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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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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 87

The Northside of Minneapolis is a community-rich place, and people like Markella Smith of the Dream Shop are what make it great. Markella is a shining beacon in her community. The passion she has for the North Side is palpable. You see emotion well up in her eyes as she talks about her youth and what community meant to her back then, and what it means to her now as she raises her three sons. You hear her drive for the community as she speaks about the Dream Shop. This shop literally was a dream for Markella, an entrepreneur at her very core. She wanted a place where she could sell the jewelry she made and provide a place for other entrepreneurs like herself to share their own offerings.

This woman is an absolute ray of light. Through The Dream Shop, Markella provides space for Open Mic nights, game nights and many other events that help build community and offer a place for folks to belong. Markella’s smile projects hope and joy to anyone visiting her shop. Her friendly service welcomes customers the moment they open the door into her bright, well lit and inviting space. Her passion for employing people from her North Minneapolis community challenged me to ask myself, “How am I engaging my own community with my business?”

Markella and I sat on couches just inside her wonderful store and we shared life. Our worlds might be different – I live 30 miles west of Minneapolis on a 7 acre hobby farm, but when those differences are set aside, we each have struggles and joys, and we remain united by our common humanity.

Markella left home at 15 and found herself on a road through life filled with hardship, an abusive marriage and other challenges that can make life hard. Through all of that, she rose from the challenges of her past to become who she is today: a mom who loves her boys like crazy, cherishes the time she has with her dad and a woman who strives to make the Northside of Minneapolis a brighter place.

Markella told me it was community that helped build the Dream Shop and it’s her passion that the Dream Shop can help build community.

I usually like to close my posts with some words encouraging my readers to take some kind of action. So, here it is: Get yourself out of your comfort zone. Meet someone new, outside of your own community. You could even visit Markella at her shop at 3701 Freemont Avenue N. in Minneapolis.. You need her smile, and she needs yours. Heck, she might even give you a hug. If you're feeling especially bold, go for Open Mic night!

Photos/Story by: Nielsen Studios

Editing by: Scott Whitman

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

Updated: Jun 1

American Faces No. 86

Brian Ingram can be called a “Hope Dealer.”

I met Brian at his Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Paul. He was whipping up a few creations from his unique breakfast menu – the carrot cake pancakes, and the pork belly and biscuit (he sent them home with me, it was amazing). Despite the array of culinary temptations on offer, I discovered what Brian’s really dishing up is a whole lot of hope, served with a big slice of love.

The Hope Breakfast Bar is one of several Purpose Restaurants, co-founded by Brian and his wife, Sarah. I could tell this place was special. “Hope” is more than just a name on the door. The mission to care for people comes from a very personal drive to do things differently.

For a while, Brian lived the life of an award-winning, fast-climbing corporate chef, with its relentless schedule and intense competitive pressures. He was helping build nationally-known brands, setting trends in the restaurant business. That fast-paced and turbulent life, while offering the opportunity to showcase his unique skills as a chef, came at a high cost, and created turmoil in Brian's past.

With Purpose Restaurants, Brian and Sarah have flipped the tables. Now, for them, it’s all about people. You see, Brian discovered hope and love. He’s taking a second shot at living a life of purpose. And he’s making it count.

Brian says, “We believe everything good starts with a meal.” In that spirit, three percent of every customer’s tab is directed to Give Hope Minnesota, the charitable organization they formed to invest back into local communities in profound ways. Brian and Sarah say it’s about bringing the community together to support and serve those in need.

One way they do that is by placing “Give Hope” cards at each table, inviting their guests to write down their hopes, prayers and dreams so the restaurant staff can pray over what they’ve shared. Brian says, “It doesn’t matter what you believe in – we believe in you.”

Through Purpose Restaurants Brian and Sarah strive to cultivate a culture that prioritizes the well-being of workers. They want their 300+ employees – and restaurant workers throughout the Twin Cities metro – to thrive, find hope and know they are loved.

When it comes to it, that’s what any of us should hope for. To help others thrive, and to be a hope dealer. Maybe to the waitress who served you a meal, or the elderly neighbor alone in their apartment. Whoever it may be, don’t leave your opportunity to help go undone. Then celebrate by heading over to Hope Breakfast Bar, order up some of Brian’s crazy-good food, and help them spread more hope.

Photos by: Nielsen Studios

Writing/editing by: Scott Whitman

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