Community Builder Award

2021 Community Builder Award Winners

The recognition is presented each year to individuals, community groups and businesses who – through their volunteer or work life – build a brighter future for Burnsville.

Examples of community building include environmental stewardship, improving neighborhoods, volunteerism, youth leadership, and events and projects that build community pride and spirit.


  • 2021 nominations are now closed. Watch for 2022 submissions to open next August. 
  • The deadline for submissions is typically in early fall with awards presented in October or November.

The Burnsville City Council recognized 13 community members/organizations with their 2021 Community Builder Awards, presented on Oct. 19 to:

Buck Hill Ski Patrol: 

This group of approximately 80 volunteers collectively provide more than 5,000 hours annually and contribute significantly to the safety and care of guests at the Buck Hill Ski and Snowboard area. The Buck Hill Ski Patrol reaches out to community members willing to dedicate a significant amount of time. The minimum volunteer contribution is 30 hours a month during the winter season and most volunteers exceed this amount.

Buck Hill Ski Patrol receiving award
Dee Petersen, International Festival of Burnsville: 

Dee Petersen started volunteering for the International Festival of Burnsville in 2015 and provides countless hours of support. Dee’s dedication to cultivating essential sponsor relationships has been vital to the festival’s success. We are so very grateful for the lasting impact that she has made.

Dee Petersen with City Council
Debbie Beck, Free Book Buggie: 

The Free Book Buggie is a growing nonprofit organization founded in 2018 and staffed entirely by more than 200 volunteers with a goal of collecting new and gently used children’s books, sorting them by reading levels and distributing them to children of low income and resource-challenged households. Under Debbie's leadership, they have shared more than 200,000 books. The Free Book Buggie has partnered the Burnsville Police, School District 191, Parks and Recreation, 360 Communities and the Burnsville High School, to name a few. 

Debbie Beck with City Council
Jim and Nancy Norlen, residents: 

Just about every week, Jim and Nancy get their canoe out of the rack at Summit Shores Townhomes and load up with garbage bags and hooks. They paddle around Earley Lake picking up pounds of litter and plastics. Whether it is 40 degrees or 90 degrees, the Norlens are out there "fishing" for litter! Jim and Nancy are strong community advocates for keeping the lake clean and partner with the City and the state DNR to serve as an official depth and clarity monitors. And in the fall, Jim helps cut down and remove willows and buckthorn.

Jim and Nancy Norlen with City Council
Joe Albackten, resident: 

Joe regularly goes the extra mile to help those facing food scarcities by taking his truck to both Aldis in Burnsville for short-dated food. A typical run fills his pickup truck which he delivers to Prince of Peace Mission Outpost so that it can be made available to those who are in need. His behind-the-scenes efforts provide a needed resource for those who are facing a financial hardship.

Joe Albachten with City Council
Laurie Thulien, Burnsville Rotary: 

Laurie’s dedication to our community is second-to-none. Throughout her service as a member of the Burnsville Rotary over the past 10 years, she shares her energy and positivity in every aspect. Laurie has been the Secretary and Social Chair at Rotary and head of the Sunshine Committee, sending cards and flowers to other members in need of support. Her outreach includes partnering with 360 Communities, Kids N Kinship, Brainpower in a Backpack, Kids of Summer, Lewis House, homeless youth initiatives, Can-do Canines, MOMS, Open Arms, Open Door, YMCA- Burnsville, Young Life, Tee It Up For The Troops, Burnsville High School Robotics, Cedar Alternative Scholarships and more!

Laurie Thulien with City Council
Maryan Ali, ISD 191: 

Maryan Ali has served many roles in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Schools, including parent, volunteer, special education assistant, interpreter and is now a Somali cultural liaison at three of our district schools. She works closely with many families to help them navigate the public school system and advocates for Somali families across Burnsville and her work strongly emphasizes the importance of mentorship, strong community ties, and creating a better future for those new to our country. A recent project "We’ve Got You Covered!” is one of many ways she is addressing community needs and her plans include incorporating culturally appropriate sports uniforms and stocking school stores with hijabs and modest clothing.

Maryan Ali with City Council
Miranda Noll, Dakota Child and Family Clinic: 

Dakota Child and Family Clinic, and then Executive Director Miranda Noll, were able to respond quickly to the county's request for COVID testing. In the past year, they have completed about 10,000 barrier-free tests to community members, thanks to the efforts of more than 100 volunteers and more than 50 temporary and regular staff. They also began offering emergency food bags for those in need, thanks to Open Door, and finding county grants to help monitor the mental health of those quarantined due to a positive test result. Clinic staff and volunteers shopped and delivered items to families that needed support. 

Miranda Noll with City Council
Molly Gerhke, resident: 

Molly is a long-time volunteer and dedicated member of the Burnsville community. Molly is the community outreach manager at Dakota Child and Family Clinic and, along with her husband, helps run COVID-19 testing which they began in August 2020 and continue with today. For the past five years, Molly has volunteered weekly at William Byrne Elementary and helps organize her neighborhood Night to Unite. Molly has also served on the Dakota County League of Women Votes for the past two years.


Molly Gerhke with City Council
Pastor John Gordon, Spirit of Truth Church: 

It all started with a call asking if the city would consider planning a Juneteenth event. That initial call was the start to a true partnership, working hand-in-hand to create an inaugural Burnsville Juneteenth celebration. Pastor John’s insights and guidance shaped the event into one of significant meaning and cultural impact on our community. Together we enjoyed intentional conversations, meaningful readings and incredible entertainment. Additional community partners include the Dakota County Library, the Black Student Union, Target and our school district 191 Superintendent.


Pastor John Gordon with City Council
Sandra Schlaefer, Kids ‘n Kinship volunteer: 

Sandra builds community by being a volunteer mentor to a teen through the Kids ‘n Kinship program. She encourages, supports and listens to her mentee through many ups and downs including throughout the challenges and obstacles of our pandemic. Sandra’s commitment to Burnsville goes well beyond her work with Kids n’ Kinship. For six years, her family partnered for Burnsville’s Music in the Park event. In addition, she was on the Vineyard Community Food Shelf board and previously served on Burnsville’s Chamber of Commerce board as well as the Ames Commission and the Heart of the City Design Review committee.

Sandra Schlaefer with City Council
Ted Redmond, paleBLUEdot, LLC: 

Ted is the owner of PaleBLUEdot, LLC, a small consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations improve their operations in the areas of sustainability and climate adaption. Ted has led the City's sustainability plan update and climate adaption plan from a consulting standpoint. Ted has also been instrumental in developing the Grow Burnsville concept based on the Food Security chapter of the sustainability plan. Ted’s expertise helped us launch and continue to build this program that will have a lasting impact on our community.

Ted Redmond with City Council
Dakota County Library, Chad Lubbers and staff: 

The Dakota County Library has been a valuable partner to the City for many years. In 2021, Chad Lubbers - the Burnhaven Library Manager - helped the City with multiple events including our brand-new Juneteenth and Pride celebrations. Chad was essential in providing resources and brainstorming new ideas. The library even used their grant funding to pay for entertainment at Juneteenth and Friday Night Boogie. All of the staff at the Burnhaven Library truly care about making Burnsville a place where everyone belongs. Dakota County Library is represented by Kristy Barnes, Yvonne Romo, Amy Mahowald and Anna Doyle. 


Dakota County library staff with City Council