Inspire Awards

Since 2012, Violence Free Minnesota has honored the work of advocates, allies, and volunteers from across the state with the annual presentation of the Inspire Awards. The awards are given to individuals who have demonstrated impressive dedication to the movement to end relationship violence. Violence Free Minnesota’s member programs, which include over 90 programs working to end relationship abuse across the state, participate in the nomination process; the awards are presented at Violence Free Minnesota’s state-wide meeting in September.

2018 Inspire Award Recipients

Community Ally

Nick Settich


Nick Settich is a Certified Laser Specialist (CLS) and owner of Renewal Laser Clinic. Through his South Minneapolis based business, Settich provides free laser tattoo removal services for victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. Settich and Renewal Laser Clinic were nominated by Dawn Cornell of St. Paul City Attorney’s Office and the staff at Breaking Free, a program for victims of sex trafficking.


Sharon Knutson

Sharon Knutson was nominated by St. Cloud based Anna Marie’s Alliance for volunteering on a weekly basis for the past 10 years. Knutson, a retired social worker and child protection investigator, answers the phone, watches children, prepares medication baskets for residents, assists residents with getting job applications submitted and is considered a mentor by the staff


Shirley Johnson

Shirley Johnson has over three decades of experience working to end domestic violence in Minnesota. Johnson has been steadfast in her years of commitment and has worked as an advocate, legal advocate, childcare worker, housekeeper, and outreach worker at domestic violence programs across the Metro area including Alexandra House, Casa de Esperanza, and Tubman. Currently, Johnson is the facilities manager at her nominating organization, Women’s Advocates, where she has worked for the past 29 years.

Past Recipients


Advocate: Mary Lou Klas, Isaiah  

Volunteer: Renee Page, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

Ally: Dave Pinto, Ramsey County Attorney’s Office 



Advocate: Carol Arthur, Domestic Abuse Project

Volunteer: Daniel Newborg, Breaking Free 

Ally: Virginia Merritt, Olmstead Legal Services and Women’s Shelter 



Advocate: Connie Sponsler, Battered Women’s Justice Project

Volunteer: Anne Detlefsen, Filmore Family Resources and Women’s Shelter 

Ally: Probation Officer Andy Ypma, McLeod Alliance 



Advocate: Sandy Davidson, Praxis 

Volunteer: Samantha Schendzielow, Alexandra House 

Ally: Maplewood Chief of Police Paul Schnell, Tubman 



Advocate: Colleen Schmitt, Cornerstone

Volunteer: Rick Nelson, Anna Marie’s Alliance 

Ally: Officer Tara Becker, 360 Communities 



Advocate: Erica Staab, Hope Center 

Volunteer: Gerry Hackman, Women’s Shelter 

Ally: Deputy Scott Finnegan, The Refuge


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