Neighbors of Note

Share this:
December 19, 2011
By: Journal readers
Journal readers

We asked readers to nominate people in the community for our inaugural Neighbors of Note feature. We are thrilled to see all of the nominations for special people in the community who do so much for the city, but oftentimes, fly under the radar. These neighbors in downtown and Northeast carry out their kind acts without a lot of recognition. We are grateful for them, however, and are delighted to share their stories with you. Happy holidays to everyone in Journal land! We so appreciate your support and wish you a wonderful 2012.


Jenny Fortman // Nominated by Trish Schilling

Jenny has been an active community leader in Sheridan Neighborhood in Northeast for well over a decade. She has played a role in the Sheridan Neighborhood Organization (SNO) since its inception and, I believe, is once again, acting as president. Every development, both past and current, that has made that neighborhood what it is today, Jenny is at the forefront, fearlessly leading the community voice towards successful results.

Some of the projects:

• The Ritz Theater;

• Pierre Bottineau Library;

• The development of the Grain Belt buildings (for retail use and also preserved for use as artists’ space); and

• Sheridan Memorial Park.

It is this park development that is most amazing. Jenny, almost single handedly, has turned a Park Board-owned strip of wasteland into what will be a shining jewel in the chain of Mississippi River Parks. She brought in partners, sought funding, handled the design process. She really deserves some public praise for her efforts on this project.

I was excited to see your request for Neighbors of Note because I immediately thought of Jenny Fortman. She is so loved by the community and so modest (self effacing) about her contributions.


Jeffrey Martin // Nominated by Liz Martin

Jeffrey Martin has served as president of the Waite Park Community Council for the past 3.5 years. In that time he has devoted countless hours to behind-the-scenes work that make community functions and board meetings run smoothly — all of this in addition to running his own business and having a family. His recruiting efforts have helped transform the Waite Park Community Council into a mix of ages and backgrounds that more accurately represent the
residents of the neighborhood.

 He’s created a social media presence with both a Facebook and a Twitter account, after realizing that younger neighborhood residents may not always read the regular newsletter that is mailed to them (which he also helped redesign). He also had reached out to other NE Minneapolis community councils to better partner with them on programs and resources.

Yes, I am his wife. And yes, I’m biased. But few others see the work that Jeffrey does on a daily basis for the neighborhood: the one-off meetings, the missed family time, the late nights, the phone calls from strangers asking both the practical and the fantastic.


Gayle Bonneville // Nominated by Jennifer Gisslen Lee

Gayle lives and breathes Northeast Minneapolis neighborhoods. She lives in one and works for St. Anthony West Neighborhood Organization and Windom Park Citizens in Action. She also worked for the Holland Neighborhood Association for many years.

Gayle is an incredibly hard working and knowledgeable community organizer. Northeast Minneapolis is lucky to have her as both an active resident and a neighborhood staff person.

Don Risk // Nominated by Jeffrey Martin

Don Risk has been a Northeast fixture for 8o-plus years. He has served the Minneapolis community as a councilman, a member of NE CDC, long serving board member and president of the Waite Park Community Council and many other local organizations that keep our city thriving.
In an age where many families chose to move out of the city, Don and his wife have lived in the same house in Waite Park along the railroad tracks for 60 years.

Kathy Olson // Nominated by Cori Johnson

I would like to nominate Kathy Olson from the Elliot Park neighborhood of Downtown East. She and her family make about 80 baby quilts every year to donate to new moms or moms-to-be who are in need. 

Kathy organizes a group of friends, relatives and neighbors who donate baby items like socks, onesies, shirts, bibs, receiving blankets, etc. Kathy donates children’s books to match the quilt’s characters and also donates disposable diapers. She then gets the whole group together to assemble gift packages with all the items and packages them in clear zippered bags (like the ones bedspreads come in). 

The 80 or so packages are then delivered to Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis. They distribute the gift packages at their discretion to moms-in-need throughout the year.

It is hard to describe the uniqueness and beauty of Kathy’s project. You have to see it!  Kathy has a love of children and feels these babies deserve a special gift of comfort and love to begin their journey in life.

Kathy’s project is anonymous. She does other projects for the Central Lutheran Church’s clothing store — picking up donations of items and dropping them off at the church all year long. 

Andrea Christenson // Nominated by Scott Parkin

Widely considered to be one of the most connected people in downtown, Andrea Christenson personifies the meaning of networking. Andrea is a downtown resident and vice president at Cassidy Turley, specializing in restaurant and retail leasing.

She’s brokered some of the most notable restaurant and retail spaces in the city and works with a wide array of notable clients.

Her encyclopedic knowledge of retail trends and downtown Minneapolis in general have made her a go-to expert for media quotes on developing stories.

Andrea has been extensively involved in the downtown community through volunteer and leadership roles with the Downtown Network, Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association, and with her own networking group, The List.

She has an uncanny ability to connect people from different backgrounds and industries, especially new-comers to the area. Watching her “work the room” at a function is a true joy.

Not content to be just a social butterfly, Andrea’s passion for community has resulted in major deals and important matchmaking (even marriage!).

Ask any major player in downtown and they will inevitably refer to Andrea’s role in their business and her passion for meeting and connecting people.

Living in major metropolitan city means nothing if you don’t know people … and Andrea knows everyone.

Marcia Townley // Nominated by Scott Parkin

Marcia is the founder and chair of Mill City Commons in downtown Minneapolis. Mill City Commons is a newly formed, member-based nonprofit providing advanced services and networking opportunities for downtown residents who are at or near
retirement age.

Inspired by the Beacon Hill Village concept in Boston, Marcia has worked tirelessly to create a new concept suited to Minneapolis residents living near the riverfront district.

Through Marcia’s skilled leadership, MCC has evolved into a sophisticated and expertly-managed organization with a growing membership. Members have access to a wide array of preferred vendors, services, lecture series, and social activities.

The organization has now expanded to include a Lakes Area Village for residents living in and around the chain of lakes.