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Tribute to Gary Reierson

  • Blog Post by: Steve Hunegs
  • June 13, 2012 - 12:53 PM

On May 11, I attended the final "Report to the Community" of Gary Reierson as President of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches (GMCC) – after 23 years.  The GMCC annual meeting was subtitled: "A Celebration of Gary Reierson's Leadership," which was a fitting title for the day and the man.

There is much to celebrate in connection with Gary's tenure.  Long before measuring empirical outcomes became the norm as one mode of evaluation in the nonprofit world, Gary was emphasizing metrics.  In this spirit, here are a few statistics illustrating the ongoing success of Gary and the GMCC:

  • In addressing the root causes of poverty – a primary mission of the GMCC – the GMCC mobilizes 25,000 volunteers a year impacting 350,000 people in need.  Many GMCC programs were developed and/or drastically expanded during Gary's two-plus decades.  Examples are: Division of Indian Work, Minnesota FoodShare, Urban Immersion Service Retreats, and Center for Families.
  • In the GMCC's fact sheet about Gary – "It's All About Leadership" – the GMCC's critical work in the Native American community is rightfully raised-up: "The Division of Indian Work became a true partner agency with its own board of directors and executive director, lending cultural competency to our work with urban American Indians."

Appropriately, Gary's successor is Noya Woodrich who becomes the first female and Native American to become the GMCC's President and CEO in the agency's 107 year history.  Ms. Woodrich has been the Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Division of Indian Work for the past twelve years.

Ms. Woodrich will lead an agency which has grown in Gary's time – financially – from an annual budget of $3 million to $7.8 million despite the retrenchment in the nonprofit world since the beginning of the Great Recession.  The GMCC's net assets have grown from $530,000 to $9,300,000 which includes the three main program sites built during Gary's tenure: Division of Indian Work, Russ Ewald Center for Urban Service, and the Center for Families.

The GMCC had grown to be the largest council of churches in North America, with 700 member congregations serving 330,000 people a year throughout Minnesota.

Gary and the GMCC have been wonderful partners of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) with executive directors Mort Ryweck, Brenda Barrie, Jay Tcath, Steve Silberfarb, and me.  Through Gary and Nancy Latimer – during the time of Jay Tcath – the JCRC became a partner in "Congregations in Community" along with the St. Paul Area Council of Churches, Catholic Charities and later Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque and Cultural Center which was generously funded for many years by the McKnight Foundation.  Minnesota FoodShare is another effective and critical interfaith endeavor in which the JCRC partners and which the GMCC and Gary catalyzed and nurtured.

Beyond the statistics and the accomplishments, Gary has been a great friend and mentor to me and so many in so many different fields.  We’ll miss him in retirement, but suspect he will find many ways to personally continue building upon his legacy for the good of our entire community.

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