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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces No. 91



I've had the good fortune to see first-hand the impact Hollee Saville makes in the lives of others. I met Hollee at NorthRidge Fellowship church in Rogers, MN where her family attends. Hollee has a spring in her step, a sparkle in her eye and a note in her voice that radiates joy. She says her childhood years were tough. That, however, didn’t define her. In fact, I think it refined her. Hollee is a person who wants to make a difference in the world, whether through her Happee Hollee’s Preschool & Childcare, her service to her community or through the special program she founded called Project Pencils.


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This American Faces story is focused on how Hollee has rallied a community of volunteers through Project Pencils to impact families and schools in Wright County, Minnesota. Hollee started Project Pencils in 2016, providing 48 backpacks filled with school supplies. This year, the project supplied over 650 backpacks filled with school supplies and meaningful educational necessities. Project Pencils also provides help where it is needed on a case-by-case basis. Hollee will be the first to tell you that she doesn’t do it alone. She has the full support of her husband and sons, as well as many other people who volunteer their time. The impact to students is profound. The “thank you” cards that Hollee receives speak to that impact. The cards share joyful words from kids saying how much the Hello Kitty or the Spider Man backpack means to them, or from the mom who shares the relief of not having to spend what little money she has on expensive school supplies.



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Project Pencils delivers relief and joy to over 45 schools in Wright County. A trailer full of backpacks resides in Hollee’s driveway, filled with backpacks and supplies donated by people who want to join her in bringing blessing to people’s lives. The world is made better by many people working together to make a profound difference. Project Pencils is changing people’s lives. Hollee’s heart for serving her community was the key to opening the doors of opportunity for others to serve. As you read this maybe your heart is being stirred to join Hollee in her cause, or perhaps launch one of your own. Don’t wait to follow your heart. Just do it. You won’t regret it. Be a difference maker! Photos/Story by: Nielsen Studios (Project Pencils provided distribution photos)

Editing by: Scott Whitman






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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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