Liberian Contesting for U.S. City Council Position Receives Unsung Hero Award

Wynfred Russell, the Liberian running for city council position in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, has received the 2018 Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award. The award was presented by the McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

McKnight Foundation is a Minnesota-based family foundation that seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations, using regional economic and community development, while the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits works to strengthen individual nonprofits and the nonprofit sector.

In a release, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits described Russell as a pioneer, leader, and visionary who dedicated his life to advocating for disenfranchised communities and advancing equity. He is also the founding executive director of African Career, Education and Resource Inc., an organization addressing the resource and information gap within the newer and longtime minority communities in the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities.

“In addition to his extensive work in his Minnesota community, Russell used his background in public health to manage the Ebola response team in southeastern Liberia and later served on a global polio eradication initiative in northern Nigeria for three years. He is a dedicated public servant and advocate,” the organizations said in a joint release.

Also receiving the awards were Joseph Day, a three-tour veteran of the Vietnam War; Memoona Ghani, a Pakistani immigrant who worked to counter myths and negative stereotypes around the Muslim community; and Carol Orban.

The awardees will each receive a cash prize of US$10,000 from the McKnight Foundation. They were also honored at a private luncheon in Minneapolis on Tuesday, October 2. Additionally, the recipients will be recognized at the 2018 MCN annual conference on November 15, in St. Paul.

“Since 1985, the McKnight Foundation has recognized Minnesotans who have improved the quality of life for current and future generations with the Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service,” the release also disclosed.

In 2015, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits partnered with McKnight to coordinate and present the first-ever Unsung Hero Awards, honoring individuals who were doing life-changing work in communities across Minnesota with little or no recognition.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ Executive Director John Pratt said the group was extremely thrilled to partner with the McKnight Foundation to celebrate and recognize the incredible work of the award recipients.

“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,” Pratt noted.

“What an inspiration they are to so many others who do impactful yet often unrecognized work in Minnesota and beyond.”

Featured photo courtesy of Wynfred Russell for Brooklyn Park City Council

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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