Thrivent Financial inducted into Business Partner Hall of Fame




After an exciting and eventful 2016, Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity (CMHFH) kicked off the new year by thanking and recognizing their many donors, volunteers and business partners at their annual Dream Builders Reception at the Kelly Inn.

Each year CMHFH recognizes a local business that has been donating cash or in-kind services and materials to its organization. They also demonstrate a consistent, long-time, active interest in helping CMHFH reach its goals. The partner businesses also demonstrate a passion for the mission of Habitat for Humanity that is at the heart of their donations. This year’s inductee is Thrivent Financial.

“One of Habitat for Humanity’s strongest partners locally, nationally and internationally is Thrivent Financial,” said Bruce Johnson, Executive Director of CMHFH. “Through our partnership, we will have built and sold 25 homes to local, low-income families in Central Minnesota by the end of this year.”

Over the past 10 years, Thrivent Financial has awarded over $2 million in grants to Central Minnesota, helping 24 families attain safe, affordable housing. CMHFH will once again be partnering with Thrivent to build the 25th Thrivent Builds home for the Jama-Aynab family in 2017. The $66,000 grant from Thrivent will be used to build a home on a reclaimed lot in the Seberger neighborhood in St. Cloud. Construction is set to start this summer.

The grant, a part of the Thrivent Builds program, provides half of the financial support needed to build a home. The rest of the support is raised from local businesses, churches, and members of the community. The homes are built by volunteers from sponsoring businesses, churches, the partner family and the general public.

“The Thrivent/Habitat partnership is a great fit because it engages the whole community and gives them the opportunity to live out the values of connecting finances with faith and living generously,” said Steve Reetz, a Thrivent Financial Representative in St. Cloud and Board member of Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s inspiring to see Thrivent members and others continuously give of their time and talents to help families in local communities and around the world have safe, affordable housing,” said Brad Hewitt, President and CEO of Thrivent.
The Jama-Aynab family of six is excited for the construction to start on their Habitat house. Khadra and Saleban and their four children are most looking forward to being able to settle into permanent home where their family can thrive. Through homeownership, the couple plan to teach their children how to be responsible and take care of a house.

Past Business Partner Hall of Fame recipients
  • 2014: Jacobs Financial
  • 2015: Gray Plant Mooty

Family gives gift of each other, volunteers at ReStore

For many, Dec. 23 is a day to finish last-minute holiday shopping and finish wrapping gifts to place under the tree. For the Roske family, they took the day to give back to the community.

Giving back to the community is something that was instilled in the Roske family. Parents Michael and Peggy have volunteered at their church – St. John the Baptist in Collegeville – and wherever there has been a need. As adults, their children, Michaela, Ben, Molly and J.J., have continued finding ways to give back no matter where they have lived.

“We think it’s important that everybody – not just our children – know they have to look out for others,” Peggy said. “Everybody has needs and those needs need to be met.”

This year when everyone was home for Christmas, instead of gifts to each other, the Roske family decided to give the gift of each other. Michaela, who is a faithful Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity volunteer and recent board member, naturally recommended her family volunteer at CMHFH’s ReStore.

“We were raised with a strong sense of community,” Ben said. “We were raised in the St. Cloud area and have now come back here to celebrate Christmas. We feel it’s a way to give back. We want to contribute to the community.”
J.J. added, “The holiday season is about being with family and celebrating what you have. And a lot of people don’t have, so I think the opportunity to give back to the community, in whatever minuscule way, can help.”

Ben and J.J. Roske move and organize tile at ReStore.

Ben and J.J. Roske move and organize tile at ReStore.

In addition to Michael and Peggy’s four children, Ben’s wife Ellory and Michaela’s friend Jameson also volunteered at ReStore on Dec. 23.

“There’s always been a really strong social justice focus in our family,” said Molly. “I would say that carries through in what all of us do in our daily lives. Michaela’s involvement in Habitat has been growing the past several years so this is the first year we finally put into action this idea we’ve had for the past few years of ‘let’s volunteer together as a family for Christmas instead and give the gift of each other.’ So when that surfaced again this year, the answer was obvious that we should do something with Habitat because of Michaela’s role and involvement here.”

For Ben, part of the appeal of volunteering also meant getting to know the regular ReStore volunteers and assisting the customers. Plus, he enjoyed the “good, hard work and labor.” Ben and J.J. moved and organized boxes of tiling and helped carry out customer’s furniture purchases.

Dec. 23 was also one of the first times the whole family volunteered together as a family. The family has found individual ways to give back in other ways but really enjoyed the opportunity to volunteer side-by-side.

Michaela and Ben volunteer at ReStore.

Michaela and Ben volunteer at ReStore.

“It’s fun to get back together and see each other’s skills,” said Molly, noting that through everyone’s individual volunteer opportunities, they have picked up new skills and stories about how they gained those skills.

“(Volunteering together) teaches us about each other and we can see different sides of each other,” said Ellory. “Sometimes it feels like there are a lot of bad things going on in the world and it’s nice to do something that directly impacts and improves our community.”

Giving back is just part of being part of a community, Peggy said. “You gotta help each other out and do what you can do.”

Learn how you can volunteer at Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity and ReStore.


St. Cloud Girl Scouts Troop decorates houses


Hot glue guns, paint, pipe cleaners and more.

From simple items, St. Cloud Girl Scouts partnered with Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity on Oct. 13 to assemble and decorate miniature houses that will be used at CMHFH’s 6th Annual Breakfast for Humanity fundraising breakfast on Nov. 3.

Girl Scout Troop #605, which includes Ella who moved into a Habitat house with her mom last December, had a lot of fun using their creativity on the houses. Many of the girls made pipe cleaner people, small wooden furniture, and miniature potted plants and trees to adorn the lawns and interior houses.

Tech Juniors and Seniors build Habitat house in parking lot

A family of seven will be moving into a house which is currently being built by Tech High School seniors and juniors.

The partnership between Tech High School and Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity gives students hands-on experience in skilled labor trades.

Tech Juniors and Seniors eat pizza during the Tiger Build Kickoff,

Tech Juniors and Seniors eat pizza during the Tiger Build Kickoff.

“The students experience service learning while building a home for a local, low-income family,” said Bill Garceau, instructor with Tech High School’s Technology Education Program. “The partnership also allows us to have the home stay local and the students will come back years from now and be able to show off the home they built.”
One of Garceau’s favorite things about the Tiger Build partnership is the students get to develop skills that they will have for the rest of their lives. “Many students will continue with a construction related career and be very successful,” he said. “Students take pride and ownership of their work and this is exciting to see.”


Saeedo and her three oldest kids pose for a photo in their new house.

Students will learn all the key elements of building a home. Students are exposed to framing, dry walling, roofing, cabinetry, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, Siding, and insulating.

“The students are proud of working as a team to accomplishing the huge task of building a home from start to finish,” Garceau said. “The hands-on learning approach is very appealing to my students.”

This year’s Tiger Build family has already been identified. The Mireh-Mohamud family will be moving into the house after Tech students have finished it and the house has been moved to a lot in St. Cloud. The three older kids have expressed interest in giving back and helping to build a home when they get to Tech High School.

Habitat 500: From the Diary of Bea

Thirteen brave riders battled the elements to bike 500 miles with the hope to raise a total of $20,000 to benefit low-incomes families in Central Minnesota. The 7-day ride took bikers along the scenic North Shore.
This year, Bea Winkler participated for the first time in the ride, chronicling her journey along the way.
Day 1, July 10: Proctor to McGregor 70 miles
Due to the rainy weather, I didn’t get started on the road until a little later to avoid the heaviest rain. After riding in the rain this last spring on the Ironman, I invested in rain gear. Today I put it to use! It was so nice to have warm dry feet today!! And about half-way into the ride, the weather improved. We had a great ride–and a tailwind for most of it, too!

Day 2, July 11: McGregor to Grand Rapids 70 miles
Today started very early as a big storm was blowing in at 4:30 a.m. The people who were tenting were madly trying to break camp with rain flies billowing and blowing in the wind, and people scrambling around. … Only 15 minutes later, we were roused and advised to clear the gym we were in and move to interior rooms. Fortunately, someone got the coffee started early! … We hit the road in the light rain at 7 a.m.

Day 3, July 12: Grand Rapids to Hibbing 85 miles
It was a beautiful morning–sunny and clear. We got off to a good start on the road, but I was having trouble keeping up with my riding partner, Bobby, with whom I’ve been training and riding for the last several months. I thought I just had “dead legs” from the last 2 days of riding, and was struggling to get up a hill that really shouldn’t have been that tough. Duh–I had a flat tire! So we stopped by the side of the road and Bobby changed it.
Despite having good roads today (yesterday’s roads were pretty bumpy), we had a hard time not bringing up the rear all day!
Our next challenge came shortly after we started on the Mesabi Trail, a 120 mile long mostly paved trail that winds through the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. It is partially built on old railroad beds and old logging and mining roads.
After ascending a very steep incline that had me in my lowest possible gear, and riding a mile or so, we found the trail blocked by a train! It was not moving until it did pull forward several car lengths, only to reverse again. We called the mobile emergency number for the ride for advice and were sent back to the road—yup, down the steep hill! We were planning out an alternate route when the ride support vehicle at the road told us the train had moved and sent us back up the hill! Somehow, it seemed easier to climb the second time.

Day 4, July 13: Hibbing – Century Ride 100 miles
We had fantastic tailwinds for about half of the ride. Came upon some fellow riders having trouble, so stopped to lend a hand. … We had quite a headwind for a good stretch and finished with a strong crosswind. The last thing we passed was “the build”–the house that is being worked on by some of the riders who chose not to ride the century. On the way back to the High School (which is on the National Register of historic buildings), the skies opened, and we got drenched one more time!
Tonight was the dedication of the Bike House. We met the family who will be buying the house from Habitat, and each family member was given a bike and helmet. The bikes have been donated and reconditioned. I saw some tears. Everyone deserves a home!! This organization does amazing work for people who are willing to work for what they want (sweat equity working on the build) and who will make payments on a 0% mortgage provided by Habitat.”

Day 5, July 14: Hibbing to Aurora 70 miles
Back on the road by 7 a.m. All went well until about 15 miles out when I started falling behind again. I called out for Bobby to stop, caught up and saw that I had a flat tire—again! … Then it was back to the road and the task at hand: getting to Aurora. We got onto the Mesabi trail, again winding, and hilly with beautiful scenery. As we entered each small town along the way, we rode under an archway that welcomed us and named the town we were entering: Buhl, Mountain Iron, Iron Junction, Eveleth, Biwabik, and Aurora. Somewhere along the way, I had another flat that Bobby fixed, making three flats for me so far this week.

Day 6, July 15: Aurora to Two Harbors 62 miles
Today the ride gets shorter—no more trail—all on the road. We decided to keep it short at the rest stops and get done in time to claim wall space in the gym and have lunch out with a beverage on the town. Not much to report on the ride—it was a beautiful day and no flats!!
Once we arrived in Two Harbors, we claimed our bags and had nailed down a good spot in the gym by noon! Rather than add our bikes to the many lining the hallway, we quickly changed clothes and biked into town—downhill all the way. Lunch was delicious, as were the drinks! We did a little sightseeing along the lake shore. Saw the old lighthouse, a long pier out into the water opposite the loading docks for the ore boats, took a little tour of the town and to a new bike shop and coffee house just opened, then back to the high school to clean up before dinner and a party for Habitat at Castle Danger brewery.img_1753

Day 7, July 16: Two Harbors to Proctor 51 miles
It’s hard to believe that this is our last day of the Habitat 500 ride! … it’s a short ride today—however there is quite a steep rise from the lake shore to the bluff above Duluth to come!! Fortunately, the first part of the ride is along the old road along the north shore—very scenic and tranquil.
It was great to come around a curve and see the Duluth shoreline and the lift bridge way off in the distance—first photo op of the day! Not much further down the road, we began our ascent from lake level (590 ft. above sea level) up the side of the shore via Seven Bridges Road, taking us up about 400 vertical feet to 1000 ft. above sea level in about 2.5 miles. It is a very scenic route, and follows a winding creek, crossing it via seven bridges built in the WPA days. Of course, by now, I have been riding for 6.5 days and actually already have about 500 miles under my belt due to riding “extra miles” with Bobby. My legs are showing the fatigue—I’m easily averaging one gear lower overall than I would have been on day 1. This road does not just climb—it climbs steeply, punishing all those muscle fibers and pushing me into ever lower gears. Then out of some twisted, sadistic road engineering spite, I find I am riding downhill before the road turns and heads uphill again—in another steep climb. Sadly, due to not wanting to lose momentum, I don’t stop to enjoy the beauty of the scenery, the bubbling water moving down to Lake Superior, or to admire the craftsmanship of the bridges until I am completely drained, stopping because I can’t go on and need a break. Looking back, I should have stopped at each one! Ultimately, I had to get off my bike and walk two of the last hills, as I was out of gears, out of steam, and yet determined to finish the week entirely without using the SAG services. Today, miles 23 to 33 took us from 590 to 1450 feet above sea level, a long climb back up to the Iron Range. The roads were straight after that, and the ride back to Proctor relatively uneventful. … When we arrived at the school in Proctor—our starting point a week ago, we were greeted by people cheering and ringing bells, a smorgasbord of snacks, our bags out on the sidewalk. We loaded the bikes on the car, took showers in the locker rooms and enjoyed the wrapping up of the Habitat 500 Ride before heading home. My total miles for the week was 526 miles, give or take a couple.

The group of 13 riders exceeded their goal, raising just over $20,000 which will go towards Jessy’s house. It’s not too late to add to the total. If you want to donate or are interested in riding in the 2017 event, please contact Kris Lehman at The 2017 Habitat 500 dates have been set for July 9-15.

VBS programs give to CMHFH

Two local churches, St. John’s Lutheran in Annandale and Celebration Lutheran Church in Sartell, featured Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity at their Vacation Bible School programs.
At St. John’s, the VBS students learned about shining their lights so that others can see and learn more about God. They talked about CMHFH every day and about how not everyone is as fortunate as they are. The students learned how to use their tools to help shine God’s love, giving their offering to CMHFH to help provide more people with the tools they need to build a successful future.
St. John’s youth ages 3-12 raised $453 to help a local family build a successful future. Celebration kids raised $522 for CMHFH.
Thanks to these generous kids for their donations. If you would like to learn more about how you or your church can get involved with Habitat, contact Kris Lehman.

Neighbors pitch in to help at the Thrivent Builds project

Partner Homeowner Jessy Rychart’s future neighbors donated a Saturday morning to help him landscape at his house and welcome him to the neighborhood.

These awesome volunteers really embodied CMHFH’s mission: Gathering communities to transform lives through affordable homeownership. Check out the awesome work they did!

Jessy’s home dedication is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at 217 12th Avenue North, St. Cloud.

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Construction Corner: YouthBuild

We were honored to be able to partner with YouthBuild, a program led by Tech High School teacher Bill Garceau, this summer. The work the team completed was of great help with our mission of building safe, affordable housing.


We have partnered with YouthBuild for at least 10 years, including last year’s first Tiger Build. Youthbuild is a program intended to teach youth construction skills. With the current shortage of construction workers, this program is a huge asset to our community and our local construction companies.


Bill Garceau and his YouthBuild team carried the ball during some tough tasks, and were a great help. It’s a win-win, with us giving the students practical construction experience, while we get a skilled teacher who can teach the more technical parts of a project. We look forward to working with YouthBuild in the future.