Terri Allred is the Greater Minnesota lead and Southeast Minnesota regional coordinator for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, where she serves as a liaison between MCN’s St. Paul office and nonprofits in Southeast Minnesota. Terri has worked in the nonprofit sector her entire life, mostly focused around issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. She has served as the executive director of five nonprofits in three states and currently lives in Rochester. Prior to joining MCN, Terri served as the director of community engagement for the Women’s Shelter and Support Center. She has a B.A. from Wake Forest University and an M.T.S in feminist theology from Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Carrie Bendix is a nonprofit leader with over 20 years of experience in assisting individuals in fulfilling their potential. As the executive director of the Southwest Minnesota Private Industry Council, Inc., she works throughout a 14-county region in Southwest Minnesota to optimize individual employment opportunities, strengthen partnerships, reduce disparities, and address the workforce development needs of the region. Previously, she was the director of Employment Action Center in the Twin Cities. Carrie has a master of business administration with a nonprofit management concentration from the University of St. Thomas.
Deb Brandt is the executive director of United Community Action Partnership. She has experience in both direct services and management in her 35+ years of experience fighting poverty through the Community Action network. Deb’s passion for this work has fostered the development of several creative community and regional initiatives to address the root causes of poverty. Deb is seen as an expert in this field and has facilitated poverty simulations and provided presentations throughout the state to raise awareness and share best practices.
Michelle Chang is the policy and equity coordinator at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Her primary focus is building power around Census 2020 in partnership with MCN's many nonprofit members. She also works internally to ensure that policies and procedures center around ending disparities in power, money, access, and more. Prior to her current position at MCN, Michelle served as MCN's AmeriCorps VISTA and spent a year working as a foreign English teacher in Yunnan, China, while receiving her master of international affairs in international development with Concordia University - Irvine. She has her B.A. in Asian studies from the College of Saint Benedict.
Ashley Charwood is the Northwest Minnesota regional coordinator at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, based in Bemidji. Through this part time position, Ashley provides local activities, initiatives, and connections to the resources MCN provides in the Northwest Region of Minnesota. Ashley received her B.S. in social work from Bemidji State University and has a minor in chemical dependency counseling and psychology. Ashley has held positions with nonprofit organizations in Pennsylvania and in the Bemidji area. Ashley is employed as an early childhood screening team member for the Bemidji School District and has been an active board member and governance committee chair with Bi-County Community Action Programs. Ashley is currently working on her master’s degree from the University of North Dakota, where she is a graduate teaching assistant.
Sabrina Condelli is the owner of a small coffee shop, Deja Brew. Located in Tyler, Minnesota, the business opened in the summer of 2019. Before starting of Deja Brew, she was a paraprofessional at Lynd Public School for four years. Sabrina is 24 years old and currently attending classes at Southwest Minnesota State University for psychology. Within the next few years, she plans to graduate college while maintaining a thriving business. Sabrina hopes to be a leader in her community, and to be involved in helping small towns thrive.
Scena Dethlefs graduated with her master of social work degree from the University of South Dakota. Scena is currently a licensed clinical social worker at Western Mental Health Centers, where she has been employed since 2016. She provides in-home and school-based services, including individual therapy and skills, as well as family therapy and skills, parenting classes, and crisis services. Scena is an ACES presenter within Minnesota. She spends much of her time working with individuals ages birth through 18 within the school setting.
Louise Dickmeyer serves as CEO of the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota. She has 25+ years’ experience in business and economic development in southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities. Previous roles include: director, Continuing & Professional Education at Minnesota State University – Mankato, president of People Driven Performance, president & CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Taylor Corporation Strategic Accounts, and was national director of marketing for Scholarship America. She was a 2013 Minnesota Business Magazine Real Power 50, Mankato YWCA Women of Distinction, and U.S. Small Business Administration Financial Services Advocate award recipient. Louise is the author of No Risk No Reward: Mergers of Membership Associations and Nonprofits and holds a bachelor of science from Minnesota State University – Mankato and a master of nonprofit management from Regis University.
Katherine Fitzkappes has been working in nonprofits for the past 20 years in the areas of childcare, foster care, adoption, financial aid, community building, and most recently as a community-based mental health provider with Western Mental Health Center. She received her bachelor of science in social work from St. Cloud State University and master’s in social work, with an emphasis in rural communities from Minnesota State University – Mankato. Kate is passionate about community building in the areas of cultural competency, the arts, and nature.
Mandy France is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and currently serves as a solo pastor at Our Saviors Lutheran in Bird Island. She holds a B.S. in religious studies from Liberty University and her masters of divinity degree from Luther Seminary, where she intensely studied world religious and interfaith dialogue. Mandy is passionate about worship planning, inter-religious relations, and preaching.
Yohannes Ghebru is the finance manager of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. In his role, Yohannes oversees accounting and finance functions of MCN, and works to make sure MCN’s finances are accurate and compliant with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Yohannes works closely with executive and program leadership in areas of budgeting, forecasting, and financial reporting. He coordinates Finance Roundtable Network events in partnership with co-sponsor Propel Nonprofits. Prior to joining MCN, Yohannes worked as finance and accounting professional in nonprofits as well as for-profits. Originally from Asmara, Eritrea, Yohannes has a B.A. in business and accounting and an M.A. in organizational management and leadership from Concordia University.
Denise Gochenouer is a 30-year veteran of the marketing profession. She currently serves as the executive director of Southwest Marketing Advisory Center and associate professor of marketing at Southwest Minnesota State University. She completed 20 years in the industry working in banking, real estate, and the marketing research industry before entering academia and completing her doctorate from South Dakota State University. She also holds a bachelors in marketing and a masters in management. She currently serves as a consultant for the Small Business Development Centers of Minnesota, director of the MBA program at Southwest Minnesota State University and as a director for Capital Solutions Limited; a private equity bank in Jamaica, West Indies.
Sharon Johnson serves as the community education director for Worthington ISD 518. Sharon grew up in Worthington and returned following college. Her professional experience includes youth ministry, teaching high school journalism, coordinating the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, and leading District 518 Community Education. Sharon has served on many church and community boards including Worthington Area Foundation, Sanford Worthington Medical Center, and Worthington Chamber of Commerce. Sharon recently took over management of her late husband’s business, Johnson Jewelry, in downtown Worthington.
Sarah Kicmal loves living in southwest Minnesota. She is the president & CEO of United Way of Southwest Minnesota and also serves on the Southwest Initiative Foundation's Emerging Leaders Cabinet. Sarah grew up in Walnut Grove and chose to stay. She believes small communities are full of opportunities for those who wish to find and nurture them. Sarah’s leadership roles thus far have taught her the importance of relationship building, and that a successful leader should do more listening than talking. Her current community involvement includes coordinating the community Sunday School program and volunteering for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, both in Walnut Grove.
Karen Koeder is from Trimont, Minnesota, and a graduate of San Diego State University. She worked for Camp Fire, a national youth development organization, for 40 years in California and Alaska. From these years she brings a strong background in administration including board development, financial development, personnel, budgeting, and financial oversight, as well as program development. Upon her original retirement back to Trimont her interests widened to include our aging and caregiver populations. Karen is currently employed as the associate director of CREST in Martin County. CREST provides caregiver support services and volunteer provided services to help seniors live safely in their home. She serves on the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit board of directors and is president of TASK in Trimont.
Jamie Lanners is the community coordinator for the Marshall Area Dementia Awareness Network. She has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management from Southwest Minnesota State University and a master’s degree in healthcare management with concentration in gerontology from University of Phoenix. She has worked in the gerontology field for over 15 years. Jamie has worked in dietary, marketing, activities, operations, and program development for an area agency on aging. She currently is the office manager at Lanners Brothers Construction LLC. In her spare time, she volunteers for A.C.E. of Southwest Minnesota and Living Word Lutheran Church.
Angela Larson is the family services director of United Community Action Partnership (UCAP). Angela has more than 25 years’ experience working in the social services field and has worked in her position at UCAP for 14 of those years. She has led new initiatives to meet community needs including emergency shelter and homelessness services programs, free tax preparation programs, refugee resettlement programs, and others. Angela also works on regional and statewide initiatives that make a difference in the lives of low-income people.
Samantha Nelson is the founder of Sweetwater Revival. Samantha’s strength is her creativity. She listens carefully before she speaks and only leaves the room when there is a sense of completeness. Her pace of strength and determination is consistent with how she can translate past experiences to a productive future in an empowered present. Samantha is a strong proponent of growth and change. Her unique style of combining creativity and precision enhances her ability to vision, design, and implement conceptual ideas.
Ben Nwachukwu is currently the IT helpdesk manager at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU). He has been in this role for eight years. Ben oversees the day to day operation of SMSU IT helpdesk and conducts different tech workshops on how to utilize different software and tools like Office 365 apps and many more. Ben is a graduate of SMSU with a bachelor of science in accounting, finance, and management, with a minor in agribusiness. He also has a master’s in business administration.
Lori Pickell-Stangel is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a B.S. in family and consumer sciences. She has been working in the nonprofit world for 20 years, most recently accepting a position as the executive director of the United Way of the Brown County Area in New Ulm in 2018. As the executive director, Lori is able to use her skills and experience as a nonprofit leader to help over 30 plus Brown County nonprofits to develop, learn, and grow. Lori first started working with volunteers in 2000 when she took her first nonprofit position as the director of the Renville County Historical Society in Morton. As executive director for the Mcleod County Historical Society, 2006-2017, she developed the use of volunteers to grow her small nonprofit staff.
Andrea Sanow is the communications manager at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. Andrea holds a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from Augsburg University. She currently serves as vice president on the board directors of the Radical Health Alliance. She’s worked in the arts, supportive housing, and higher education, respectively. From 2012-2013, served as a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps in San Francisco, California.
Nonoko Sato is the associate director at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. In her role, Nonoko partners closely with executive director Jon Pratt to chart MCN’s strategic response to organizational and sector challenges. She also plays a role in shaping and implementing the organization’s strategy, including oversight of member services and programs, operations, and financial management, as well as leading the annual planning and budgeting process and guiding new strategic initiatives. She serves as the chair of trustees for BenefitsMN, an association health plan that combines the insurance purchasing power of nonprofits across Minnesota. Prior to joining MCN, Nonoko served for nine years as executive director of SMART, a San Francisco nonprofit that provides low-income students access to exceptional education and college success. Originally from Chicago, Nonoko graduated from Carleton College.
Ron Skjong served as a lay pastoral minister for many years directing youth faith formation programs and adult education classes. Upon leaving that service, he accepted the position of program manager for the Marshall office of the Karen Organization of Minnesota. For four years, he served the Karen refugee population by providing educational programming focusing on the housing, employment, medical, and citizenship needs of the Karen population of Southwest Minnesota. He is a member of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Southwest Minnesota Advisory Council, a member of the Marshall Diversity Group, and is currently working for the Marshall YMCA offering informational sessions about the Census to the under-counted and newly arrived populations in the Marshall area.
James Smalley is currently an assistant professor of social work at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU). Before SMSU James taught social work at Minnesota State University – Mankato. James previously was the executive director of New Horizons Crisis Center in Marshall and the Minnesota West Foundation (Minnesota West Community and Technical College). He has almost 20 years of working in the nonprofit sector in Southwest Minnesota, from front line staff duties to program management work. James has social work degrees from the University of St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota, and his Ph.D. in human services from Capella University. His master’s degree and Ph.D. includes an emphasis in nonprofit management. James is a licensed social worker in Minnesota.
Adry Stafford has served as a bilingual family liaison for Worthington ISD 518 since 2015. Adry moved with her family from Mexico to the United States when she was 14 years old. She graduated from Worthington High School. Adry is fluent in Spanish and English and enjoys connecting with families in the district to help them understand and successfully navigate the school system. She also serves as a Nobles County Art Center board member and previously served on the Worthington International Festival committee.
Nancy Straw was most recently executive director of United Community Action Partnership, Inc. (UCAP). During her tenure, UCAP secured funding to build a Head Start facility to serve 130 children. Previously, Nancy was with The Ford Family Foundation in Oregon where she designed and launched programs focused on community economic development in rural communities across Oregon and Siskiyou County, California. Prior to that, Nancy was with West Central Initiative where she led economic development programs and then served as the president/CEO for 15 years. Nancy grew up in rural Minnesota and has dedicated her career to helping rural people, families, businesses, and communities. She has served on numerous boards and committees at the local, regional, statewide, and national level, and has made presentations across the U.S. and in Russia.
Laura Thomas is the Age Friendly Communities coordinator at Prairie Five Community Action Council in the 6W region of Minnesota. Prairie Five CAC covers Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift, and Yellow Medicine counties. This is the smallest region of Minnesota, with less than 1% of the state’s population. It is also the oldest, with median populations at or nearing 50 years. Prairie Five is meeting the challenges of aging in the area in innovative ways. Since this population currently looks like what the rest of the state will look like in 2030, Prairie Five is excited to share their experiences. Laura has helped pioneer the Live Well Age Wisely brand in media, on the Mobile Community Center for older adults, the hot/cold food truck, and local collaborative initiatives.
Giving back for Robert Valdez means sharing his time and life experiences as a newcomer to Minnesota with others like him. Robert was born in Texas, moved to rural Minnesota in 1995, and earned his business administration degree with a minor in economics. As the former director of the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center, Robert tackled the challenges of poverty and creating opportunity through economic development. Robert is a member of the Southwest Initiative Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Cabinet, and his vision is to unite around common issues and work collaboratively to advance the common good of all Minnesotans through intentional actions.
Jessica Velasco chose to be a member of the Southwest Initiative Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Cabinet to serve as a voice for the youth she works for…at least until they can take her place. Jessica works for Unidos Minnesota as the Greater Minnesota lead organizer. Her mission is to build community and empower POCI in the southwest Minnesota region. In Worthington, Jessica is part of the grassroots Immigrant Task Force, Worthington FC soccer club, and Seeds of Justice. Jessica is very open about talking about discrimination and prejudice and she talks to youth about being changemakers every opportunity she gets.