Northfield Area United Way

The Local History of JonnyPops

We are excited to announce that JonnyPops is gifting pops at a severely reduced rate to Northfield Area United Way for our upcoming truck pull! Upper Lakes Foods is also donating ice cream treats for the event.

JonnyPops has its own local history. The origins of the company can be traced back to a dorm room at St. Olaf College, where a student named Erik shared a story with his friends.

Erik told his friends about a business idea that he and his cousin, Jonathan, had explored. The two of them wanted to create an all-natural, fruit-forward frozen treat with simple, wholesome ingredients.

But before they could embark on their new business, Jonathan passed away due to a drug overdose. It was this piece of the story that inspired Erik and his friends to take up where Jonathan had left off.

jonny-pops-creatorsJonnyPops creators Erik Brust, Jamie Marshall, and Connor Wray. 

JonnyPops were named in honor of Jonathan, and a portion of the company’s proceeds are donated to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation — a national leader in addiction treatment and recovery.

The company’s motto is “A Better Pop for a Better World,” and their belief is that every act of kindness — no matter how big or small — goes a long way.

Come to our truck pull on September 22nd at 5pm in Bridge Square to taste JonnyPops for yourself. All ice cream treats are free — and a great way to spoil your kid’s dinner!

Truck Pull in Bridge Square Sept. 22 – You’re Invited!

Could you pull a 6,000-pound truck filled with Northfield area leaders? Probably not. But if we pull together with a clear goal in mind, Northfield Area United Way believes we can move just about anything – or anyone – forward, no matter how weighty.

Northfield  Area United Way is asking locals to demonstrate the power of pulling together during its fall campaign launch. Teams will attempt to pull a giant Ford truck filled with area leaders representing the Northfield area from just inside Fifth St. to Bridge Square along Water St. from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. The team pulling the truck the distance the fastest will win. The United Way Truck Pull is sponsored by Dokmo Ford-Chrysler, which also is providing the truck.

Leaders in the truck will include Northfield Mayor Dana Graham; City Administrator Ben Martig; Police Chief Monte Nelson; City of Northfield’s Director of Library and IT Services Teresa Jenson; and Northfield City Council Members Jennifer Peterson White, Rhonda Pownell and Erica Zweifel.

Leaders from all areas served by the Northfield Area United Way have been invited to participate, including officials from Dundas, Dennison, Lonsdale, Kilkenny, Lonsdale, Montgomery and Webster.

KYMN’s Jeff Johnson will emcee the event.

Teams that want to compete to pull the truck are forming now. If you would like to field a team, contact the Northfield Area United Way, 507-664-3510 or The number of teams is limited, so register your team as soon as possible.

The public is encouraged to cheer on teams and join in an ice cream social. Ice cream and Jonny Pops are free, complements of Upper Lakes Foods and Jonny Pops.

About the Northfield Area United Way

The Northfield Area United Way has been funding human service organizations in our area for more than 40 years. Through the generous contributions of individuals and organizations, the Northfield Area United Way granted more than $265,000 last year for education, health and financial stability.

Tried Farming? Volunteer to Plant or Pick.

picking tomato

The Northfield Area United Way is asking for volunteers to help down on the farm – Seeds Farm, that is. Volunteers will help cultivate crops that are offered to low-income residents at a minimal cost — or free.

Last year the volunteer effort helped Seeds Farm, located at the southern edge of Northfield, deliver fresh produce to the Community Action Center’s food shelf and local neighborhoods at Martes en el Parque (Tuesdays in the Park) family events, put on by Growing Up Healthy throughout the summer.

Rebecca Carlson, manager of Seeds Farm, asks for a minimum time commitment of three days for three hours between the end of May and the end of September so volunteers develop the skills necessary to contribute. She trains volunteers to help with tasks from planting and weeding to harvesting and delivering food – all of which is grown sustainably. Last year about 20 volunteers helped at the farm through the United Way effort.

To sign up or learn more about this volunteer opportunity, please contact the Northfield Area United Way, 507-664-3510 or

‘MyFreeTaxes’ Offers Free Tax Prep


United Way site helps tax filers with free online tax prep and filing

NORTHFIELD, Minn. (January 29, 2016)  Seventy percent of American tax filers are eligible for free tax filing, and some don’t know they can save $200 in tax preparation fees every year by using MyFreeTaxes, the first free national, online tax filing platform.

MyFreeTaxes, sponsored by United Way, provides free federal and state tax preparation and filing assistance to individuals and families who had household incomes of $62,000 or less in 2015. MyFreeTaxes can be used to file federal and state taxes in Minnesota.

Last year, more than 200,000 tax returns were filed on, a 2,400% increase since the platform launched in 2009.

Offering free English and Spanish tax support, MyFreeTaxes allows taxpayers to self-file for free using a simple step-by-step process that includes free telephone, email and online chat support from IRS-certified specialists. Those who prefer in-person tax preparation help can contact the Northfield Senior Center, a Northfield Area United Way partner organization, at 507-664-3700. 

MyFreeTaxes is an interactive resource for information regarding tax preparation, valuable credits including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and personal finance. It’s funded by a $1.3 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, and made possible through the collaboration of 1,000 partners, including the IRS, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and state and local government agencies.

About United Way Worldwide: With 2.6 million volunteers and 9.6 million donors worldwide, and more than $5 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create community solutions that improve life for everyone. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For information about the local Northfield Area United Way, see

About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts that draw on the strengths of Walmart in the arenas of sustainability, economic opportunity, and community. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit


Partner Highlight: TORCH Lights the Way

By Michaela Marcinic

Applying to college is a year away for Nicky Vazquez, but already he is focused on college and career, thanks to the Northfield TORCH program. TORCH stands for Tackling Obstacles, Raising College Hopes.

“I kind of want to be a mechanical engineer,” says Vazquez, a Northfield High School junior. “This upcoming year I’ll take the engineering classes Northfield provides.”

Nicky from TORCH

Nicky Vazquez

TORCH has seen its scope and influence evolve since its inception in 2005. A decade ago TORCH focused on helping Latino students. “At the start, TORCH pointed toward a gap, pointed toward a community not supported,” says Teddy Gelderman, co-coordinator of the TORCH high school program. “We know people go to college when they feel supported.”

  • In 2001, just 36 percent of Northfield area Latino students graduated from high school
  • In 2014, 96 percent of TORCH students graduated and 87 percent applied to college. (All were accepted.)

TORCH no longer is a program solely for Latino students; it welcomes all. Today TORCH aims to close the “achievement gap”—education-speak for how students of lower socio-economic status among all ethnic groups fall behind other students. TORCH has gone from serving 17 students to serving 513 students who may lack access to opportunities, time or resources needed for academic success. This explosive growth is a tribute to welcoming mentors, as well as program successes.

“Our primary role is to be an ally and an advocate for students,” says Kim Horner, who coordinates the TORCH high school program with Gelderman.” The most important part of my job is forming relationships with students so that you know their strengths but also where they struggle.”

Community Ties

Bolstered by TORCH, students begin to think big–beyond high school and even college–to careers they may want to pursue. Vazquez first encountered the field of engineering during a University of Minnesota engineering challenge during a high school class.

TORCH organizes career panels of community members, and those panels have had an impact on Vazquez: “Getting to hear from those people gave me a boost to push myself further.” 

Another focus for is community involvement.

Once afraid to speak out, Vazquez began his community involvement in middle school as a representative on TORCH’s Youth Advisory Board. This year he serves on the Mayor’s Youth Council, where students receive briefings on the mayor’s projects and proposals and offer their perspective on community needs.

Vazquez hopes to create bridges between Northfield’s Latino communities and its majority population. Living side by side, residents are often separated by language and cultural barriers.

One hope of the TORCH coordinators is that TORCH alumni come back to Northfield after they have graduated from college to be leaders and role models in the community. With the program now in its eleventh year, many alumni are doing just that. TORCH alumni now work in the schools, in local banks, and at the colleges.  

Gelderman says, “Through community involvement, students gain a voice and are inspired to give back to a community that has helped them achieve their goals.”

— Michaela Marcinic is a St. Olaf College senior who is interning with the Northfield Area United Way.