I had the great opportunity to chat with John Nasseff and Helene Houle, AFP Minnesota’s 2013 Outstanding Individual Philanthropists, during the VIP reception that preceeded the award lunch on November 22. I’ve long recognized John and Helene (he by his beret and penchant for striped suits, she for her white streak of hair and radiant smile), but had not met them before.
They are two of Saint Paul’s most warm, genuine and colorful citizens. Both are from similarly poor families who worked hard to put food on the table, but emphasized giving to others when the meal was over.
“We would sit at the table for dinner,” John shared, “and my mother would say, ‘Look at how God has blessed us. We have this warm house. We have food. We have beds to sleep in.’ She made us feel like we were chosen. And she assumed that you would give what you had to help those with nothing.”
John rose to riches threw hard work and shrewd investment, and he has become a smart and generous philanthropist, despite his demure remark (indicating Helene) that “I just do what she tells me.” Learn more about John and Helene through our NPD video, and in this related Pioneer Press article.
Michael-jon Pease, 2013 AFP Minnesota Board of Directors