United Way of 1000 Lakes Announces New and Returning Board Members

United Way of 1000 Lakes is proud to announce new and returning members to the 2020-21 Board of Directors, effective July 15, 2020. This group of business and community leaders brings experience, knowledge, passion, and a deep commitment to forwarding the mission of United Way. The organization is glad to welcome six new members to the Board of Directors:

  • Shannon Benolken, Business Banker with American Bank of the North
  • Jeff Dingman, Controller with North Homes Children and Family Services
  • Rick Fannin, Technical Superintendent with Minnesota Power
  • Becky Lauer, Family & Children’s Services Division Manager with Itasca County 
  • Jeff Niemala, Owner of Niemala Mediation and Principal of Prairie River Capital LLC
  • Jordan Weis, Air Ambulance Pilot with Guardian Flight and Owner of Weisguy Images

July also marked changes in board executive leadership. Alie McInerney of the Blandin Foundation took over for Amanda Kluge of Minnesota Power as President. Dr. Leanna McBride (Grand Dental) took over the role of Vice President, and newcomer Jeff Dingman (North Homes) joined as Treasurer. Christina Monson of Socrates AI will continue in the role of Secretary. 

These changes come as the community is navigating their way through the challenges created by the health and economic crisis. New leadership will play a key role as United Way shifts its impact strategy to support the region’s recovery and rebuilding. “We’re excited to have these leaders to help guide us as we move forward, both in crisis response and into the future,” states United Way executive director Kim Brink Smith. “Each board member brings a unique and valuable perspective, which helps us as we assess our impact and develop goals for the betterment of this community.” 

New board members include: 

Shannon Benolken: Shannon Benolken, Business Banker with American Bank of the North, has over 15 years of experience in small business development and community engagement. Shannon holds an MBA from Ashford University and a BBA from The College of St. Scholastica. Shannon has always been active in the community, having had both volunteer and professional roles within community service organizations, including Itasca Economic Development Corporation, Johns Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, Bridges Kinship Mentoring, Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program, and Habitat for Humanity. Shannon and her husband, Dennis, and daughter live in Warba with three horses, four chickens, and two dogs. 

Jeff Dingman: Jeff Dingman is a Controller with North Homes Children and Family Services. Dingman has over 15 years of experience in previous positions, including as a senior accountant at ASV, Inc., where he was introduced to United Way’s work. Dingman holds a BA in Accounting from Saint John’s University, where he had a successful Division III swimming career. Jeff’s past community involvement includes serving as Treasurer with the Aggregate & Readymix Association of Minnesota and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. He resides in Deer River with his wife, Ann, and two dogs. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys hunting, fishing, and spending time on the lake.

Rick Fannin: Rick Fannin is a Technical Superintendent at Minnesota Power with a background in mechanical engineering. In addition to his BSME, Rick has an MBA from the College of St. Scholastica. He served on the Lakes Area Credit Union Board and volunteered as a Mentor with Bridges Kinship Mentoring for five years. Rick is also an active alum of Itasca Community College, where he prepares students for the workforce as a mock interview participant. Rick lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Kathy, four daughters, and two dogs, and enjoys fishing, hunting, and cooking in his spare time.

Becky Lauer: Becky Lauer has worked in human services since 1991, having worked for Itasca County since 2000, where she held several different positions before her current role as Family & Children’s Services Division Manager. Becky attended Greenway High School and Itasca Community College before receiving her BS from Bemidji State University. Becky has served on the boards of various foundations and committees, including Grand Rapids Band Boosters, the Home Visitor Advisory Board, and the Adult Mental Health Local Advisory Committee. Becky enjoys attending her daughters’ school and extracurricular events with her husband, Jay, reading, camping, and spending time with their daughters, dog, and granddaughter.

Jeff Niemala: Jeff Niemala is the owner of Niemala Mediation and the principal of Prairie River Capital LLC. Jeff is currently a first-year law student at NWCU School of Law. Jeff serves on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Lawyers Mutual risk retention group and is an active member of ICODR, the international council for online dispute resolution. Locally, Jeff volunteers for the Itasca County Search and Rescue Team and is involved with the Knights of Columbus. A lifelong Itasca County resident, Jeff lives in LaPrairie with his wife, Linda, and their son and daughter.

Jordan Weis: Jordan Weis, an air ambulance pilot with Guardian Flight, is an experienced commercial pilot, flight instructor, and drone operator. An avid photographer, Jordan also runs Weisguy Images, which provides photography and videography services. Jordan specializes in aerial photography and videography, using his skills as a drone pilot to capture the world from above. His involvement with United Way sparked when he began capturing community events as a volunteer photographer. Jordan lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Lindsay, son, cat, and two dogs, and likes to spend time outdoors, accompanied by his camera, capturing the beauty of nature.


These new members join the current United Way Board of Directors: 

Alie McInerney, Board President, Blandin Foundation; Dr. Leanna McBride, Board Vice-President, Grand Dental Center; Christina Monson, Board Secretary, Socrates AI; Amanda Kluge, Board Past President, Minnesota Power; Madeline Cook, North in Bloom; Luke Francisco, North Homes Children and Family Services; Bill Martinetto, Rapids Brewing Co.; Jamie Nielsen, ASV Holdings, Inc.; John Stemper, Retired from Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI).

United Way also recognizes outgoing Board members Peter Birkey, Brad Zumbaum, and Diane Meyer for the guidance and dedication they brought during their tenure on the Board.