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Four Minnesotans Recognized as Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Heroes

The McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) have selected Angela Edwards of Minneapolis, Abdirizak Mahboub of Willmar, Millicent Simenson of Bemidji, and Jon Vang of St. Paul as this year’s Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award Recipients.

Each of 2017’s awardees will receive a cash prize of $10,000 and be honored at a private luncheon in Minneapolis on Tuesday, September 26. Award recipients will also be recognized at the 2017 MCN Annual Conference on Thursday, October 12 in St. Paul.

Since 1985, The McKnight Foundation has recognized Minnesotans who have improved the quality of life for current and future generations with the Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service. In 2015, MCN partnered with McKnight to coordinate and present the first-ever Unsung Hero Awards, honoring individuals doing life-changing work in communities across Minnesota with little or no recognition.

“Each year the newest recipients of the Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero awards remind us how many remarkable, inspiring and little known but amazing people are among us,” says Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. “This special group contributes greatly to their own communities, and their example sparks incredible contributions from others. These are results worth knowing about and celebrating.”

Meet the 2017 Unsung Heroes

Angela Edwards of Minneapolis
Founder of the nonprofit Education Explosion, Angela works with students in north Minneapolis to achieve educational and career goals through test preparation, counseling and on-site computer training. Because of her work and encouragement, many in her community are moving from poverty to self-sufficiency and hope.


Abdirizak “Zack” Mahboub of Willmar
Since moving to Willmar in 2011, Zack has been instrumental in building bridges between longstanding residents, newcomers and immigrants. He has a knack for pushing — and eventually removing barriers — in a positive and supportive way.


Millicent Simenson of Bemidji
An Anishinaabe birth worker and co-founder of the nonprofit Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming, Millicent works to address long-standing birth disparities in her community through improving access to education, healthcare and social support services.


Jon Vang of St. Paul
Living with his own personal experiences with the criminal justice system, Jon has taken on leadership roles in several social justice organizations in the community, including ManForward, Headwaters Foundation for Justice and in the important space of prison re-entry work across the state of Minnesota.

September 2017