BE THE CHANGE: The Northland needs more Daniel FanningsFor the Budgeteer's inaugural "Be the Change" feature, contributor Sarah Packingham profiles Daniel Fanning, who wants to make sure his fellow Northlanders are engaged and trustful in our government.
By: Sarah Packingham, Budgeteer News
For Daniel Fanning, helping people is addictive. So is making sure that citizens are engaged and trustful in our government.
“This is what I’m passionate about,” he said. “This is what I want to do.
I want to prove to people that the government can be effective and that it’s necessary. This is an obstacle we have to overcome.”
Fanning, who grew up in the south side of Chicago in a trailer park, often found himself inquiring about everything.
“Growing up, I was always asking questions,” he said. “I would always ask why.”
He is hopeful that his work will help show people that it is possible to overcome rough starts and his or her past, and make the world a better place.
Currently, Fanning is serving as a regional representative for Sen. Al Franken’s Duluth headquarters.
Fanning spends most of his time out of the office, advocating and meeting with citizens throughout northeastern Minnesota.
The hardest part of his work is getting around all the misinformation that surrounds government and politics.
He said there is unfortunately lots of skepticism about those topics.
“I think that although a lot of things are done the right way there are things that are done the wrong way,” he said. “The things that are done the wrong way are fixable. I want to inspire people to get involved and to change things.”
Fanning attends numerous community events, both as a representative and as an engaged citizen. He said being involved in the community is important.
“If you’re passionate, it’s not really work,” he said. “And when I get home, I feel energized with what I’ve done. It’s addictive.”
Fanning has been active in helping those in Duluth and the surrounding communities since he attended the University of Wisconsin-Superior for his undergraduate degree and the University of Minnesota Duluth for his master’s.
Prior to work with Franken, Fanning spent his time as a campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Marty. In Duluth, Fanning has worked with several different non-profits, including CHUM, Men as Peacemakers and the YMCA. He has also worked with the Boys & Girls Club in Superior.
“I’ve done a lot, and I’m proud of it,” he said.
Melissa Johnston, the AmeriCorps program director at the Duluth YMCA, met Fanning when he became an AmeriCorps worker through the Y’s Five Points program nearly four years ago.
As a Five Points hired hand, Fanning helped Duluth students, regardless of age, get matched with volunteer tutors who could help them academically.
“I think he did a fabulous job,” Johnston said. “It was a newer program and he really did a good job of getting things going. He did a great job of taking initiative and talking to who he needed to talk to.”
Under Fanning’s watch, the number of Five Points volunteers (and even the number of kids the program served) grew.
“He’s the kind of person that shows you can do something even though it’s not always easy,” Johnston said. “He will never let anything stop him. He always takes the initiative. He never lets anything hold him back. If there was something to overcome, he finds a way to succeed.”
Johnston believes that Fanning is a good leader because of his great communication skills. He always explains something so it’s easy to understand, she said, and he also always goes above and beyond the call of duty.
“He always talks about standing up for what he believes in and that’s important; he doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines,” Johnston said.
Phil Stern, who is now a teacher in the Twin Cities, worked under Fanning at Men as Peacemakers.
Stern said that Fanning’s positivity and enthusiasm helped the organization thrive.
“He shows that one dedicated and passionate person can make a difference,” Stern said. “Daniel Fanning is one of the most passionate and all-around best people I know.”
In his spare time, Fanning likes to run (he just completed his fifth Grandma’s Marathon), attend community events and guide youth through the Mentor Duluth program.
No matter what Fanning has planned for his future, he knows that making a difference in the life of others is definitely going to be a part of it.
“I don’t know what’s next, but what I’m doing now is an important job and I’m proud and honored to do it. I want to do this for awhile,” Fanning said. “I know this kind of work is what I want to always do. I want to make the world a better place.”
Nominate the next ‘Be the Change’ honoree
Mahatma Gandhi was known for saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Gandhi was known for helping India gain its independence and also for inspiring movements seeking civil rights and freedom across the world.
Gandhi had a vision of a better place and there are people in the Duluth community who have ideals similar to his. In this series, the Budgeteer will profile people who are passionate about making the world a better place. It doesn’t matter if it’s how they do their job, how they raise their kids, how they volunteer in church — we just want to know about people you know who are making a difference.
If there is anyone you know who impacts Duluth or the surrounding communities, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with “Be the Change” in the subject field to nominate them to be featured in this series. With your nomination, please include a brief description of what you feel they are doing to impact the Northland.
Frequent contributor Sarah Packingham last wrote about geocaching for the Budgeteer.