Huge” campaign. Each year, Wells Fargo organizes the workplace community support campaign with the idea being that every little bit helps and it all adds up to make a big difference. Lasting for a month in September, the campaign encourages employees to give through the United Way workplace giving campaign to their charity of choice. “Our philanthropic giving is inspirational, we set a new record this year during our annual Community Support and United Way Campaign, raising $7.79 million in team member charitable contributions,” says Minnesota Region President Joe Ravens. Wells Fargo also leads in supporting employee volunteering through established programs, including the Volunteer Leave Program. In that program, employees can lend their talents to a nonprofit project for up to three months while still receiving their pay and benefits.

Paragon of Leadership

Corporate Giving/Community Involvement: Recognizes a Minnesota business leader for making a positive impact through service, character and leadership by fostering an environment of corporate giving.

Winner: Sheila Murphy, HR Director, Midwest Industrial Tool Grinding

What is your greatest accomplishment in making a community impact?
Helping to create Made in McLeod. In 2011, I joined with the Hutchinson Chamber president and the Glencoe Chamber president to form a manufacturing networking group. It was intended to share best practices across local manufacturing companies and spread news about our great companies to the communities and schools. It worked! We have over 100 members throughout the county and have formed a successful exhibit at our county fair involving students from local schools. Success!

What mentor taught you the importance of community service?
Laurel Olson is the first person to come to mind. I met her in fourth grade. She was and is amazing. Laurel gave every second of her time to her family and Glencoe-Silver Lake schools. She could relate to people of all ages, stood up for what was right and made everyone feel important.

Describe an incident that made you feel that all your efforts are worth it.
I met with a class recently to talk about careers in manufacturing at MITGI. Three seniors attended who were best friends. They were planning to attend the same college in the fall and enroll in the same program. I asked how they became interested in the field, and one said his parents worked in that industry and the pay was good. I asked if any of them had job shadowed or checked it out before signing up for school. Only one kid had. After the presentation, one of the three talked to me about job shadowing at MITGI. It felt good to get through and help him consider his options. I always tell the kids that I want them to be aware of their options, know about manufacturing opportunity, be mindful of their education investment (it’s expensive!) and make an informed decision.

What are your best words of advice for supporting community service?
You’ll get back what you put in. Be involved, be available, give your time and resources, encourage growth.

What’s more important: giving money or giving time? Why?
Time is a precious commodity, and must be used wisely. If you can’t afford to give financial resources, you can give your time to help organizations find what they need.

Current nonprofit causes:
Made in McLeod, McLeod for Tomorrow, Glencoe-Silver Lake Engineering Advisory Committee, Southwest Initiative Foundation, Meeker/McLeod CTE Advisory Committee, Dassel-Cokato Schools Career and Technical Education, Hutchinson High School Tiger Path STREAM Advisory Committee

Former:
Glencoe Chamber of Commerce, Glencoe Economic Development Committee, Hunger Free McLeod

Final comments?
None of what is listed above would be possible without the support of Bruce Kasal and Eric Lipke of MITGI, and all of our employees. I work for an amazing company with outstanding people.

Finalist: Bill Morrissey, President, CEO and Founder, Morrissey Hospitality Companies Inc.

What is your greatest accomplishment in making an impact on the community?
The greatest accomplishment in my mind is the gainful employment we have provided to so many good people over 20+ years and to watch them grow and create in this life. We currently have 1,300+ employees.

Name a mentor who taught you the importance of community service.
Bill Brose, senior general manager of the Radisson Saint Paul Hotel from 1978-1980. He showed me that part of being an excellent leader was to support your community. He encouraged us to do charity drives and hire vulnerable adults, many of whom would not be hired by others.

Describe an incident or remark that made you feel that all your efforts are worth it.
At the Boys and Girls Clubs, each time I see a group of children studying, reading, playing, learning new skills, I leave with a full heart and a passion to support them.

Best advice for community service?
Serve from your heart. Never judge those that need help. Stay committed. There will be some high and low moments just like any other relationship. 

Is it more important to give money or time?
It is easier to give money, but both are absolutely important. You will connect less emotionally if it is only money. 

Current nonprofit causes:
Boys and Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, Serve our Troops, United Hospital Foundation, Listening House

Finalist: Jeff Gau, CEO, Marco Inc.

What is your greatest accomplishment in making an impact on the community?
Building a focus on community giving is simply part the DNA of our culture. Giving back to the community is something we did as a small company with one office. We still endorse it today, now that we’ve grown to 40 locations throughout the Upper Midwest.

Name a mentor who taught you the importance of community service.
The founders of our company, Gary Marsden and Dave Marquardt, were strong community supporters and mentors to me early in my career. They were so passionate about community involvement.

Describe an incident that made you feel that all your efforts are worth it.
This year at CentraCare Health’s annual Holly Ball fundraising event, survivors shared their stories. I’ve been able to personally experience the strong impact CentraCare Health services provides.

Best advice for community service?
If you have a strong community, it will attract good people.

What’s more important: giving money or giving time? Why?
Money is most important. Volunteerism is noble and worthwhile, but we must also provide the financial resources for something to succeed. 

Current nonprofit causes:
St. Cloud Area YMCA Aquatics & Community Center, CentraCare Health Foundation, Greater St. Cloud Economic Development Corporation Board of Advisors and Stearns-Benton Workforce Council