PAGE MENU toggle sub nav

Share This:

Facebook Twitter Email

Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service honor six outstanding Minnesotans

August 14, 2013

​Six Minnesotans with long histories of service to their communities will receive the 2013 Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service. The McKnight Foundation will present the awards on Wednesday, August 14, at a private ceremony in Minneapolis.

The $10,000 awards honor Minnesota residents who give their time to improve the lives of people in their communities. This year’s recipients include mentors, healers, community builders, and advocates for the immigrant population. (Awardee names and descriptions of work are below.)

A committee of six people working in human service fields across the state selected the finalists from more than 70 nominations.

“Each year I am humbled by the exceptional individuals we meet through the Human Service Awards,” says McKnight's board chair Ted Staryk. “Each has followed his or her own unique path to service, making profound and lasting differences that are as personal as they are inspiring.”

Since 1985, The McKnight Foundation has given the awards each year to recognize Minnesotans who demonstrate the difference one person can make in helping others. The awards are named for the Foundation’s former chair and president, Virginia McKnight Binger. Mrs. Binger served the Foundation for nearly 50 years as a board member, as president from 1974 through 1987, and then as honorary chair until her death in 2002. Although her parents, William and Maude McKnight, established the Foundation, it was Mrs. Binger’s personal compassion and generosity that set the standard for the Foundation’s work.

Candidates for the awards are nominated confidentially by someone familiar with their work. No one may apply for them directly. Counting this year’s recipients, 277 individuals, including nine pairs, have received the awards.


The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grantmaking, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the Minnesota-based family Foundation had assets of approximately $2 billion and granted about $85 million in 2012. Learn more at, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Awards in Human Service recipient profiles

Sunny Chanthanouvong of Elk River is the executive director of the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota. Formed by ethnic Lao refugees in 1981 to respond to the emerging needs of newly arrived Lao refugees who were not Hmong, the Center provides services for youth, adults, and elders around employment, health, housing, citizenship, and culture. Beyond his long days at the Center, Sunny is also a volunteer, a member on several boards, and a facilitator and advocate for his community.

Brian Mogren of Minneapolis has been a dedicated contributor in north Minneapolis ever since he moved there 15 years ago. By 2008 his commitment to the north side prompted Brian to end his 25-year advertising career with Target Corporation to fully concentrate his creative skills, energy, and passion in his community. Weeks later, he transformed his own home into an urban retreat center and house of hospitality, renamed St. Jane House. Brian also established Alafia Place, providing housing and development services for community leaders dedicated to making a difference on the north side.

Kim Randolph of Duluth has worked at Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) homeless shelter for the past 25 years. As the stabilization services director, she and her colleagues help guests get back on their feet through permanent housing, employment, and other life-sustaining services. Grounded in deep compassion, Kim has a well-regarded reputation for being calm, firm, and gracious. From the time the center opens each morning until she goes home at night, people are often lined up and waiting to talk with Kim.

Fatima Said of Winona fled her home in war-torn Bosnia in 1993. She and her family were welcomed to Rochester, Minnesota, with compassion and support. Still grateful 20 years later to all those who helped her family through their transition, Fatima has made it her life’s mission to do the same for other newcomers. As the Executive Director of Project FINE — a nonprofit in Winona that educates and integrates newcomers into the community — Fatima helps immigrants and refugees accept the past and work through the stages of their new lives.

Cheryl Steeves of Chisago City used to coordinate housing for families and people with disabilities. While she enjoyed connecting people with safe, stable homes, she knew many of her clients had needs beyond her reach. So after 10 years she seized the opportunity to make a more holistic difference in women’s lives as director of Sarah’s... an Oasis for Women, a nonprofit providing support for women who have survived trauma. Cheryl and her staff create a safe and caring space for women to develop life skills toward self-sufficiency and community participation.

Ernesto Velez Bustos of Owatonna moved to Minnesota from Mexico as a teen to live with his father. In college, he noticed a posting for a community organizing position with Centro Campesino, a community organizing, education, and advocacy nonprofit working to improve the lives of southern Minnesota’s Latino and migrant community. Ten years later, he continues to serve proudly as Centro Campesino’s executive director. Among his accomplishments, Ernesto has helped migrant workers to improve living and working conditions, and trained high school students to become community organizers.