2018 Award Recipients

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) and The McKnight Foundation are proud to announce the 2018 Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards. These individuals have been recognized for the significant impact they have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities.

Each of the honorees below received a cash prize of $10,000 from the McKnight Foundation and MCN during a private awards luncheon at the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis on Tuesday, October 2. Award recipients are also recognized at the 2018 MCN Annual Conference on Thursday, November 15 in St. Paul, MN. 


Joe Day, Bemidji
Joe Day, a three-tour veteran of the Vietnam War, has spent his life working for Native communities. He is a co-founder of the Northwest Indian Community Development Center, an organization that originated as a workforce development agency. An active community member for over 40 years, Joseph works to challenge workforce disparities, connect governments, remove barriers, and honor his Anishinaabe heritage. His work is for the love of his people, something he showcases every single day.


Memoona Ghani, Maple Grove
Memoona Ghani, a Pakistani immigrant, has devoted her time and energy to dispelling the myths and negative stereotypes around Islam and the Muslim community. A business analyst by day, she creates change in the community through a number of volunteer positions, including as a certified speaker for the Islamic Resource Group, as the lead organizer for an initiative called IMPACT through the AlMaghrib Institute, and as vice chair for Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment, and much more. A tireless advocate for Muslim women, Memoona has a willingness to help in whatever capacity necessary.


Carol Orban, Ely
Since arriving in Ely in the 1970s, Carol Orban has been a sustaining force in the community. For 23 years, Carol taught English at Vermillion Community College and did important work outside the classroom as well. In the early 1980s, Carol organized the Northwoods Whole Foods Co-op in Ely and has long since supported efforts to provide healthy food to everyone in the community. As an organizer of EMPOWER, she was active in supporting women’s rights and LGTB+ issues. If there was a need in Ely, often Carol helped to fill it.


Wynfred Russell, Brooklyn Park
Wynfred Russell is a pioneer, a leader, and a visionary, dedicating his life to advocating for disenfranchised communities and advancing equity. An immigrant from Liberia, Wynfred is the founding executive director of African Career, Education and Resource Inc., an organization addressing the resource and information gap within the newer and longtime minority communities in the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities. In addition to his extensive work in his Minnesota community, Wynfred used his background in public health to manage the Ebola response team in southeastern Liberia and later served on a global polio eradication initiative in northern Nigeria for three years. He is a dedicated public servant and advocate.


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