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National vote underway for all-time greatest heroes – five per state – in 5th Anniversary Volvo for life Awards


Vote for top heroes at; $1 million in financial contributions provided; winner receives Volvo car for life



IRVINE, Calif. (October 25, 2006) – Who would you give a Volvo to? How about Fran Heitzman, who created an organization to provide furniture to thousands of impoverished families? Or Linda Jemison, who founded a shelter for women and children to spiritually and physically recover from homelessness? Or Jenessa Largent, who makes bracelets that provide hope and solace for families with soldiers serving in the military?


These are just three of the five extraordinary Minnesota heroes named as semi-finalists in the 5th Anniversary Volvo for life Awards – Volvo’s annual search for hometown heroes across America. This year, in honor of the Awards’ 5th anniversary, Volvo selected the top five heroes from every state in America and is asking the American public to visit to vote for their favorites now through February 4, 2007.


Who in Minnesota would you give a Volvo to? Representing Minnesota in this year’s Volvo for life Awards are:

  • Fran Heitzman of Eden Prairie founded Bridging, a non-profit organization that helps families in need with free furniture and household items. Operating for 17 years, Bridging now annually serves more than 3,000 households. Today, Bridging operates as the largest free furniture warehouse in the upper Midwest. Because of Heitzman’s dream, more than 100,000 families have received furniture and household items free of charge.
  • In 1990, Jane Griffin of Edina was diagnosed with breast cancer and noticed a lack of information about the disease and the impact it has on women and their families. She, along with two other women, decided to take action by writing Life Choices, a pamphlet for those whose lives breast cancer had touched. Since then Griffin has developed a program called Moving Ahead, which provides information on the various types of breast cancer, treatment options and available support for breast cancer patients.
  • Linda Jemison of Saint Paul was at one time a homeless woman, abusing drugs and moving from shelter to shelter, seeking help. When Jemison overcame her addiction, she realized how much she had to give back to the homeless community. This realization inspired her to found the Ethel Gordon Family Care Center and Shelter, which houses 12 women and nine children. The facility serves as a spiritual-based life-recovery program that assists women in gaining education and job skills for a better future.
  • In March 2003, Jenessa Largent’s uncle was deployed to Iraq. Constant worry for his safety motivated Largent, from White Bear Lake, to show him just how much her family cared for him by designing a bracelet in his honor. Realizing how many other families were experiencing the same concern as hers was, she continued making bracelets and giving them to others for hope and solace. In just two years, Largent has shipped 173,000 free, handmade bracelets all over the world to the families and loved ones of American soldiers.
  • Vern Waldner of Andover volunteers for the local police department, providing his services to Anoka County for more than ten years. As a volunteer he hosts safety camps for bicyclists, snowmobile riders and boaters. He also works to fingerprint young children for "Operation ID," which keeps records of fingerprints to use in the event a child is kidnapped.


Once the public vote concludes, the top three vote getters in the categories of safety, quality of life and environment will be named finalists. Then, a panel of distinguished judges – including Hank Aaron, Sen. Bill Bradley, Caroline Kennedy, Maya Lin, Paul Newman, Dr. Sally Ride, Val Kilmer, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and previous Volvo for life Awards top winners – will select winners in each category. Winners receive a $50,000 charitable contribution from Volvo; remaining finalists receive a $25,000 contribution.


On April 4, 2007, Volvo will fly the winning heroes to New York, where Volvo and members of the celebrity-judging panel will honor them at the 5th Annual Volvo for life Awards Ceremony. At the climax of the ceremony, Volvo will reveal which of the three top heroes is also the Grand Award winner of a Volvo vehicle every three years for the rest of his or her life.


“Over the past five years the Volvo for life Awards initiative has received more than 15,000 hero nominations,” said Anne Bélec, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars of North America. “All of these heroes demonstrate incredible conscience, care and character. Having the public help us select the winning heroes is a truly exciting – and democratic – addition to this year’s program.”


To learn more, or to vote for your favorite hero, visit A Spanish version of the site can also be accessed at this address.


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Haberman & Associates



Sören Johansson

Volvo Cars of North America



For photos and more information on the Volvo for life Awards visit

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