Category Archives: Uncategorized

American Faces – #15

AmericanFaces15bAmerican Faces – No. 15

Dimagio’s Pizza in Rogers, MN, is one of those small-town places that feels like it’s woven into the very fabric of the community. Dimagio’s sits on old Main Street, creating pizzas one at a time. Owner Shane Lane insists they still toss the pizza dough by hand and use only garden-fresh ingredients. He calls it, “making smiles by the slice.” Pizza maker, Christina B., was my willing subject on this visit, with a ready smile and practiced moves, deftly working and spinning the dough. It’s good to know people can still make a living creating our food by hand. So, if you’re hungry for pizza, call or drop in to your favorite local pizza place. Buy a slice or two, and keep the dough spinning, on your own Main Street, USA.

 

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 
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American Faces – #14

 

AmericanFaces14American Faces – No. 14

I think there are some people who may have been born 100 years too late. Elmer R. is one of those people. He is a local fur trapper with an old-world style and a witty sense of humor. Elmer spends his retirement years wandering the local woodlots in search of fur bearing animals. You’ll likely find him with one of his handmade hats, like the one fashioned from a skunk pelt, completing his old-time mountain man look.

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Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

American Faces – #13

 

AmericanFaces13American Faces #13

A recent trip to Anoka yielded an unplanned meeting on the sidewalk with my subject Mark U.  He’s the owner and barber at Cowboy Mel’s in Anoka, MN. 

CowboyMels_0002Mark taking a break outside his shop.

I was first captivated by his enormous (and enviable) beard, and then by the barbershop full of cowboy paraphernalia, skulls and classic barbershop chairs. This warm toned shop and Mark’s facial hair made for a wonderfully memorable shoot.

 

#minneapolis #minnesota #advertising #photography #perspective#captureminnesota #dynamic #creative #stateology #art #arts#captureminnesota #graphicdesign #great #faces #canon5dmarkıv#canon #canonglobal #man #minnymade #streetphotography #color#american #usa #Americanfaces #beard #fearthebeard

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

American Faces – Perfect 10

AmericanFaces10a

American Faces – No.10

A good day always involves a stop into a local coffee shop.    After our morning shoot, Scott Whitman and I stopped in to  Avant Garden in Anoka.  I could not have scripted a better scene to unfold: a young musician at the coffee bar playing his guitar. DerekCallender_0001LRThe problem: my camera was back in the car. I quickly jogged to the car and returned with camera in hand. I captured a quick photo with his back turned to me, then approached the friendly musician, Derek, and asked if I might take a few shots as he gave a casual impromptu performance for his coffee-drinking audience.

American Faces No. 10 is one of my favorite shots from this raw moment.

 

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A behind the scenes shot taken while Derek played:

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

Serve #32 – World War II Vet – Clarence Bassett (a.k.a., Grandpa)

 

Serve32a

Serve #32

 

This Serve is written about my Grandpa, Clarence Bassett, who passed away at age 69 when I was just 15.

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Clarence & Marie Bassett

 

Some of my story comes from the perspective of that 15-year-old me, but much also comes from my uncle Butch, the last living child of Clarence and my grandmother, Marie, who lived in Northeast Minneapolis.

I remember my Grandpa as a tall, slender man with dark hair. I remember he would often have a lit cigarette in hand, and a grin on his face when we talked. I remember he was always very particular in how the grass was mowed, and meticulous in the silversmithing he did as a hobby. I always thought he was sage-like and wise, without needing to use very many words. Even at the time, I knew his wisdom came from deep and difficult life experience. He was a soldier in World War II.

Grandpa Bassett was a Sergeant, Technician Fourth Grade, and had the military qualification of rifle expert. He was deployed overseas from spring of 1943 to November of 1945. He marched across Europe during the military campaigns of Northern France, Ardennes and Rhineland.

Grandpa was very quiet about his past – especially about his service in the Army fighting against the Germans. As the years went by I learned that he saw and encountered horrific things, difficult beyond what any young man should have to live through.

My Uncle Butch recalls that the only war stories Grandpa Bassett shared were that of Ardennes – The Battle of the Bulge. Grandpa told Butch about being extremely cold and wet, about fighting a battle from foxholes, and the non-stop rumbling of the Panzer tanks on the battlefield.

When I think about my Grandpa as a young man enduring so much, I am truly humbled and proud to have called him Grandpa. I’m even more humbled to have been given the dog tag you see in the photo above, which at one time hung around Grandpa’s neck. For him, in the midst of the fight, it was a constant reminder of where he was from. If his body was ever found on the battlefield, that dog tag would have helped him find his way home.

Grandpa was a part of the Rhineland Campaign that led to the ultimate surrender of Germany on May 8th, 1945. And being there for the end of the war, he helped liberate the concentration camps. He saw the bodies of the Jewish people in those camps stacked like garbage near fences, or dumped in shallow graves. The images of the horrible things Hitler had done greatly disturbed Grandpa for the rest of his life.

The price of war was incredibly heavy for the men who served in World War II. Most who went to war “wet behind the ears” came home hardened to the life and people around them. My Grandpa likely lost friends and had fellow infantrymen killed beside him. I imagine he struggled with the thought that he may not make it home alive as the Germans’ Panzer tanks rumbled toward his foxhole.

Life back on the homefront was hard for my Grandpa and his fellow soldiers. Many soldiers came back to the United States with battle scars. Some of those scars were obvious, but many were not. The wounded were often left to cope for themselves with battered hearts and minds. My grandpa was no different. He came back to American soil to resume his life in Northeast Minneapolis, had his own struggles and worked through them as best he could.

 

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Grandma (Marie)

 

Like many young men, my Grandpa went off to war leaving a young family behind. Grandpa left his baby daughter, Sandy (my mother), and his pregnant wife at home.  Grandpa did not meet his son, Butch, until he returned from the war, when Butch was nearly two. He had one more son name Clarence five years after returning from Germany. And life marched forward for the Bassett family.

 

 

 

Sandy & Butch

Sandy & Butch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Clarence Jr.

I knew Grandpa Bassett as a man who loved his six grandkids deeply, and who readily shared his home and a warm smile. He was a man who taught me about work ethic, and to keep my word. He was there for me through some really tough teen years (read Serve #6). I know that he is one of the men, along with my Dad (Serve #3), who shaped me to be the man I am today. I am truly glad that I had a chance to know my Grandpa.

Reflecting on all this, I realize we often don’t thank the people in our life enough for the impact that they’ve had on us. Maybe it’s because we’re embarrassed, or we think they won’t take it well. But some things should not be left unspoken.   

I know that if my Grandpa was still living I would want to tell him “thank you” for pouring into my life, and for serving our country with his life. I would also tell him he impacted my life, and who I am, beyond what my words can begin to say.

Through these words, and through the photo I’ve taken, what I really most want to say is, “Grandpa, I love you.”

 

Edited by:  Scott Whitman

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

 

Serve #31 a&b – Kit and Teewon

 

Serve31aV.1Serve 31a – Kit (with Kelly on the left)

 

Serve31bV.1Serve 31b – Teewon

Sometimes when you journey through life you have the opportunity to meet people who embody the word compassion. But that word alone can’t describe the full personalities of Teewon and Kit of Living Well Disability Services. The deeply caring hearts of these two people is clear as they speak about the people that they support – individuals with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities. Many of the people that Teewon and Kit support are not able to speak, walk, or take on daily tasks like eating without assistance. Yet day in and day out Teewon and Kit care for their most basic human needs with a gentle heart, a lending hand and encouraging words. When I spoke to these two incredible individuals their stories seemed inextricably linked. I knew that these two were really part of one Serve. Maybe because so much of what drives both of them creates one interwoven story. They each said something that really blew me away. Teewon said that he cares for the people because he feels called to be a “voice to the voiceless.”  Kit said that she believes she does this out of a firm belief that there really is no greater gift than to serve one another. As they shared their hearts and a few stories they smiled as they spoke of the people that they get to help walk through life. Teewon and Kit help give dignity and steadfast support to those that they care for.

I encourage each of you who reads this to say thank you to people like Kit and Teewon who serve others.

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story”

Serve #30 – Eric S.

Serve30V.1 Serve #30

This “Serve” started with Eric S. of Rachel Contracting driving up in a large bulldozer at a Minneapolis, Minnesota construction site. Needless to say my inner child was enthralled at the site of a massive, metal earth mover that was closing in on the site of the photoshoot. Eric’s story was no less awesome than the bulldozer. Eric served in the Army National Guard as a heavy equipment operator in both Bosnia and Afghanistan where he helped to rebuild roads and explode ordinances and/or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in previously war torn areas. Out of Eric’s desire to serve, he found a sense of belonging which helped to define his reason for serving which was, as he said, ”to bring freedom to others. ”Eric’s military service helped to bring safety to communities where burried explosives might take the lives of loved ones. He also built roads to safely move troops into areas that were potentially unreachable. Those very roads are now used by communities full of people whose lives continue to be positively impacted by Eric and many other military personnel.

The leadership qualities that Eric learned are what helps him in his job for Rachel Contracting; he enjoys mentoring others and doing an honest days work. Eric is worthy of honor for his service to others around this globe. I was blessed to shake his hand and say “thank you” for your service, as we closed our time.

When men and women just like Eric engage in the act of service such as this, you get a glimpse into what valor really means

Thank you Eric!

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story      

Serve #29 – Terry B.

Serve29V.1
Serve #29
In this fast-paced world, we so often drive to the nearest big box store to get the stuff that fulfills our needs. It might be lumber at a warehouse, or groceries at the “members only” giant shopping establishment. All the time, we pass by local gems, filled with people just like you and me, people with a desire to make a living doing what they love.
One such “gem” is a traditional archery store called The Footed Shaft in Rochester, MN. This modest store, with a front porch reminiscent of a southern cabin, is owned by Terry Banitt. Terry is warm and inviting, with a grin that rarely leaves his face, whether he’s cutting arrows in his shop, or handing you one of the hundreds of traditional bows adorning his shop. The Footed Shaft is covered from floor to ceiling with bows, arrows, fletching and just about any archery accessory you can imagine (and many you didn’t even know you needed!).
Terry is the willing subject of Serve #29. I wanted to do this “Serve” for two reasons: because I love the sport of traditional archery and the people who are a part of it; and to understand what draws a person to operate a small shop in the hills of Rural Minnesota.
When I asked Terry why he keeps a store like The Footed Shaft open he said, “People need a place to get traditional archery supplies, and maybe more important, they want a place to belong. In here, they know they can talk hunting and swap archery stories.”
I also asked him why he serves people in his way. He said he wants to be a place for people to slow down in this high-tech, mobile world and enjoy a simple, ancient hobby, and to be still, breath and escape for a while.
So, take some advice from Terry: slow down and fling a few arrows with a bow made of wood. Or maybe ride a bike on a back road, or go for a hike where the trees are close. Whatever it is, set the phone down, and go share that adventure with someone you care about.

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

Serve #28 – Dan M. – A man with a heart.

Serve28V.1

Serve #28

Over the past 12 years I have had the honor to watch Dan Monson as a pastor at NorthRidge Fellowship. This man is filled with a passion to reach out to the people of this world. Dan currently serves as Missions Pastor for NorthRidge Fellowship. He is one of those kind of guys who gives 110% of himself. You see that 110% heartfelt passion for the people when he does outreach events at a mobile home park in the Minneapolis Metro area, you see it as well when he is on a missions trip to Nett Lake Reservation, you can also see it when he takes a missionary team to a long-term mission trip site in Honduras. Over the years, I have seen this heavily bearded man cry because of his heart for people to be made whole.

Serve28_0006He knows that inside the walls of NorthRidge Fellowship is a place for people in need of help to restore relationships, get back on their feet, or learn how to better speak English through an ELL (English Language Learners) class that is held regularly within the walls of the church.

I asked Dan why he tirelessly serves with so much heart and he shared that he does it so that people might know Jesus. He knows how a church that has a heart for making a difference can restore homes, be a safe place for the hurting, and create a place to become what you were meant to be and not what the world thinks you are. In simple terms…Dan loves people with his whole heart.

I am continually blown away by Dan and his heart for the people of this world. He wears his emotions on his shirt sleeve, or maybe better said from his eyes as he pours his heart into those he serves.

Thank you Dan for the glimpse of what Jesus must have looked like.

 

NorthRidge Fellowship is a Converge NorthCentral church that meets in rogers, MN.

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story” 

Serve #27 – Randy E.

 

Serve27_FINAL

Serve No. 27

 

Tradition draws my family and me to Oakwood Cemetery in Rockford, Minnesota every year for the annual Memorial Day celebration.  This year, 2017, was no different; Memorial Day is also the day that a good share of the town of Rockford lines Bridge Street for a small town parade that concludes in the cemetery.  It was during this parade that Randy E. caught my eye.  I noticed his hat had the Purple Heart symbol on it, I also noticed a little dog poking its fuzzy head out from Randy’s jacket.  I knew I had to approach him to see if he would be willing to be my subject. I could see in Randy’s caring eyes, his proudly worn hat, and a wonderfully trimmed grey haired mustache that he would be a great subject for Serve #27.

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Rockford, MN
I asked Randy why he served.  He said without hesitation that it was his duty to his country.  I then asked him about the Purple Heart award and he shared that he was wounded in combat while being a part of the infantry.   He also shared that he has residual effects of Agent Orange as well as working through PTSD which still affects him to this day.  The little dog that I mentioned before helps him work through the hard times that PTSD brings on.
     I am always blown away by people who have served in the United States Armed Forces in times of war.  I am especially impacted by those that have been awarded the Purple Heart.  I think what touches me the most is that these individuals’ lives brushed death in a battle and in some foreign country when they were young adults.  I am honored to be in the presence of a Veteran like Randy as I knew I was standing in the presence of a great man who served his country well. He sacrificed for our freedom, and the freedom of others.  There is amazing power in that last sentence that is easily looked over.  So I want to say it again.  Randy sacrificed for our freedom and the freedom of others.
Thank you Randy!
Give thanks to someone who served today.  They are all around us!
Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com
LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1
Webhttp://nielsen-studios.com
Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nielsen.studios.inc/
“Tell Your Story”

Serve #26 – Larry S. (Vietnam Veteran)

Serve26_FINAL

Serve #26

Elk River, MN was the foggy April destination for Serve #26.  My subject Larry S. and I met at the Olde Main Eatery over a tasty egg breakfast and a hot cup of coffee served in an old fashioned ceramic mug.  This story however, actually began a week prior when I met Larry in an auto repair shop in Elk River.  Larry caught my attention when he walked in wearing a Vietnam Veteran baseball cap, a local VFW jacket, along with his warm smile.Serve26_LarryS_0008_LR
I could see this man with a bit of silver hair and a few more years lived on this earth than myself, had served our country and had a story. His Serve story began as a patriotic call to duty in the fall of 1967 after enlisting when he was 18 and lasted until the fall of 1973.  Larry served three tours of duty in Vietnam in roles that ranged from truck driver, to mechanic, to infantry during those tours.  In these various roles he was a boots-on-the-ground guy doing whatever he was asked to do while in the service.  Larry shared that returning from his third and final tour was the most difficult due to the protesters spitting, hurling insults, names, and actual stones at him and his “Band of Brothers” as they walked across the tarmac.  These young men who went to battle a bit wet behind the ears  came back seasoned warriors and deserved much more than insults and injuries when they were back stateside.  I guess that is a big reason why I was drawn to photograph Larry and listen to his story about his service in Vietnam.  I feel that every person who has served our country deserves respect.  Just say thank you, when you see a hat, a jacket, or even a military tattoo; there are lives that were given for what you and I take for granted.

As my time with Larry was ending I asked the question; “How would you encourage the next generation?”  He said ; “Join the military. We still need to have a strong military.”

In closing I want to encourage each of you to have the courage to walk up to a veteran if you see one on the street, or even start up a conversation with a relative and hear their story.  Your life will be made better for it.  As your moment with a veteran comes to a close,  shake his or her hand, say thank you and walk away knowing your life was made just a little richer.

 

Best wishes,
Shawn Nielsen
Mobile. 612.750.2593
Studio. 763.498.7375
            “Tell Your Story” 

Serve #25 – Kevin & Natasha L.

Serve25_Final

Serve#25

I have tried to figure out how to best write this Serve and I must say that I have been totally stumped. The reason, I think, is I did not want to point out the difficulties that are found on the Nett Lake Ojibwe Reservation, near Nett Lake, MN. As I thought about it more, I realized that nowhere in the world is there a people group without difficulties. So without dwelling on the difficulties, I choose to dwell on the hope and light Kevin and Natasha Land along with three children bring to the people of Nett Lake. I met the Lands in 2016 while on a mission trip with my church NorthRidge Fellowship. I was blown away by how they live out being a light and hope for the men, women, and children of Nett Lake on a day to day basis as they live and make their home on the reservation and serve in the local church. The story does not stop there; Kevin and Natasha are bus drivers if needed, life counselors, Vacation Bible School teachers, worship leaders, but more than that they are friends to the Nett Lake Ojibwe. As I spent time with Kevin and Natasha I knew they were woven into the lives of the people by how they spoke of the community. The love for the people of Nett Lake is in the DNA of this wonderful couple and their children; it is seen in their actions, and heard their words. Kevin and Natasha are people to admire for their dedication and ministry approach to the Ojibwe/native culture.

When I meet people like the Lands I am humbled. Not humbled by their greatness, but humbled by their humbleness and their willingness to serve out of a free flowing heart.

May we all add a more hope and a more light to this world which needs it! Thank you Kevin and Natasha.

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

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            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #24 – Rayanne

serve24_round1_lr~ Serve #24 ~

Guest post by Aimee Libby

Kids these days…”

That’s a familiar phrase we often hear with not-so-great connotations. Well, I’d like to tell you about a particular “kid” who’s breaking the stereotype of this younger generation.

Meet Rayanne.

Rayanne always has a smile on her face. She’s a high school student. She loves music. She loves people. She has a quiet, servant’s heart. How do I know Rayanne, you ask? It’s an interesting story, actually.

A little over a year ago, I was helping put on our annual Ogni Voce special needs choir performance in conjunction with the STMA Stallions Special Olympics team. Rayanne showed up that chilly winter night with several other students who were told they’d receive extra credit for choir class if they stopped in to hang out and sing with our Special Olympics group. Seemed like an easy way to get extra credit, right? Later that night, as Head of Delegation for our STMA Stallions Special Olympics team, I received an email from Rayanne saying how much fun she had with our group. She wanted to know what else our group did and how she could get involved. There was a lot going on and I hadn’t really even met Rayanne that evening, so I couldn’t put a face with a name. Honestly, my first thought upon reading her email was, “Sure, we’ll see how this plays out – probably another teen who’s ‘interested’ but never follows through”. By noon the next day, Rayanne had submitted all of the necessary paperwork and completed the required online certification to become a volunteer coach with our STMA Stallions Special Olympics team. She was at the next team practice with a big smile on her face, ready to assist wherever needed.

Now, some of you are probably reading this and are thinking, “Hmmm, so…big deal. A kid came to something for extra credit – what makes them ‘so great’ for doing that?” What makes Rayanne so great and such an asset to our group is this: She’s always there. She shows up week in and week out. She shows up at all of our team’s competitions and tournaments. She shows up at all of our social/community events. She even checks in regularly with me so she can make sure to align her work schedule with our team’s calendar. She connects with me ahead of events/outings to see where I need her to help out. She eagerly shows up bright and early on a Saturday morning, hours before any other teenager would rollout of bed, so she can support and cheer on an athlete one-on-one for a competition. She’s something that so many people in our day and age, both kids and adults, lack – she’s consistent.

Not only is Rayanne consistent with our group, she continually demonstrates her dedication and heart for our Stallions athletes outside of what is truly expected. Shortly after getting involved with our team, Rayanne started volunteering regularly in the special education classroom at STMA High School where many of our Stallions athletes attend. The high school special education staff adores her and are so impressed by her genuine desire to meet each kid where they’re at. Rayanne is constantly seeking out ways to include and embrace the athletes within the school setting. Anytime I stop in at STMA High School and see Rayanne in the halls or at a school pepfest, she’s hanging out with a Stallions athlete…as friends, not because she has to. There’s no obligation beyond weekly practices for our Stallions coaches, but that doesn’t matter to Rayanne. Her heart shines through the most in settings outside of our regularly scheduled team practices.

By now, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a “fan” of Rayanne, but, I have kind of a unique perspective on all of this above and beyond what I’ve shared already. Yes, I’m the Head of Delegation for the Stallions Special Olympics group, and volunteers like Rayanne are invaluable to our team – we wouldn’t exist without them. But, I’m also a parent of an almost-13-year-old Stallions athlete. This perspective is the one that’s the most important in my opinion. I can honestly say, seeing Rayanne with our Stallions athletes puts a lump in my throat and makes my eyes “sweat”. In a world that typically views people’s value and worth by how great their abilities are, Rayanne sees each one of our kids as the unique, joy-filled, perfect individual God designed them to be. She doesn’t get caught up in the often-unpronounceable name of a certain syndrome or disability an athlete may be afflicted with. Nope. All she sees is a person…with personality, incredible abilities, and with so much love and joy to give. That’s all any parent wants. For their child to be seen, valued and loved. Rayanne does that effortlessly, and in the process, blesses so many families within the community.

 

stallions2017_lrAthletes and Coaches

In a world of constant change and uncertainty, our athletes who thrive on routine find comfort and security in knowing they’ll see Rayanne’s smiling face any time they show up to a STMA Stallions event. And that makes all the difference in the world. Her consistency across the board shows athletes and parents alike that she’s the real deal. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. This couldn’t be truer of Rayanne. Her quiet demeanor may not be flashy and scream out to others, but her actions are seen and heard loud and clear.

Rayanne, you’re a one-of-a-kind world changer. Thank you for serving our group in this way. We’re forever grateful for your heart to serve, and that you came out in search of some “extra credit” that brisk winter night.

Thanks for being consistent. No matter what.

 

 

 

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #23 – Landon L.

serve23_finalServe #23

Serve #23 is about a young man named Landon. I’ve known Landon since he was an eight years old and now he’s the ripe old age of seventeen (almost 18). He was a regular cast member along with my daughter, of a local musical theater group, Front Porch Musical Theater. Landon always been a wonderfully polite young man with a chivalrous demeanor; qualities I don’t see often in today’s youth. My story isn’t about that though. It is about his decision to become a part of the Army National Guard, for which he currently holds the rank of Private E2. He is making this decision to prove to himself what he is made of as well as to have the opportunity to figure out how he is supposed to impact the world. Once Landon finishes basic training and additional educational requirements he desires to gain employment in the law enforcement field at the local level, transitioning to a higher government and/or intelligence level, continuing to serve throughout his life.

As we spoke he shared that he also wants to be a role model for others. If a seventeen year old musical theater student can join the army, so can they. He added that whether or not you are joining the ranks of the armed forces or not, there is not a valid excuse for not going after something. His words were, “You are what you allow yourself to be”. Landon also inserted one last encouragement by saying “People need to know that they must work hard for their future”.

Landon I salute your service and am very excited to see what he future holds for you.  May we all follow your lead!

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #22 – Tracey T. the Encourager.

serve22_finalServe #22

I met Tracey Tischler just under a decade ago when I needed a makeup stylist for a high level executive photoshoot.  My original stylist who was booked backed out the day of the shoot with no warning.  Tracey stepped right into the role that morning like we had worked together for many years.  Needless to say I was impressed by her ability to mold into any situation, and talk to anyone no matter their status or job role.  She has a great rapport with nearly all of humanity (I think even if they spoke another language she would still make them feel comfortable).  I think what has brought me to write this “Serve” about Tracey is her ability to talk to anyone, better said her ability to be an encourager.  I have seen her encouragement played out as she gracefully applies makeup to a mother and daughter preparing them for a photoshoot.  The amazing part was watching Tracey apply her art to a little girl who was fighting a battle against Leukemia as well navigating life with the struggles of being a child with Down’s Syndrome.  Tracey gave time to the pair as well as loving words of encouragement.  To Tracey this mom and daughter were royalty, and it was her role, maybe even her honor to care for them.  Tracey much like all of us has a story that defines who she is, but that story does not hinder what she has to offer the world; ENCOURAGEMENT!

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I think a lesson we can glean from Tracey is to be a person of encouragement to a world that desperately needs some.

 

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

 

 

Testing!

Sometimes you just need to do a test on a set concept!

Serve #21 -Emerge Mothers Academy

This is my first collaboration combining video and stills in the “Serve” series.  It was an honor to team up and tell this story alongside Josh and Anna Cisewski.  Take a few moments to watch the video and read the story.  It might just change the day for you.

Serve #21

Guest post written by Anna Cisewski

Since its conception, Emerge Mothers Academy has changed the lives of over 120 single mothers and their children. By providing much-needed classes and life-changing community, Emerge is able to partner with single mothers and equip them to be confident women for their children and communities.

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Becca

Becca Erickson founded Emerge with her mom, who was also a single mother. She saw a need for an organization like Emerge after her husband left her shortly after their baby was born. Suddenly alone and with very few resources and little support, Becca knew she couldn’t do it on her own. Looking back, she wishes she would have had access to the kind of support Emerge provides.

 

 

 

Dre Barthel and Becca met at the church they attend, Open Door. They connected and Dre learned more about Emerge; she knew she wanted to be a part of the organization.

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Dre

Becca says that Dre helped open up a new facet of the organization and is able to reach people through different avenues and mediums.

The lives of hundreds of women are being changed because of the vision and passion of Becca and Dre. They serve because they see how important the strength and confidence of a mother is and they want to stand beside those women and show them what a strong mother is.

It only takes a small bit of your love and passion to change the whole world of another person. Where can you share yourself?

Learn more about Emerge Mothers Academy at emergetwincities.org

 

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #20 – Joanne Kersten

serve20final

Serve #20

Written by Scott Whitman

 

Joanne Kersten

Co-Founder WOVEN (With One Voice Energizing Neighborhoods)

North Central University

For professor Joanne Kersten, music is more than an art or vocation, it’s an instrument of hope.

Joanne is a co-founder of WOVEN (With One Voice Energizing Neighborhoods), a program she launched in 2002 with fellow North Central University professor, Larry Bach, in response to the desperate need they saw in the neighborhoods surrounding their downtown Minneapolis campus.

They saw children living under the heavy burden of poverty, abuse and neglect – children who could see no future for themselves, other than what drugs or gangs might offer.

But in the midst of the abuse and poverty, Joanne also saw potential. She asked, “What if we can help these children see something more in themselves?”

WOVEN matches college music students with neighborhood kids in a unique mentoring partnership. The children commit to meeting the attendance and conduct standards of the program, and in turn receive free weekly music lessons and one-on-one mentoring from a college student. These partnerships, which often extend for many semesters, have created a safe-haven for more than 100 neighborhood children since the program began, transforming the lives of many along the way.

Joanne says the process of learning music theory, and the practical discipline of preparing for musical performance, lays a foundation for greater literacy, personal responsibility, confidence and self-worth.

For many of the children, participating in WOVEN gave them a different view of what was possible.

“The program helps them know they can be something else. It becomes a form of drug prevention, or pregnancy prevention. They begin to want something more for themselves,” said Joanne.

“The children – and even their parents or guardians – are surrounded with positive ideas, positive people, and cannot help but be inspired by these talented and energetic college students,” said Joanne.

The benefits go both ways. The NCU students, immersing themselves in the lives of their young charges, learn what it means to serve with humility.

“Our college students come here from their own towns and schools where they were stars. They get thrown into the competitive college environment and often struggle to find their footing,” said Joanne, “By serving as teachers in WOVEN, these students begin to see themselves as contributors with something to offer. It gives them perspective, and a vision for their own future,” said Joanne.

But ultimately for Joanne, and everyone involved in WOVEN, it’s really about hope – finding it, and giving it.

“We all need the same thing, whether privileged or poor,” says Joanne. “Children can live through some pretty dark stuff. God’s made us pretty resilient. But to really grow, children need light.”

Joanne urges us to invest ourselves in shining that light: “Do whatever you can, no matter how simple, to bring people light and hope. Do it for the children.”

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #19 – Joel Hanson

serve19_final1

Serve#19

Guest post by Anna Cisewski

A lot can change in 25 years. For Joel Hanson, worship pastor at Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, MN, this has never been truer. He is a much different man than the kid he was with a talent for music and a need for fame a quarter of a century ago.

In 2004, Joel became the worship leader at Open Door, but he didn’t quite feel like he fit. To him, his job was to “sing in front of a large group of people and be good at it.” But he discovered that being a worship leader went far beyond the stage and the microphone. He needed to be a pastor, a shepherd.

After three years working at Open Door, Joel’s life seemed to be unraveling. After a series of poor and hurtful choices, the church leaders sat down with him and gave him the option to resign. He left.

But the next day, something happened that surprised him and in the years to come became more significant: the lead pastor, Dave Johnson, called him to ask how he was doing. Suddenly Joel realized that what he had expected of the church simply wasn’t true. He wasn’t ostracized or rejected because he had failed. Dave told Joel that he just couldn’t imagine “not being around the fire of life” without him. So instead of abandoning Joel to the humiliation of being released from a church, he was pulled back in.

“[They] helped me, not put myself back together, because those parts weren’t going to work anymore, but they helped me figure out what I was meant for.”

And then they hired him back. Instead of creating a safe distance, the church asked him to serve with them again. And throughout all of that, they redeemed Joel’s perception of what the church really is.

Now, almost ten years after the second time he was hired as worship pastor at Church of the Open Door, he fulfills his job very differently. Now, he views himself as a shepherd; a leader with the opportunity to partner with other people and equip them to use the profound impact that they have within the church and take it out to their communities.

Joel serves because to him, it’s not about the performance or the fame that he had when he was younger. It’s about the fact that there is a beautiful story in the hope he shares every day.

“I’d rather be known for being a normal human than have to continually prove that I’m someone else. Because God works in the ordinary and that’s the story I just can’t get away from anymore. It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to, it’s always true. And to me, that’s the most beautiful part about the Good News, is that is happens everywhere.”

Twenty-five years ago, Joel thought he had to hide behind himself and his music. But now, he doesn’t carry that burden, he feels like a free man. Even in a church, where so many seem to feel the need to put on a clean face and a clean shirt to be accepted, the real and messy parts of life are what matter to Joel.

“What if we just showed up as we are, because that’s the only thing we actually can be and that’s the only place where good can actually happen.”

Have you been exhausting yourself by trying to hide? Take a note from Joel Hanson, tell your real story. You might be surprised by how healing and freeing it can be.

Best wishes,

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

Serve #18 – Ben & Larry L.

 

serve18_v2final

Serve #18

Just a short fifty mile drive southwest of the cities is the rural town of Glencoe where the subjects of Serve#18 live.   Twin brothers Ben and Larry L., who grew up near the neighboring town of Silver Lake, are Army Veterans.  Both brothers served stateside during the Korean War. Their story is one that I hear often from men who grew up in rural towns that dot the Minnesota countryside.

 serve18card_0067-1When asked about their growing up years prior to the Army, they mentioned that they were regular farmboys.  They also mentioned  their reason for serving was because their family members served as well and “We wanted to”.  Both of these gentlemen lead productive lives in the area once their service to our country was done.  Maybe when you look at someone who served our country and stop to think about it…they never really stopped serving.

I am often moved by the strength and courage the men and women who served our country display; there is often a selfless demeanor that pervades each word they speak.  I find myself thankful for their bravery to serve.  Take a few moments to say thank you to a vet or currently active person.  There are stories out there people.  Maybe you need to hear one!

 

Best wishes,

 

Shawn Nielsen

Mobile. 612.750.2593

Studio. 763.498.7375

Email: shawn@nielsen-studios.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nielsenstudios1

Web: http://nielsen-studios.com

Blog: https://nielsenstudios.wordpress.com/

            “Tell Your Story”

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