Features

Community Impact Awards 2017

No matter their size, these Minnesota companies have found a way to make a big difference

By Megan Gosch
02-17-2017

The 2017 Community Impact Awards honored businesses, social enterprise organizations, nonprofits, initiatives and individuals making a significant impact on communities in Minnesota. This was our first time recognizing nonprofit organizations in the awards, in honor of their profound influence on the quality of life in our state.

Best in Class: Small Company
Best in Class: Midsize Company
Best in Class: Large Company
Arts and Culture
Nonprofit Board Member of the Year Award
Nonprofit Spotlight Award
Youth Initiative Award
Social Enterprise Award
Pro Bono Maximus Award
Sustainability Award
Workplace Giving
Paragon of Leadership Award

Best in Class: Small Company

Recognizes overall excellence for positive impact on Minnesota communities by a small company (15 to 50 employees)

 

Winner: Bankers Title & Bankers Closing Services

Mission: To make great things happen by investing time, resources and passion into the community.

Motivation: Several pivotal company members have undergone significant trials and hardships that helped us to realize the frailty of life and the necessity of charity.

For example: When our General Manager and Executive Closer Lynn Johnson-Nicolai was going through chemotherapy for stage IV breast cancer, her hope was renewed by the people who took time out of their lives to help her. Just as people reached out to her, she wants to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others.

Primary value: Commitment to families, friends, clients and community. We uphold that commitment by investing our resources, time and heart into the world around us.

Motto: “Your closing is in our hands.” This slogan refers to our literal title closings and the actual settlement process, but also how we view the world. We want to “hold others in our hands” every step of the way.

Biggest future challenge in your community work? Having enough time and resources to make a big impact.

Partners in Charity: Breast Cancer Association of America; Cystic Fibrosis; Feed My Starving Children;

Notable employees: Lynn Nicolai (General Manager, Executive Escrow Officer), Dan Seidel (President, Bankers Title & Bankers Closing Services), Helena Seidel (St. Compliance Officer), Maddi Engel (Marketing & Communication Coordinator), Lanette Jerstad (Executive Escrow Officer), Jessica Wolfe (Executive Escrow Officer)

 

Finalist: Cicerón

Motivation: We recognize the importance of being hands-on and being truly emotionally aligned to have an impact on people in greater need. For example: Our daily work with the Children’s Hospital is a reminder of the impact great health care has on kids and families. Secondly, we volunteer our time and energy to provide hot meals for homeless families.

Primary value: We believe in advocacy by telling stories that bring awareness of the problems of our society and the solutions to them.

Motto: “Put the phone down and do something.” Biggest future challenge in your community work? There’s so much vitriol in our culture. But if you take a step back and recognize the humanity that surrounds us, you realize that we are truly a community organism that can and should understand and support one another. We need true empathy.

Partners in Charity: People Serving People, Children’s Hospital, MacPhail Center for Music, Sexual Violence Center and The BrandLab

 

Finalist: Love Your Melon

Motivation: We want to improve the quality of life for the families and children battling pediatric cancer. The heartbreak that comes with the diagnosis is staggering.

For example: My inspiration is Zach Sobiech, who passed away from childhood cancer, yet inspired millions with his music. Due to him, we developed our superhero visits and adventures for children battling cancer.

Primary value: Prioritizing USA-made products. People want to know that our work created American jobs and makes a difference in the lives of children battling cancer.

Biggest future challenge? To expand the depth and breadth of our work so that we can touch the lives of families facing pediatric cancer, and someday find a cure.

Partners in Charity: CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, Pinky Swear Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital, Children’s Cancer Research Fund

 

Best in Class: Midsize Company

Recognizes overall excellence for positive impact on Minnesota communities by a midsize company (51 to 250 employees)

 

Winner: Northeast Bank

Motivation: We feel that creating a positive impact on our community is truly inherent in being a community bank. The stronger your community, the stronger your bank (synergy). It’s at the core of our mission and values; it’s who we are.

For example: Our community impact efforts are exemplified by the 100% employee volunteer participation that we experienced in 2015! Our managers and staff look for areas of need in a variety of venues, in hopes that staff will participate in an event or cause that is personally meaningful to them.

Primary value: As an independently owned community bank, we feel it is our corporate responsibility to give back and support the communities we serve. In 1993, we formalized our giving program by creating the Walter C. Rasmussen-Northeast Bank Foundation. Since that time, over $1.5 million in grants have been provided to local nonprofits, in addition to in-kind donations provided directly from the bank.

Motto: “Strength of a Leader, Hand of a Friend” Biggest future challenge in your community work? We need to ensure profitability so that we can continue to create a positive impact within our communities. As long as we remain profitable, we can contineu our role of supporting our communities.

Partners in Charity: East Side Neighborhood Services (at more than half a century, our longest-term community partner), SACA (Southern Anoka Community Assistance), Neighborhood HealthSource, Greater Minneapolis Housing Corporation (GMMHC), the EverFi® Financial Literacy Program

 

Finalist: Carmichael Lynch

Motivation: Giving generously to charity is a longstanding tradition, aided and abetted by our founder, Lee Lynch, and perpetuated through employees.

For example: Our leadership sets the tone. Recently we partnered with Hearts & Hammers to rehabilitate the home of an elderly woman in St. Paul. To get enough volunteers, CEO Mike Lescarbeau personally sent emails and asked employees face-to-face if they would help. Lescarbeau spent all day working on that house. He didn’t show up for a photo op and duck out.

Primary value: We create unfair ideas that give our clients an unfair advantage against their competitors. We strive to inspire each other, our community, our clients and our industry.

Biggest future challenge? To not become complacent. We must keep our giving fresh, unique and aligned with our employees’ core values.

Partners in Charity: Art Buddies, The BrandLab, People Serving People, Hearts & Hammers, Sharing & Caring Hands, Memorial Blood Centers, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Community Health Charities Minnesota, MN Children’s Hospital

 

Finalist: Avionté

Motivation: We try to follow three principles, in order: a) Be personally accountable (financially and with integrity), b) Enjoy today (as tomorrow is not a given) and c) Have a positive influence on someone else’s life.

For example: Each year we have “Operation See-a-Need.” Groups of employees give $50 to a stranger who needs some extra help. That stokes the inner fire of what it feels like to make a difference for someone else.

Primary value: The goal of the Avionté Hope Foundation is to help people help themselves by touching lives and driving change in the local community.

Biggest future challenge in your community work? Apathy. I feel the world is going in that direction, and I worry about that. I can’t get behind people who want to take their hands off the wheel and expect things will eventually work out for them.

Partners in Charity: We partner with over 40 organizations in the Twin Cities, including The Link, Habitat for Humanity, KS95 for its annual Radiothon event.

 

Best in Class: Large Company

Recognizes overall excellence for positive impact on Minnesota communities by a large company (251 or more employees)

 
Winner: Deluxe Corporation 

Motivation: Our charitable efforts align with the corporate mission: to be an indispensable partner to the millions of small businesses and financial institutions we serve — in turn, fueling growth within the communities where its employees and customers reside. The Deluxe Corporation Foundation has awarded more than $100 million to charitable organizations, focusing exclusively on causes that provide long-term solutions that help people, businesses and communities thrive and grow.

For example: Our unique “Short & Tweet” grant program solicits grant proposals via Twitter and awarded $100,000 through 10 grants of $10,000 to nonprofits that align with our values. Our “Time is Money” program provides donations to causes where our employees volunteer. We launched the “100 Hours to Make a Difference” program in 2015, awarding more than two dozen employees 100 hours of paid time to volunteer with the organization of their choice, including everything from teen mentorship programs to a mission trip to Nicaragua.

Primary value: The Deluxe Corporation Foundation has awarded more than $100 million in grants, focusing on areas that create successful communities: economic empowerment (fostering entrepreneurship, job skills and financial literacy); crisis programs; and the arts (including museums, performing arts and public television).

Biggest future challenge in your community work? With more than 28 million small businesses providing 66% of new jobs in the U.S., Deluxe believes the best way to build strong economies is through championing entrepreneurship and educating citizens on the importance of small business in our communities.

Partners in charity: Women’s Business Development Center, SCORE, American Red Cross

 

Finalist: Bell Bank

Motivation: Our “bottom line” mission: When our employees treat each other and our customers like family, go the extra mile in service, and work to make our communities even better, our customers are happy, and even join in giving efforts.

For example: Each year, every full-time employee receives $1,000 and every part-time employee $500 to give away as they choose. One group pooled funds to help with surgery costs to provide “Smiles for Ryan,” a customer’s child born with a birth defect that prevents him from smiling.

Motto: “Happy Employees! Happy Customers!”

Biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is simply that the needs are so great, and they are seemingly endless.

Partners in Charity: United Way, Simpson House, Crisis Nursery, Spare Key, Boys and Girls Clubs

 

Finalist: Lakewinds Food Co-op

Motivation: Since 1975, we’ve worked to cultivate relationships with the communities our stores serve. We support local food shelves, local farming and healthy food education in schools, along with supporting dozens of neighborhood events.

Primary values: Co-ops follow seven principles, including democratic member control, environmental and social responsibility, and equity with farmers, producers, staff and owners.

Future challenge? As our co-op grows, we want to ensure we’re working with a diverse group and mix of community partners in all areas.

Partners: We partner with Healthy Food Access Programs, sustainable food producers and more.

 

 

Arts and Culture

Awarded to a Minnesota-based nonprofit with a strong record of cultural enrichment that demonstrates excellence in community outreach programs.

 

Winner: Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA)

Community Influence: JXTA uses art and youth social enterprise to shift the narrative about North Minneapolis as a burden, deficiency and lack to one of vibrancy, innovation and contribution. JXTA youth are trained in high-level art skills and then employed in four micro-businesses. That enables 90% of our youth to earn more than $3,000 annually.

For example: The work of JXTA youth and artists is visible throughout our city. Recently, a neighbor left at our doorstep a portrait of Philando Castile, an African American man who had just been slain by a police officer. In response, we launched “Hello Northside.” Youth artists assemble and deliver 200 handmade art boxes that affirm art as a way to promote community health and wellness.

Primary values: Affirm creative potential of all; emphasize discipline, study and practice; respect and understand the contributions of predecessors; inclusivity; model integrity in leadership; demonstrate successful and ethical business practices; expect and achieve high standards.

Motto: Competency x Manners x Consistency = Winning

Biggest challenge? Scaling growth in our client base so that we can employ more youth.

Partners in Charity: U of M Department of Landscape Architecture, U of M Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, Walker Art Center, Northside Achievement Zone

 

Finalist: Hennepin Theatre Trust

Motivation: Our Made Here project is a walkable art experience that connects visitors, employees and residents to the work of Minnesota artists in downtown Minneapolis through window displays, live performances, pop-up galleries and more.

For example: At 811 LaSalle, we set the standard with showcase windows and themed parklots. The new owners experienced how a creative public space can impact the success and livelihood of the building and surrounding area.

Primary values: We emphasize inclusion of artists of diverse backgrounds .

Partners: Andersen Windows, McKnight Foundation, Mall of America, Mayo Clinic Square, BMW of Minnetonka, Dunwoody College of Technology, Twin Cities PRIDE

 

Finalist: VocalEssence

Motivation: Singing has always been a community activity. VocalEssence is dedicated to keeping that essential human tradition alive.

For example: In 2015-16, VocalEssence collaborated with Carnegie Hall to bring the Lullaby Project to Minnesota. Composer-in-residence Francisco Zúñiga Olmos helped six mothers create unique songs for their children, expressing memories, hopes and dreams.

Primary value: Creating magical concert experiences and opportunities to bring the community together through singing.

Motto: “Together We Sing”

Biggest challenge? Growing staff and resources to meet the organization’s goals, and informing community of our opportunities.

 

 

Nonprofit Board Member of the Year Award

Awarded to a member of a board of directors of a Minnesota nonprofit who displays excellence in leadership, resourcefulness, initiative and volunteer hours that go above and beyond the call of duty.

 

Winner: Julie Peterson-Klein, Board President, Spare Key

What is your personal motivation that makes you an exemplary board member? I have to say that I have been blessed in my professional and personal life, and have been brought up with a caring heart. My own blessings make me want to do everything I can do to try to make the world a better place for others who may not be as fortunate.

For example? In 2016, Spare Key had an opportunity to participate in the first-ever “Brackets for Good” fundraising tournament in Minnesota, with our board members participating along with the boards of 66 other Minnesota-based nonprofits to raise the most donations through the month of March, and in doing so, win $10,000. By personally committing my own financial resources, and partnering with the senior leadership of our board, I helped lead the charge for each individual board member to make a sizeable donation during the tournament. When it ended, 80% of our board had made a financial donation, and Spare Key raised over $80,000 to finish in first place and win the $10,000 award. More importantly, we partnered with the second-place finisher, the Minnesota Law Enforcement Memorial Association, and restricted our award to be used for law enforcement families. This collaboration resulted in further financial support for both organizations and a partnership that will host its second joint golf fundraising event in 2017.

Name your primary partners in your charitable efforts. Spare Key receives no public funds or fees, but raises 100% of funds through donations, corporate sponsorships, events and strategic partnerships with other companies and organizations. Our greatest source of financial support comes from those involved in real estate, mortgage, banking, title insurance, financial services, health care and the health insurance industry. We also partner with more than 200 hospital social workers to ensure that families become aware of our program and to help facilitate the submission of grants for consideration. 

What primary value drives your work? Do you have a motto that expresses it?  24/7/365, I strive to live by the motto, “Lead at all times with a servant’s heart.”

In your area of community work, what do you see as the biggest challenge for the future? I see the biggest challenge as meeting the basic needs of families: food, clothing and housing. These needs are for families with sick and injured children in the hospital. I take it as a personal challenge to recruit the next generation to get involved in support of Spare Key, or another charitable organization they are passionate about.

 

Finalist: Patty Murphy, Member, MacPhail Center for Music Board of Directors

What is your personal motivation? I am a firm believer in mission-driven leadership and active involvement; being “all-in” and aligning words and actions. As a voice student, board member, volunteer fundraiser and lover of music, my MacPhail experience has been full of adventure, inspiration and the reward of lifelong learning. It has been said, “The ultimate luxury in life is to combine passion and contribution. It is also a very clear path to happiness.”

For example? Thirty-two years ago, I joined LeagueAires — a volunteer women’s chorus bringing the healing power of music to older adults and to those with special needs (sponsored by the Junior League of Minneapolis, in partnership with MacPhail). The opportunity to lift the spirits of a 99-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s or hold the hands of a Viet Nam veteran and sing God Bless America together is all so humbling.

Partners in charity: MacPhail Center for Music- Faculty, Staff and Board,Breck School, Greater Mpls. Crisis Nursery, Northside Achievement Zone, The Minneapolis Foundation Board of Trustees What primary value drives your work? I am grateful to my parents, who demon-strated a lifelong, intentional commitment to volunteerism and community service. motto: I aspire to the Camp Dudley and Kiniya motto, “The Other Fellow First,” which has stood the test of time for over 130 years.

 

Finalist: Anne Marie Hotop, Secretary, Laura Jeffrey Academy Board of Directors

What is your personal motivation? Promoting education, particularly with a focus on girls and women, motivates me every day. I love school and keep going back for more. I am striving to be a leader for education and women’s leadership development, not only for myself, but for others as well. Education is the key to both personal and professional success; it builds a community of critical thinkers, so important in today’s complex world.

Name your primary partners in your charitable efforts. The entire Laura Jeffrey Board and school Leadership Team, as well as Joy McBrien

What primary value drives your work? Do you have a motto that expresses it? Hard work will open many doors. Find joy in even the smallest successes; use it to fuel your desire to keep going. Hard work will pay off in the end.

In your area of community work, what is biggest challenge for the future? Besides budgeting, which all schools struggle with, I think one of the biggest challenges is inclusivity and accommodation of many different types of learning styles. Kids come to school with a wide range of skills and experiences. It is important that, as a community, we support teachers, students and parents so that all kids can thrive in school and develop a love of learning, sending them down a positive path to always keep learning about the world around them.

 

Nonprofit Spotlight Award

Awarded to a nonprofit of any size that has a transformative story to tell about an individual or group that best illustrates the finest work of the nonprofit.

 

Winner: Newborn Foundation

Motivation: The foundation began after the medical condition of a baby was overlooked in a Minnesota hospital nursery. The foundation’s work has led to the nation’s first multi-hospital newborn heart-screening research in collaboration with a state department of health, and has helped secure a formal newborn screening recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Congenital Heart Defects. Other efforts include developing new tools, training and projects that support babies and families locally and abroad.

For example: Today, all U.S. newborns are screened before hospital discharge. The foundation’s global efforts with the BORN Project have been highlighted by the White House, the U.N. and the WHO for innovation in saving newborn lives. In just 5 years, an estimated 15 million babies have been screened and 4,200 U.S. babies’ lives have been saved or significantly improved due to early diagnosis.

Primary value: Every newborn deserves the opportunity to survive and thrive.

Motto: #Its Due Time

Biggest future challenge? The foundation incubates its projects in Minnesota first. Political uncertainty can present challenges in deploying newborn screenings or health services projects that tie to public support.

Partners in Charity: University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, Minnesota Department of Health, University of Fudan Children’s Hospital (Shanghai), and many nonprofit partners

 

Finalist: College Possible™ Minnesota

Motivation: To level the playing field so that all students, regardless of race or socio-economic status, have the opportunity to attend college and graduate at a rate similar to their peers. We must help students of color overcome systemic barriers to entering and graduating from college.

For example: As a first-generation, low-income high school student, Zer Vang knew she wanted to go to college, but she didn’t know where to start. Zer’s College Possible coach provided her with assistance applying for colleges, as well as mentorship, support, advocacy and encouragement. Zer is now the director of ddmissions for the U of M School of Social Work and will be starting a Ph.D. program next fall.

Primary value(s): Our culture is built around the traits of an Idealistic Leader: Strive to be delightful; Energize those in your presence; Keep your eyes on the prize; Challenge cynicism whenever you encounter it; Imagine life in someone else’s shoes; Learn to be grateful; Have fun!

Future challenge? Creating a path to educational equity for students from all backgrounds in Minnesota.

Partners in charity: AmeriCorps, VISTA members

 

Finalist: Companies to Classrooms

Motivation: To support teachers who educate the children in our community. Teachers can identify students who cannot afford school supplies, and can quietly provide these supplies, most often paying for them out of their own pocket. On the other hand, in the ever-changing business world, surplus is a constant reality. Collecting this surplus and making it available to students through their teachers creates a win-win for any community.

For example: Once, we received large, heavy-duty rubber bands from one of our regular contributors. A PE teacher acquired these bands from us and used them to create lessons for age groups ranging from kindergartners to 5th grade students around math, teamwork and Chinese culture.

Motto: Businesses Making a Difference for Education

Biggest future challenge in your community work? Our biggest challenge is to collect the surplus we are offered and get it into the hands of teachers in a timely manner. We must increase our fundraising to be able to market our service to teachers and businesses, and to provide warehouse space, transport services and a store where teachers can pick up supplies.

Partners in Charity: We partner with many companies that enable our work.

 

Youth Initiative Award

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

 

Winner: Hiway Federal Credit Union

Misson: To build a stronger community by providing mentoring, job opportunities and financial education.

For example: Testimonial from Right Track student intern Aisha Mohammad: “The beneficial information I have learned about checking accounts, savings, loans and many other banking tools has prepared me for the long financial road ahead. This was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. I am excited to take my newfound knowledge to college.”

Primary value: We serve as a financial resource for our youth, teaching them about the tools they’ll need as they begin making financial decisions, from receiving their first paycheck to buying their first car.

Motto: “Providing financial success on the road of life”

Biggest future challenge in your community work? Educating and understanding student loan debt. Our high school students considering college are questioning how they’ll pay their debt, either while in college or after college.

Partners in charity: Saint Paul School District, City of Saint Paul’s Right Track Program, Junior Achievement, Best Prep, Sanneh Foundation

 

Finalist: Hennepin Elementary School (HES)

Motivation: Hennepin’s sole mission is to close the achievement gap and prepare students for a successful transition to middle school. We have taught hundreds of students the critical subjects — subjects that often get the short shrift.

For example: We have been awarded the MDE’s finance award five years running. Likewise, the Star Tribune has named Hennepin a public charter school that is Beating the Odds in Mathematics and Reading for three years in a row.

Primary value: We are driven by student achievement, public service and continuous improvement. We hold each other accountable and always try to do the right thing.

Motto: “The Journey Begins Here”

Biggest future challenge? Being able to keep up with the demand from parents and student waiting lists, while preserving our brand and standards.

Partners in Charity: Carlson Foundation, The Walton Foundation, Hennepin County

 

Finalist: MITGI

Community Influence: Changing in the way our community views manufacturing as a career path. Businesses, schools and organizations have worked together to help educate students and provided time, money and equipment. These efforts have brought state-of-the-art manufacturing concepts and equipment into our schools. This helps shape our community.

For example: A few years ago, a group of students toured our facility to learn more about manufacturing. After the tour, the brother of one student liked the company and the work we do so much that he returned to apply for a job. He’s been here ever since!

Primary value: Building a regional culture that supports and promotes careers in manufacturing.

Biggest future challenge? Keeping programs active and current will require ongoing efforts from the education and business communities.

Partners in Charity: Hutchinson High School, Dassel-Cokato High School, Glencoe Silver Lake High School, Ridgewater College

 

Social Enterprise Award

Recognizes outstanding social enterprises in Minnesota — organizations that sell goods or services for a social purpose

 

Winner: Appetite For Change

Motivation: Appetite For Change serves North Minneapolis through community cooking workshops, an urban agriculture program and organized food policy efforts. We train North Minneapolis youth in urban farming, food preparation and leadership, with a focus on providing direct career pathways to the food service industry. Appetite For Change also owns and operates Breaking Bread Café & Catering, a West Broadway fast-casual restaurant serving healthy, global comfort food, and Kindred Kitchen, a shared rental commissary kitchen and food business incubator.

For example: Our music video “Grow Food” has helped to promote growing, cooking and eating fresh, healthy foods. Many of the lyrics are inspired by real-world food changes made by AFC youth. One young woman organized with her peers to improve the quality and nutrition of her school-lunch program. Others boycotted our own Breaking Bread Café until the soda machine was replaced with fruit-infused water.

Primary value: Appetite For Change uses food as a tool to build health, wealth and social change. Our organization is committed to improving the long-term health and vitality of the North Minneapolis community and its residents.

Biggest future challenge in your community work? Truly changing the North Minneapolis food landscape will require many more hands, many more voices, patience and resilience. We know that change starts at the kitchen table; when families cook fresh meals together, it increases awareness of other food choices made throughout the day. Food-conscious individuals become food-conscious communities.

Partners in Charity: Northside Fresh Coalition, West Broadway Farmers Market, Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) and West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. We also collaborate with neighboring organizations to promote business growth and youth-development initiatives.

 

Finalist: Cookie Cart

Motivation: Cookie Cart’s mission is to provide teens with lasting and meaningful work, life and leadership skills through experience and training in an urban nonprofit bakery.

For example: One 16-year-old participant described where he would be without his job at Cookie Cart “I’d probably be on the street, because there is a lot of that in the neighborhood. Cookie Cart took me away from that and pushed me away from the streets. Why would you want to be on the streets when you could have a job and save money?”

Primary value: Cookie Cart is based on the vision of our founder, Sister Jean Thuerauf, who saw the need to engage the neighborhood’s youth in educational and empowering activities.

Motto: Sister Jean’s vision has transformed into the idea that “It’s more than just a cookie...it’s preparing me for my future”.

Biggest future challenge in your community work? Being able to serve as many teens as possible, with limited resources.

Partners in Charity: Northside Achievement Zone, Johnson High School, Junior Achievement, Top cookie customers include: Memorial Blood Centers, Olson and Church of the Ascension. All profits from cookie sales are directly re-invested into Cookie Cart’s unique “earn as you learn” youth development program.

 

Finalist: Fair Anita

Motivation: Fair Anita works with over 8,000 women in 16 countries to provide fair trade jobs to women, especially women with histories of sexual or domestic violence. We’ve worked with artisans to strengthen their design, business and development skills, allowing them greater access to U.S. markets and providing sustainable income.

For example: We recently started working with a group of women in Chimbote, Peru, who are now creating high-quality jewelry. We started working with them on design and business skills, helping them sell their products at fair prices to customers in the U.S. With a sustainable income, they’re able to send their children to school, take care of their health needs and invest in other women in their community.

Primary value: Often times, there exists this “women hate on other women” culture. We want to change that culture to help women support and empower one another, and invest in one another’s success.

Motto: “Women investing in women.”

Biggest future challenge in your community work? We want to see a world where women feel safe, valued and respected. It’s through our shared humanity that we can unite and build a better world for everyone.

Partners in Charity: We partner with 28 women’s rights and artisan co-ops in 16 countries, and donate to local women’s rights organizations.

Pro Bono Maximus Award

Awarded to a for-profit company with a superlative pro bono effort or project that provides professional services to to Minnesota nonprofits or other worthy causes and yields notable results. Qualifying companies may include but are not limited to technological, legal, accounting or creative services.

 

Winner: Mytech Partners, Inc.

Motivation: Mytech’s mission is “to create success through a visionary approach to IT”. We want to create success for the company as well as our vendor partners, our community partners (the nonprofits we provide services to), our staff, our clients and our community. Mytech provides pro bono services to seven nonprofits in the Twin Cities. By providing services that enable staff to have more efficient technology, we help these organizations increase the impact they have on our community.

For example: To maximize their budget, many nonprofits purchase minimally viable technology. One of our pro bono clients, Cookie Cart, received a grant to purchase technology to improve their bakery and provide equipment for youth staff to take online tests. With our pro bono services, they are able to spend the entire grant on the technology products that best fill their needs.

Primary value: One of our founding principles is “Give back — support the local community that supports the company”. Several of our Company Values also highlight our efforts to give back to the community including “care and share” and “provide more value than we receive in payment.” The “success” in our mission statement is not limited to just the company; we want to enable our staff, communities, clients and vendors to also be successful.

 

Finalist: Maslon LLP  

Motivation: We must act as a leader, both in our profession and within the communities we serve, to address the unmet legal needs among the disadvantaged.

For example: 2016 was an exceptional year for Maslon’s pro bono efforts. We are once again on target to exceed to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, and many of our attorneys’ efforts were noteworthy successes.

Significant 2016 pro bono matters include: Representated Terry Olson, fifth person to obtain early release from prison via Innocence Project of Minnesota. Represented client seeking asylum for himself and his family after receiving death threats related to his work advocating against child soldier recruitment in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Co-counsel with ACLU-MN on lawsuits demanding the release of videos of the Jamar Clark and Philando Castile police shootings.

Biggest Challenge: Balancing time between growing our practices and giving back to those in need.

Partners in Charity: Haley Schaffer (ACLU-MN Matters Lead Attorney), Bill Pentelovitch (Partner and Member of Firm Governance Committee), David Schultz (Board President, IPMN Lead Attorney), Scott Aberson (Partner; Advocates for Human Rights, Asylum Matter Lead Attorney), Julian Zebot (Partner; Chair of Pro Bono Committee, VLN Board Member, Fund for Legal Aid Society Board Member), Martin Rosenbaum (LegalCorps, Board President), Susan Link (Wills for Heroes Minnesota)

 

Finalist: PadillaCRT

Motivation: PadillaCRT believes we have a role to play in making our community a wonderful place to live and work. By donating pro bono marketing and communications strategy and support to nonprofits, we’ve helped propel these organizations forward.

For example: Recently, we’ve teamed with Opportunity Partners to develop a brand and messaging platform to advance its mission of helping people with developmental disabilities. We’ve also supplied the event strategy, social media counsel and media relations support for a fundraiser that allowed Gilda’s Club, a cancer support organization, to open in the Twin Cities.

Primary value: The founders of PadillaCRT shared a commitment to community service, and 55 years later, we continue to honor their legacy by supporting charitable endeavors.

Motto: Connect with Purpose

Biggest future challenge in your community work? We can only donate our services to a handful of organizations each year. The need is great and seems to be increasing as we try to do our part to make sure this region flourishes for those who follow in our footsteps.

Partners in Charity: Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minnesota Keystone Program

 

Sustainability Award

Recognizes Minnesota for-profit businesses for implementing or supporting programs in the office or beyond that promote sustainability, the environment or the local ecosystem.

 

Winner: GYST Fermentation Bar

Motivation: We think about sustainability in every sense of our business: the small farms and producers we partner with, the environments we work in, and our team.

For example: We buy double the produce we normally would — we use half fresh in our dishes and ferment the rest. We hold fermentation workshops so others can ferment at home. We eliminated tipping; our prices reflect what it costs to run our business. It is important for our staff to earn a sustainable living wage!

Primary values: Preservation, vocation, inspiration, sustainability, adventure and belief.

Motto: “GYST sayin’” (gyst is an old English spelling for gist, meaning essence).

Biggest challenge? Changing how we think about consuming food locally. This requires us to think about our shorter growing season and how to prolong our produce with the art of fermentation.

Partners in charity: Twin Organics Farm, Night Owl Farm, Graise Farm, Sustainable Farming Association, Main Street Alliance

 

Finalist: Lakewinds Food Co-op

Motivation: Lakewinds serves the co-op and the greater community. Through both long and short-term community giving campaigns, Lakewinds advocates for a healthier future for the communities it serves.

For example: A multitude of in-store initiatives prioritize community and member-owner engagement. Patch the Planet is a reward for shoppers for using re-usable shopping bags, resulting in 175,000 bags diverted from the landfill. On a daily basis, donations are made to local food shelves through a food rescue program. Lakewinds’ Community Giving program supports local organizations through shoppers rounding-up their grocery bills to support the organization that Lakewinds has selected for the month. In 2016, round-up raised over $125,000 for local nonprofit organizations. Lakewinds Organic Field Fund is a grant program providing funding for farmers working to develop sustainable and organic farming practices. Since its inception in 2012, the program has given nearly $200,000 to support local farmers and farm associations.

Partners in Charity: ICA, VEAP, PROP, Loaves & Fishes, MFA, SFA

 

Finalist: Uponor

Motivation: We practice an all-encompassing approach to sustainability, balancing community, environmental impact and sustaining the vitality of our corporation.

For example: We recently completed a major LEED-certifiable expansion of our manufacturing operation with environmental features including a photovoltaic (PV) array to generate electricity, rainwater collection, high-efficiency lighting and radiant floor heating.

Primary values: Connect. Build. Inspire. We behave according to these values to demonstrate our customer focus and expertise.

Biggest future challenge? Few young people consider careers in manufacturing, and those who do often have misconceptions of what that entails. Our goal is to help students understand that they can graduate from high school and join a growing company in a growing field without acquiring mountains of student debt.

Partners in Charity: In 2016, we donated over $150,000 to more than 60 nonprofits, focusing on youth, arts and community. Some of our primary partners include 360 Communities, Lifeworks and STEM education.

 

Workplace Giving

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

 

Winner: Bell Bank

Workplace Giving/Employee Volunteerism: Our most visible giving program is our “Pay It Forward” program, where employees have given away more than $10 million to people in need and to causes they care about. Each year, every full-time employee receives $1,000 and part-time employees $500, to give away as they choose. Plus, full-time employees get 16 hours of paid work time to volunteer at charitable events, various service projects or serving on nonprofit boards.

For example: Pay It Forward has resulted in hundreds of stories of giving (see bellbanks.com/payitforward). One example is a group of employees who pooled funds to help with surgery costs to provide “Smiles for Ryan,” a customer’s child born with a birth defect that prevents him from smiling.

Primary values: Family, service and giving back. It’s all encapsulated in our “bottom line” mission: When our employees treat each other and our customers like family, go the extra mile in service, and work to make our communities even better, our customers are happy, and even join in giving efforts.

Motto: “Happy Employees! Happy Customers!”

Biggest future challenge in your community work? The biggest challenge is simply that the needs are so great, and they are seemingly endless.

Partners in Charity: United Way, Simpson House, Crisis Nursery, Spare Key, Boys and Girls Clubs, Fighting Chance Piper

 

Finalist: Piper Jaffray 

Motivation: We match charitable contributions 1:1 up to $1,000 annually.

For example: The firm also donates $1,000 to nonprofits where employees volunteer 40 hours a year. For employees on nonprofit boards, we provide a $4,000 grant to that organization. Employees get an extra day of PTO to volunteer in their communities. Primary value: We “contribute our talents and resources to serve the communities in which we live and work.”

Biggest challenge? The need for charitable efforts exceeds available resources. This disparity could be minimized with more coordination among nonprofits and by better notificatioon of volunteer opportunities.

 

Finalist: RBA

Motivation: RBA Cares, our volunteer and charitable giving program, includes corporate giving through employee contributions, company matches and organized volunteer opportunities.

For example: To celebrate RBA’s 10th anniversary in 2016, we developed “Caring4Ten.” Employees nominated their favorite charities. Ten were selected to receive $1,000 each for a total of $10,000.

Primary value: To enhance the quality of life in the communities we serve.

Partners in Charity: Blood Center, Be the Match Foundation, Hendrickson Foundation, The Sheridan Story, Open Arms of Minnesota, Eastview Robotics Team

 

Paragon of Leadership Award

Recognizes a Minnesota for-profit business leader for making a positive impact through service, character and leadership by fostering an environment of corporate giving of money, time through board service or other volunteer activity and/or providing pro bono professional services.

 

Winner: Teresa Daly, CEO and Co-Founder, Navigate Forward

What is your motivation? My mother always said, “I don’t care what you choose to do with your life, just do it to the best of your ability, leave everything better than you found it, and do your part to make the world a better place.”

For example? We have thrown an annual party that incorporates charitable giving. Once we donated $10 for every person who attended to a charity of their choice. Then we realized the party should not be about us, it should be about giving back. We named it our “Boomerang Party” (what goes around, comes around) and the theme now centers on appreciation and giving back. Last year we drew the names of three attendees and donated $1,000 to their charity of choice.

Your primary partners? My business partner, Mary Kloehn. From the beginning, we have donated 3-5% of annual revenue to charities. Also, my husband, Greg Konat. Greg is a selfless leader who has dedicated his life to the work of bringing community together.

Motto? My mother used to say, “Life is a round table. Whatever you put on it, comes back around.”

Biggest challenge for the future? There’s an ever-increasing need for communities to come together to address social issues. We need to do more than just throw our money at our challenges. We have a tremendous opportunity to engage younger generations in the issues we face. We need to open the channels for them to really engage, participate and lead!

 

Finalist: Andrew Eklund, CEO and Co-Founder, Cicerón

Motivation? I believe life is circumstantial. So many things happen to people because they were lucky or unlucky. I’m not saying that talent and hard work don’t matter. They do. But life circumstances are so important. As leaders, we have to recognize that we can impact those circumstances and environments. We can help build connections to resources and other people.

Primary values? Empathy and gratitude. I literally have them tattooed on my body.

Motto: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” H.S. Thompson

Biggest challenge? Coming to a common understanding among divisive populations that we’re all in this together. We all have the same genome.

 

Finalist: Kim Brown, President, JNBA Financial Advisors

Your story? I joined the STARKEY Team for the first sanctioned charity event in the history of the Chinese Government. It was the first time I saw someone fitted with a hearing aid and witnessed the remarkable impact of that gesture. I was changed forever by their work and the difference they make in so many lives.

Primary values? My father was a surgeon, and my mom was a nurse. Caring for others and giving back was part of the fabric of our family. I learned by example. They walked the walk.

Motto: “The gift is in giving.”

Biggest challenge? So many people need help. Minnesota is rich with organizations making a real difference. The opportunity is that there are more ways than ever to give back. We are all called to serve.

 

Finalist: Brian Myres COO, DAYTA Marketing

Motivation? I’ve been blessed to live and work in a great nation and community that helped to make me successful. I have an obligation to give back to and improve the community for those that follow. Some of the greatest satisfaction I have gotten in life has come from giving both treasure and talent. It is simply a wise investment in the future. 

Motto: “Always make a difference. Work hard, do good and have fun.”

Biggest challenges? Our country was built upon all sides coming together for the common good of the nation and its people. This spirit seems to be waning as society becomes more divisive and unwilling to work together for the benefit of all. This concerns me greatly.