Six Minnesotans who devote their lives to tackling problems facing veterans, families, immigrants, the homeless -- and more -- received human service awards Friday from the McKnight Foundation.
The $10,000 awards, known as the Virginia McKnight Binger Awards, honor Minnesota residents who represent the concept that one person can make a difference.
"They represent what Minnesota is about -- love of neighbor, community and just getting the job done," said McKnight president Kate Wolford. "This is especially important at a time when there is so much paralysis in public life." The 2012 winners are:
• Mary Farley, of Crookston, a grandmother who ministers to convicts at the regional jail, helps homeless adults reintegrate into communities, advocates for immigrant families and the mentally ill, and more. Her history of "comprehensive community engagement" has made a significant impact on both individuals and the broader community, said foundation staff.
• Ibrahim Hussein, of Owatonna, founded the Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna, offering after-school programs for students, computer training for adults and general support for Somali families in the community. He works as an interpreter, tutor and parent liaison at McKinley Elementary School.
• Diane Kinney, of St. Paul, founded Base Camp Hope, a nonprofit that helps veterans grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder and related health issues. Base Camp Hope offers counseling as well as innovative art, music and writing therapy.
• Cheryl Meld, of McGregor, is the 20-year director of Kids Plus, which provides opportunities and support for low-income children in northeastern Minnesota. Kids Plus offers homework help, job search assistance, volunteer opportunities and recreational activities to children and teens.
• Gino Nelson, of Lakeville, is a community activist, mentor and housing case manager for St. Stephen's Human Services in Minneapolis. He has spent 26 years at Catholic Charities and St. Stephen's, working with landlords to find housing for the homeless, visiting inmates in prison and helping ex-offenders find housing, employment and a new start in life.
• Gada Roba, of Minneapolis, is the former director of the American Oromo Community of Minnesota, transforming the agency's focus from refugee resettlement to serving youth. Gada now works at the Wellstone International High School and Roosevelt High School, and still serves as board chair at the Oromo agency.
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511