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Women 2020

“Fill your life with women that empower you, that help you believe in your magic and aid them to believe in their own exceptional power and their incredible magic too. Women that believe in each

other can survive anything. Women who believe in each other create armies that will win kingdoms and wars.” ~ Nikita Gill

The Free Press MEDIA

Women • MARCH 2020 • 1

Brittany King-Asam

1 • MARCH 2020 • Women

y R. moa

Jennifer G. Lurken

Kaitlin M. Pals

Brittany R. King-Asamoa

Jennifer G. Lurken

Brittany R. King-Asamoa

Kaitlin M. Pals

Jennifer G. Lurken

Kaitlin M. Pals

Women • MARCH 2020 • 1

Table of Contents 6 Elise Edwards-Toepel 8 Tami Murphy



12 Natasha


16 Women in Business 18 Chaplain Siri Erickson 22 Anja Scheidel 24 Amy Rykhus


28 Reverend

Jinelle Anlea Fryklund and Reverend Amy Oberle

34 Women in Real Estate


2 • MARCH 2020 • Women

22 28


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The Free Press MEDIA

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Women March 2020


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Bryce O. Stenzel Connie Haugen Heidi Newbauer Marianne Carlson


Christina Sankey

Annual Reports Catalogs Magazines Posters Childrens Books


Danny Creel Joan Streit Jordan Greer-Friesz Josh Zimmerman Marianne Carlson Theresa Haefner


Barb Wass


Christina Sankey Sue Hammar


Justin Niles

Coffee Table Books and MORE!

Women 2020 is published by The Free Press Media annually at 418 South Second St., Mankato MN 56001. For editorial inquiries, call Marianne Carlson at 344-6338, or e-mail mcarlson@mankatofreepress.com.

1750 Northway Drive • North Mankato, MN 56003 www.corpgraph.com 4 • MARCH 2020 • Women

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Women • MARCH 2020 • 5

A Compassionate Calling By Heidi Newbauer


hen Elise Edwards-Toepel was around four years old, she knew her calling was in the funeral business. After she and her siblings were exposed to death and funerals at such a young age, she became very curious about it and asked her parents many questions. Elise’s mom, Marjorie, told me, “Her father and I were very open to her questions because we think it’s important to have an open mind about those kinds of topics. Elise was quite curious about the funeral business.” Elise continued to ask questions as she grew older, which lead her to the Program of Mortuary Science at the University of Minnesota. The program has been around since1908, evolving from a six-week session in the 1900s to a bachelor’s degree today. The mortuary science program is the first of its kind to be organized at a state university. As this program evolved, so has the funeral business. The funeral industry started out in the back doors of furniture stores. Elise told me, “furniture store owners would make the coffins. When embalming began, those salespeople would come around to the furniture stores and sell the embalming service.” Embalming and coffin-making merged, becoming its own business in the store. Back then, funeral services such as embalming, which started during the Civil War, and coffin-making, were male dominated. Back in the day, women used to be the caretakers of the bodies at home, where most funerals took place before established funeral services became commonplace. Elise told me that it was unheard of for women to be in the business until recent times. Today, there are many more women in the field. Elise noted, “when I first went to school the ratio was 60/40 percent female-male, and when I graduated the ratio changed to 75/25 female-male. The industry has really come full circle.” For Elise, her career in the funeral service started in 2012, and progressed

6 • MARCH 2020 • Women

as she graduated from the U of M’s Mortuary Science program in 2014 (along with her best friend, Alyce) and did an internship. She then got a mortician’s license in 2015. She isn’t as involved in the mortician services as the funeral and memorial planning, but she does help with such things if the need arises. In 2017, she started managing New Ulm Monument, an employee-owned memorial business that has been around for 87 years. The business has forever-warranties on their stones. New Ulm Monument is also very involved with Ducks Unlimited. They did Terry Redland’s stone in 2016 and have exclusive rights to lazer-edge his beautiful portraits into monuments, such as for pet memorials. Elise’s passion for helping others has come full circle since working at New Ulm Monument. She told me, “the mission of New Ulm Monument is trust and comfort in the planning process. We want to take care of people and be a resource for them.” Many people come in that are dealing with a grievous loss or are planning for their own memorials, so caring and compassion is a big part of Elise’s job, and something that she does naturally and very well. Elise’s mom sees that in her daughter every day they work together. Marjorie started working at New Ulm Monument around nineteen months ago and takes care of a variety of support services including giving information about stones, date cuts, and answering all kinds of customer questions. Marjorie said, “It’s a privilege to work with her. Elise is very calming, compassionate, and professional to folks. You can just see the folks relax after she talks with them.” Elise and Marjorie both pointed out that people are nervous coming in, and they don’t take that lightly: “we want to take care of them each step of the way.” Elise’s calling for helping others puts the difficult memorial planning process at ease by giving the customers a trusting, emphatic, and genuinely compassionate experience. Elise’s calling at an early age is also when she started building a legacy for hunting and fishing. Her mom told me, “Elise had a

fishing pole in her hand whether the water was frozen or not.” When Elise wasn’t fishing with her dad, Jim, she was hunting with him. This past fall, Elise and her dad went duck hunting in Montevideo and have gone to Arkansas for past duck hunting trips. Elise said, “Duck hunting is my favorite. The flooded timber in Arkansas was also just beautiful.” Nature has its charms and is the perfect place to recharge. She comes from a big family of foster brothers and sisters, along with her older brother, J. Michael. Elise’s mom told me, “we had nine foster children, mostly handicapped. Most stayed three to eight years.” One of the foster children, Josh, has been with the family for twenty-five years. Marjorie was a homemaker to the children and she and her husband feel very blessed to have had such experiences. Elise grew up in a large and loving family where compassion was commonplace. While growing up, Elise enjoyed a great amount of time at their family cabin on Lake Elysian. Elise’s family lived in Minneapolis, and she went to the Academy of Holy Angels high school in Richfield, but the family made it a point to spend as much time as the could at the cabin. After 30 years of living in Minneapolis, Elise’s mom and dad moved to the family cabin. Marjorie said, “We found our Mayberry.” When not in nature, Elise loves to sing and read. She used to be the worship leader at church, enjoying the beauty of music. She’s an avid reader: “I’m a Harry Potter fan. Can never stop reading those. I love to read anything related to nature and holistic health.” It’s been an exciting journey in Elise’s life. But there’s just one more thing on her mind: her September wedding. She told me with a big smile, “I’m very excited and so blessed. He’s a very supportive person and he didn’t think that he would end up marrying a licensed mortician someday.” With her professionalism, her calling for compassion, the love and joy for her family and nature, Elise’s natural approach to the world has created an enduring legacy.

Elise grew up in a large and loving family where compassion was commonplace.

Women • MARCH 2020 • 7

Intellectual Curiosity and Natural Aptitude Helps Conquer The World of Human Resources By Bryce O. Stenzel | Submitted Photos


ot every person’s career path follows a direct, straight line, from high school graduation through college, and on to the chosen profession of his or her dreams. This is certainly true for Tami Murphy, who has truly found her calling, as the founder and owner of Extended HR, LLC--specializing in human resource consulting. Tami, a St. Peter native and graduate of St. Peter High School also attended MSU for some time, before moving to Minneapolis and working for a law firm as a legal secretary. It wasn’t long before she realized she needed to do more. That is when her 17-year career with Target Stores started. Having started in the Auto and Hardware department as a supervisor, she quickly became a trainer for her peers as well as a trusted tester and piloted many new technology systems for the corporation. When Target opened its store in Mankato’s River Hills Mall, it offered Tami the opportunity to move back to the area. At the time, Tami was a supervisor on the logistics team and was instrumental in opening the store. Tami is grateful 8 • MARCH 2020 • Women

for the experience and training she received throughout her career with Target Stores, in her early years she was given the opportunity to learn every aspect of the operation. Through her experience, she noticed the disconnect that often occurred between employees and the management teams. After having her first child, she again felt she wanted to do more. There was an opening for a Human Resource Manager at the Target Store in Mankato and she went for it. This was the only area she did not know how to do in the entire store, so she didn’t think her chances were very good. However, her intellectual curiosity (Tami is a lifelong learner), natural aptitude for, as well as the ability to teach herself combined with her past performance with the company, she received the position. Tami now had her chance to try and make a difference by bridging the gap between employees and managers. But first, she had to teach herself the field of Human Resources or “HR”. Tami soon became an integral part of Target’s HR department

by becoming a resource and training other HR departments. She also helped Target to open its stores in other Minnesota towns such as: Winona, Owatonna and New Ulm; not to mention spending two years living and working for the Target Corporation in Louisiana. Her job there was to help and advise the local management teams, in order to bring them up to Minnesota Target’s standards. While working in Target’s Human Resources Department in the stores, coordinating various management teams, whose job it was to get merchandise from the warehouse to the sales floor and then merchandise it; She resolved to bridge that gap by implementing strategies to bring both employees and management together. Specifically, Tami trained managers, college students and interns on the use of new technologies designed for use in organizing stock rooms and doing scheduling. Tami was the “go-to person.” These strategies, developed through years of practical experience, lay at the core of Tami’s success, both as a Human Resources resource for Target, and later as the owner of her own business. Her philosophy was that she would do whatever it took to make things work, a philosophy that still strongly guides her work ethic. Tami was then recruited by Pearson Education, a printing facility in Owatonna, to work for them. She accepted the job, looking forward to spending more holiday’s and weekends with her family. She moved from Louisiana back to St. Peter, and worked at Pearson for four years. It was during this same time, that Tami--being the self-motivated individual that she was-decided to complete her bachelor’s degree; online, which she did. Tami earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Human Resources in 2009 graduating Summa Cum Laude. Considering that she was already commuting from St. Peter to Owatonna, being responsible for a teen-age daughter and giving birth to her second child at age 42 and was going through a divorce; going to school again was no easy task! Tami’s next job was working for BIC Graphics of Sleepy Eye, where she worked for seven more years. It was in this period of her life that Tami decided to start her own business. By working with the Workforce Center in 2018, she was able to obtain her certification in HR Compliance (HR Employment Law) through Hamline University School of

Tami Murphy helps start-ups to mid-size businesses meet their human resources needs so they can focus on producing the goods or services they provide.

Law. She started her own company, that same year. The goal of Tami’s company, Extended HR, LLC is simple. It is intended to assist start-up, and small to mid-size businesses in meeting their human resource needs, so they can concentrate on producing the goods or services they provide. Tami’s company provides a practical application of human resource strategies, gives tips on what needs to be done, and knows when to advise her clients to seek out legal representation. Through her experience and skills, she helps businesses deal with ever-changing governmental regulations that have the potential of landing them in serious legal jeopardy, if ignored. Some of the

areas Tami’s company specializes in are: advising what should be contained in employees’ handbooks, HR policies of the client company, putting together employee handbooks for U.S. companies with international ties, and even offering consulting services to overseas international companies. In exchange for a retainer fee, Extended HR, LLC provides an unlimited on-call hotline to clients who wish to obtain advice through phone conversations, internet services etc. She may not hear from a client for a couple of months and then something happens and she’s right there ready to help. Owning and Operating a business can be both the most thrilling and the scariest time of your life. Tami’s Women • MARCH 2020 • 9

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Life Insurance, Long Term Care Ins., IRA Funding – Investments# www.jrmountain@nylagents.com jrmountain@ft.newyorklife.com

Judy Ringler Mountain LUTCF, CLTC, Agent

Registered representative with NYLIFE Securities LLC. (Member FINRA/SIPC) A Licensed Insurance Agency. NYLIFE Securities LLC is a New York Life Co. #Investments Involve risk, fees and expenses, and maybe subject to current taxation. These factors when taken into consideration can seriously alter the calculated results.

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business helps reduce the stress when it comes to having employees. Her clients often tell her, it’s nice knowing they can get professional assistance when they need it and it’s only a phone call away. They always feel so much better after talking with her. It’s like having an experience human resource professional at your finger tips any time of the day, so you can have the time to accomplish what you do best. Tami believes in developing flexible, custom services because she knows one-size does not fit all. She assists by developing checklists and ‘cheat sheets’, for each of her clients so they know what to do each time. She doesn’t even have an established set rate for her services, preferring to discover what works best for the client business she is advising, by meeting them where they are at. Here are just a few of the testimonials written by Tami’s clients: “We brought Tami in to bring HR expertise to some conversations. As a small office, with no dedicated HR staff, she quickly assessed situations, provided viable options, led difficult discussions and put a plan together and walked us through it. Tami was efficient, clear, understood the organizations goals and was the necessary additional help needed.” --Non-Profit “I am really glad we had the opportunity working with Tami, she has been instrumental in expanding our small business. With Tami’s help we were able to hire more drivers and doubled our revenues. Tami is very professional and puts her customers first.” --Kato Trucking


“Tami’s knowledge and expertise in HR was an asset to our project and to our company. Her work was thorough and of great quality, and she was great managing the people she interacted with in our organization. She surpasses my expectations. --MIC Food


125 Years in Business! 417 Poplar St., Downtown Mankato 507.388.9329 or 800.228.8583

10 • MARCH 2020 • Women

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Tami is definitely a good resource for businesses. She has been a speaker at our WooHoo! Workshops at the bank, and the attendees have spoken very highly of the tools she provided them and the information that was shared. I would not hesitate to recommend her to a business that has questions about Human Resources. --Julie Baumgartner, SVP/COO Citizens Bank

In addition to owning and operating her own company, Tami offers her services to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Mankato, which; prior to her working for them, never offered human resource services. Currently, the center has 17 consultants (a majority of them are women) in financing, marketing, nonprofits, bookkeeping, business plans, etc. The consultants are all experienced business professionals, most of whom have owned their own business. They are there to help qualified clients overcome the challenges of running a successful business. Tami also spends time volunteering. Some of her initiatives include being passionate on bringing schools and businesses together. She has spent the last 25 years volunteering as a Junior Achievement teacher and board member and speaking to high school classes on preparing for the workforce. She is also a certified facilitator for the Alzheimer’s Association, where Tami helps lead a support group of caregivers in St. Peter. As she described it; there needs to be a place for caregivers to renew themselves, so they can continue offering support to their loved ones, who suffer from the devastating effects of this terrible disease. Tami knows this first hand. Without it; these caregivers may become ineffective--both to themselves and those they are responsible for. Tami stated emphatically that she believes in the power of support groups. Her goal in volunteering and supporting the Alzheimer’s Association is to “make a better life for someone else.” Her entire life has been devoted to putting other people first. Being as busy as she is with her work, family and volunteering, it would be easy for one to get the mistaken idea that Tami doesn’t have time for hobbies. However; that is certainly not the case. She loves gardening; to the point that as Tami laughingly put it, “I would rather pull someone’s weeds than clean my house.” This author strongly suspects that Tami performs both of these tasks with skill. She is a do-ityourself person, who likes crafts. Her key word is “believe.” Believe you can do anything, and it will happen. “Cannot” is not a word in Tami’s vocabulary. Although she is certainly a long way from needing it; perhaps, Tami’s future epitaph should read: “all she wanted to do is help someone else.” We should all be so fortunate to be remembered and celebrated that way.

Tami loves crafts, gardening and spending time with family.

Women • MARCH 2020 • 11

Natasha Lopez-Rodriguez Executive Director of YWCA of Mankato By Connie Haugen | Submitted Photos


atasha Lopez-Rodriguez became the Executive Director of the Mankato YWCA in August 2019. She moved here from Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband José Rodriguez and her 5-year-old son Nikolas (Niko). She also has two stepdaughters who are in college in Arizona. Natasha started as a volunteer with the financial education program of the Metropolitan Phoenix YWCA, one of only two YWCAs in the state of Arizona. When the position came open, Natasha became the Financial Education Program Director. There she managed the Own It financial literacy program for three years. Not only did she teach the program, Natasha recruited, trained, and scheduled over 40 volunteer instructors. She secured partnerships with community businesses and organizations that included at-risk adults and youth, along with a large Hispanic community. Natasha grew the program from serving around 150 people per year to serving over 1100 people per year when she left the program. They added financial coaching, a one one-on-one program, where they worked with people to develop a budget, determine where their money was going, and even fight and resolve financial or credit issues. Natasha attended college at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN, for two years, before moving 12 • MARCH 2020 • Women

to Arizona in 1997. She said she chose Minnesota because of great customer service at the school, and they were Minnesota Nice! She earned her BA in Communication, with a minor in Events and Tourism Management, from Arizona State University. She received her Master of Business Administration, with a focus in Public Administration, from Keller Graduate School of Management. She also graduated from the Hispanic Leadership Institute. Born in Massachusetts to Puerto Rican parents, Natasha moved with her family to Puerto Rico and lived there from age 9 to 17, when she came to college in Minnesota. Southwest Minnesota State University was smaller when she attended, and Natasha was one of only 15 Latino students. Natasha and her sister Vanessa moved to Phoenix, and their parents later joined them. She met her husband, José, also a Puerto Rican, in Arizona. José suffered a stroke last year at age 45 and has some vision and memory issues from which he is still recovering. He worked in real estate in Arizona. Natasha said she is enjoying her job at the Mankato YWCA. She is still learning a lot, and every day brings new things. The former director, Barb Dorn, left in January 2019, and Laura Stevens served as interim director until August, when Natasha

Natasha Lopez-Rodriguez became the Executive Director of the Mankato YWCA in August 2019. She started as a volunteer with the financial education program of the Metropolitan Phoenix YWCA and later became the Financial Education Program Director. Her program was a huge success. Most of the women who participate in the program have experienced domestic violence or homelessness and are starting with nothing.

started. During that time, there was turnover, so Natasha has been working to bring the staffing back up to budgeted levels and ensure continuation of the programs. The Elizabeth Kearney Women’s Leadership Program was able to continue with the assistance of the Eide Bailly organization, who volunteered time and personnel to maintain the program. They will be honored this fall for this generous in-kind contribution. Natasha is also a certified instructor of a two-hour salary negotiating training program for women. She is working with local resources to see where she can volunteer to teach that curriculum in Mankato. The class teaches women how to do the research, prepare for, and negotiate starting salaries and/or benefits or ask for a pay increase. Jennifer Varela, a coworker from Phoenix, said that Natasha guided her to negotiate her Women • MARCH 2020 • 13

own salary and benefits over the years, and she is further in her career because of Natasha’s help. Natasha seems to be getting a feel for Mankato, its resources, school system, and opportunities for the YWCA to make a difference. The dedicated staff and program volunteers continue to support the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. Robyn Reyff, one of Natasha’s coworkers from the Metropolitan Phoenix YWCA, said, “Natasha is greatly loved and missed by all of her coworkers.” Natasha and Robyn shared a love of museums, but mostly nowadays Natasha is engaged in child-related activities. Robyn said that the financial education program at the Metropolitan Phoenix YWCA is extremely successful due to Natasha. Most of the women who participate in the program have experienced domestic violence or homelessness and are starting with nothing. Many of them are so successful

Natasha moved to Mankato from Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband José Rodriguez and her 5-year-old son Nikolas (Niko). She also has two stepdaughters who are in college in Arizona.

14 • MARCH 2020 • Women

after taking the class, that Natasha invites them back the following year to be honored at one of the classes. “Natasha has a very welcoming smile when you meet her, and she is very approachable,” Robyn continued. “She is genuine and kind hearted. She makes you want to get to know her or be part of whatever she is involved in. She gives her whole heart to whatever she is doing. Natasha keeps smiling even when things aren’t going well.” Robyn said that Natasha volunteered at the New Pathway for Youth and was a great mentor to several children there. Jennifer Varela worked with Natasha at the Metropolitan Phoenix YWCA and a previous position for over six years. “Natasha is one of the most amazing people I know, and I tell her that all the time! Natasha has helped me move forward in my own career. She gave us opportunities to try things and never doubted we could do them.” Jennifer said that Natasha is easy going and approachable. When she taught the financial education classes, Natasha brought her own experiences and shared how she made changes in her own life. “She always had a solution to help coworkers who were having problems. She is a positive influence.”

Providing Innovative Solutions for your Business Needs

Tami Murphy

Principal Consultant / Trainer O: 507.508.2147 C:507.382.9355 Tami@extendedhr.com


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Women • MARCH 2020 • 15

Women in Business Belynda Hinsch, CPA

Everything Local. Everything Easier.

Belynda brings over two decades of public accounting experience in serving her clients as the managing shareholder of Swanson Hinsch & Co., a Certified Public Accounting firm. She uses a passionate, detailed approach in assisting her individual and business clients with their tax, accounting, and business management strategies. Belynda and the entire SH&Co. team work daily as advocates for their clients. Outside of the office, Belynda is also passionate about serving the area community. She is currently on the Board for Feeding Our Community Partners and is also their Treasurer. Her most recent past volunteer efforts were shared with YMCA, Minnesota River Builders Association and MSUMankato Women’s Sports Classic Committee. Belynda and her husband Heath are the proud parents of their 20 year old son, Dalton and 15 year old daughter, Peyton.

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Samantha Heine, CPA

Tia Bernholtz, Staff Accountant

510 Long Street l Suite 108 Mankato, MN 56001-4342 T 507-388-1770 l F 507-388-4342 cpa@swansonhinsch.com www.swansonhinsch.com

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Jennifer A. Thompson, CPA, CGMA, joined the Swanson Hinsch & Co. team in 2016. With twenty-four years of public accounting experience and sixteen years as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of manufacturing and construction-related companies, she provides quality accounting, business, individual, estate and trust tax planning and preparation services. In addition, she offers financial statement and business strategic planning, management and consulting. Jennifer is accepting new clients. Jennifer graduated Summa Cum Laude from Minnesota State UniversityMankato, with majors in Accounting and Business Administration. A member of the American Institute and Minnesota Society of CPA’s. She also serves on the Minnesota State University – Mankato College of Business Advisory Council. She enjoys spending time with family including two grandchildren, as well as training her horses and border collie dogs on her hobby farm.

Swanson Hinsch & Co. Chartered 510 Long Street l Suite 108 Mankato, MN 56001-4342 T 507-388-1770 l F 507-388-4342 cpa@swansonhinsch.com www.swansonhinsch.com

Samantha Heine, Tax Manager, joined the Swanson Hinsch & Co. team in July 2013. She assists in various bookkeeping and tax areas including being our “go to” person for QuickBooks and Sage 50 Accounting software bookkeeping training for our clients. Sami is our payroll expert, assists in preparing financial reports, along with preparing and reviewing income tax returns. Sami grew up in Walnut Grove, MN and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Professional Accountancy and Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from Dakota State University, Madison, SD. She is Vice-President of Programming for Mankato Business & Professional Women and Chair of Accounting for American Cancer Society for Mankato. Swanson Hinsch & Co. Chartered

First Vice President/Investments

Jennifer A. Thompson, CPA

Renee C. Rubish is the managing partner of Maschka, Riedy, Ries & Frentz Law Firm. Renee practices in the area of civil litigation, with a focus on plaintiff’s personal injury and medical malpractice. She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Moorhead State University and graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in 1994. Renee is a member of the 6th District and Minnesota State Bar, Minnesota Women Lawyers, and Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association. 151 St Andrews Ct, Bldg 1010 Renee is married to Jim Rubish Mankato / 507-625-6600 and has two children, Nora and Ian.

Tia Bernholtz has been a part of Swanson Hinsch & Co. CPA’s team for three tax seasons. First as an intern and now as a fulltime staff accountant. Tia assists in various bookkeeping and tax areas, including: payroll processing and reporting, and preparing and reviewing tax returns. She graduated from Minnesota State University – Mankato in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting after first obtaining her Associates degree from Iowa Lakes Community College in May 2015. Swanson Hinsch & Co. Chartered 510 Long Street l Suite 108 Mankato, MN 56001-4342 T 507-388-1770 l F 507-388-4342 cpa@swansonhinsch.com www.swansonhinsch.com

Abbie S. Olson Abbie S. Olson is a lawyer with Maschka, Riedy, Ries & Frentz Law Firm. Abbie practices in the areas of real estate, estate planning, probate and business law. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Iowa State University and graduated from Hamline University School of Law in 2012. Abbie is a member of both the Minnesota State Bar and Minnesota Women Lawyers Associations. Abbie is married to Brent 151 St Andrews Ct, Bldg 1010 Olson and has two children, Mankato / 507-625-6600 Ella and Elliot.

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Forgotten Stories Of Women’s Leadership Inspire Chaplain to become Doctor of Ministry By Connie Haugen | Submitted Photos


eet Siri Erickson, Chaplain at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. Siri doesn’t hold just one position there, however. She is Chaplain of the College; Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and Director of the Gustavus Academy for Faith, Science, and Ethics. Whew! Each of those positions sounds like a comprehensive job description and undertaking in itself! Chaplain Siri is nearing the end of a four-year journey to complete her doctorate degree and will become a Doctor of Ministry in May. She has been working through the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California, where she focused on contemplative practices, spiritual renewal, and strategic leadership. Heather Dale, Siri’s best friend, says, “Siri is kind, compassionate, and humble. Siri loves learning and strategizing and has always been an achiever.” Heather said Siri always wants to make things the best they can be. She is articulate and thoughtful and has been a great leader for Gustavus. “It is fun to see her skills being utilized in multiple ways.” Siri’s describes herself as a curious learner who integrates knowledge across disciplines to design innovative projects, 18 • MARCH 2020 • Women

programs, and learning systems. She says she is a progressive, strategic leader with talent for analyzing and synthesizing complex information. Others describe her as a collaborative team player, with the ability to achieve results by building relationships with people at all levels of the organization. She is passionate about empowering people to work together for the common good. While she is rooted in Swedish Lutheran traditions, she is open to other worldviews and has a gentle, welcoming way of listening and sharing with others. Heather Dale is also the Director of Health Services at Gustavus Adolphus College and is Siri’s sister-in-law (married to her brother Jordan). Siri and Heather have been friends since second grade. After college, Siri encouraged Heather to hire her brother Jordan for the Idaho summer Bible camp Heather was staffing. Siri told Heather, “You know, I think that you guys would make a really good couple.” Heather said she laughed at Siri and told her she was crazy. However, Heather did hire Jordan; and they were married three years later. Siri was born in St. Cloud, MN. When she was a baby, her parents owned a Christian bookstore, but they sold it when the family moved to Claremont, CA, when she was two. At

Women • MARCH 2020 • 19

Chaplain Siri Erickson and her husband Seth love hiking and spending time with their children Zella and Elo. Siri’s mother, Roberta Dale, grandmother, Sophie Anderson and cousin Camilla Leiva cook together. Her family enjoy cabin life in the summers. Siri also enjoys spending time with her students.

age five, Siri’s family moved to St. Louis, MO, then to St. Cloud, MN, and finally to Shoreview, MN. Siri’s father attended Claremont School of Theology after college and was in the business of religious publishing. After Siri graduated from college, her father became a Lutheran pastor in Shoreview, where her parents live today. Siri was always interested in math and science. She attended Carleton College in Northfield, MN, and majored in chemistry. Siri said she has always had a personal interest in religion. In college, she took five religion classes, four of which were taught by the same Roman Catholic nun, who taught classes about women in religion. While her teachings were rooted in Christianity, this professor was not afraid to criticize how Christianity has forgotten or buried stories of women’s leadership. It was during this time that Siri felt a calling to the ministry. She said, “There’s hope for the church, and I want to be a part of spreading an empowering message for women.” Her parents and family were supportive of her decision. After three years of coursework and a year of internship in Appleton, WI, Siri received her Master of Divinity from Claremont School of Theology. The next year she interviewed at churches around southeastern MN, but 20 • MARCH 2020 • Women

none of them seemed like the right fit for her. A family friend told her about a church in Stillwater, MN, where the senior pastor wanted to hire a female pastor. She was hired and ordained as the Pastor of Lifelong Learning at Stillwater’s Trinity Lutheran Church. She met her husband Seth on Match. com, and they married a year and a half after she started at Stillwater. Siri spent nine years in Stillwater. Her husband Seth finished his Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. Seth works at Traverse des Sioux Library Cooperative in Mankato as the Library Systems Administrator. They have two cute, smiley, and curious children, daughter Zella, age 11, and son Elo, age five. When the chaplain position at Gustavus Adolphus College came open in 2013, numerous friends, colleagues, and family contacted Siri and encouraged her to apply. Through a rigorous three-day interview process, Siri met hundreds of people. She presented a sermon, gave several smaller presentations, and answered questions in various interview settings with assorted department members and students. Gustavus staff thought she had much to offer Gustavus, and they offered her the job! Siri’s family has long had ties to Gustavus Adolphus College. Her maternal grandfather and her great-

grandparents are Gustavus alumni, as well as various uncles and a cousin. Siri has a needlework piece hanging in her office cross-stitched by her maternal great-grandmother, who was valedictorian of her graduating class in 1909. The piece reads “Nearer my God to thee”. Siri Erickson has been instrumental in Christmas at Christ Chapel, which is a huge production. “Our talented students, faculty, and staff bring the beauty and wonder of Christmas to life each year through song, dance, and spoken word. Christmas in Christ Chapel is a powerful and longstanding tradition in the Gustavus community.” Chaplain Siri and her staff support students from diverse cultures. The Director of Campus Ministries, an ordained chaplain, focuses on Christian students. The Interfaith Program Coordinator focuses on Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist students. The Cantor of Christ Chapel coordinates all music for services, directs the handbell choirs, and teaches organ and music history. The office staff are instrumental in keeping things running as scheduled. The Chaplain’s Office recognizes and supports Muslim students during Ramadan. Muslims fast from sunup to sundown and then have a big nightly meal. The Interfaith Program Coordinator and Muslim students help

coordinate the meal and even invite the community to share the meal one night. Chaplains also recognize and help the community celebrate Holi in the Hindu tradition, Vesak Day in the Buddhist tradition, and Rosh Hashanah and Passover in the Jewish religion. At Gustavus, Daily Sabbath takes place Monday through Friday from 10:00-10:20 am. With activities on both Christ Chapel and the Bonnier Multifaith Center, as well as other hosted and personal practices, Daily Sabbath has something to offer everyone. There are no classes during that time so that staff, students, and faculty are free to attend. Daily Sabbath is an opportunity to pause for 20 minutes and engage in a wide range of spiritual practices, such as taking a walk outside, meeting a friend for coffee, finding a quiet place to be still and rest, or joining in one of the activities hosted by the Chaplain’s Office and other groups on campus. “While neither Siri nor I ever thought that our careers would lead us to a college campus,” said Heather Dale, “We have both found Gustavus to be a fun and rewarding environment, where we get to continue to learn and be part of cutting edge practices and programs. We are so grateful for the opportunities we have had at Gustavus and look forward to new projects.” Siri, for example, has participated in Gustavus’s strategic planning process; and Heather was working on the employee benefits committee this month. Chaplain Siri loves to help students learn, grow, and develop. It is a true joy for her to work with and get to know students. She enjoys writing letters of recommendation for students she has mentored. “Siri Erickson is the most genuine person I have ever known,” explained Heather Dale. “Not only is she s strategic achiever and gets amazing things done, but she has the ability to implement what she strategizes in a most effective way.” Siri and her family enjoy nature walks, love going to the family’s lake cabin, coloring, and travel. Siri said she likes jigsaw puzzles, but her daughter Zella says her mom “has a certain way of doing things”. Apparently, Zella is Siri’s personal shopper. “Zella has good taste and an eye for design,” according to Siri.



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Anja Scheidel teaches group piano lessons as part of her Musikgaren curriculum. Many of her students have been with her since they were toddlers.

Musikgarten Classes Unlock Potential &

Change How Children Experience The World


By Marianne Carlson

en toddlers under the age of three slide out of their snowboots. Parents and grandparents tuck little hats and mittens into coat sleeves for safe keeping. Parents leave their own shoes at the door and guide their people into a small classroom with large windows and carpet on the floor. Tiny children hide behind their parents legs but after recognizing the space, they run around the room to greet their classmates. Musikgarten Instructor Anja Scheidel smiles and asks her families to take a seat on the floor. The adults sit cross legged and the little ones snuggle into their laps. Anja begins to sing a welcome song and the families join in. As they sing each of the childrens’ names, everyone taps out rhythms on the floor, their knees even the tops of their heads. To say that music is a huge part of Anja’s life would be the understatement of the year. Anja was born and raised in Germany and took classes at the “Musikschule für Musikalische Früherziehung, Dortmund” (Early Childhood Music Education) at the age of three, followed by private piano lessons at the age of six. She went to the Waldorf School where the curriculum emphasizes the role of imagination in learning, striving to integrate holistically the intellectual, practical, and artistic 22 • MARCH 2020 • Women

development of the young student. This unique education which was also carried on at home, shaped Anja’s approach to life. Although music was always in her heart, Anja studied Nutrition Science and Organic Farming in Germany. “I needed a break from school so I took this apprenticeship to get some hands-on-experience,” Anja said. “The farm was very musical. They had choirs and theater. I was always helping out with the musical productions.” This organic farm is where Anja met her husband who just happened to be from Mankato. “He had already finished college and was interested in organic farming and living off the grid,” she said. “The farm made their own bread and cheese. We worked there for two years and thought we should try it in America.” The couple found a little property outside of Mankato where they tried to make a go of organic farming. “After a few years, we realized it was just not financially sustainable,” Anja said. “I think we were a little ahead of our time, but we loved it.” Then their kids came, Anja said. “We have three kids,” she said. “They are all in their 20s now but when they were around two and three, I was like ‘where are the music programs?’ I found a lady in New Ulm who was teaching the original Kindermusik so I got a few moms and our kids together to make it worth her drive to Mankato.”

Anja loves spending time with her husband and three adult children. She recently returned home to her native country Germany to visit her mother for her birthday.

A couple years later, the woman moved to South Dakota and asked Anja if she would like to continue the program. However in her studies, she stumbled upon Musikgarten and discovered that her values and beliefs were more aligned with that program. Musikgarten was created by two teachers, Lorna Heyge and a neuro linguist specialist Audrey Sillick, who were the original creators of Kindermusik. Years later they sold the business name and created Musikgarten because they wanted to a teacher resouce program that would evolve and link the early childhood music and movement experience into formal study, Anja explained. Anja attended many workshops across several states in order to complete her trainng. “I got certified in all six levels all in one summer,” Anja said. “It was really intense, but my kids were ready for the next level. They were ready for piano so I wanted to be able to teach all of the levels.” In her studio, Anja teaches all six levels in a group setting: ages birth to 15 months, 15 months to three, three to four, four to five and six to nine (piano program) group lessons for 3 years. “I always tell parents, ‘I have a nine year plan for your children if you choose to invest in your child,’ ” Anja said with a smile. “By the time they have the opportunity to play a musical instrument in school these kids are so well prepared

because we have been setting the foundation and building the bridge towards formal music study.” One of the things that makes Musikgarten unique is that it includes movement not just music, Anja said. “It is a blast,” Anja said with a smile. “It is so cool to see them learning through rhythm and solfege singing which is Do, Ra, Fa, So, La, Te. It is a method of ear training. It helps students learn pitch, harmony and eventually they will be able to sight read music.” There is so much thought that went into this curriculum, Anja said but to her, the most important thing that she wants young parents and little ones to take away, especially at the beginning is that she wants them to have fun. “It is so good for the child to see their parents having fun because it encourages them to join in,” Anja said. “Even if the kid in the class room wanders off, they are still listening. Then they look over and see mom is still playing the rhythm sticks so they make their way back over to the group. It is so adorable.” When parents choose to participate in Musikgarten, they are giving their children undivided attention. They are totally engaged and this whole process helps with language development, Anja said. “It helps with focusing and listening which are the two most important things kids need when going to school,” Anja said. “It is so simple but that is what most kids lack – having the opportunity to listen and be in silence.” Anja teaches two 12-week classes during the school year and shorter 6-8 week classes in the summer. She prorates classes so people can still get in this semester. She offers morning and evening classes. Families receive a packet for every class that includes a practice CD, a fun listening CD, an educational booklet and some sort of instrument like rhythm sticks, Anja said. “They also get a digital download because I’m not sure some of these

parents have ever seen a CD,” she said with a laugh. “A lot of the material is based in nature and I just love that. Right now we are learning about and singing about our winter animal friends like the coyote and the chickadee and the squirrel. And of course, we have all of those animals in Minnesota. For our movements we are acting out getting ready to go play in the snow. We pretend to get put on our boots and our coat. I ask the kids what color their scarf is. ‘My scarf is striped’ they will tell me or ‘my boots are red.’ I love how excited they get.” Anja said she is so glad that she has had the opportunity to bring this program to Mankato. “I would love it if I could find one or more people insterested in learning Musikgarten,” Anja said. “They have a foundation that helps pay to have this program in places that really need it like Head Start but I just don’t have the time. I would love to train someone in this truly one-of-a-kind program.” Her ultimate goal for her students is to help them create a lifelong love of music, Anja said. “I am not trying to make someone into a concert pianist,” she said. “My approach to piano classes is untraditional. I teach group classes and I don’t do exams where you play in front of a jury. I think that is super freaky and unnecessary.” She tells the parents at the beginning of piano classes, this is not a competition and each of the children learn at their own pace, Anja said. “I want my students to be able to play by ear,” she said. “They will learn to read music too, but it should be sound before sight. If they can play by sound they will be able to play any song they hear on the radio. This makes music more accessible to them for the rest of their lives.”

Women • MARCH 2020 • 23

Looking For Your Tribe? AR FITNESS

Might Just Be The Place For You By Marianne Carlson | Submitted Photos


xercising and being active have always been an important part of Amy Rykhus’ life. She grew up an athlete and went to into the Physical Education Corporate Community Fitness program in college. “I didn’t want to be a teacher for youth so I branched off into the wellness aspect,” Amy Rykhus, owner of AR Fitness said. “Corporations starting to recognize how important fitness was for their employees. I was hired by a health and fitness company in Bloomington. We would design and build fitness facilities right in the main buildings where employees worked. I worked with companies like Abbott, Northwest Airlines and 3M. It was a lot of fun but I was working around the clients’ needs. I would start work at 4:30 a.m. and work 15 hour days.” As the years went by, things changed. Insurance companies started giving their clients fitness benefits. Couples and families 24 • MARCH 2020 • Women

wanted to workout together, Amy said. She also changed. When Amy got married and started a family her priorities changed. “You have to be single for a job like that,” she said. Although Amy had started a family and her life was busier than ever, she always made fitness a priority. Before starting AR Fitness, a women only fitness club, located in the Happy Dan’s strip mall off Hoffman and Victory on Mankato hilltop, she owned Curves for Women. “I didn’t really like the direction they were going,” Amy said. “I wanted to teach more classes so once my franchise agreement ended, I changed the name of the club but it is still a womenonly club. Our members range in age from 12 and I think our oldest member is 94.” Amy is a certified personal trainer and specializes in kettlebell

Amy has found her tribe. She said her clients are the most dedicated, thoughtful women, generous women she has ever met.

Amy Rykhus cuts the ribbon at her new business AR Fitness (formerly Curves For Women) with a group of group of Greater Mankato Growth Ambassadors.

classes. AR Fitness specializes in strengthening women, aerobic and anaerobic circuit training, one-on-one accountability and group classes. “I am a big fan of weight training for women,” Amy said. “That is how you really change your body. She has four employees and a Zumba instructor who work with her. “Once a week I have people tell me how awesome my staff is and I am so grateful for them,” Amy said with a smile. “If you want to come in, workout and be left alone, you can do that. If you want to meet new people and engage you can do that too.” One of the things that Amy said she likes about herself is that she has a terrific work ethic. She is not afraid of hard work and she has tried really hard to instill that quality in her children and her staff. “My staff knows how hard I work and I trust them to do the same,” Amy said. “Their hard work makes it so I don’t have to do everything myself. This business has to work for me for many reasons and I know they all have my best interest at heart.” At AR Fitness women can join as members and take advantage of all the equipment or they can do it more a la carte, buy a punch card and simply drop in for their favorite classes, Amy said. Having a women-only club is her niche, Amy said. “People talk about finding their tribe and this is mine,” Amy said with a smile. “Our members are the most generous women I’ve ever met. As a business, the staff and our members we do a lot of volunteering. We collect donations for Toys for Tots, The REACH Drop-In Center, ECHO Food Shelf and Open Door Health Center. Open Door has their food shelf. It’s not huge but they have one. In December, we decided to do Gratitude Boxes for them. I posted a list of 20 items that would go in each box, like mashed potatoes and spaghetti sauce, stuff like that. We ended up donating 80 boxes with 24 items in each box. They Women • MARCH 2020 • 25

were so grateful.” Amy works hard to keep these amazing women moving and motivated. They recently completed a 21-Day Challenge which she said is a great way to keep her members accountable. Amy said she is not a fan of scales. She wants the women at her club to get stronger and feel good inside and out, Amy said. She doesn’t want then to be obsessed with numbers on a scale. “We talk a lot about eating real food,” Amy said. “As soon as you stop eating, you stop fueling your body. In order to get truly healthy, we have to change how we think about food. I always want people to improve but I also tell them that sometimes, not going backwards is progress.” Amy said there is so much about her job that she loves but her absolute favorite part is seeing someone transform inside and out. She told a story about a woman who has been working really hard and has now lost 60 pounds. “That is the best,” Amy said with a smile. “She is so much more confident. She said, people who have known her for years don’t recognize her. Our motto is Real Women Real Results for a reason.” 5 YEARS IN A ROW


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The cost to become a member at AR Fitness is $39 per month and worth every bit of it, Amy said. “But only if you come, consistently,” Amy said. “As women we need strength training. I don’t care if you are working out with cans of vegetables in the basement – I think that is great. The key is to stick with it – do whatever works for you. And it could be a combination of things. But I’ve learned that I am a destination exerciser. I’ve learned that if I want to go for a run, I do best if I drive to a trail so I can’t turn around and go home after a couple of blocks.” Amy is a very goal-oriented person and she encourages all of her members to set goals for themselves as well. She always asks her members “What is your end game?” “I heard a quote a while back and I’ve rammed it into everyone’s brains at the club,” Amy said. “When you think you are too busy to exercise, think of it in terms of priority. If you say you are too busy to go to the gym, then it is not a priority for you. If you say you are too busy to go to church then it is not a priority for you. It’s kind of life changing when you look at it that way. If you feel bad about missing something because you are too busy then do something about it. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Make the things that are important to you in your life a priority. Make yourself a priority.”

In addition to helping women achieve their fitness goals, Amy is an active, involved mother who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves volunteering and giving back to her community. Amy encourages everyone to make the things that matter most to them in their life a real priority.

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Women • MARCH 2020 • 27

Powerfully Positive Sisters Help Women Find Their Sense Of Knowing By Marianne Carlson | Submitted Photos

28 • MARCH 2020 • Women

Sisters Reverend Jinelle Anlea Fryklund and Reverend Amy Oberle empower women by teaching classes at the Hope Interfaith Center in Mankato.


isters Reverend Jinelle Anlea Fryklund and Reverend Amy Oberle have always had a strong connection … to each other, to the world around them and beyond. Even as young girls, they both had strong intuitive feelings. “I remember one time when we were little, we were hiking with our family on these big beautiful rocks,” Amy said. “Jinelle was about 20 feet away from me and I got this crystal clear vision that she was going to slip and crack her chin open. So I ran as fast as I could to to go tell her, but then – it happened – too quickly for me to stop it.” “I think Amy cried harder than I did,” Jinelle said giggling a little at the memory. Amy recalled several other occasions from her youth when she saw something happen in her mind’s eye before it actually occurred. “Our mom never made us feel weird or called us crazy when we talked about this stuff with her,” Amy said. “We won the mom lottery. She helped us shape our lives and our gifts. She is one of our greatest teachers and of course Hope.” (Hope Gorman, Founder and Director of the Hope Interfaith Center) Jinelle and Amy talked about the house they grew up in and how it was haunted. “One night our dad fell asleep and the name Justine was written

on his crossword puzzle in little girl handwriting,” Amy said. “Then later Jinelle saw her. Stuff like that happened to us all the time growing up.” Jinelle and Amy have eight other siblings – four brothers and four sisters. “That’s why we always say we can get along with anyone,” Jinelle said with a laugh. When Jinelle was 19 and Amy was 18, their mother Anita took them to a class that “awakened their spiritual side,” Jinelle said. “We knew immediately this is what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives,” Jinelle said with a smile. Since she was a young girl Jinelle has been able to see angels and spirits, but it wasn’t until she took this class that she learned that she could communicate with them. She learned that she was experiencing clairvoyance, clairaudience and clairsentience. “We learned how to mediate. How to be more intuitive and more intentional about where we put our energy,” Amy said. “We always say spirit works through us. We are vessels.” Amy was drawn to be a healer. Growing up, her mother taught her healing techniques and how to connect and call in the angels to help bring the light in when there was something that needed to be healed. Amy has taken classes all over the United States to help

further understand the abilities that we all have to help live our best lives. Anita began taking Amy and Jinelle to the Hope Interfaith Center (HIC) when they were young girls. Then later, they both took Hope’s intense year-long leadership class to become ordained Interfaith Ministers. Both women now work at the HIC full-time. “The Hope Interfaith Center is a safe space for people to come and heal and grow,” Jinelle said. “Here they can ask questions about life and spirit. People come here to feel connected and empowered.” “Everyone has thes same abilities we do inside of them. Everyone has that little spark inside them,” Amy said with smile. “We care so much. We truly want to see people happy, doing everything they can to live the best life they can. We simply use tools like guided mediations and Reiki to help people get clarity on their goals and purpose.” Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. The word Reiki is made of two Women • MARCH 2020 • 29

For More Information:

Visit website www.jinelleanlea.com for upcoming classes. EMPOWER: Friday, March 20, 2020, 6:30 PM Hilton Minneapolis/Bloomington 3900 American Boulevard West Bloomington, MN 55437

Salt Room Mediation and Hope Interfaith Center Meditations

Spiritual Rising: Friday May 1, 2020 6:00 – 8:30 PM Hope Interfaith Center 114 Pohl Road Mankato, MN 56001

Social Media, Facebook and Instagram: @thesistersrising @Jinelle Anlea @amyoberle

Stand Up Stand Out: www.hopeinterfaithcenter.com

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Japanese words - Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki which is “life force energy”. So Reiki is actually “spiritually guided life force energy.” A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you. Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. “It is great for people who can’t sleep or have anxiety,” Amy said. “It can also help people recover after surgery. One of our passions is helping children. If they are experiencing intuitive feelings, we try to help them hone those skills. Reiki helps them focus and have mental clarity. I’ve seen little wiggle worms come in and after 5-10 minutes into the session, you can just see them completely relax.” Jinelle is a spiritual coach and she has been doing angel readings for almost 10 years. “I never call myself a medium but loved one always comes through,” Jinelle said with a smile. “I am really a vessel to help people connect with spirit. People come to me when they have lost a loved one or if they feel like they have lost themselves. I help remind them that they are a beautiful spiritual being and they do have meaning in their life.” People can book a session a one-on one-session or they can speak with both Amy and Jinelle. “It is fun when we work together,” Jinelle said. “It is fun when I think something or feel something and Amy will say it. In a session, I use words like ‘I feel’ or ‘I know.’ I can see spirits and angels and it is so random who comes through. Sometimes dogs come through.” “Intuitively guided messages is how I explain what I receive when connecting with spirit,” Amy said. “We like to say that the work we do complements medicine. We are here to improve the quality of life in any way possible.” In addition to their one-on-one or one-on-two sessions, Amy and Jinelle also teach a variety of classes at the HIC and across Minnesota. In fact, on March 20, they are realizing one of their personal goals by teaching alongside their mentors at a special event titled “Empower” at the Hilton Minneapolis in Bloomington. They also have a class called “Spiritual Rising” coming up on May 1 at the HIC. Although both Jinelle and Amy have become teachers and spiritual coaches,

Jinelle and Amy help people connect with their loved ones who have passed and they help heal a myriad of health issues like anxiety, sleeplessness and so much more.

they both said they are still students. “Every successful person has mentors,” Jinelle said. “Even if you’ve been doing something for 20-30 years. Truly successful people are never done learning. We are so hungry to learn. Our goal is to keep growing and never stop.” Jinelle and Amy’s mother, Anita battled cancer for 10 years and her bravery and strength is something they carry inside them every day. “Our mom was so sick for so long,” Jinelle said. “But she never complained. She had this enormous mental strength and I know she passed that on to all of us kids. As cliche as the term ‘positive

thinking’ is – it is real. Thoughts create our reality.” The moment when Amy and Jinelle watched their mother take her last breath; the moment when they watched her soul leave this world and move on to the next one; that was the moment that both Jinelle and Amy knew that all of us are here for something more. Both Jinelle and Amy have had personal trials and tribulations to overcome in their lives that they feel have helped reinforce their path toward spiritual teaching. When Amy was 18, she was diagnosed with cancer and she leaned into her spirituality and the

healing arts of Reiki to help her get through it. Then only a few years later, when Jinelle was 23, she was hit by a train and that near-death experience changed her life forever. At the time, Jinelle was a flight attendent working for Northwest and when she woke up that morning, she said she heard a voice. “That was really not unusual so I just ignored it,” Jinelle said. “I hugged my mom goodbye and headed off to work. She later told me that she felt I wasn’t going to be coming home from work that night.” Women • MARCH 2020 • 31

Amy poses with her family on her wedding day. She and her husband enjoy traveling.

When Jinelle was about 20 minutes from the airport she got a frantic call from Amy. “Jinelle are you okay? I have a really bad feeling about you,” Amy told her. Jinelle reassured Amy that everything was fine and she continuted driving to work. As she was getting off the highway by terminal two, her gas pedal stuck, but she managed to stop

right before the train tracks. “I thought everything was fine so I took my foot off the emergency brake but my car lunged forward and the train hit my driver’s side door going 30 miles per hour,” Jinelle said. “It shattered my windows but I didn’t have one cut on my face. Before the train hit me I blacked out. I felt two angels pull me out of my body and bring me into the most beautiful white light. It was the most magnificent euphoria. It felt like what I imagine Heaven feels like. It was indescribable bliss, peace and love.” Just talking about it made Jinelle tear up. “It was the worst day of my life but that feeling was the best feeling of my life,” Jinelle said. “I could feel my soul come back into my body and then the pain started to rush over me.” Because of the things they have gone through, Amy and Jinelle appreciate every single day. “We’ve made the choice to make the ordinary extraordinary,” Amy said. “Thats how we choose to live every day. We go out of our way to find passion in every day. You can choose to wallow in the pain and suffering but being positive is a choice that we make every day. By being positive we are showing up for our future self and all the women that we want to help. We are powerfully positive and we don’t apologize for our enthusiasm.” At her previous job, Amy was once told that she was simply “too nice to be successful” and she recalled once after a managers’ meeting, being asked by one of her co-workers to “tone it down.” Jinelle agreed, “I’ve always had to dull myself down. I’ve had people ask me not to get too excited.” “It is a choice to be happy and a choice to be positive,” Amy said. “Here at the Hope Interfaith Center we deal with a lot of people in crisis or people struggling with terminal illness so we need to be positive. We need to be strong for people who

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are grieving. By staying positive, we are taking care of ourselves and we have to do that before we can help anyone else.” “Hope has taught us to surround ourselves with people who support our dream and goals,” Jinelle said. “She had taught us how to stand in our power and be who we are … no matter what.” “We have received the greatest love in our life and we want to share that,” Amy said. “We want to help help people find that sense of knowing. We want to help people find their purpose. We want to empower and raise up the women around us.” The girls explained that this life is not a competitiion. There is room for everyone to be successful and happy, Amy said. “There is no limit,” Amy said. “We want to celebrate all women. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. When one of us gets a seat at the table, we all get a seat at the table. When we help others transform, we transform.”

Jinelle laughed and said she and Amy are still human. They get frustrated and angry just like everyone else in the world. “Just ask our husbands,” Jinelle and Amy love spending time with their family. Jinelle said teasing. “Amy and They have six brothers and two sisters. I are both on a fertility journey and we’ve been trying to have children for years. It has been a hard where you are and it does get better. As journey, but we know that everything in spiritual teachers, it is our job to stay up this life happens for a reason. There is a here energetically and help people get reason those children are not in our life there too.” yet. Choosing not to stay in the struggle “Hope taught us that people think is a choice we make every day.” some things are spiritual and some “We have been at the lowest of the things are not, but in reality – every low,” Amy said. “I want people to know thing is spiritual,” Jinelle said with a that we are not perfect. We have been smile.

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integrity. respect. respect. trust. trust. compassion. integrity. compassion. inclusion. inclusion. YWCA Mankato is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering YWCA Mankato is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

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