A working-class family moved last month into a St. Louis Park Habitat for Humanity house sponsored by Thrivent Financial, marking the 2,000th Habitat for Humanity home built in Minnesota by volunteers and sweat-equity owners over the last three decades.

Thrivent Financial awarded $425,166 to help build and rehab five more local homes in 2013. And Thrivent recently committed to $6.8 million of Habit for Humanity affiliates nationally next year, enough to build and rehab 130-plus homes.

In total, "Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity" has invested $180 million and 3.5 million volunteer hours in what is Habitat's single-largest corporate partnership.

"The experience is rewarding in many ways," said the Rev. Bonnie Wilcox, a Thrivent Build volunteer. "It's just such a powerful way to affect change in the lives of others."

The partnership consists of three programs: Thrivent Builds Homes, Thrivent Builds Worldwide and Thrivent Builds Repairs. Thrivent Financial volunteers have helped working-poor families construct, renovate and repair more than 2,900 homes in the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala and elsewhere.

"When people have safe, decent homes, it's good for everyone and there is financial security in prudent homeownership," said Thrivent Builds coordinator Pat Ostruska. "And there's an emotional impact with our volunteers. For many people, it's life-changing to actually build alongside family members who will enjoy the home. It can be a profound experience."

Thrivent, a Fortune 500 financial services firm, is chartered as a not-for-profit fraternal organization that donates through its members an amount that approximates what it would otherwise pay in taxes. As a result of the often-matching efforts of Lutheran congregations and volunteers, the numbers are multiplied. Thrivent members alone have raised more than $17 million over the last several years for Habitat projects.


Minneapolis-based Peace Coffee and its parent organization, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), are taking a crowdsourcing approach to help finance small growers in Mexico and Central America who often lack reasonable credit. They are appealing to customers and fans of the fair trade movement to check out www.growahead.org and invest as little as $25 into an inaugural $60,000 fund through Grow Ahead and Cooperative Coffees, a coffee importer that is owned by its member-roasters.

"Financing is among the most common barriers for small-scale farmers trying to compete in a global marketplace that favors large-scale agriculture," said JoAnne Berkenkamp of the IATP. "We are excited about Grow Ahead's new model as a way to connect the farmers who grow our coffee with a reliable source of capital."

The seasonal loans are backed by a $200,000 guarantee fund through the DOEN Foundation of the Netherlands.

Beth Ford, an executive vice president and chief operations officer at Land O'Lakes, the farmer-owned food cooperative, spoke last fall at the annual invitation-only Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. Ford is one of only a few women in that role in the country.

Land O'Lakes, which ranks No. 210 on the Fortune 500 list, has annual sales of nearly $13 billion. That's a lot of dairy products.

Ford, who presented along with women from business, government, academia and philanthropy, spoke about: "Global Risk -- Do You Trust Your Supply Network?"

Hot Mama, the fashion boutique chain aimed at mothers ages 25 to 50, plans to open 11 stores in 2013, giving it a total of 41 stores from the East Coast to Portland, Ore.

This from the husband-and-wife founders Megan and Mike Tamte, who launched the retailer in 2004 at the always-hot commercial hub of 50th and France in Edina.

The company, including its Shopmama.com website, boasts 450 employees and revenue of nearly $50 million. The new markets this year include Cleveland and Boston.

Megan, a former grade school teacher and mother of two teens, is the creative partner watching over merchandising and marketing. Mike focuses on accounting and operations.