Photo by Tricia Haynes
Don Samuels, CEO of Microgrants and Sondra Hollinger Samuels, CEO of Northside Achievement Zone
How long have you been members at the Minneapolis Club?
Describe your current work.
Don: MicroGrants has two programs:
Micro-Grants: We give small grants of up to $1,500 and a few larger grants of $5,000 to low income people of potential, to prepare for work (education and supplies), create work (businesses) and get to work (vehicles). Our grantees come to us through 50 Partner Agencies, which are the top workforce and entrepreneurship training organizations in the region. We will give over $700,000 in grants this year.
Lights On!: We partner with the police departments of 20 regional municipalities to provide vouchers, not tickets, to drivers who are stopped for broken lights. Drivers redeem their vouchers for full repairs, at no cost, at any Bobby and Steve’s Auto World, where the labor is provided at no cost. Don is also on the boards of Minneapolis Public Schools, Luther Seminary and Twin Cities Rise.
Sondra: NAZ is a place-based collaboration with parents and 40 organizations, including schools, in North Minneapolis. It provides wrap-around supports for families, using a two-generation approach to end poverty and build a culture of achievement, where all low-income children of color graduate from high school college and career ready. Sondra is also currently on the 4th Judicial Selection Commission, the Boards of MN Private College Council, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the Community Advisory Board of the Federal Reserve’s Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute and the Generation Next leadership team.
What is your favorite feature or service that you experience together at the Club?
Access to meeting rooms and event spaces. We have held several events at the Club and have been pleased with the high-quality combination of beautiful spaces, excellent food service and convenient parking.
Describe an extraordinary experience you’ve had together at the Club.
Don once had a number one hit on the Jamaican pop charts. Sondra persuaded him, against all odds, to sing a few lines, at MicroGrants 10th Anniversary, by promising to sing back-up.
When you’re not at work or enjoying the Minneapolis Club, what hobbies do you share?
We love the theater. Sondra and the girls know all the words to Hamilton and Don gets frequent repeat performances. It’s totally ridiculous that we will miss the show, while it’s in Minneapolis. We also are co-hosts of Power to the Parents a 30 min. show on KMOJ Radio, sharing neuroscience breakthroughs and best-practices in effective parenting, with black parents. We are spirituality buffs, so our home is full of books by Richard Rohr, Eckhart Tole and Byron Katie. We talk about the material endlessly and our kids tease us about it. We all love going to Jamaica, where Don still has 5 siblings, for family, beach, patois ackee and salt-fish, jerk, curry and hard-dough bread.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
That would be our 23-years-overdue trip to Botswana, where Sondra was in the Peace Corps as a small-business consultant. We’d reconnect with her old friends and take in the exotic flora and fauna and the incredible Victoria Falls. We doubt though, that the kids would allow us to go by ourselves, after two decades of family-fantasy.