When it comes to paying it forward
, the Twin Cities has a top-notch reputation for doing good. Our corporations give more than $1 billion annually, our nonprofits tackle major social issues and protect our cultural gems, and our volunteers work tirelessly to make it all happen.
For proof, look no further than our 2012 Volunteer Hall of Fame class. For more than 20 years, we’ve recognized Minnesotans who make a positive difference
around the Twin Cities. From a 16-year-old who tutors homeless children to an 81-year-old who helps animals find homes, these stories are bound to move you.
» The Cheerleader - Andrea Hjelm
“When I volunteer, I look at religion, culture, and education. It’s important for me to have balance, and I’ve picked my spots.”
A cheerleader at the University of Minnesota in the 1960s, Andrea Hjelm and her can-do spirit continue to have an impact as she roots for several local organizations. “When I volunteer, I look at religion, culture, and education,” she says. “It’s important for me to have balance, and I’ve picked my spots.” For religion, she raises funds for The Basilica of Saint Mary. For culture, she supports the Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts. For education, she has volunteered for the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and the school’s athletic department. “Fundraising is my main effort,” Hjelm says. “In this economy, it’s extremely important to have vehicles through which to reach people.” One of her accomplishments is raising money for TCF Bank Stadium. “For an old cheerleader, it was a really big deal to see that stadium go up,” she says. “It’s wonderful to have an athletic facility like that.”
» The Networker - Emilie Hitch
“Contact the LEAD Project, look online, and reach out to your personal contacts. There are so many organizations out there with great events and happy hours.”
Emilie Hitch started her career in advertising. She loved networking with other professionals and decided to use that talent to help local nonprofits. “Minneapolis is a big ad town and a big philanthropy town, but there are few chances for those groups to interact,” Hitch says. That’s where the idea for Strategy for Good came from. Each quarter, creative professionals gather for a workshop and brainstorm ideas for specific nonprofits already in existence. “My friends in the ad world feel good about it, and many of them create lasting relationships with the organizations,” she says. Hitch’s good work doesn’t stop there. She’s chairman of the board for YMCA Camp Warren, where she was once a camper. She also volunteers for Quetico Superior Foundation, Appetite for Change, and The Blake School. “I run into amazing individuals who are doing innovative social work on issues that are central to what makes Minneapolis-St. Paul great,” she says. “I just love living here for that reason.”
» The Big Brother - Tom Grezek
“I can relate to kids who need a mentor. I remember the people who spent time with me when I was a boy, and that is my motivation for being involved.”
After spending his career at Ecolab, a company that supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities, Tom Grezek knew he wanted to be part of the program when he retired. “I was raised by a single parent in poverty, so I can relate to kids who need a mentor,” Grezek says. “I remember the people who spent time with me when I was a boy, and that is my motivation for being involved.” Over the past 17 years, Grezek has mentored eight little brothers—tutoring them in reading and math and, even though he’s in his 70s, playing football and basketball on the playground. Knowing there’s an ongoing need, Grezek is committed to continuing his work as a big brother. “There are more than 600 children in the area waiting for a mentor, especially male children,” he says. “These kids need help, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”