Category Archives: Event

Steve Fredlund director of Our Response

Get to Know Steve

March 21, 2014 | Janie

Steve Fredlund is not only the Executive Director of Our Response, but the one whose enthusiasm and tireless efforts have propelled the organization forward since its beginnings in 2009. It’s high time that we got to know this guy better! Steve was willing to let me sling a few questions his way, and he even supplied (at my request and with the help of his wonderful mother, Ellen) a few blast-from-the-past-blackmail-worthy photos of himself.

Thanks for all you do, Steve. Your compassion and perseverance inspire all who know you.

Here we go…

Please share a few details about your growing up years.

Although I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, we soon moved to Minnesota.

Steve Fredlund as a baby

Year one

Steve Fredlund as a 2nd grader

Second Grade

Our family started out in Dalbo and then ended up just north of Cambridge. After graduating from what is now Cambridge-Isanti High School, I went on to Augsburg College and, in 1992, received a degree in Mathematics, with minors in English and Religion. In 2006, I received an MBA, with an emphasis in Non-Profit Management, at Bethel University.

Growing up, I was a highly insecure child, but one who did well academically. I played a few sports, including tennis in college, but lack of skill and bad knees did me in.

 

baseball,-play-and-music

My insecurity started to shake loose my senior year when I was dared into trying out for the high school musical, “Hello Dolly!”, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Steve enjoyed drama

This experience launched my acting “career,” and plays, skits, and musicals have been a part of my life ever since.

Tell us about your family.

Tracy and I have known each other since first grade. When Ken and Sharon Erickson moved to Dalbo with their kids, Dave and Carol, I became good friends with Dave, while Tracy became good friends with Carol. Over the years the four of us ended up doing quite a few things together. My friendship with Tracy led to dating just before I graduated from high school. Married on August 31, 1991, we have now enjoyed 22-plus years of married life. We have also been blessed with twin boys, Christopher and Ryan (17), and a daughter, Annie, (14).

Steve Fredlund with his first car

First car

Steve and Tracy in their dating years

Steve and Tracy during Steve’s first year of college and Tracy’s senior year of high school

Steve and Tracy go to prom

Prom!

 

Director Steve Fredlund with his family

Steve, Tracy, Ryan, Christopher, and Annie

What do you do for a living? How has your company responded to your involvement with Our Response?

With the exception of a few years as the Executive Pastor at New Hope Community Church in Cambridge, I have been working as an actuary for most of my life. For the past three years I have been employed at Allianz Life in Golden Valley, focusing on capital market hedging. Because I work with people in Ireland, Germany, and Japan, I have had the opportunity to travel twice to Ireland in the past year. Several employees at Allianz joined forces with Our Response when we created “Leslie’s Wish,” an effort to bring clean water to Rwanda in honor of former Allianz employee Leslie Green. We have even had a couple of executives step up and allocate some charitable giving dollars toward Our Response.

How did your first trip to Rwanda come about?

After two years of discussion, prayer, and strategizing, Pastor Mark Radeke (River of Life Church, Cambridge), Pastor Bob Jonsson (First Baptist Church, Cambridge), and I decided to launch what would become Our Response in 2009. As part of the process, we felt it was critical to first visit the community we wanted to help and meet its residents and World Vision staff. So in October 2009, we travelled to Kivuruga, Rwanda, and just fell in love with the people and the work being done there.

What happened during that trip that prompted you to become the Executive Director of Our Response?

When we returned we were fully convinced that we were embarking on an effort that would have huge impact both here and in Kivuruga. As we discussed what was required to push this movement forward, including the need to be able to form partnerships with churches, businesses, schools, and people throughout our community, Mark and Bob requested that I take on the leadership role. I was thrilled to accept the responsibility—to build relationships and develop strategies that would maximize both unity-building here and transformation in Rwanda.

Steve at the Nutrition Center

Steve visits the Nutrition Center funded by Our Response

If you could narrow down all that has happened in and through Our Response, what three things excite you the most?

Wow, what a brutal question, because it means I have to leave a ton of stuff and people out!

#1 has to be the unity of the people and groups involved. Seeing people with different perspectives on education, politics, and spiritual matters put those differences aside for the sake of saving lives is truly inspirational and a testament to the people of East Central Minnesota.

Annual Celebration Choir

Unity Choir at the 2012 Annual Celebration

#2 would be the many heroes in Kivuruga, Rwanda who are compassionately caring for those who are suffering deeply, at the same time carrying out strategies to ultimately move that community to self-sustainability. These individuals are absolute heroes that the world will never know: Florence, Innocent, Claudien, Bonneur, Charles, Samuel, Jean Paul, etc.

Heros of Kivuruga

Florence oversees caregivers for HIV/AIDS patients.

#3 would be Step into Africa, which Our Response hosted for nine days at the Isanti County Fairgrounds. Over 4,100 people came through the exhibit, and more than 200 children were sponsored. Many of the hundreds of youth who attended went from a lack of awareness to developing a heart of compassion for children in Africa who are suffering. Being able to mold the hearts of the next generation in our community excites me so much and adds fuel to my fire in a big way.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at Step into Africa

Ribbon cutting ceremony

In light of the everyday demands of a career and active family life, how do you maintain your passion and energy for leading a community-wide organization?

I get asked this question a lot. The short answer is, “I have no idea.” I get up every weekday at 3:30 a.m. to commute an hour to work, engage in a mentally challenging job, and then drive an hour home. My family is awesome! I love spending time with my wife and children and attending our kids’ activities. At least one evening each week we get together with some great friends. I also have hobbies that I enjoy.

So I don’t exactly know how I have time to keep the passion and energy for Our Response going. But there are a number of people who have come alongside to help with many elements of Our Response. I really feel like this is “Our” Response and not just my response, and that reality really energizes me. When I see or hear about others who are carrying the torch, who not only understand what we are doing, but who are taking steps to advance our mission, it really gets me fired up.

When I decided to say “yes” to answering needs relating to global poverty, I opened the door to what life is really like for so many in our world. Roughly three billion people living on less than $2.00 a day, many of them in absolute emergency situations. When I became exposed to the pain in this world, much of it from very preventable causes, there was no turning back.

Steve Fredlund and his sponsored kids.

With each trip Steve has been able to visit his sponsored children, Claudine, Gerome, and Jean .

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If there was one thing that you would like to see happen in Our Response this next year, what would it be?

I would love to see more organizations grab hold of the Our Response effort and really own their part in it. Rather than waiting for Our Response to propose “the next thing,” I would like to see churches, businesses, schools, rotaries, and other groups and individuals creatively decide what they want their involvement to look like.

Our Response has no paid staff. Because we are all volunteers, it’s difficult to continue to stay active with all of our partners, much less engage new relationships. What could really propel our efforts into the next level—and, frankly, what is probably required to continue to build momentum—is a fresh wave of ownership sweeping over both individuals and organizations in our area, as well as those already involved in child sponsorship, nutrition center funding, clean water efforts, and former trip teams. I am looking for fellow champions to stand up strongly to help bring continued transformation to the people of Kivuruga, and to Rwanda as a whole.

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TSF Picture

Tickets for Tonic Sol-fa

February 7, 2014 | Janie

Tonic Sol-fa Graphic Ad 

Our Response Presents Tonic Sol-fa

TSF Picture 

With special guest performances by

Members of the Cambridge-Isanti High School Jazz Choir 

Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 7:30 pm

Richard G. Hardy Performing Arts Center

Cambridge-Isanti High School

430 NW 8th Ave, Cambridge, MN 55008

 

Ticket Price Options

$25 for Premium Reserved (first 10 rows of middle section of main floor)

$15 for General Admission (all other seats; first come-first serve; doors open 7:00pm)

Group discounts are available (contact Steve Fredlund)

Purchase Methods

On-line: www.showtix4u.com (search for Tonic Sol-Fa)

E-mail: stevefredlund@gmail.com or call 651.587.5435

Door: Show up and get your tickets that night (subject to availability)

Mail: Please include your contact information listed below, along with the number and type of  tickets (premium or general), and send to Our Response, P.O. Box 493, Cambridge, MN 55008

Name  __________________________________________          Premium Reserved ($25)   ___

Address  ________________________________________          General Admission ($15)   ___

City, State, ZIP  ___________________________________

Please help us get the word out by sending this email to your contacts, getting out on Twitter, and/or sharing the Facebook Event https://www.facebook.com/events/419906724806062/

 

Presentation of soccer ball.

2013 Trip Review from Steve

August 29, 2013 | Steve Fredlund

In early August, a team of 11 people from East Central Minnesota travelled to Kivuruga, Rwanda, to continue to build relationships, bring encouragement, capture stories, and view the impact Our Response is having in this beautiful, remote corner of the world. It is extremely difficult to summarize our experiences, but I will try to touch on the main items and invite you to follow up with me, or any of the trip team members, for more details. We are expecting to hold our 4th Annual Celebration on January 26 at the high school in Cambridge, where we will be able to share some specific stories with you in person.

In 2010, Our Response funded the expansion of a Nutrition Center in Kivuruga by raising $40,000. In 2011, we visited that center and were able to feed the children the one meal per week they were able to receive. We met 30 children who were severely under and malnourished, which was both heartbreaking—but also exciting—to think that our community was actively being part of the solution. On this most recent trip, we were able to visit the center again and find out that all 30 of those children had survived and were now part of an agricultural cooperative raising nutritious food for their families.

It was immediately apparent, however, that we still have much work to do. We were introduced to an 18-month old, severely malnourished girl, who weighed only 11 pounds; she was just one of many children in the area struggling to get nutritious food. I have heard it said that Rwanda is a place where hope and despair run so closely together; this was never more apparent than at the Nutrition Center.

On the same site as the Nutrition Center is the Bushoka Health Center. While rooms have been added in the past two years to help separate the delivery area from the general sickness ward, there is still much work to be done. The delivery room (the only one in all of the Kivuruga area) is still very small (perhaps 10’ by 10’), has two beds, and continues to lack running water, a floor drain, or trained staff. We would like to see Our Response address these needs going forward.

We had a chance to visit a school and, despite the fact that schools were on break, hundreds of children showed up on their day off to greet us with singing and be part of our experience at the school. Two of the educators with us on our trip, Shawn and Shannon Kirkeide, had the opportunity to teach a lesson in U.S. geography to the class of Rwandan middle schoolers. It was a priceless moment for both them and those of us who were watching. We were so impressed by the respect, knowledge, and eagerness for learning displayed by these Rwandan children.

Personally, my most impactful moment came when we visited a home where a meeting was taking place with the leadership of the volunteer HIV and AIDS caregivers, a group headed by Florence, who I met in 2011. Florence and I quickly reconnected as we shared our excitement in seeing each other again. During the 2011 trip, we asked Florence what her team of 126 caregivers needed most. Florence said “raincoats” would make their job easier during the rainy season. Pastor Joel Preston of Pine City, who was on that trip and had his raincoat with him, quickly took it out and gave it to her. Florence was thrilled. On this most recent trip, Florence was sharing with the entire group and recalled that moment when she received a raincoat; she was overflowing with joy and came and gave me a big hug I will never forget. It was an amazing moment to then announce to her and the entire group that Pine City Evangelical Free Church had led an effort to collect raincoats; we shared that we brought with us nearly 100 rain jackets to help in their efforts to care for the many people living with HIV and AIDS in Kivuruga. The singing and joy that followed were overwhelming.

So many more things to talk about, but here are just the main highlights:

  • Visiting all of the children sponsored by those on the trip, and having a chance to visit many of them in their homes. The families that were visited were as different as families in the U.S., but each experience was deeply meaningful to the child sponsors and the families of the children.
  • Visiting a community of people and their new, closer source for clean water. This was a spring that was re-opened with construction to keep it open, as well as cement basins for laundry and drying. For this community, this means far less time spent walking to get water. When we asked them what else they need, they could only speak of their desire to pipeline the water to those living on the other side of the hill. The people of Rwanda are incredibly grateful for the little they have, and deeply selfless; they are far more focused on the “we” than the “I.”
  • Going through the Genocide Memorial in Kigali to understand the impact that period in Rwanda’s history continues to have on the current culture.
  • Meeting with the World Vision Rwanda national staff, including Director George Gitau, where we heard about the impressive work of the Rwandan government, and the ongoing transformation of Rwanda since the 1994 genocide.
  • Attending a church service in Kivuruga and engaging in the singing and dancing on the hard-packed dirt floor. We also saw people bring offerings which included eggs, beans, bananas, and sugar cane.
  • As we continue working in the area of economic development, we visited a small business started by women who are sewing dresses. We crammed into their small shop as they showed us their fabric, dresses, and how they do their work. Following that experience, we walked to another small business where women were weaving beautiful baskets and bowls. The larger baskets take nearly five days of work to create with a cost of approximately five U.S. dollars.  We would love to get involved in helping them sell these beautiful baskets and increase their income.

Our entire team is still processing everything they experienced during their time in Rwanda. As I talk with those who were on the first two trips (2009, 2011), they are also still processing. The lessons continue to emerge as we live our “regular lives” back in the U.S.  With that said, I think that there were two key lessons everyone learned:

  • Gratitude – We take for granted that we will have clean water, nutritious food, electricity, a place to sleep, education, and a reasonable standard of living. This trip drives up our appreciation for these things, realizing that much of the world does not have access to many of these necessities.
  • Passion for Life – Often we fall into the doldrums of life, despite having more materially than most Rwandans can ever dream of. We saw people with nothing have more joy and enthusiasm for life than most people we have ever met. It is inspiring and something that will burn inside each of us for the rest of our lives.

Our team was proud to represent all of East Central Minnesota and we made that clear with each person we met and with each group we addressed. We are hoping the trip will build even greater momentum within Our Response and open doors to new opportunities to raise awareness and funding for our friends in Kivuruga. We are not yet accepting applications for the next trip, but if anyone is interested, I recommend getting on the email distribution list so you will know when the process begins. Our Response is fueled by passionate individuals and over 40 organizational partners, including churches, schools, businesses, and other groups. If you would like to sponsor a child in Kivuruga, talk about being part of this movement, or discuss the benefits to your group or organization, please contact me at stevefredlund@gmail.com or 651.587.5435.

Thank you for your engagement and support in “our response” to a world in need.

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2013 Rwanda Trip

May 28, 2013 | Steve Fredlund

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In late July and early August, a team from East Central Minnesota will travel to Kivuruga, Rwanda. This team will be the third group of individuals representing Our Response to travel to Kivuruga. I had the opportunity to travel to Kivuruga as part of the first team in 2009, which resulted in the founding of Our Response, and I travelled there again as part of the second team in 2011. The single word that best summarizes Our Response’s impact between 2009 and 2011 is staggering. At least ten water collection and filtration systems were constructed; a nutrition center was remodeled and equipped to serve meals and milk to children; educational programs in nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, and disease prevention were launched; schools were constructed and remodeled; agricultural cooperatives were founded; and the residents of Kivuruga were gripped with the extreme power of hope.

Since that trip in the fall of 2011, the residents of East Central Minnesota have rallied with even greater intensity to financially support the efforts of World Vision in transforming the community of Kivuruga. We receive regular reports about the progress of the individual children and the entire community, but I am anxious to return this summer for a number of reasons: (1) to continue building relationships with the friends and compassionate partners I met on the first two trips; (2) to see firsthand the impact of Our Response and World Vision; (3) to hear residents describe how their lives continue to be improved and how hope keeps building; (4) to have others on the trip confronted with the problem of extreme poverty and exposed to the solution of community transformation; (5) to share experiences and build relationships with other members of the trip team that we will value forever; (6) to represent all of East Central Minnesota to these beautiful people; (7) to bring the compassion of an entire community from the other side of the planet; (8) to once again spend time with my family’s three sponsored children—Gerome, Jean de la Croix, and Claudine, who are growing up (like my own children) so quickly; and (9) to capture stories (both hard and beautiful) to bring back and share with as many people as will listen.

Another thing that I am excited about is the opportunity to bring gifts from the people of East Central Minnesota. In coming blog posts, you will learn about several of these opportunities, but here is a summary of the duffle bags of items we will bring to Kivuruga, along with the individuals who are coordinating the efforts to fill the bags:

•   Medical supplies (Kris Johnson in North Branch)

•   Raincoats (Joel Preston in Pine City)

•   Eyeglasses (Chad Christenson in Cambridge)

•   Boys shorts and shirts (Ellen Lance in Rock Creek is coordinating several sewing groups)

•   Soccer balls (Mark Coughlin in Forest Lake)

If you have an idea and want to fill a duffle bag, please let me know!

I could go on for hours about the first two trips and my excitement for the upcoming trip, but I will save some of that for future blog posts. (Plus, Janie might edit me!)

I am thrilled that we have relaunched our website and increased our efforts on Facebook and Twitter. These avenues will be the primary ways that you can follow us on our journey in Rwanda. We would love to hear from you if there are questions we should ask or things we should find out, we would love to have you engage in the conversation as we post pictures and stories during the trip, and we would love to connect with you after the trip to share our experiences. Thank you for joining us on this united journey of compassion.