We Are Happy, Grateful and Celebrating

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Written by Jorrie Johnson

This issue of Rochester Women magazine is our 100th issue. To celebrate, I am sharing some comments from contributors and friends of Rochester Women magazine. Please join our celebration by posting your happy thoughts on the Rochester Women magazine Facebook page this summer. Thank you! 


As a Master Gardener, Gayle Kall was featured on the cover of the second issue of Rochester Women magazine in 2000. Last summer, she posted a question on Facebook asking what good things happened in people’s lives that day. The posts flooded in. I recently asked her to post the question again. She asked, “What are you feeling grateful for, and/or what makes you happy?” Her friend Lori Mickelson responded, “Family and my faith.” Rochester Women magazine’s first editor, Kimberly Keebler Dresner, who now lives and teaches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, responded, “Old friends. Love you!” Many other friends responded with positive thoughts. Then Gayle posted all of the things she is happy about as follows: 



Women Veterans: Community Events Honor and Support

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Written by Brittney Marschall

Women are an essential part of our armed forces and our community of veterans. Throughout history, women have served in various capacities in the military. The first American female soldier, Deborah Sampson from Massachusetts, cross-dressed as a man, disguising herself in order to fight alongside men.


Women have served in America’s conflicts and wars throughout history, including America’s War of Independence, also known as the American Revolution. Wives, mothers and daughters followed their male loved ones into battle serving as cooks, seamstresses, launderers and nurses. 



Zoey Jantsan: The Dreamer Who Got Her Tiara

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Written by Renee Berg Portrait by Erin Young Portrait Design

When Zoey Jantsan strolls into Dunn Brothers Coffee, she’s wearing a plaid shirt from South Korea, a black pencil skirt and boots. She wraps her hands around her cup of tea and says she’s nervous because she hasn’t done many press interviews yet.

It isn’t long before Jantsan is talking about her dogs, her boyfriend and her decision to act on some lifelong dreams during recent years. At age 25, Jantsan realizes she’s carried out some passions from childhood these last few years, including her goal to secure a crown.


Yes, a crown. Jantsan officially became Miss Minnesota U.S. International in October in Big Lake, Minnesota. As a child, Jantsan would wrap her mother’s mint green blanket around her waist and add a belt to keep it in place as her “poofy dress,” and adorn her head with a plastic tiara to complete her pretend pageant winner look. This last fall, her childhood dream came true.

Good thing, too, as she only has two years left before reaching the age limit of 27 to compete in Miss Minnesota U.S. International. “So I had to do it now, or I wasn’t going to do it at all,” she says.



RNeighbors: Reaching Out to Bring Neighbors Together

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Written by Alison Rentschler Photos Provided by Rene Lafflam, RNeighbors

RNeighbors, a Rochester nonprofit created in 2001, has impacted many neighborhoods in Rochester in the past 16 years. Rene Lafflam, executive director of RNeighbors since 2006, says, “We’re about engagement and getting neighbors to interact with neighbors and with the city departments.” 

Lafflam continues, “My end goal is to bring neighbors together.” In many neighborhoods throughout Rochester, RNeighbors has accomplished that.


RNeighbors has been involved in several programs throughout the city, including tree planting (RNeighborWoods) and creative crosswalks. You might have stepped across painted crosswalks or seen the trees planted in town. 



Céilí: Celebrating Old Country Style

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Written by Alison Rentschler Photos by Dawn Sanborn Photography

A "céilí” or “céilidh” is an Irish or Scottish social dance. Avin Honecker Sherman, fitness and dance instructor, explains, “It tends to refer to a dance like we refer to a square dance, with formations. Some dances tend to be in long lines. Many dances are influenced by Irish dancing. It’s like a barn dance.” 

In Rochester, céilí dances are held twice a year, around St. Patrick’s Day and during Irish Fest on Labor Day weekend. Put on your dancing shoes because there will be a pre-St. Patrick’s Day céilí hosted by Irish Fest on Friday, March 10 at the Bleu Duck Kitchen in downtown Rochester.


In céilí dances, a group of people dances together, and each dance is led by a caller. Sherman, who is often a caller for céilí dances in the area, says, “A caller teaches you and tells you what to do. With céilí dancing, you can walk this dance or do an Irish step. You can count 1-2-3, and you hop. It’s similar in different dance styles.”



Gaining Ground: Women in Politics

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Written by Sarah Oslund

Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, the desire for a more balanced representation of women in public policy-making positions is shared by many (men and women). From Minnesota to the Middle East, women are taking action like we haven’t seen in decades, if ever, to be heard and fight for justice. 


Even though women make up more than half of the U.S. population, they remain underrepresented in Congress, holding only 20 percent of the seats. At the beginning of 2017, sources at Emerging America state that women comprise less than 25 percent of seats in state legislatures, 10 percent of all governors and 18 percent of mayors in cities with more than 30,000 residents. 

Research indicates that while women in political races are elected to office at the same rate as men, the recruitment rate for women is drastically lower. They often don’t even reach the proverbial pipeline. Since the election in November 2016, EMILY’s List, She Should Run and other groups that encourage women to seek public office have seen an unprecedented rise in interest.


Christina Ganfield was searching for friends—the kind of friends that only come from shared loves and losses, the kind from home. Home for Christina is Malaysia, seemingly a world away from Rochester, Minnesota. She tried to be a part of different social groups, but nothing ever seemed to fit. Many people she met grew up in Rochester and already had well-established social circles and family support. It was hard to break into that kind of shared history when trying to connect with other women.

One day, while at Christ Community Church, Nancy Dockter, the women’s ministry leader at the time, approached Christina and Rodica Alexander about starting an international group for women. Nancy had come across a resource for women’s groups that offered a monthly conversation prompt. In the summer of 2013, they organized the first International Table. Over the years, the group has brought together between eight and 10 women monthly. Most of the women are from other countries, but the group has several Americans (of mixed or no strong foreign ethnicity) too. The group currently has members from Malaysia, Sierra Leone, Canada, Louisiana, Chicago, Illinois (married to an American born Japanese), China, Korea, Taiwan, Long Island, New York and Romania.


Heather Woitas, owner of Cherished seconds, was raised by parents who enjoyed do-it-yourself projects and home remodeling. Heather's dad told her that if she wanted a new bedroom, she would have to build it herself. So she did, and she loved the challenge.

To this day, Heather credits her father’s love of DIY for instilling her passion for refurbishing and restoring vintage and unique items. She isn’t afraid of hands-on work, either. In fact, she relishes it. “There is something to be said about a woman using power tools and using them proficiently. I used to borrow my dad’s tools, but now I have more saws than he does,” she says.  


Heather’s store, Cherished Seconds, opened in Stewartville in 2015. “When I first opened the shop, I needed the trifecta: a place to sell, a place to teach and supplies for people who want to do it themselves.” 


The Rochester International Film Festival (RIFF) is a one-week event, screening approximately 20 films not otherwise available to people in southeastern Minnesota. The festival runs from April 21-27, 2017 and is hosted by the Rochester International Film Group (RIFG).

Jan Behrens, RIFG board member, explains, “Our basic goal is to provide a local opportunity to see world cinema. And, movies are always better in a theater.” In addition to international films, one or more Minnesota filmmakers attend the showings to answer audience questions. “Two years ago,” Behrens recalls, “we showed a Minnesota-made film called ‘Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile.’ The filmmaker talked afterward about how she happened to make a movie about a young gal living in the Twin Cities who traveled all the way to India to be in the Miss Tibet contest. Fascinating!”



Changing the World One Girl at a Time

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Written by Terri Allred Photos by Dawn Sanborn Photography

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." –Margaret Mead

A small group of thoughtful, committed citizens is working to change the world in Rochester, one girl at a time. They are volunteers of Justice and Opportunity for Youth (JOY), a Rochester nonprofit working to inspire and empower young women to improve quality of life for themselves and their community.

JOY was founded in 2012 as an organization dedicated to helping Rochester youth who were considered high-risk for drug use, truancy, teen pregnancy and victimization. The volunteer staff and board of JOY believe that through community support, positive adult role models and transformational relationships, every child can create an upward trajectory for her life. Research on resiliency in children shows that sometimes the only difference between a child who “makes it” and one who doesn’t is the presence of a single supportive adult in their life. JOY volunteers aim to be that adult.


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