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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 90

As I write this American Faces I am feeling quite celebratory. You see, this week marks 20 years of being my own thing, Nielsen Studios, and this is my 90th American Faces story . But that’s enough of that…and now for the “rest of the story”...Amanda Dobb’s story to be exact.

I believe I heard it said somewhere, “Bicycles give freedom.” Well maybe that’s just in my head as I think of all the places my bike took me as a kid and as I tried to escape my tough teenage years. I think Amanda Dobbs and her North Minneapolis bike shop called Camden Cycles helps to provide that freedom. Amand’s bike shop is incredibly inviting, well outfitted and ready to help anyone take on any repair needed. Her purpose from the beginning was to create a shop that impacts the community she cares so much for. All are welcome. Camden Cycles is a place to learn to fix a bike and glean some life wisdom as well. But maybe more than that it is a place to meet new friends and become a part of the North Side tapestry that is so culturally diverse.

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Amanda and others in the shop warmly welcome everyone who steps through the door and the shop is quite baby proof or maybe better said baby-welcome. It’s all about people feeling welcome. I saw Amanda’s husband working alongside a young man who was learning how to tune his own bike while others mentored him through the process. You won’t find that kind of mentoring happening at shops with multiple locations. It can be found in a shop that is led by Amanda with the intent to impact the community. She’s not in it just for financial reasons. She’s in it because she cares for her fellow humans.

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I watched the thoughtfulness and deft repair abilities of the staff go into action as a person came in whose only mode of transportation is a bike. That person left the shop with a bicycle that was now rolling on the Minneapolis streets smooth and ready to provide transportation. Maybe better said to provide freedom.

Thank you Amanda Dobbs for making the world a better place on bike at a time.

Photos/Story by: Nielsen Studios

Editing by: Scott Whitman

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 89

This may be the most polarizing American Faces story yet, due to the background behind my subject. But making a judgment like that, I think, is wholeheartedly wrong. I’m not trying to start anything, or even end something. I just want you to take a few moments and get to know Sam.

Sam Smith has been a part of his Northern Minnesota community in one way or another his whole life. He loves his wife and kids and served his country in the Navy and has served people in traumatic times as a first responder. There is compassion in his eyes, and his “protector” spirit is clearly evident as Sam speaks about his life.

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This family man doesn’t take lightly the ownership of his gunshop called Off Grid Armory in Shevlin, MN near Lake Itasca State Park. The store – literally off the normal grid – offers firearms, ammunition and an amazing array of old military gear and historic guns rivaling many museums. Sam and his staff strive to train people in responsible gun ownership and strategies for self protection, should the need arise. It’s not just about a gun sale. It’s about getting to know his customers, what their specific concerns might be, or how that firearm might serve them in their chosen shooting sport. For Sam, it’s about us all being good to one another, and it starts by him listening to his customer. The classes Sam and his staff teach on site are usually full. His students learn to safely use, care for and handle their firearms – vital responsibilities learned while friendships are forged.

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If you're still reading, thanks for sticking with this story. If the background of the image caused you to pause, I’m glad you didn’t make a snap judgment and scroll on past. Because if you had, you would have shortchanged yourself, missing out on getting to know a little bit about Sam. Yes, he’s the owner of the Off Grid Armory. He’s also a fellow human being, a man who has served our country, a caregiver and a guardian for his community.

Thank you for your service Sam!

Photos/Story by: Nielsen Studios

Editing by: Scott Whitman

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American Faces No. 88

Steph Page is an incredible ray of light in this world. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Stories Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that engages communities to fight human trafficking by using business to bring awareness about trafficking and to support the work through fundraising. Steph believes that every story has value, and that by embracing our own story and sharing it with others we can take a positive step towards changing the stories of injustice in our communities.

It is so hard to believe that human trafficking is happening right in our communities, as well as all over the world. It is up to us to make a change in this world. It’s up to us to no longer close our eyes. It is up to us to be difference makers.

This was brought to light in a recent movie from Angel Studios featuring Jim Caviezel called The Sound of Freedom. That movie shook me to my very core, and left me wondering what I can do.

I recently connected with Steph through a mutual friend and have begun a process of figuring out what I can do as an individual and as a leader. During a recent conversation with Steph I asked her why a person should do this. to which she responded.; “If we don't then who will?”

Steph also shared her big dream and near realized goal of opening a new community gathering place called the Storyteller Cafe. This cafe will bring people together in community to educate, engage and support activism in the fight against human trafficking and modern day slavery. Profits from the cafe will also help provide job opportunities and safe housing for survivors in a place of restoration and healing. How amazing is that! You can learn more about The Storyteller Cafe here:

Every person has a story and every story has worth. Steph lives this out through her organization. In fact, she shares those very words (and more) in her story about the founding of Storyteller Foundation on their web site!.

As I close this I want to ask you to go see the movie. Human Trafficking is not a conspiracy theory – it is tragically very real, and you can be a part of the change this world needs. Be a warrior for the vulnerable by watching for suspicious activity and reporting what you see. You can also be a warrior by walking alongside and supporting organizations like the Storyteller Foundation that work to help children, women and other vulnerable adults to break free.

Like Steph, you can be a Difference Maker!

Photos/Story by: Nielsen Studios

Editing by: Scott Whitman

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