A recording of a spoken-word poetry event was playing in Brian Mogren's Target headquarters office one day in 2008 as he designed the company's Sunday advertisement insert.
The words resonated not only through his ears, but in his heart, he said.
"What I heard in their voices was an urgency. I needed to do more than I was doing," said Mogren, who had been doing volunteer work in north Minneapolis for 10 years. "I needed to quit my job."
He did not want to leave Target, where he had worked for nearly 25 years. But, he said, he couldn't ignore the calling. He turned in his letter of resignation and two weeks later committed himself full time to serving in north Minneapolis.
Mogren is one of six Minnesotans who will be honored Wednesday with the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service from the McKnight Foundation. Each $10,000 award honors those who "give their time to improve the lives of people in their communities."
Mogren was recognized for his work as founder of St. Jane House, an urban retreat center on the 1400 block of Emerson Avenue N. The house is also his home, which he decided to share as a retreat center. He connected with six nuns looking to build a place where community members could find hospitality and interaction.
"We have college students who may stay here sometimes, and they share a meal with someone who has lost a child to violence," Mogren said. "At the end of the meal, they leave with a real connection."
Mogren said the award will be used for another project of his called Alafia Place, which provides housing and support services to community leaders on the North Side of Minneapolis. "This is confirmation that when you are committed to doing something and you believe it with all your heart, the community will rise up to support that vision and dream," he said.
Here's a look at the other winners of the award:
• Sunny Chanthanouvong of Elk River is executive director of the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, which aids newly arrived Lao refugees.
• Kim Randolph of Duluth is the stabilization services director at Churches United in Ministry homeless shelter. She has served there for 25 years.
• Fatima Said of Winona is executive director of Project FINE, a nonprofit that assists immigrant communities. Said is an immigrant herself, having fled her home in Bosnia in 1993.
• Cheryl Steeves of Chisago City is the director of Sarah's ... an Oasis for Women, a nonprofit providing support for women who have suffered trauma.
• Ernesto Velez Bustos of Owatonna is executive director of Centro Campesino, an organization working to improve the lives of southern Minnesota's Latino and migrant community.
The McKnight Foundation has given Virginia McKnight Binger Awards since 1985. Virginia was the daughter of William and Maude McKnight, founders of the foundation.
Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028 • Twitter: @amatos12