16 Nonprofits that Inspire Positive Change in Rural America

Nonprofit Leaders in NM
Minnesota’s nonprofit leaders and participants of the INSIGHT series (from left to right) Row 1: Jeanne Larson, Denae Alamano, Sandy Hennum, Mary Mitchell, Hannah Klemm, Laura Seter; Row 2: Paul Hunt, Lynn Hunt, Andrea Ohnstad, Theresa Eclov, Nancy Vyskocil, Paul Welle. Row 3: Bill Blackwell; Jason Edens; Leslie Bouchonville; Matt Varilek; Betty Doss; Bill Sanford.) (Not pictured: Ruth Sherman, Jeff Hanks; Dennis Weimann)

As part of our mission to draw public attention and support to the important work of nonprofits in America, we sat down to chat with 21 accomplished nonprofit leaders in Minnesota to discuss their impact in driving positive change in the evolving landscapes of rural America.

Our in-depth conversations with passionate, mission-driven leaders unveil their greatest accomplishments in the fields of education, science, art, health, justice and poverty, and reveal the toughest obstacles they’ve encountered in the process of shaping environments that respond to the needs of all genders, races, ethnicities, ages and backgrounds.

In collaboration with Lakeland Public Television, m/Oppenheim is proud to present the following list of participants who have kindly shared their knowledge and insights with all of us for this year’s INSIGHT series in Minnesota. Stay tuned, the INSIGHT series will air on LPTV in Fall 2017.


Andrea Ohnstad, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Club of Bemidji Area
The Boys & Girls Club of Bemidji Area Inspires and enables all young people to realize their full potential and serves as a resource to help youth develop into responsible, caring citizens with bright futures and healthy lifestyles.

Bill Blackwell, Director, American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University
The AIRC is a place for learning and participating in cultural interaction and enrichment opportunities, and offers American Indian students support to achieve their goals and dreams.

Bill Sanford, General Manager | Jeff Hanks, Production Manager | Dennis Weimann, New Director, Lakeland Public Television
LPTV’s mission is to educate, entertain, enrich and enlighten communities through educational programming that empowers citizens while connecting diverse groups across the region.

Denae Alamano, Executive Director, United Way of Bemidji Area
The United Way of Bemidji Area is recognized as a leader connecting people, resources and ideas to create a thriving community characterized by measurable and long-lasting improvements in education, income and health.”

Jeanne Larson, Executive Director, Northern Dental Access
Northern Dental Access is a grass-roots, collaborative project that has brought together leaders from all sectors of the region [Bemidji and Beltrami County] who agree that access to oral health care by disadvantaged populations is a public health issue.

Jason Edens, Director, Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL)
RREAL is dedicated to making solar energy accessible to communities of all income levels through its Solar Assistance program for low-income families, internships, and hands-on training, all with the goal of serving as a resource to solve energy-poverty.

Laura Seter, Executive Director, Region 2 Arts Council
The Region 2 Arts Council strengthens the presence of the arts by supporting opportunities for arts creation, promotion, and education for the people of Beltrami, Clearwater, Hubbard, Lake of the Woods, and Mahnomen counties.”

Leslie Bouchonville , Executive Director | Betty Doss, Executive Director, Cass County Family Centers
“The mission of the Pillager Family Center is to empower and strengthen families to build a strong Pillager community.  The center helps families and children where they are in their lives and being available at the earliest stage of development to strengthen coping capacities.”

Lynn Hunt, Board Chair | Paul Hunt, Vice Chair, Happy Dancing Turtle
Happy Dancing Turtle builds, demonstrates, and promotes sustainable living in ways that are economically and ecologically practical.” Happy Dancing Turtle promote sustainability and innovation of meaningful programs that spur local entrepreneurship; creates and supports various workshops, classes and conferences.

Mary Mitchell, Executive Director | Hannah Klemm, Farm Manager, Bemidji Community Food Shelf
The Bemidji Community Food Shelf is a faith-based, caring place that listens to those who are experiencing food insecurity. It works with partners to be inclusive and to provide fresh, nourishing foods for those living in Beltrami County and the Bemidji School District.”

Matt Varilek, President & CEO, Initiative Foundation
The Initiative Foundation works daily to strengthen the economy and communities of Central Minnesota through loans and financing, investing in businesses that create quality jobs, and through grants and programs that make the economy stronger.

Nancy Vyskocil, President, Northwest Minnesota Foundation
Northwest Minnesota Foundation strives to make the region a place where communities and people work together to foster opportunity, promote philanthropy, and enrich the lives of all residents.”

Paul Welle, Chairman, George W. Neilson Foundation
The George W. Neilson Foundation supports programs in the community with strong track records, and has funded many facilities that have benefited non-profit organizations and have enhanced the region’s communities.

Ruth Sherman, Executive Director, Community Resource Connection
CRC staff serve as Navigators for people searching for resources to address home, family, employment and other self-sufficiency issues. Assistance includes guidance through the MNsure system, consultation regarding Social Security Disability application, and applications for public benefits.”

Sandy Hennum, Executive Director, Village of Hope
Village of Hope promotes self-worth and independence through the provision of temporary shelter and supportive services for families experiencing homelessness.”

Theresa Eclov, Executive Director, Faith in Action
Faith In Action provides an opportunity for the faith community to open their doors to the homeless and allows the entire community to connect with and support the guests of the shelter. Their goal is to provide a supportive case-managed shelter environment for members of the homeless community with a focus on providing guests an opportunity to establish a stable, self-sufficient lifestyle and obtain permanent housing.


Special thanks to Lakeland Public Television, an affiliate of PBS, for making these interviews possible, and for bringing light to some of Minnesota’s nonprofit gems who make the world a better place for everyone.

Subscribe through the mOppenheimTV mobile app Android & iOS for alerts as videos are released on mOppenheim.TV and aired through Lakeland Pubic Television beginning Fall 2017.

Arts Media & Culture, Children & Families, Education, Environment, Foundations, Health, Justice & Poverty, News
Arts, Media & Culture, Children & Families, Education, Environment, Foundations, Health, Justice & Poverty, News, Philanthropy