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John Kline Honors 2016 'Stars of the North'

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BURNSVILLE, February 18, 2016 | comments
Minnesota Congressman John Kline honored residents and organizations from around Minnesota's 2nd Congressional district with Congressional Certificates of Special Recognition at his 10th annual “Star of the North” ceremony Tuesday at Kenwood Trail Junior High School in Lakeville.
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BURNSVILLE – Minnesota Congressman John Kline honored residents and organizations from around Minnesota's 2nd Congressional district with Congressional Certificates of Special Recognition at his 10th annual “Star of the North” ceremony Tuesday at Kenwood Trail Junior High School in Lakeville.

“These random acts of kindness and giving spirit are worthy of congressional recognition and their acts of goodwill have an immeasurable impact as their stories reach others throughout our communities,” said Kline. “Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Star of the North honorees will be inspiring each of us to share their story and follow their lead.”


Apple Valley Girl Scout Troop 55500 is comprised of 12 fourth grade girls from Greenleaf Elementary School. For a community service project, the girls used proceeds from their cookie program to purchase supplies for making sandwiches for the homeless. More than 300 sandwiches were made for distribution to the homeless in Minneapolis through the “Allan Law 363 Days Food Program.” Troop leader Mary Rousseau and several girls from the troop attended the ceremony.

Valerie Root of Apple Valley, a former professional knitter, seizes every free moment to put her yarn and knitting needles to work.  In December, Valerie completed a yearlong personal knitting project by created 379 differently designed hats for students attending Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College. Valerie learned that many students were both food insecure and improperly clothed, so she partnered with the Open Door’s Mobile Food Pantry that visits the campuses to have them distribute the hats.


Five year old Presley Volek is a kindergartener at Chatfield Elementary School in Belle Plaine. Last summer, Presley was determined that every child starting school would have a new backpack with school supplies. With the help and support of a dozen local businesses, Presley distributed collection boxes in the community and received 137 backpacks, hundreds of school supplies, and $330 in cash, to help students in need at two school locations.

Oak Crest Elementary Student Council of Belle Plaine is a service based group of 120 students that focuses on community projects. In November, the group conducted a food drive for the school district’s Backpack Food Program. The students collected 1,250 food items which were counted, sorted, and bagged during recess. Student Council advisors Lisa Treml and Michelle Amundson accepted the award on behalf of the group.


Burnsville High School junior Hau Bui is one of five students to receive the Prudential Spirit of Community Certificate of Merit to recognize his volunteer service. Hau is an active volunteer at Nicollet Junior High where he helps grade students’ tests. He also helps out at a local body shop, cleaning tools and setting up online advertising. Hau sold tickets for Burnsville Strong and collects food items in his neighborhood for those in need.

Burnsville High School senior Benjamin Hubbard is also nominee of the Prudential Spirit of Community Recognition. Benjamin serves on the school’s Youth Service Advisory Council and volunteers in the Theatre Department at school. He organizes other students to assist with theatre set design tasks. Welcome, Benjamin Hubbard.

Burnsville High School junior Stephanie Nkatia is another Prudential Spirit of Community Recognition nominee. She enjoys volunteering at Fairview Ridges, with the Red Cross, and at Aging Joyfully, a residential elder-care facility.

Burnsville High School junior Jaylin Wong has a desire to make a difference in her community, her school, and her church. She is fulfilling that desire through her many volunteer activities.  Jaylin has donated 250 hours helping out at Fairview Ridges Hospital Birth Place Floor and Transit Pool. She mentors younger musicians at Metcalf Junior High, and assists with school plays and school events. At her church, Jaylin serves on the worship team, youth group, and helps with the kids’ ministry and nursery. She also enjoys volunteering at area Chinese-American community cultural events and celebrations.

Burnsville High School junior Eegy Yilma developed a hands-on service project that earned her a 2016 Prudential Spirit of Community Award nomination. The program honors students for making a positive difference through volunteer community service. Eegy’s “Project Pencil” solicited school supply donations from Burnsville students and staff, to give to schools in Ethiopia, the homeland of her parents. Eegy collected enough supplies to fill six large suitcases. She and her father personally delivered the supplies to two elementary schools in Ethiopia that are struggling financially and economically. 


Boy Scout Troop 39 and Cub Scout Pack 239 of Cannon Falls hosted an annual Scouting for Food Drive over two consecutive weekends. The first weekend, scouts distribute bags and door hangers to let their neighbors know about the drive. The second weekend, scouts revisited the homes and picked up bags of donated canned goods, cereal, pasta, peanut butter, and juice items that were delivered to the local food shelf. The scouts collected 75 bags of food.


The third annual Oktoberfest fundraiser was held at Hope Glen Farms of Cottage Grove last fall in support the Friends in Need food shelf.  Multiple sponsors supported the event which included use of the farm property, donated food and beverages, live music, and activities for kids, for an admission fee. This family event has generated over $44,000 the past three years for Friends in Need, which serves the communities of Cottage Grove, Grey Cloud Island, Newport and St Paul Park.  Event volunteers attending the ceremony were Linda Burbach, Mary Slusser, Colleen Stelmach, and Rhonda Mann.


Invisible Fence Brand’s Project Breathe program was established with the goal of equipping every fire station in America and Canada with new pet oxygen masks for pets suffering from smoke inhalation. Since 2006, the organization has donated more than 12,400 masks. Fire Departments in Apple Valley, Eagan, Hastings, Lakeville, and Rosemount were recipients of these masks which have better equipped firefighters to rescue pets from fires. Keith Olson, Mary Francis and Kimberly Radke were honored in the ceremony.


Eagan’s Funfest Ambassadors participated in 14 community volunteer projects that include: Beyond the Yellow Ribbon - shopping for military kids, Salvation Army Bell Ringing, Operation Christmas Child, National Night Out, and a Fire Department Chili Feed. Eagan Funfest ambassadors are Ashley Harwell, Ashley McCann, Leah Hed, Lilly Briody, Megan Abagat, and Sylvia Berger. Adult Leaders were Marie Olson and Karen Dare.

Four days before Christmas, Eagan police executed a search warrant at a motel to apprehend a suspect, where they found three young children sick with pneumonia who were placed in protective custody. Sergeant Jenni Wegner took up a collection from city departments and $700 was collected to buy gifts for the kids. On Christmas Eve, Sergeant Daniel Tocko put on a Santa suit and, along with other officers, delivered a large bag of wrapped gifts to the childrens’ temporary home. Eagan Police Chief Jim McDonald and Sergeants Wegner, Tocko, and Anselment attended the ceremony.

The Easter Lutheran Church partners with the Open Door Food Pantry to host a Holiday Gift Shop each December. More than 3,000 gifts for adults and children were donated to the Gift Shop by churches, businesses, and individuals in Dakota County and the presents were distributed to more than 400 families. Families also received blankets, a household gift, and a hat or gloves for each child. Crafts, refreshments, and a community meal were also provided to recipients. Gift Shop Coordinator Karen Raasch, Pastor Kris Capel, and super shopper assistants Cindy Ness and Mary Cady from Easter Lutheran Church, and Kris Albright and Nancy Wester from Open Door were honored at the ceremony.


Farmington Lutheran Church’s Children’s Ministry Team hosted a sandwich making event to support the Allan Law “363 Days Food Program,” which serves homeless and hungry people in Minneapolis. More than 600 sandwiches were made and donated to the program. Farmington Lutheran Ministry Team members attending the ceremony were Dawn Albrecht, Marie Beyer, Sara Rausch, and Allison Fuller.

The student body of North Trail Elementary School completed a hands-on Christmas Community service project to make blankets for homeless people. In each classroom, soft fabric was purchased, and nimble-fingered students gathered around large fabric squares to create fleece- tied blankets, one knot at a time. Of the 66 blankets the students made, half were given to Lincoln Place apartments for the homeless, and half to the Hastings Veterans Home. Student advocate, Lisa Sammlar joined students representing each class at North Trail Elementary School to accept the award.


The employees of Merchant’s Banks of Red Wing and Cannon Falls partner with the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha, and Pierce Counties to collect school supplies for students each fall. This year, the two banks collected more than 350 items for students in Red Wing and Cannon Falls schools. Overall, the United Way distributed nearly 6,000 items to students. Patti Robertson and Polly Valade, the Merchant’s Bank leadership team, attended the ceremony with Diane Maurer, Donor Services Coordinator, of the United Way Board.


The mission of the National Honor Society is rooted in leadership and community service. Last fall, Hastings High School National Honor Society students organized an all-school food drive for Hastings Family Service. More than 6,000 pounds of food was collected, which is the equivalent of one week’s distribution by the food shelf. Other student-led Honor Society projects included a Gillette Children’s’ Hospital fundraising benefit and a Red Cross blood drive. School Advisor Laura Zabel attended the ceremony with several Hastings National Honor Society students.

Employees at Premier Bank put a new twist on their annual fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by dressing and posing as life-size trophies. The staff painted their hair, faces, and hands gold, found appropriate attire for trophy-worthy activity, and posed on black boxes bearing gold plaques. More than $12,000 was raised during the month of October. Evonne Pollard, Tanya Dolan, Lucia Bourbeau and Jim Weinzettel of Premier Bank attended the ceremony.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church hosts Santa’s Secret Shop to provide gifts for families at Christmas. The church collects new or gently used gifts and toys all year long, and uses cash donations to add to their inventory. The one-day event is supported by Hastings Family Services, four local churches, the South St. Paul High School Robotics Club, Hastings Girls Hockey Club, and Dakota County 4-H Clubs. More than 200 volunteers assist with serving hundreds of families to distribute about 1,000 wrapped gifts. Santa’s Shop Coordinator Lyn VanDeSteeg attended the ceremony with Pastor Mary Rowan and Pat Rowan, and Nancy Olsen and Suzi Johnson from St. Luke’s. Representing the SSP Robotics Club s Coach Nix, Kelton Holson and Jessie Langenfeld.


Kellogg “Flowers for Smiles,” which is supported by 30 volunteers in the Kellogg/Wabasha area, assists with growing and delivering flowers to hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up folks who are ill, bereaved, or lonely. Last year, more than 3,000 gladiola bulbs were grown on three acres of donated land in Kellogg. Anderson Gardens of Wabasha provided the roses for the bouquets and the Salvation Army donated boxes of vases. Accepting the award at the ceremony were Vern and Shirley Anderson, John and Barb Passe, and Dave and Shelly Speedling.


Kenyon Senior Living residents donated $345 in proceeds from their annual BBQ event to the Kenyon Police Department’s “Shop with a Cop” program. Police officers take local children shopping for holiday gifts to make Christmas brighter for their families. Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander accepted the award on behalf of the Kenyon Police Department, along with Kenyon Senior Living Administrator Chelsea Kalal and Social Services Director Emily Quam.


Lake City Cub Scout Pack 94 and Boy Scout Troop 94 hosted an annual local food drive to coincide with the nationwide, “Scouting for Food” program promoted by the Boy Scouts of America. The scouts collected more than 1,300 pounds of food that was donated to the Lake City food shelf. 

The Mission Sewing Group at St. Mary of the Lake Church meets monthly to assemble quilt tops they put together individually at home. The group consists of about 20 women who sewed 125 quilts last year. The quilts were donated to the Children’s Crisis Center, Caring and Sharing Hands, the Lake City Police and Wabasha County Sheriff’s Department, and the Kiwanis Club Christmas Toy Project.


To bring awareness of the challenges related to mental illness, Tom Mork of Lakeville, organized a 2,150 mile bicycle ride last summer from the Louisiana Gulf to Lake Itasca, Minn. Tom raised $110,000 for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for family support programs and recovery options. Four men biked the entire distance over a span of 28 days, averaging 70 plus miles per day. They are Tom Mork, Doug Anderson, Patrick Boria, and Bob Thimjon.

Linda Ball, Founder and Executive Director of PawPADS was honored for her efforts. Pawsitive Perspective Assistance Dogs has a dual mission of changing people’s lives through the process of training assistance dogs, and placing the trained dogs with people with disabilities. Working with dogs can provide a therapeutic and live-enhancing experience for at risk youth, inmates, and veterans with PTSD, as participants gain valuable life-skills such as emotional control, parenting techniques, leadership and communication skills. Trained dogs are partnered with wounded warriors, persons with diabetes, children with autism, and others with physical disabilities.


The Three Links Care Center and the Northfield Retirement Community hosted their 8th annual Walk to Remember event to support Alzheimer’s Disease awareness, care, and research. More than 140 individuals participated in the event which raised nearly $5,600. Honored at the ceremony were Emily Kerling, Walk Coordinator from Northfield Retirement Community, and Amanda Gruber, Pathways Household Coordinator from Three Links Care Center.

Jerry Wicklund, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and longtime resident of rural Northfield, generously shares the use of his land with youth and military veterans for turkey and deer hunting experiences. Jerry partners with the Turkey Federation and the Band of Brothers Outdoors, to allow youth and military veterans enjoy outdoor past times. Band of Brothers participants know that the tranquility of the outdoors is a therapeutic experience that sheds the weight of everyday life for wartime veterans. Here tonight are farm owners Jerry & Audrey Wicklund, Jon Abrahamson of the MN Turkey Federation, and John Venable, with Band of Brothers Outdoors. 


The first grade classes at Five Hawks Elementary School hosted a Birthday Bash Day to honor the school theme, “be kind to others.”  Students donated birthday gifts, cake mixes, icing, and candles to help local families in need celebrate a happy birthday for their children. The students collected 800 birthday items and packed 52 birthday bags that will be distributed by the Community Action Partnership Agency. Principal Tim Bell and first grade teachers Linda Anderson, Jaime Chilson, Hannah Runquist, and Jamie Campbell accepted the award on behalf of the Five Hawks Elementary Birthday Bash project.

Jeff and Mary LeBaron founded Pets Loyal 2 Vets in 2011 to provide trained and certified service dogs to Minnesota veterans treated for PTSD – at no cost to the veteran. The nonprofit recognizes the therapeutic value of a human-animal relationship in the psychological recovery process. As a Vietnam veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress himself, Jeff said understands the need to find constructive outlets for a soldier’s emotional pain. Service dogs provide companionship that helps to ease the pain of depression and anxiety.

Prior Lake-Savage Girl Scout Troup 21517 members Caroline Flaten, Jessica Chacich, and Carly Walkowiak worked together for six months to implement a volunteer service project that supports domestic violence victims and their children. They partnered with local businesses in Prior Lake and Savage to collect more than 1,000 health items, toiletries, and toys that they distributed to three Minnesota shelters during Christmastime. The girls also hosted a family event for clients at Cornerstone Shelter that included craft activities, manicures and snacks.


The Randolph High School band department accepted donations at three of their music concerts to send a care package to a Cannon Falls graduate and Army enlistee, Major Jesse Johnson, who was stationed in Afghanistan. More than $1,600 was raised to provide enough food and toiletries for all 200 soldiers in the 10th Mountain Division Unit. Students included handwritten letters in each care package and the Cannon Falls VFW paid more than $636 to ship the care packages overseas. Representing the Randolph High School Band at the ceremony is Director Jackie Sczepanski and several band students.

The Randolph Future Farmers of America chapter has hosted a Corn Drive for Camp Courage for decades. In 2015, the Chapter was recognized at the state level for contributing $254,850 over 37 years to Camp Courage. Randolph FFA students solicit area farmers for crop donations, and collect harvested grain or cash for scholarships to campers with disabilities. Ed Terry, FFA Advisor, founded the chapter after he was hired 39 years ago.


Fifth grader Austin Williams was inspired by Twin Bluff Middle School’s December PRIDE Assembly that focused on charity and helping others. The Red Wing student took it upon himself to organize a class food drive in an attempt to “make the holidays a little brighter” for local families. He created awareness posters and set up collection sites, and with classmates collected 100 pounds of food for the Red Wing Food Shelf. 

Through its annual “Making Homes for the Holiday” program, Slumberland Furniture in Red Wing donated 26 mattress sets and bed frames to community members who did not have beds. Local charitable organizations such as the Hope Coalition and Three Rivers Community Action provided Slumberland with referrals of individuals and families in need. Co-owners of Slumberland Furniture, Deb Diggins, Clay Diggins, and Tim Sommer were honored at the ceremony.


The Lighthouse Christian Church hosts an annual Sharing Christmas Giving event to give families struggling financially, an opportunity to shop for Christmas presents for their children. This year, 100 families could select two gifts per child that were wrapped on sight. Each family was also given a food box that contained the makings of an entire Christmas meal. More than 50 volunteers helped with this event.

Ben and Jenelle Kelley, and their daughter, Lilah, are committed to supporting families going through pediatric cancer treatment. The Kelley’s hosted Lilah’s Lemonade Stand, a Red Cross blood drive, and a Time to Fly walk, to support Children’s Cancer Research. They understand the challenges surrounding pediatric cancer when their daughter, Lilah, was diagnosed with a large tumor at age one, and underwent 18 months of treatments. Last year the Kelley’s raised over $3,600 to pay it forward for others who need family support services. 

Michele Scheuerlein has been the owner and operator of Rosemount Floral for more than 19 years. She also loves to crochet and share the items she creates with others. Michele has crocheted more than 1,000 items that include baby blankets, hats, and prayer shawls in the last several years. In 2014, an accident left Michele a paraplegic, and confined her to a wheelchair. Last year, Michele crocheted 450 hats that she donated to area medical centers, homeless support groups, and an orphanage in Haiti.


The Twin Cities Ruffed Grouse Society Chapter recognized military families by sponsoring an essay contest for youth participants with parents in the armed services. A young lady submitted the winning piece and was awarded a beautiful English Setter puppy at the society’s annual banquet last summer, along with gift certificates for dog food and veterinary care, and $750 in cash. The organization is dedicated to improving forest bird habitat in Minnesota. Bill Pettit,  Bert Bernshoof, Terry Lydell, Matt Tuma, Travis LaMar, and Mike Vant accepted the award.


Last spring, the Scott County 4-H Horse Club hosted a Petting Zoo for residents of Oak Terrace Senior Living in Jordan. The club brought a pony, dogs, cats, and a baby lamb to the facility for the senior residents to pet and enjoy. The youth gained experience talking with seniors about their animals, and were thrilled to see the residents interact with them. Adult 4-H leaders Brenda Rhoten and Kelli Coughlin and 4-H Youth leaders Alyssa and Martina Rhoten and Karissa and Heather Coughlin attended the ceremony.

In a unifying effort, Police officers from Belle Plaine, Jordan, Elko-New Market, New Prague, Prior Lake and Scott County Sheriff’s office joined forces with the Shakopee Police Department for an annual “Shop with a Cop” event. The program provided holiday gifts for families in need, and created a connection between local officers and kids. River South and Shakopee Crime Prevention Incorporated, provided financial support, supplied volunteers for gift wrapping, and hosted a pizza party for participants. Representatives from RiverSouth, Shakopee Crime Prevention, and Scott County law enforcement agencies at the city and county level attended the ceremony.

The Toy Corner is a non-profit organization located in Savage that provides new and gently used toys to underprivileged children. In a little more than a year, the Toy Corner served 325 children from Savage, Shakopee, and Prior Lake. Many volunteers are needed to assist with picking up donations from collection boxes, washing stuffed animals, fixing broken toys, and shopping with clients. Co-Directors and founders of the organization Susie Williams and Katie Vander Weit, along with volunteers John and Bonnie Lurquin attended the ceremony.


The Carver-Scott Humane Society hosted their 23rd annual Walk/Run Fur Love last fall to provide funds for the non-profit, and to interact with the community. More than 180 participants raised $18,000 during the pet friendly event. The organization relies exclusively on donations and volunteers to support displaced animals until they are matched with permanent homes. Laura Schwing accepted the award on behalf of the Carver-Scott Humane Society.


Last fall, parishioners of Gospel Lighthouse Church in St. Paul Park collected 700 pair of donated shoes for Soles 4 Souls. Soles 4 Souls, a non-profit, global organization, is committed to fighting poverty through the collection and distribution of shoes and clothing. The shoes collected were sent to poverty stricken areas in need. Pastor Marvin Burrell and Lindell Burrell accepted the award on behalf of Gospel Lighthouse Church.

Northern Tier Refinery strengthened its 20 year sponsorship of the Friends in Need Food Shelf in St Paul Park by donating the organization a new parcel of land, and $250,000 to construct a new building. Northern Tier’s partnership has enabled Friends in Need to serve 30,000 residents in the Cottage Grove, Newport, St. Paul Park and Grey Cloud Island communities last year. The food shelf has outgrown its current site on refinery property, and will better serve its clients and 160 volunteers in a larger building. Northern Tier Refinery representatives Jason Akey and Debra McClure were honored at the ceremony with Michelle Rageth, Executive Director of Friends in Need.


Riverview Baptist Church is a relay center for “Operation Christmas Child,” which provides gift boxes to children in 150 countries and territories. Last November, volunteers processed more than 1,000 gift-filled shoe boxes received from donating individuals and organizations. The boxes were packed into large shipping containers and transported to a collection center. Relay Center Coordinator Judy Hamen and Pastor Joel Detlessen of Riverview Baptist were honored at the ceremony.

Gary and Mary Langula of West St. Paul trained two American Kennel Club Basenji dogs that are members of Therapy Dogs International. Basenji dogs originated in Africa and are considered barkless hunting dogs. The Langulas regularly bring their therapy dogs to five senior living facilities each week to visit with residents and share the dogs’ skills. More than 300 residents were visited in the month of December. Gary and Mary Langula accepted the award and were joined by Jennifer Heesch of Therapeutic Recreation at the Good Samaritan Society.


Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School National Honor Society members hosted a fundraiser during Homecoming week and raised $500 needed to participate in the Feed My Starving Children program. About 20 high school seniors worked a full shift, hand-packing meals at the Eagan facility. The meals are shipped to countries throughout the world to feed malnourished children.  National Honor Society advisor Amy Matuska attended the ceremony along with several honor society students.

The churches of St. Paul in Zumbrota and St. Michael in Pine Island sent 11 volunteers and a pastor to Haiti for a mission trip in August. The group helped feed and care for malnourished babies and toddlers at a missionary run hospital. They also cleaned and bandaged wounds at a wound clinic, and visited a hospital to minister to the terminally ill and dying. A memorable piece of the trip was when an adopted son of two mission volunteers, met his birth family. Attending the ceremony were Gina Mensing, Brooke Salfer, Jessica McNallan, Noah Kneeland, and David and Becky Hinchley with Kaitlyn and Stanley.

The Pine Island United Methodist Church sent a team of its members to the Red Bird Mission in Eastern Kentucky four times over the last several years. The team has forged a bond with the residents of this very distressed area by helping repair and paint homes and churches, by constructing additions, and replacing flooring and windows. Mission trip leader Dawn Rohl and Pastor Carolyn Westlake accepted the award on behalf of the Pine Island Methodist Church Mission Team.

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John Kline is the Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. He also serves on the House Armed Services Committee. He and his wife, Vicky, live in Burnsville.

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