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LeadingAge bestows awards to employees and residents

Sarah Benbow, Executive Director of Communications | Feb 13, 2024

Five Knute Nelson/Walker Methodist team members were awarded high honors at this year’s LeadingAge Minnesota Institute & Expo, the state’s largest and most comprehensive aging services conference.

“Together, these four awards not only highlight the exceptional achievements of these individuals but also shine a spotlight on the collective excellence and compassion that define our organization,” said Mark Anderson, President and CEO of Knute Nelson/Walker Methodist. “I am incredibly grateful for their contributions and inspired by their dedication to making a difference in the lives of our residents and their families.”


Kathy Erickson, a vibrant resident of Walker Place in Minneapolis, is the recipient of LeadingAge Minnesota’s Spirit of Aging Award, an honor bestowed to an older adult who exemplifies the concept of positive and active aging. Erickson was selected from a pool of nominations submitted by a field of 750 senior care organizations throughout the state.

“Kathy Erickson’s journey at Walker Place began almost two years ago, and she has since become a beacon of energy and inspiration,” said Kari Thurlow, President and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota. “Her dedication to active aging is evident in her diverse contributions to the community.

Kathy’s impact extends far beyond the borders of Walker Place. As a member of the Days for Girls organization, she travels the world advocating for young women and girls who lack education about their bodies. Kathy sews reusable feminine products, delivering them to women in African communities. Beyond providing physical items, she empowers these women to create these products themselves, turning it into a sustainable business.

“Kathy’s involvement with the Days for Girls project led has been remarkable experience for all of us at Walker Place,” stated Jo Specht, Director of Life Enrichment. “Her ability to create a safe space for uncomfortable conversations demonstrates her compassion and dedication to making a positive difference.”

To learn more about Kathy Erickson and her impactful journey, watch the 2024 Spirit of Aging Award video


Stuart Henrickson, board member for Knute Nelson Corporation and Foundation in Alexandria, Minn., was awarded Board Trustee of the Year. The award honors a volunteer board member in an older adult services organization whose leadership, service, and actions have enriched the lives of older adults and enhanced their community.

Henrickson, a visionary leader, served more than two decades as a board member for Knute Nelson Corporation and Foundation, assuming the role of Chair for both entities. His unwavering commitment to caring for people wherever they call home and his acute awareness of the changing demographics and challenges facing long-term care organizations sets him apart.

“Stuart Henrickson is an inspirational leader for the Knute Nelson organization and has played a pivotal role in expanding services for older adults across the state,” said Kari Thurlow, President and CEO of LeadingAge Minnesota. “His strategic vision and dedication have positioned Knute Nelson as a leader in addressing the aging services sector’s challenge to ensure every older adult has access to the care they need in a community close to home.”

Under Henrickson’s leadership, Knute Nelson has expanded its reach from a single site serving 400 individuals to multiple locations with diverse services, including home care, a wellness center, a thriving Foundation, and now serving 11,500 people in 58 counties.

Mark Anderson, President and CEO of Knute Nelson, expressed gratitude for Stuart’s leadership, saying, “Stuart has been instrumental in guiding the growth and diversification of the Knute Nelson portfolio. He has been a personal and professional mentor to me for more than 20 years.”

Henrickson played a pivotal role in the development of the Grand Arbor senior lifestyle community, a testament to his commitment to providing quality living environments for older adults. His impact extends beyond professional realms, as he and his wife Evelyn now call Grand Arbor home.

For more information, please watch the 2024 Board Trustee of the Year Award video.


Kimber Maurine, a volunteer with Walker Methodist Westwood Ridge in West St. Paul, Minn., was honored with the District G Volunteer of the Year Award, which honors individuals in older adult services whose commitment and dedication enhances the quality of life for seniors and their communities.

Maurine began volunteering in 2015, following a stay in the Westwood Ridge Transitional Care Unit. Over the years, she helped set up parties and activities alongside the Director of Life Enrichment, interviewed residents and family members to create Life Boards in Memory Care, assembled TCU Welcome Bags, helped in the office, created a DVD library (in which she donated her entire collection), pours coffee for residents at lunch time, and visits with residents in need of companionship.

“Kimber is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. She has helped me see that throughout all life’s challenges there is a reason, we have a purpose, and that every day is a blessing,” said Danielle Cross, Westwood Ridge Director of Life Enrichment. “She is truly a remarkable individual.”


Sam Schultz, Nursing Assistant Mentor at Knute Nelson Care Center in Alexandria, Minn., was recently honored with the District C Caregiver of the Year Award, given to individuals in older adult services who demonstrate exceptional commitment to older adults as well as enhance and enrich the quality of life of those in their care. Schultz was one of seven caregivers selected for the regional award out of a field of 65,000 professional caregivers throughout the state.

In his nomination, a co-worker said, “Sam is an incredibly compassionate and caring employee, who is seen as a leader on the floor by his peers. He works incredibly hard to assure all of our resident’s needs are met and takes pride in answering call lights and anticipating resident needs. I don’t think I have ever seen Sam sitting down, he is always looking for work and trying to stay ahead of his tasks while helping teammates who may be running behind.”


Walker Methodist Westwood Ridge (West St. Paul) Resident Mary Eileen Sorenson was awarded the Spirit of Advocacy Award. This is a long-recognized award from the association and celebrates members who go above and beyond to advocate in support of staff and residents.

“We are tremendously grateful for your efforts to elevate the voice of residents in supporting funding for caregiver wages,” said Erin Huppert, Vice President of Advocacy with LeadingAge Minnesota.

Mary Eileen has stood before the legislators calling for increased wages for those working in senior care settings. She continues to advocate on behalf of aging adults and uses her voice to lead the charge for reform.

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