Photo by Stephanie Colgan
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.” —Andrea Hjelm
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
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.” —Tom Grezek
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.”
» The Tutor - Michael Guggenheim
“There’s a lot to learn from these kids and how brave they’ve been.” —Michael Guggenheim
At age 5, Michael Guggenheim was diagnosed with dysgraphia, a condition that makes it painful to write by hand. But when his parents bought him a laptop, he started excelling in school. This gave him an idea. “One of the main skill sets you need to get a job is knowing how to type and use a computer,” he says. “If I could teach homeless children to use a computer, hopefully that could help get them out of the vicious cycle of homelessness.” He founded a nonprofit organization called Showing People Learning and Technology. Guggenheim, now 16, collects donated computers from local companies and tutors children at the Neighborhood House and People Serving People. “There’s a lot to learn from these kids and how brave they’ve been,” he says.
» The Athlete - Kent Herbek
Nearly every Minnesotan knows Kent Hrbek as the former first baseman for the Minnesota Twins. He uses that star power to raise awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “When you lose your father to ALS and watch him waste away to nothing, that rings a bell,” Hrbek says. He’s worked with The ALS Association Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota Chapter since 1993. He helped start a series of fundraisers—from golf tournaments to snowmobile races—with the money going to medical research and equipment to help those who have ALS. “It’s a killing disease, but we try to comfort people who have ALS as much as possible,” he says.
» The Musician - Ann Buran
To those who know her, it’s no surprise that Ann Buran volunteers for music organizations in the Twin Cities. A successful pianist and organist, she’s a past chairman of VocalEssence, a founding member of the Frederic Chopin Society, and a fundraiser for the MacPhail Center for Music. Plus, every Tuesday, she plays the piano at Whittier International Elementary School. “Music is a natural fit for me, because it’s one of my gifts,” Buran says. “It’s a universal communicating tool, and it brings people together in so many ways.” With a passion for giving that reaches beyond music, Buran also serves as a hospice volunteer for Methodist Hospital, comforting those who are about to die. “It’s inspiring to be with them, and I feel privileged to be part of that process,” she says.
» The Big Sister - Molly Doran
“Getting involved is less intimidating if you bring a friend or tag along with someone who already has a relationship with an organization. Talk to the volunteer coordinator or someone who can give you a bit of a briefing.” —Molly Doran
“Volunteering is something that I was raised with, and that example was passed on to me,” says Molly Doran, who comes from a family of volunteers. As a kid she tagged along with her grandmother working with patients at Children’s of Minnesota. Today Doran is particularly drawn to youth organizations. She’s volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities since 2003, and she works with Children’s Grief Connection of Minnesota and Amanda the Panda Family Grief Center. She’s also an active member of Cretin-Derham Hall’s and Drake University’s alumni associations. It makes for a busy schedule, but she can’t get enough of it. “Some volunteer experiences are just so powerful that it’s an addiction,” she says. “You just keep coming back.”
» The Multitasker - Patty Murphy
“I hope to use my God-given talents to serve to the best of my ability.” —Patty Murphy
When it comes to volunteer work, Patty Murphy is quite a multitasker. She learned those skills from the Junior League of Minneapolis when she joined 36 years ago. “The Junior League taught me how to run a successful meeting, the importance of parliamentary procedure, and how to communicate effectively,” she says. “It provided a blueprint for lifelong volunteer work.” Today Murphy uses those skills to help a variety of local organizations. She’s a 17-year volunteer for the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, she’s on the board for the MacPhail Center for Music, she serves on Colonial Church’s council, and she recently joined the board of Northside Achievement Zone. “Whether it’s being a caring soul, a problem solver, an advocate, crusader, or dreamer, all volunteers play a role in making our community a better place,” she says. “I hope to use my God-given talents to serve to the best of my ability.”
» The Art Advocate - Larry Perlman
“Find an organization that you think is important, that you’re passionate about and you want to learn about. Find a way to work with them.” —Larry Perlman
“I have the distinction of being both the oldest and youngest trustee of the Walker,” says Larry Perlman, a Walker Art Center volunteer for more than 30 years. He’s served on numerous committees including strategic planning, governance, construction, finance, acquisition, and development. “We’re blessed in the Twin Cities, because we have several generations of families who have created a wonderful cultural community,” Perlman says. “My generation and the generation that follows have a responsibility to continue that.” Perlman’s other volunteer credits include the Minnesota Orchestra, Carleton College, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio, and the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation.
» The Animal Lover - Edith Shumaker
“With the Internet, you can find out so much about organizations just by sitting at home and surfing.” —Edith Shumaker
Growing up as an only child, Edith Shumaker developed a special connection with animals and an early appreciation for the important role pets can play in a family. “I always say my siblings were a German shepherd and a Chesapeake,” she says. In 1990, she started volunteering with the Animal Humane Society. She cared for scared animals and helped them overcome their fears. The staff quickly recognized Shumaker’s talent and asked her to organize the volunteer program. Today Shumaker coordinates schedules for more than 40 volunteers and trains workers. “It’s really satisfying to see pets and people connect,” she says. “Many people who come here say that getting a pet makes their family complete. Volunteering [at the Animal Humane Society] is really satisfying. It’s almost a selfish thing to do.”
Minnesota businesses give back in big ways.
Here are our 10 most generous corporations.
- General Mills
- UnitedHealth Group
- U.S. Bancorp
- Best Buy
- Travelers Companies
- Thrivent Financial for Lutherans
Source: Minnesota Council on Foundations’ “Top 25 Minnesota
Giving Back - By the Numbers
Combined amount Minnesota’s corporations give annually
Minnesota’s national rank in foundation giving per capita
Number of active grantmakers in Minnesota:
85 percent - of those are private foundations,
9 percent - are corporate foundations and giving programs, and
6 percent - are community/public foundations
Nod to the Past
Since 1989, we’ve honored more than 200 volunteers,
many of whom continue to make a difference in our community to this day.
Here’s a list of some of the do-gooders who continue to wow us.
Roxanne Givens Copeland
Charles M. Denny Jr.
Luella Gross Goldberg
Michelle Grabanski Pohlad