Nominees for Touchstone Awards

Inclusiveness Award finalists Organization: CHOICE, unlimited: BOLD-choice Theatre Company Project: Purchasing personal wireless lapel microphones for performers who have difficulty being heard in the theater. An important part of each production...

Inclusiveness Award finalists

Organization: CHOICE, unlimited: BOLD-choice Theatre Company

Project: Purchasing personal wireless lapel microphones for performers who have difficulty being heard in the

theater. An important part of each production includes the performers speaking directly to the audience about the struggles they have faced due to their disabilities. The microphones were used in a production of "James and the Giant Peach," which has been seen by more than 2,200 people.

You may not know: The company got its start as a simple acting class, which evolved into a full-scale production, and, ultimately, a social movement. Many of the company members are adults with disabilities, and each play, from "Alice and the Creatures of Wonderland" to "Romeo and Juliet's Tragic Comedy," includes great music and themes of acceptance and diversity, said company Executive Director Kristie Buchman. The company has gone on the road to bring this message to area schools.


Organization: Duluth Task Force: Police Accountability

Project: The task force is working to build trust between community groups and the Duluth Police Department. Grant funding helped the task force complete a community assessment to help determine where there is room for improved communication.

You may not know: Opening the lines of communication is hard work. One of the first steps toward building trust is figuring out how the two parties really feel about each other -- and to help get there, the foundation grant helped the Duluth Task Force pull together a community assessment on some of those relationships, said task force member Doug Bowen-Bailey. He calls the process "both interesting and frustrating" but also worthwhile. "I feel very strongly that the work we are doing will be rewarding," he said.

Organization: Madeline Island Anishinaabeg Gathering

Project: The traditional spirit of Madeline Island came alive for a day when more than 650 people from all 19 bands of Ojibwe attended an educational and celebratory event on the island on Sept. 25, 2009. Madeline Island is the sacred center of the Anishinaabeg world, though band members have seldom lived on the island in the past century. The gathering committee organized a day of presentations, traditional performances and feasts that revived that historical spirit. A similar event also was held this fall.

You may not know: The Ojbiwe built a large village on Madeline Island at the mouth of Chequamegon Bay. The French also established a fort and trading post in the area in 1693.


Generosity Award finalists

Organization: Grand Marais Arts Inc.

Project: The Empty Bowls hunger awareness project helps stock the shelves at the Cook County Food Shelf each year. Area artists, students and community members craft ceramic bowls to be filled with soup and bread. The event is needed now more than ever, as the number of people needing food assistance doubled in Cook County from 2007 to 2009.

You may not know: Grand Marais Arts Inc. is the oldest arts colony in the state, tracing its roots to 1947, said executive director Amy Demmer. The Empty Bowl event is also the biggest single event held in Cook County each year, Demmer said. Nearly 500 people are expected to attend this year's event.

Organization: Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank

Project: Increasing food distribution in response to more urgent needs. From 2008 to 2010, Second Harvest encouraged more local giving, enabling the food bank to distribute 25 percent more food. That meant


4 million pounds of food went to those who most need it, while volunteer hours increased and financial contributions from individuals and businesses increased 32 percent.

You may not know: About 40 percent of people who receive help from the food bank are children, said Amy Kinney, marketing and communications coordinator for Second Harvest. Food bank use for area seniors has doubled in the last year. Want to help? Cash is still king for those who wish to donate, but contributions of nutritious foods such as fresh fruit and sources of protein also are welcome. The oddest donation Kinney can remember was a pallet of laundry detergent donated by a corporation. After figuring out how to divide it into family-sized portions, it was distributed, she said.

Organization: Range Transitional Housing Inc.

Project: The Hibbing Transitional Housing Project helps homeless families and individuals find secure housing and maintain it for up to two years. People from 19 households turned to the organization for help in 2009 to find housing, assistance with transportation and child care, and job training.

You may not know: The organization is one of only two places on the Iron Range where those who are homeless can turn to for housing help. Executive Director Adam Venne said that despite the ever-present need, the job is satisfying. "We see a lot of success," Venne said. "We see some failures, but we see a lot of people moving on with their lives, and that's fun."

Engagement Award finalists


Organization: College of St. Scholastica, the Alworth Center for the Study of Peace and Justice

Project: Guest lecture by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, titled "The Wealth of Communities." McKibben's talk wrapped up a three-lecture series exploring the future of capitalism.

You may not know: Don't expect to attend a Peace and Justice lecture

series simply to have your own opinions reinforced. Guest speakers deliberately are chosen to represent a variety of viewpoints, and "you more than likely will hear things you disagree with," said center director Tom Morgan. For instance, many who listened to McKibben's lecture agreed with his view that we need a more community-based approach to prosperity -- McKibben prompted a rare standing ovation. But a lecture by John Yoo, the former official in the U.S. Department of Justice during the Bush administration who drafted the legendary memo justifying enhanced interrogation techniques, prompted a number of irritated phone calls to Morgan's office. The lectures are food for thought -- and that's just the way Morgan likes it.

Organization: Friends of the Finland Community

Project: Building a brand-new community center from the ground up. A foundation grant helped this organization finish coordinating the construction phase of the new Finland Community Center and develop new community programs to make the best use of the facility.

You may not know: Why would a community of about 200 people need a large, new community center? The annual Finland St. Urho's Day celebration, for one. The town's population jumps by a factor of five during the popular event, which includes the popular "best mojakka" contest. And no grasshoppers are allowed.


Organization: Sustainable Twin Ports

Project: Creating a sustainable community. How to do that? First, you learn sustainability principles, then you create a vision of a sustainable future, and then you develop plans to make that future a reality. Sustainable Twin Ports has hosted a number of workshops to teach organizations how to work through this process.

You may not know: A wide range of companies and organizations, from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church to the Duluth Transit Authority to the Duluth Grill, have turned to Sustainable Twin Ports for ideas on how they can implement sustainable practices.

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