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Shirley Nordrum, U of M Extension educator in Cass Lake, recognized with Unsung Hero Award

The McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) have selected Shirley Nordrum of Cass Lake, Minn., among three others, as a Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award recipient. Nordrum is an educator with University of Minnesota Extension.

This award recognizes four Minnesotans who have made a significant impact in the state, yet have remained unrecognized or, “unsung,” in their commitment to making Minnesota a better place for all.

According to the awarding organizations, Nordrum has dedicated her life to improving community wellness on the Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth reservations by strengthening environmental quality, food security, and nutrition. Understanding the needs of each community, she developed innovative methods of reaching out and engaging people on topics of social and environmental justice. She is dedicated to serving area youth by offering healthy skill-building gatherings focused on archery, snow snakes, lacrosse and traditional arts. More recently, Nordrum has focused on strengthening the use and restoration of Ojibwe food systems to improve the dietary and economic health of Band members from Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth with support from the USDA NIFA Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program (FRTEP). She collaborated with community members to develop Nanod-gikenimindwaa Nindinawemaaganidog (Getting to Know all of Creation) as a tool to help youth and families reconnected with traditional ecological knowledge and is now piloting The Corn is Red, a youth program for ages 5-14 focusing on traditional agriculture, cooking, eating healthy, and physical activity. In all of her work, Nordrum continues to build community and networks.

In addition to her education work with Extension in northern Minnesota, she serves on the board of Extension's Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership.

The 2019 awardees will each receive a cash prize of $10,000 from the McKnight Foundation and MCN, and will also be recognized at the 2019 MCN Annual Conference on Thursday, Oct. 24 in Rochester at the Mayo Civic Center. The other recipients are Shanene Herbert of Minneapolis, Jamil Jackson of Minneapolis and Patti Reibold of Red Wing.

“We are extremely thrilled to be partnering with the McKnight Foundation to celebrate and recognize the incredible work of these award recipients,” says Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. “It was clear throughout the nomination process how much they were respected, not just by their nominators, but by the communities they have personally touched. What an inspiration they are to so many others who do impactful yet often unrecognized work in Minnesota and beyond.”


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