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Volvo Names Minneapolis School Teacher Minnesota's Greatest Hometown Hero



Margaret Yeboah, Other Local Heroes Honored at First-Ever Minnesota Volvo for life Awards Ceremony

MINNEAPOLIS (March 11, 2004) - Margaret Yeboah, a Minneapolis school teacher who has helped fund the construction of schools, medical facilities and roads for an entire African village, last night was named Minnesota's greatest hometown hero at the first-ever Minnesota Volvo for life Awards ceremony.


Held at Le Meridien Hotel in Minneapolis, the event capped off the largest-ever statewide search for and celebration of everyday heroes, with local Volvo retailers donating $70,000 to Minnesota charities. Launched in September, the program called for people statewide to nominate a local unsung hero they knew at A panel of judges -- polar explorer Ann Bancroft, baseball Hall of Fame inductee Paul Molitor and former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton -- helped select the top winner from a pool of almost 200 nominations.


Yeboah, 48, is an elementary school teacher and single mother of five who has helped finance the construction of 20 schools, a medical clinic, roads and a vocational school, among other things, in a tiny village in Ghana, Africa. The village has no running water, toilet facilities, roads or medical facilities for its 2,000 residents. A generous philanthropist in Minnesota, Yeboah buys clothes and shoes for needy children and awards her former students with $500 if they go to college. (See full bio at the conclusion of this news release.)


To recognize Yeboah's efforts, Volvo presented her with $25,000 to be donated to the charity of her choice.


Hosted by Brian (B.T.) Turner and Lee Valsvick, morning co-hosts on KTCZ-FM Cities 97, the ceremony was attended by more than 300 area residents. In addition to Yeboah, two other Minnesota heroes who were named by program judges among the top winners are:

  • Linda Jemison, 46, St. Paul, who founded the Ethel Gordon Community Care Center and Shelter after being homeless and battling a drug addiction. The shelter, named in honor of her mother, houses up to 12 women and nine children and features a rigorous "life-recovery program" which helps residents gain education and job skills and become self-sufficient. Volvo provided her a $15,000 contribution to her favorite charity.
  • Sy Vang Moucheupao, 53, St. Paul, a Hmong refugee, frustrated by the lack of culturally appropriate services for Hmong women living in abusive relationships, who risked backlash from Hmong traditionalists and helped form Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM) and The House of Peace Shelter (HOP). The organizations are dedicated to ending domestic violence against Asian women and children and building safer communities. Today, AWUM and HOP serve more than 500 women and children per year. She received a $10,000 contribution from Volvo to her favorite charity.


"We are lucky to have met so many incredible heroes in this statewide search," said Kjell Bergh, owner of Borton Volvo. "Each one embodies the values of conscience, care and character this program intends to celebrate."


"Margaret's efforts toward bringing hope and shelter to people here and in Africa is truly extraordinary," said Rick Kline, owner of Kline Volvo. "We appreciate our judges' efforts in selecting our top winner, and we congratulate all our nominees."


The Minnesota Volvo for life Awards is a statewide version of the highly successful national Volvo for life Awards (, which since its inception two years ago has provided almost $2 million in charitable contributions to heroes nationwide. This year, 2,768 heroes were nominated for the program, which culminates in Times Square Studios in New York on April 7 with an awards ceremony. Minnesota is the first state to conduct its own Volvo for life Awards program. All nominees for the Minnesota program are automatically included in the national program.


Minnesota's Top 10 Finalists


Judges selected the three winners from 10 finalists. The remaining finalists, who each received $500 charitable contributions during the awards ceremony, include:

  • Bob Fisher, 55, Wayzata, a shoe repairman who has raised more than $2 million for affordable housing programs by sleeping in a tent for several days - and often weeks - each winter. Fisher's first sleep-out in 1997 has snowballed into a community wide effort, with scores of other people and businesses "sleeping out" for the cause.
  • Donald Hartley, 84, Prior Lake, a former World War II POW and volunteer who, driven by his mission to feed the hungry, has grown more than 50 tons of fresh produce in his garden for two local food shelves over a span of 20 years.
  • Barbara Hensley, 56, Wayzata, a woman who, after losing two sisters to breast cancer, founded the Hope Chest, an upscale retail store that sells "gently used" merchandise and funnels profits to uninsured women with breast cancer.
  • Jessica Johnson, 15, Big Lake, a student who raises money to purchase beds for children in greater Minnesota who don't have them. As of January 2004, "Jessica's Beds" has given 100 beds away and has a goal of giving away another 100 beds this year.
  • Raleigh Kent, 65, St. Louis Park, a woman who each year performs more than 100 Taharahs, a crucial ritual for Jewish people who have died. A former nurse, Kent also provided the only Jewish foster home in the Twin Cities, caring for children with special needs. Today, she's a tireless child advocate and hospice volunteer.
  • Mary Ann Larsen, 77, Morgan, a mother of 11 who stocks a food shelf in her four-car garage. Word about Larsen's food shelf, called "We Care," has spread in southern Minnesota, and today it has provided residents in 13 counties with food, blankets and toys, among other things.
  • Andrea Miller, 15, Shorewood, a student who suffered a severe form of brain cancer as a child and had one-third of her brain removed. Today, Miller is an honor student who has raised more than $21,000 for approximately 75 orphans in India by selling prints of her painting depicting their orphanage.



Soren Johansson, Volvo Cars of North America - Public Affairs

800-970-0888 ("3" then "6")

Carol Schuler, Haberman & Associates, 612-338-3900,

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