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FEatured FEWs

  • February 01, 2021 9:41 AM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Gail Rucks

    Organization/Title: General Manager at Woodcrest of Country Manor

    Length of time as a FEW member: Just starting third year as a FEW member. Great organization and members, dearly miss our monthly luncheons.

    Hometown: Sauk Rapids, Minn.

    Family: Both of my parents; a son with a granddaughter and two great-grandkids (yes I’m great! :); a daughter, son-in-law and two grandkids; Sadie, my cockapoo; and a new “friend” from the South who is teaching me to have fun and laugh again. He makes me happy!

    What do you actually do at work? Oversee the day-to-day operations of 60 senior apartments with assisted living services and 24 memory care apartments. I have a GREAT team of managers and staff. 

    What was your first job? First job was as a receptionist at Country Manor in Sartell.

    How do you help others succeed? I like to present an idea/concept to an individual and allow them to create a plan and an outcome, thus taking the ownership, making sure the individual has the necessary tools available to be successful.

    What is your biggest accomplishment? Working and experiencing many growth opportunities for the same company for almost 48 years; thus, earning the trust to have responsibility for a brand new project.

    Is your desk/office messy or organized? Desk was very messy until I read this question. As of this moment, my desk has never looked so organized. So...let’s see if it can last.  

    Are you a task-oriented person or a people-oriented person? Very much people oriented. However, I have never missed a deadline.

    Do you have or are you a mentor? I have an excellent mentor, my boss. He has taught and coached me “Servant Leadership” for which I am truly grateful.

    Who is your oldest friend and where did you meet them? My best friend, who also ironically has the name Gail, is like a soulmate. We met when we were both members and officers of the Eagles Auxiliary in St. Cloud. Started traveling together and we always have a lot of fun and laughter. 

  • January 01, 2021 9:35 AM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Sarah Engdahl

    Organization/Title: AVP, Controller at Stearns Bank

    Length of time as a FEW Member: 4 years

    Hometown: St. Cloud, Minn.

    Family: Husband, Ryan; Kids, Ava and Bennett; Dog, Chase

    What do you actually do at work? Financial reporting and analysis, budgeting, strategic planning, and all tasks that help us accomplish these things.

    What was your first job? Babysitting for neighborhood kids and cashier at Scheels during high school

    What is your biggest accomplishment? Having a successful career while also being an involved mom

    Is your desk/office messy or organized? Organized (mostly)

    Do you have or are you a mentor? I am very fortunate to have had many wonderful mentors. I continuously aspire to be a great mentor and help others achieve their goals.

    Last book read? The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

    If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? It would definitely include chocolate!

    What do you do for fun? I love spending time at the lake, recently started mountain biking, and am hoping to spend a lot of time cross-country skiing this winter. I also enjoy watching my kids in their sports and activities.

    What did you want to be when you were a kid? Kindergarten teacher

    What is your favorite way to waste time? Sitting around the campfire with family and friends

    What is something you're obsessed with? Most recently, ice skating (not at all because of my skating skills)I finally convinced my husband we should build a backyard rink and it has been a lot of fun!

  • December 01, 2020 8:23 AM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Jenny Theis

    Organization/Title: Senior Community Engagement Manager at Alzheimer's Association

    Length of time as a FEW Member: I believe since January 2015

    Hometown: I grew up near Saint John's University 

    Family: Four kiddos: Ashley (30), Boulder, CO; Alex (21), McMinnville, OR; Henry (17) and Aubrey (15) at home; Teddy, the dog, and Woody, the cat. I also share my life with Brandon and his daughter, Lana.

    What do you actually do at work? Raise awareness and funds to make this a world without Alzheimer's and all other forms of dementia. 

    What is your biggest accomplishment? Having my daughter my senior year in high school, finishing college in four years and buying my first home at 23.

    Last book read? I just finished Christmas at the Island Hotel. Just a fluffy read that has been perfect for this tumultuous year. I've read 54 books so far this year.

    If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Christine's Thin Mint Cheesecake.

    Who had the biggest impact on the person you have become? My dad. He's an amazing mentor, with solid advice.

    What do you do for fun? Reading, eating great food, going to concerts (pre-COVID), hiking, family history, theater, being in nature, and I started riding a bicycle again this spring with Brandon's encouragement (first time in about 30+ years!) 

    What did you want to be when you were a kid? I wanted to be the first female head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

    What would other FEW members be surprised to learn about you? That I've been treated for depression and anxiety for 20+ years. I regularly see a therapist and take daily medication. I want to normalize mental health issues.

  • November 01, 2020 10:12 AM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Kathy Markman

    Organization/Title: Registered Nurse at CentraCare Health System

    Length of time as a FEW Member: 2 years

    Hometown: Pierz, Minn.

    Family: I'm married to Mike (29 years) and have two sons, Matt (24) and Eric (22)

    What do you actually do at work? I work at CentraCare's Ambulatory Surgery Center at the Health Plaza. I admit and prep patients prior to surgery and care for them as they recover after their procedures.

    How do you help others succeed? I love to mentor young nurses starting out in their career finding confidence and gaining critical thinking skills as they navigate a changing world of health care.

    Are you a task-oriented person or a people-oriented person? Honestly both. There's great satisfaction in completing things on the to-do list, but there's something fulfilling about a genuine heart-to-heart talk also.

    Last book read? A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota by Sun Yung Shin

    Favorite vacation spot? Spending time at our cabin on Potato Lake near Park Rapids.

    Biggest indulgence/guilty pleasure? A wonderful dessert with a really good cup of coffee.

    What do you do for fun? Get out in nature. I love to refuel with a good walk, bike ride or kayaking.

    Do you have any silly fears? Well, there's snakes...and mice.

  • October 01, 2020 11:17 AM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Melonie Nathe

    Organization/Title: Documentation Manager at Marco Technologies

    Length of time as a FEW Member: 1 month

    Hometown: Clarissa, Minn.

    Family: Married to Mike (2 years in November); he has 2 sonsJeremy (27) and Justin (25)

    What do you actually do at work? We are in the process of implementing an ECM, creating/editing a ton of internal standard work documents, and we do business process mapping. I am hopeful that my team’s contribution will help Marco become more efficient and allow our employees to excel at their work.           

    What was your first job? Aside from being a farm kid, mine was a summer job at the school as a janitor along with four other students. I did not love babysitting—I was a tomboy with a shortage of nurturing skills outside of the animal kingdombut did it now and again (when mom made me).

    Do you have or are you a mentor? My spiritual teacher is my most cherished mentor; however, I believe mentorship comes in unexpected thought-provoking moments rather than in one person labeled a “mentor.” If you’re open to it, anyone can make a comment or perform an act that makes you feel or think profoundly about something. Anyone who has had a deep and meaningful conversation with me has taken a mentorship seat for a moment. Sometimes I take away something meaningful from a simple conversationif it strikes a nerve, or if it makes me feel anxiousor if it makes me tear up in appreciation, e.g. We can all be mentors to each other at any time.

    Who is your hero? My parents are by far my most influential and heroic figures. They are hard-working, resilient, loving, intelligent, introspective, creative and talented...they raised six children while managing a 360-acre dairy farm with Holsteins and a herd of goats; mom wrote a novel, dad was a beekeeperthey made their own maple syrup. Mom worked a full time job at the post office, and we all worked hard on the farm. They faced hardships with dignity and grace. They spend their retirement wood-carving and tending to a massive lawn and gardens. All of their children have a strong work ethic. They have had the strongest impact on the person I have become.

    Do you have any silly fears? I absolutely love and appreciate water, but I’m also convinced that anything that lives under the surface is going to get me. Sometimes I imagine things “getting me” when I’m in a lap pool and can clearly see all the way around me. I don’t really know what “get me” means, but it won’t be ideal (sharks, dead bodies…)!

    Last book read? The Four Agreements. I just read it for the first time within this past year, but it has become one of my all-time favorites, and I reference it often and pass it on to others often. The last book I read “for fun” was Doctor Sleep because I’m a Stephen King junkie.

    What did you want to be when you were a kid? My first memory of wanting to be something was a journalist or a novelist. I also wanted each one of my family members to build a house on our 360 acres so we could always stay close, with the uninhabited parts being an animal shelter/refuge. 

    What would other FEW members be surprised to learn about you? No one knows me currently, but what I would want FEW members to know about me is that I love the outdoors/nature and all creatures, I love the connection and learning opportunities that deep and meaningful conversations bring, I love to travel and experience adventure, and someday I hope to finish a novel that I’ve been working on for over 25 years…it’s never too late!

  • September 01, 2020 7:24 AM | Amanda Hackett


    Meet our September Featured FEW, who is also our new FEW Website Manager!

    Name: Grace Davidson-Thooft

    Organization/Title: Campus Outreach Manager and Box Office Assistant for Fine Arts Programming at CSB/SJU.

    Length of time as a FEW Member? One month!

    Hometown? Goshen, Massachusetts

    Family? Husband of one year, Taylor

    What do you actually do at work? Outreach around arts on campus and the Fine Arts Series, engaging campus students in the arts, social media management and website management, along with managing box office student employees and serving as an assistant manager for our box office.                        

    What was your first job? I worked at the after-school program for our district with K6 students.

    How do you help others succeed? Listening first, finding out what others really want and continually encouraging and lifting them up towards those goals but understanding and validating their struggles and their own realities. Nothing gives me more joy than being the cheerleader for my friends, family and students!

    Is your desk/office messy or organized? My work-from-home office is very organized, cleaned everyday…Now, my work office I haven’t seen since March 18 is a different story…It will be a big surprise to see what state I left it in!

    Favorite vacation spot? My husband and I got engaged in Maui. I daydream about returning when the pandemic settles down!

    Who is your oldest friend and where did you meet them? My oldest friend, Sarah, and I met on the first day of third grade which was also my first day at a new school after we had moved to Massachusetts. I sat next to her and told her we were going to be best friends. Even with our lives looking very different and with my move halfway across the country seven years ago, we still text or call at a minimum every week if not daily.

    Who is your hero? It truly is my mom. She is a fierce businesswoman with incredible work ethic, a big personality and a bigger heart. I’ve seen her work her way up from bottom to the top more times than she should have had to in her career and in life. She also was willing to sacrifice so much when her family needed her. I followed in her footsteps by moving away from home at a young age to find my own place and where I belonged. I don’t know how she balanced it all, or continues to, but I’m grateful for all of her encouragement and the example she set forward for me and my sisters.

    Do you have any silly fears? Recently, crickets are my irrational fear.

  • August 01, 2020 12:54 PM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Kathy Grochow

    Organization and Title: Director of Community Programs at CommunityGiving

    Length of time as a FEW Member: I don't remember (I joined when I was at Bremer, had a lapse, rejoined when I was at the College of Saint Benedict and now I'm at CommunityGiving). Maybe since 1998??

    Hometown: Cokato, Minn.

    Family: Husband, Duane, daughter who will enter second year of college and son who will enter 11th grade.

    What do you actually do at work? I oversee all distributions to include competitive grants, grants from Donor Advised Funds, and scholarships for our partner foundations in Alexandria, Brainerd, St. Cloud, Willmar, Paynseville, ROCORI, Foley, Sauk Center and Carver County. I also support community visioning processes with our executive directors in our Partner Foundations and identify community opportunities and collaborations that build community to include bridging and bonding within the community.

    What was your first job? Working for my dad on the farm—bailing hay, picking rock and walking beans. My first real job off the farm was the Video Bug (renting VHS movies).

    What is your biggest accomplishment? Transitioning from my favorite job (Bremer Nonprofit Resources Specialist) to a new challenge (Major Gift Officer at Saint Ben's) to my dream job and the BEST work environment and colleagues ever—CommunityGiving and the Central Minnesota Community Foundation! Biggest accomplishment is landing, by God's grace and guidance, in a place where I can excel and make a difference.

    Do you have or are you a mentor? I've had a professional mentor, June Roos, who had been extremely critical at a very important time in my career back in the late '90s and early 2000s.

    Last book read? The Uncommon Woman by Susan Larson. 

    Favorite vacation spot? Costa Rica though I've been there only once, but it was the best vacation!

    Who had the biggest impact on the person you have become? My dad. He had some simple rules that as an adult, I now value. Family comes before friends, always seek the silver lining, be positive and, of course, the golden rule. He has provided continuous nuggets of wisdom my entire life and continues to do so today with incredible relevance. He's a kind, gentle, soft-spoken man whom I greatly admire. 

    Biggest indulgence/guilty pleasure? Chocolate—Lindt, nothing better!

  • July 01, 2020 10:14 AM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Sam Switzer

    Organization and Title: Events and Brand Manager at United Way of Central Minnesota

    Length of time as a FEW Member: 6 months

    Hometown: Escanaba, Mich.

    Family: Husband and two fur babies (a German Shepherd and a Beagle mix, who we thought was a shepherd...false advertising!)

    What do you actually do at work? I plan and manage all of United Way's large events—from coordinating a few hundred diners, hosts and chefs for Progressive Dinner to blowing the air horn to signal the start of our Bus Pull. I do a little of everything. I also manage our internal marketing, social media and graphic design.

    Do you have or are you a mentor? I'm lucky enough to work for my mentor, Jessica Houle. She's been a friend, coworker and supervisor for 12 years. I love her dedication, problem solving and caring nature she carries with her.

    Favorite vacation spot? I love to travel and experience new places, so it's hard to pick a favorite. I love Grand Velas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, when I want a relaxing beach and NYC when I want to be active.

    If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Mexican cuisineburritos, tacos, chips and salsa, margaritas, I love it all!

    Who had the biggest impact on the person you have become? It's not a "who," it's a "what." Seven years ago, my husband and I spent six weeks in France, Italy and Greece. At that time, we didn't embrace all the phone apps that are available now, so we did it without a language translator, without Google Maps, and without much help other than a car GPS that only spoke French (which we do not!). It was a HUGE learning experience both personally and in our relationship. I learned that situations are never as bad as they feel in the moment, there is always time to stop and appreciate exactly where you are, being comfortable is a good thing—it means you're growing. And calories in gelato never count after 9 p.m.!

    What do you do for fun? I love to cook and learn new cuisines, read outdoors while soaking in a little sun, go geocaching and explore new areas and traveling.

    What is your favorite way to waste time? Recently, I discovered the Bravo show "Below Deck," a reality series that follows the crew of a luxury charter yacht. I can easily lose a couple hours to that show. On a side note, I also think I missed my calling and would make a great chief stewardess!

    What is something you're obsessed with? OrangeTheory Fitness! I've been a member for over three years and pre-pandemic, I would go four mornings a week. It's the only thing that can get me out of bed at 5 a.m. I love the coaches, owners and other members, but more than that, I love the feeling of accomplishment when I do something I didn't think I could.

    If you opened a business, what type of business would it be? I actually already have! For four years, I ran the mini-dessert company Bite Size. I sold in various farmers markets and catered weddings and other events.
  • June 01, 2020 2:18 PM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Amanda Hackett

    Organization and Title: Communications Coordinator at Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict

    Length of time as a FEW Member: It's been about two years. My first visit was as a guest at the 2017 November business meeting with my friend and colleague, Sister Nina Lasceski.

    Hometown: Stacy, Minn.

    Family: I am a newlywed; my husband, Austin, and I got married this past September! I also have my mom, Tamara, my dad, Timothy, and my (fraternal) twin sister, Samantha.

    What do you actually do at work? I handle our organization's external communications, including social media, magazine publications and our website. This involves posting on social media, designing, writing and liaising with many different people throughout the monastery.

    How do you help others succeed? I encourage them and let them know when they are doing a great job. I think words of encouragement are so important.

    What was your first job? I helped out at my mom's dental office for one summer while one of their employees was on maternity leave. 

    Is your desk/office messy or organized? My desk is pretty organized and clean. When the work begins to pile up, I make an intentional effort to devote time to simply tidying up. It makes me feel much more organized and on top of it!

    Favorite vacation spot? I am a huge fan of anywhere with a tropical beach, a beautiful view and a cold margarita! 

    What do you do for fun? Traveling is my biggest passion! I have been to all 50 states as well South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe twice. When I'm not on the go, I enjoy basking in the sunshine, taking walks, writing and binging a good Netflix show!

    Who is your hero? My mom is my hero. She is my best friend and has always supported me. Also, she's hilarious and such a blast to be around! I aspire to be like her.

    What are three words that best describe you? Adventurous, compassionate and ambitious.
  • May 01, 2020 1:30 PM | Amanda Hackett


    Name: Leah Rosso

    Organization/Title: Pastor of First United Methodist Church of the St. Cloud Region

    Length of time as a FEW Member: 3 or 4 years

    Hometown: Woodbury, Minn.

    Family: I have a husband of 20 years and three daughters (6, 10 and 12)

    What do you actually do at work? A little bit of everything! Now, because of COVID, I focus mainly on making sure people are staying connected to one another, that the church is supporting the needs of the wider St. Cloud community and putting together a worship video every week!

    How do you help others succeed? I encourage them to focus on their strengths, see vulnerability as a positive and be themselves.

    What is your biggest accomplishment? Lately, it's been creating worship videos! Who knew I should've gone to film school?

    What was your first job? I loved to work when I was young, so I worked at all kinds of places: a stamping store, Creative Kidstuff, Toby's Restaurant, in the tech department at school, Famous Footwear and cleaning out milk barns!

    Is your desk/office messy or organized? Mostly organized. When the piles grow, I have to take a break and clean house before I can think straight.

    Do you have or are you a mentor? I have many mentors and I am a mentor. I believe strongly in sharing leadership, learning from others and doing all the good I can!

    Last book read? The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett for fiction and Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor for nonfiction.

    Favorite vacation spot? We go to family camp at the YMCA Camp, Camp DuNord, every summer. It's right on the edge of the boundary waters.

    What do you do for fun? I love to travel, although I haven't done a lot since having kids. I've spent time in Zimbabwe, South Korea, Japan, Guatemala, Haiti and Israel/Palestine.

    Who is your hero? Some of the people I look up to most are Barbara Brown Taylor, Maya Angelou and Peter Storey (who helped end apartheid in South Africa).

    What are three words that best describe you? Compassionate, motivated and a good listener.

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