Thomas Adams, Ph.D., Better Futures Minnesota - Minneapolis
Thomas Adams is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Better Futures Minnesota, a social change enterprise that fuels and guides men's desire to turn their lives around and walk a new path toward better health and success.
Prior to leading Better Futures Minnesota, Thomas served most recently as CEO of African American Family Services, a community-based, culturally-specific behavioral health clinic serving the African American community of the Twin Cities.
EUNICE ADJEI, CREATE COMMUNITY - ST. CLOUD
Eunice Adjei is the Administrator for Create CommUNITY, a nonprofit with a mission to dismantle racism through systemic change and make St. Cloud a welcoming place for all.
In addition to her work with Create CommUNITY, Eunice is the Project and Grant Manager for CentraCare Health, St. Cloud, MN and also the President of Adom Consulting LLC. At Adom LLC she provides Cultural Competency training to non-profit boards and their staff. Eunice serves on a number of other boards, including St. Cloud State University’s Alumni Association, the St. Cloud Regional Human Rights Commission, and The Tri-County Action Program Inc. (TRICAP).
Robert Benes, Lakes and Pines Community Action Council, Inc. – Mora (Treasurer)
Bob Benes has served as a leader of Lakes and Pines Community Action Council for over 30 years. He currently serves as the board chair of the Minnesota Community Action Partnership and executive director of Lakes and Pines Community Action Council in Mora, MN.
Bob has dedicated his career to assuring all Minnesotans have a fair chance to prosper and working alongside those with the same goals in mind for the betterment of all Minnesota.
Milpha Blamo, The Link - Minneapolis
Milpha Blamo is the Human Resources Director for the Link, an organization which works with youth and families to overcome the impacts of poverty and social injustice. The Link offers housing and supportive services for youth and young families experiencing homelessness; positive alternative programs for youth in the juvenile justice system; and emergency shelter, housing and supportive services for youth who have been sexually trafficked and/or exploited.
In her role at The Link, Milpha plans, directs, and manages all human resources initiatives including: recruitment, compensation analysis, benefits planning and reporting, training and all employee relations of the organization.
Cameron C. Bloom Kruger, Duluth Children's Museum - Duluth
Cameron is the President/CEO of the Duluth Children's Museum. The museum serves 65,000 children, their families, caregivers, classrooms and community through interactive exhibits, educational programs, creative play, and opportunities to connect with a collection of historic and cultural artifacts.
Cameron is also the lead consultant for Horizon Nonprofit Solutions, an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Management for the University of Wisconsin Superior and Southern New Hampshire University, and has spent the past decade assisting nonprofits and grassroots causes build capacity and communicate effectively with the community.
Antonio Cardona, Pillsbury United Communities - Minneapolis
Antonio Cardona serves on the leadership team of Pillsbury United Communities, an organization which works with underestimated populations across the Twin Cities and Rochester to foster the resilience and self-sufficiency of individuals, families and community as a whole.
As the Director of Pillsbury United Communities’ Urban Institute for Service and Learning, Mr. Cardona taps into his extensive administrative, community relations and organizing experience to drive tangible change with positive outcomes.
Susan Estee, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank - Grand Rapids
Susan Estee serves as Executive Director of Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, which partners with over 145 hunger relief agencies in Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca, Koochiching, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties in north central Minnesota. In this role, she is responsible for one of the five Feeding America food banks in the state, with $4.8 million in food volume per year.
Prior to coming to Second Harvest, Susan had a career in the private sector, with leadership roles in a number of different businesses in rural Minnesota. Susan has held a number of different volunteer leadership positions, including serving as a member of the Feeding America Strategic Plan Refresh National Task Force, the Itasca County Extension Committee (as vice-chair - a county appointment), the Centennial Rotary Club of Grand Rapids past president, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and the Personnel Committee of Zion Lutheran Church. Susan is also a graduate of the Blandin Community Leadership Program.
Amel Gorani, Carleton College - Northfield
Amel Gorani is a social justice, peace and community development specialist whose career has spanned work for governments, foundations, local and international NGOs, across four continents. She is the Director for the Center for Community and Civic Engagement at Carleton College.
Before joining Carleton, Amel worked as inclusion coordinator for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Swiss peace mediation organization, on projects in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Sue Grafstrom, Homeland Security Emergency Management Director in Roseau County- Roseau
Sue Grafstrom serves as the Homeland Security Emergency Management Director in Roseau County. After growing up in Roseau and attending college in Moorhead, Sue worked for 8-10 years in the metro area before returning to the Roseau area.
Most recently, Sue was the Development Coordinator with LifeCare Medical Center in Roseau. Sue has also worked in various nonprofit, for-profit and government organizations, including the Minnesota Dept of Employment, Fortis Financial Group, Gillette Children’s Hospital and Golden Harvest Foods.
Kenza Hadj-Moussa is the Communications Director at TakeAction Minnesota. Previously, she was the Communications and Development Director at the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.
She has also worked for the Department of Human Services and St. Stephen’s Human Services. She serves on the board of Our Saviour’s Community Services and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
Karen Koeder, CREST - Fairmont
Karen Koeder is the Associate Director of CREST, a nonprofit which provides volunteer services for seniors to assist in their living at home as long as possible.
Karen’s responsibilities include board development, strategic planning, financial oversight, grant oversight, personnel, and community development. Prior to coming to CREST, Karen worked as RSVP Coordinator for Martin County. Karen has held a number of executive leadership positions with Camp Fire (formerly Camp Fire Girls), a national youth development organization in California and Alaska.
Mary LaGarde, Minneapolis American Indian Center - Minneapolis
Mary LaGarde is the Executive Director of the Minneapolis American Indian Center and has 25 years of nonprofit experience in program services, including management and development. In 1994, she established a therapeutic preschool for American Indian children at the Little Earth of United Tribes Housing Development in Minneapolis.
In 1999 she managed the opening of the Little Earth Neighborhood Early Learning Center, and has developed numerous programs for the American Indian community in Minneapolis.
Molly Matheson Gruen, Bush Foundation - St. Paul
Molly joined the Bush Foundation in 2011 and co-directs the Foundation’s Community Innovation Programs. A firm believer that “we can do so much more together than any of us can do alone,” she enjoys meeting, supporting and connecting the inspiring people who are working together to solve problems in our communities.
Molly began her career working for a collaboration of three local HIV/AIDS service organizations. From there, she became the director of volunteer services at Open Arms of Minnesota and had the honor of engaging people in a meal delivery program for people living with chronic illness. During that time, she was also an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, co-teaching a class on “Community Action and Social Change.”
Angie Miller, Community Action Duluth - Duluth
Since 2008, Angie Miller has served as Executive Director of Community Action Duluth, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower and engage the entire community to eliminate poverty and to create prosperity and equity in the lives of the people served.
Prior to her role as Executive Director, Angie was the manager of asset building programs, and helped launch the organization’s free tax preparation sites and other asset building initiatives at the agency, taught financial education classes and worked with individual clients to help them increase their income and assets.
Joanna Ramirez Barrett, PhD, Meda - Minneapolis
Dr. Joanna Ramirez Barrett is the Vice President of Business Solutions at Meda, an organization which provides business consulting and lending to minority-owned businesses in Minnesota.
In her role at Meda, Dr. Ramirez Barrett oversees program and service development and evaluation, develops and executes organizational strategic goals, and ensures Meda’s continued adherence to internal and external standards. Prior to Meda, Dr. Ramirez Barrett held leadership positions at Xcel Energy, Northwest Area Foundation, and NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center.
Susan Schmidt, The Trust for Public Land - St. Paul
Susan Schmidt is the Minnesota State Office Director for the Trust for Public Land. In her current role, she is responsible for management and strategic planning with a special focus on government and community relations. She has 25 years of experience working with local, state and federal agencies and community groups on community development and environmental issues in Minnesota. Susan’s previous positions include Executive Director of the Legislative Water Commission, Minnesota Legislature. She worked as Water Policy Liaison with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Project Manager for the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board.
Lori Schwartz, Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership, Inc. - Moorhead
Lori Schwartz is the Executive Director for Lakes & Prairies Community Action, serving primarily Clay and Wilkin Counties in Minnesota.
Lori’s experience at Lakes & Prairies includes positions as a Head Start Teacher, Head Start Special Services, Director of the Migrant Head Start Program, and Director of Operations. She holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Strategic Leadership from the University of Mary, Bismarck. She is a National Certified ROMA trainer and Pathways to Excellence Reviewer. In 2016 she became a CCAP, Certified Community Action Professional.
Chris Taylor, Minnesota Historical Society - St. Paul
Chris Taylor is Director of Inclusion and Community Engagement for the Minnesota Historical Society, the state’s premier presenter of history exhibitions and programs. Chris coordinates programs aimed at continuous and sustained engagement of diverse communities at the Society; cultivates and supports relationships with community organizations; and works to increase training and professional development for employees at MNHS related to cultural competence and inclusion.
Ernesto Velez, Centro Campesino - Owatonna
Ernesto Velez has over 12 years of experience on community organizing and activism. He led the Immigrant Empowerment Project initiatives and activities for the years 2004-2010. He has been doing development and grant work since 2008, successfully getting Centro Campesino up to $150,000 dollars in grants and contributions.
Currently, Ernesto serves as the Executive Director of Centro Campesino, a nonprofit with a mission to improve the lives of members of the Latino and migrant community in southern Minnesota through community organizing, education, and advocacy.
Melinda Wedzina, MRCI WorkSource - Mankato
Melinda Wedzina is the Chief Operations Officer of MRCI WorkSource, a nonprofit focused on creating innovative and genuine opportunities for people with disabilities or disadvantages to support their community participation. MRCI serves over 4,000 clients and families through its locations in Mankato, Kasota, New Ulm, Fairmont, Shakopee, Chaska, and Rosemount.
Prior to MRCI, Melinda was the founder and Executive Director of Feeding Our Communities Partners (FOCP), a community-based hunger relief nonprofit located in Mankato. Before entering the nonprofit sector, Melinda served as the Marketing Communications Manager for a business systems software company. Melinda holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from Ball State University and earned her M.B.A. and M.S. in strategic management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.