West Central Blogger

Monday, February 4, 2008

Johanna Christianson, local hero

Heroes don't have to wear tights, save people from burning buildings or repel bullets with the flick of a hand.

Case in point: Johanna Christianson's super power is hospitality.

One of the 2007 recipients of The McKnight Foundation's Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service, Johanna is well known in her town of Pelican Rapids for her warm, giving personality. She is the board chair of the local food shelf. She volunteers at a nonprofit secondhand store and works as a high school youth mentor. She has participated in Campfire Girls, Global Volunteers and the Women's Civic Club. She's active in her church.

She has also served as the president of the city's Multicultural Committee for the past 12 years. In that capacity, Johanna has helped find ways to welcome and support Pelican Rapids' increasingly diverse population. She's helped establish the city's International Friendship Festival, organized clothing and goods drives and helped connect refugees to friends and social services.

Her work with the city's many ethnic groups is particularly important to her. She knows firsthand what it's like to move to a new country. She came to Pelican Rapids in 1976 as a bride from Amsterdam. "Once I was a stranger, and people welcomed me," she said. "I know in my heart it's my turn to do the same."

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