ELY – Local resident Carol Orban is an unsung hero— and she now has the plaque to prove it. Orban, a longtime community activist here, was one of four recipients this year of the Minnesota …
ELY – Local resident Carol Orban is an unsung hero— and she now has the plaque to prove it. Orban, a longtime community activist here, was one of four recipients this year of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award.
The four recipients were honored for their community work last week at a luncheon in Minneapolis. Winners of the award receive $10,000 and are recognized again at the MCN’s 2018 annual conference, to be held Nov. 14 in St. Paul.
“What a kick!” said Orban when she learned of the honor. “I’ve received a pretty darn wonderful award.”
Orban’s friend Linda Ganister, of Ely, helped shepherd the nomination process, recruiting several friends who wrote what they know about Orban’s volunteer and organizing activities in Ely over the past 40 years. Three people also conducted phone interviews as part of the nomination process.
According to the McKnight Foundation’s short biography of Orban, she has been a sustaining force in the community since arriving in Ely in the 1970s. For 23 years, she taught English at Vermilion Community College and did important work outside the classroom as well.
In the early 1980s, Orban organized the Northwoods Whole Foods Co-op in Ely and has long since supported the efforts of the Ely Area Food Shelf to provide healthy food to everyone in the community.
As an organizer of EMPOWER, she was active in supporting women’s rights and LGBT issues. “If there was a need in Ely, often Carol helped to fill it,” the biography states.
Since 1985, the McKnight Foundation has recognized Minnesotans who have improved the quality of life for current and future generations with the Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service. In 2015, MCN partnered with McKnight to coordinate and present the first-ever Unsung Hero Awards, honoring individuals who were doing life-changing work in communities across Minnesota with little or no recognition.
“We are extremely thrilled to be partnering with the McKnight Foundation to celebrate and recognize the incredible work of these award recipients,” said Jon Pratt, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. “It was clear throughout the nomination process how much they were respected, not just by their nominators, but by the communities they have personally touched. What an inspiration they are to so many others who do impactful yet often unrecognized work in Minnesota and beyond.”
The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits works to inform, promote, connect and strengthen individual nonprofits and the nonprofit sector. Founded in 1987 to meet the increasing information needs of nonprofits and to convene nonprofits to address issues facing the sector, MCN is the largest state association of nonprofits in the U.S. with over 2,100 member organizations.
This year’s other winners included:
Bemidji resident Joseph Day, a longtime activist in the Native American communities of northwestern Minnesota.
Memoona Ghani, of Maple Grove. Ghani is a Pakistani immigrant who has devoted her time to dispelling myths around Islam and the Muslim community.
Wynfred Russell, of Brooklyn Park. A Liberian immigrant, Russell is a pioneer and visionary devoted to advocacy on behalf of disenfranchised communities.