Past Recipients

Since 2015, MCN and the McKnight Foundation have presented the Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Awards to individuals who have served communities across Minnesota. In partnership with the McKnight Foundation,  a Minnesota-based family foundation that advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive, four Minnesotans, two from the Twin Cities metro and two from Greater Minnesota, each received $10,000 in recognition of the significant impact they have had on the state of Minnesota and its communities. 

Each of the honorees below received a cash prize from the McKnight Foundation and were recognized during a private awards luncheon at the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis and at the MCN Annual Conference. 

2019 Honorees

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Shanene Herbert, Minneapolis
For nearly 20 years, Shanene Herbert has been a force in the community.  A native New Yorker now living in North Minneapolis and a mother of two, Shanene has worked with young people of color and their parents in educational settings across the Twin Cities, helping youth and their parents navigate pathways to success and slowly chip away at the cradle to prison pipeline. Shanene has launched a number of programs and initiatives, including Heal Sis, a grassroots initiative that brings women together to explore their past, present, future experiences and their trauma around topics that affect their lives. Shanene is also passionate about Double Dutch, and hosts events in which she uses Double Dutch to engage women in North Minneapolis and spark conversation about issues that affect their lives. Through all of her work, she has been a bridge between people with privilege and the communities they serve while remaining a fierce advocate and champion of the community. 

Jamil Jackson, Minneapolis
Jamil Jackson has dedicated his life for improving the lives of under-resourced teens in North Minneapolis. Through basketball, Jamil created a leadership development program that engages over 200 boys each week, focusing on college-readiness and their future careers.  From this program, Jamil launched C.E.O. (Change Equals Opportunity), which brings in community leaders to mentor and guide the youth in his program with a focus on positive black leaders and entrepreneurship. Outside of this work, Jamil started his own construction and lawn maintenance business where he trains and employs youth felons and students at risk for gang involvement. Jamil shows every young man in each of his programs love and compassion, and is true agent of change and hero for many north side families.

Shirley Nordrum, Cass Lake
Shirley has dedicated her life to improving community wellness on the Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth reservations by strengthening environmental quality, food security, and nutrition. Understanding the needs of each community, Shirley developed innovative methods of reaching out and engaging people on topics of social and environmental justice. She is dedicated to serving area youth by offering healthy skill-building gatherings focused on archery, snow snakes, lacrosse, and traditional arts. More recently, Shirley has focused on strengthening use and restoration of Ojibwe food systems to improve the dietary and economic health of Band members. She collaborated with community members to develop  Nanod-gikenimindwaa Nindinawemaaganidog (Getting to Know all of Creation) as a tool to help youth and families reconnected with traditional ecological knowledge and is now piloting The Corn is Red, a youth program for ages 5-14 focusing on traditional agriculture, cooking, eating healthy, and physical activity.  In all of her work, Shirley continues to build community and networks.


Patti Reibold, Red Wing 
Patti Reibold has been giving tirelessly to anyone in need in her Red Wing community. Anyone who needs anything, from clothing to food to furniture, goes to Patti for help. In 1998, Patti established “The Connecting Connection”, with the dream of creating a place where donated goods could be given to others in need at no cost.  From there, she began working closely with HOPE Coalition, helping domestic violence survivors get a fresh start.  When a domestic violence survivor is ready to move from the local shelter, Patti builds departure baskets filled with basic household items and prepares a hot meal to welcome them on the first day in their new home.  At Christmas and Easter, Patti prepares and delivers dinners to those who otherwise would go without.  Anything someone may need, from a ride to taking a client’s service dog to the vet, Patti stands ready to help.  Through all of her work, Patti has slowed little in her quest to help others and remains a beacon of hope for many in her community.

2018 Honorees

  • Joe Day, Bemidji
  • Memoona Ghani, Maple Grove
  • Carol Orban, Ely
  • Wynfred Russell, Brooklyn Park

2017 Honorees

  • Angela Edwards, Minneapolis
  • Jon Vang, St. Paul
  • Abdirizak "Zack" Mahboub, Willmar
  • Millicent Simenson, Bemidji

2016 Honorees

  • Deborah Jiang-Stein, Minneapolis
  • Koresh Lakhan, Duluth
  • Qamar Saadiq Saoud, Minneapolis
  • Dr. Arne Vainio, Cloquet

2015 Honorees

  • Tom Johnson, St. Paul
  • Wilbur Neushwander-Frink, Mankato
  • Mary Powell, Shoreview (Honorable Mention)
  • Robianne Schultz, Perham (Honorable Mention)