2019 Award Winners

Congratulations to Our 2019 Award Winners!


Justin Swanson: Outstanding Adult Foster Care Award

Justin Swanson is the CEO of Residential Transitions, Inc. (RTI). Justin has the passion, philosophies and open-mindedness to help change the lives of the people he supports. He is a true testament to the benefits of fully embracing an equal balance of important to and important for in the person-centered philosophy.

Past Recipients:

  • Heather and Trent Griswold (2018)
  • Robin Slothman (2017)
  • David and Vicky Warren (2016)
  • Kathie and Dan Peterson (2015)
  • Ronda Nelson (2014)
  • Kerry Anderson (2013)
  • Paula Beulks (2012)
  • Lois Baker and Fran Gallegos (2011)
  • James and Trudy Zalmosky (2010)
  • Cheryl and Jim Jernberg (2009)

Susan Byrne: Outstanding Volunteer Service Award

Susan Byrne has been volunteering in and around the Henderson community for over 40 years! In 2017, Susan stepped up to the challenge of taking over the Santa’s Helper program in Sibley County. Susan’s interpersonal skills and years of volunteer experience have greatly contributed to her success as coordinator of the Santa’s Helpers program.

Past Recipients:

  • Jo Angell (2018)
  • Mike Scanlan (2017)
  • Rev. Paul Johnson (2016)
  • Anna Smith (2015)
  • Helen Olson and Stephen Hodder (2012)
  • Gordon Schueller (2011)
  • Stan and JoAnn Holien (2010)
  • Jim Nichols (2009)

Ruth Sundermeyer: Outstanding Staff Achievement Award

Ruth is the Child Support Supervisor for Aitkin County Health and Human Services and started working for the agency on April 10th, 1980. Ruth is described as fair and works hard for both the parent receiving the child support and with the parent who is responsible to pay child support. Ruth goes above and beyond in her work as she carries a caseload in addition to her supervisor duties. Ruth is the example of what a supervisor should be and because of this, she is liked and respected by all that work with her.

Past Recipients: 

  • Marg Schmitz (2018)
  • Sonhui Baker (2017)
  • Rae Zahn (2016)
  • Jay Kieft (2015)
  • Karen Kohler-Nelson (2014)
  • Susan Visker (2013)
  • Jeannie Pederson (2012)
  • Mavis Fritsch (2011)
  • Carrie Asmus (2010)
  • Amanda Wilson (2009)

Kick Cancer to the Curb: Community Collaboration Award

Kick Cancer to The Curb (KCTTC) is a nonprofit group of volunteers who provide financial assistance to cancer patients living in Kanabec County. KCTTC is solely committed to Kanabec County residents. Their motto is “People Helping People,” and that’s what they arrange for with those who are in need. KCTTC helps individuals and families stay ahead financially so that they can continue their treatment and maintain their living situations.

Past Recipients:

  • Functional Industries, Wright County, Central MN Mental Health Center, and Vocational Rehabilitation Services (2018)
  • Hennepin County Office of Multicultural Services (2017)
  • MN Communities Caring for Children (MCCC) (2016)
  • Crisite Intervention Team (2011)
  • Common Cup Ministry (2010)

Linda Giersdorf: Individual Distinguished Service Award

Linda has demonstrated her commitment to MSSA and its mission through her 29-year membership and active participation in holding office, serving on committees, and planning conferences on both the state and local levels. Her 20+ years in the thankless job of Treasurer at the local level will always be remembered and appreciated by the Region 9 membership. Through her association with MSSA, Linda has built and maintained positive relationships with people representing diverse professions from around the state and with our state legislators and congressional delegation.

Past Recipients:

  • Terryl Gordon (2018)
  • Paula Katzenmeyer (2017)
  • Mark Ponsolle (2016)
  • Trudy Eisenhauer (2014)
  • John Moline (2011)
  • RaNae Whitbeck (2010)
  • William Anderson (2009)

Alice Ophelia Lynch "Miss Alice": Morris Hursh Award

Alice Ophelia Lynch, lovingly known to many as simply “Miss Alice,” was a social worker, circle keeper, trainer, mentor, collaborator, and founder and executive director of BIHA: Black Asian Hispanic and Indian Women in Action. Miss Alice worked across all areas of health and human services. She conducted over 1000 trainings on domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, chemical dependency, and HIV/AIDS, looking specifically at how these issues impact communities of color. 

In January 2005, 1000 women from more than 150 countries were nominated all together for the Nobel Peace Prize. These were women who committed themselves worldwide to working for more human security and justice. Alice Lynch was one of these outstanding women. 

Words fail to embody her spirit, mind and heart.

Past Recipients: 

  • Fletcher Hinds (2018)
  • Stan Groff (2016)
  • Kari Jo Faulhaber (2015)
  • Victor Vieth (2012)
  • Amy Wilde (2010)
  • Senator Paul Wellstone
  • Esther Wattenberg
  • Laura Gaskins
  • Commissioner Amy Wilde
  • Victor Vieth
  • Senator Linda Berglin

Ann and Dan Full: Outstanding Child Foster Care Award

Ann and Dan Full have been licensed to provide foster care/adoption through Pipestone County since December 2012. The Fulls have provided a loving home to 12 different children and have adopted 3 of those children. Ann and Dan are the poster children for foster parents going above and beyond regarding birth families. They include birth families in holidays, birthday parties, and family gatherings – even after adoption, they continue to make that effort. 

In Ann’s own words, “foster care led us to meet some truly amazing children who will forever be a part of our Family. It has come with a large share of loss, but never has that outweighed the blessing of the time we were given with them.”

Past Recipients:

  • Dwayne and Myra Purnell (2018)
  • Todd and Sarah Randall (2017)
  • Mary Inwards (2016)
  • John and Margaret Anderson (2015)
  • Brandon and Shannon Wegner (2014)
  • Brenda Sandquist (2013)
  • Daniel and Amanda Schoenherr (2012)
  • Dianna and Gary Gilberg (2010)Mark and Kim Hassett (2011)
  • Sister Francette Malecha and Sister Margaret Roozen (2009)

Mikayla Clements: Outstanding Student

Mikayla is an outstanding student whose GPA reveals her ability to meet academic rigor throughout her plan of study but doesn’t represent the other work she engages in on campus. One example is her work with Student Government, which started her sophomore year and continued last year when she served as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commissioner to Student Government Association and worked with the Diversity Council on Campus. Just looking at her resume one must wonder, “If she can do this in her short life thus far… what does the future hold?”

Past Recipients:

  • Rebekah Nysetvold (2018)
  • Andrea Kittleson (2017)
  • Heather Bowman (2016)
  • Julie Jacobson (2010)

Julie Mayo: Outstanding Retiree Award

Julie has been an active member of MSSA for 14 years. She has been a part of regional and state conferences. She has monitored workshops and presented a well-attended and highly regarded workshop called CPR of the Mind at the state conference in 2017. In her work at Sherburne County, Julie coordinated the Volunteer Driver program for 11 years, which provides rides to low-income people with no other transportation options. She also coordinated the Senior Companion Program during her 14 years. She has presented to all the units in Health and Human Services on emotional well-being. Her humorous approach makes it easy for listeners to engage, and her presentation is talked about throughout the agency. As part of her volunteer work with Granny's closet, she started the Angels Program in 2017 for Sherburne County clients.

Past Recipients:

  • Marlys Lemke (2018)
  • Ken Ebel (2017)
  • Theresa Melmer (2016)
  • Barb Doherty (2010)