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American Faces No. 60


My subject for American Faces #60 is Greenland Paddle maker Ben Frontenot of BF Paddles. Ben is a man of many interests and always ready for an adventure; he is a sea kayaker, videographer, coach, influencer, and craftsman. This young, driven craftsman who is passionate about the outdoors has a personality as warm as the cedar wood he crafts into paddles.  His shop in St. Paul, MN is tidy and filled with the aroma of cedar which made for a great aesthetic.  To tell you the truth, I  was quite content to stay and marvel at the Greenland paddles that were in rough-out form as well as the beautifully finished ones ready for shipping.  As I chatted with Ben, I could hear his passion for paddle making as he spoke of his approach to crafting a custom paddle from a clear cedar 2”x4”.  Curls of cedar form from the block plane as he pushes it along the wood surface of the rough-cut 2x4 to uncover the paddle within. As he continues, the loom (handle) is custom hewn for each paddler.  The final steps of sanding and finishing bring out the rich color of the cedar in each 21-31 ounce paddle.



When I left Ben’s shop that day I felt as though I made a new friend, mentor in my kayaking,  and a craftsman who is creating Greenland paddles that have old world charm with usefulness and precision for today’s adventures.

Check out Ben's YouTube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPniiAu9jIR-06sUGJ8QUzw

Email me for a 10% dayrate discount off a future project.

  • Nielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 59


When I set out to buy a new refrigerator I did not think that an American Faces story would come out of it. But one did. On October 6th, 2020 a smile that lit up the room made way for a great conversation. As Derek B. spoke about the refrigerators he had in stock, he and I also shared a bit about ourselves. Our lives have been very different from each other, but what connects us is our place in humanity, maybe better said is “our place in the human race”. Derek’s life has had its own twists, turns, and even a few hurdles when he spoke of his earlier years in South Minneapolis, to now the owner of Appliance Express in East St. Paul, MN. This man’s choices and decisions have forged a resolve that were seen and truly felt as I spoke with him.

The wisdom he has gleaned in his 53 years on this globe and in the School of Hard Knocks has taught him to work hard, don’t dwell on the past, and create his own future. He’s had people who have poured into him over the years who have helped mold who he is today and not the man of the past that he once was.

When we wrapped up our time together to create this American Faces, he left me with an awesome nugget of wisdom, "If you change the way you look at things then the things you look at change."

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I’ve known Rose W. for a handful of years. I've seen her and husband, Mitch, help in many different ways at NorthRidge Fellowship over the years. Recently, I saw Rose take a very active role in helping with recent food distributions in Minneapolis and also at a local trailer home park. It was the latter location where I saw her making profound impacts in the lives of others. Rose is bi-lingual, with Spanish as her second language. You could even say it’s her first language. Rose spent her formative years on the West coast and in Mexico. Her multi-cultural upbringing has given her a wonderful gift for communicating with our Hispanic neighbors. Rose has an engaging smile and a warm heart. Her personal journey, while not easy, has developed in her a genuine compassion that is making a profound impact on the people she serves. Rose has a favorite bible verse that she says she tries to live by:


You are amazing, Rose! May each of us follow your example, by making a difference in the lives around us.


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