Board of Directors

Rhett Johnson

Board Chair

Rhett Z. Johnson is currently the Director of Network Operations at Johnson Telephone Company in Remer, Minnesota, where he has been an employee since July, 2006.  Some of his previous roles at JTC include Plant Operations Manager and Technical Operations.


Rhett was also the owner and operator of Thunder Lake Lawn Service, Inc. (TLLS) from 1996 to 2014.  The business focused on Lawn Maintenance, Lawn Care, Irrigation Installation and Maintenance, and Landscape Installation and Maintenance.  In 2005 Rhett stepped away from day-to-day operations work while continuing his role as owner.  In 2014 he sold TLLS and started Go Green Lawn Care MN (GGLCMN) that serviced the Minneapolis Metro and Brainerd Lakes Area.  In February of 2017, Rhett sold GGLCMN.


Rhett graduated from Northland High School in Remer, MN in 2001, and from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2006 with BA in Business Administration.  Rhett was pleased to join the Board of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation in 2011.


Rhett, his wife Kimberly, their son Rhett Jr. (RZ) and daughter Veronica love spending time on the lake and with their family and friends.

Cynthia Margo

Chair Elect

In 1988, Cynthia earned her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) from the University of North Dakota.  She worked in several out-of-state hospitals as an ICU nurse and an ER nurse before moving back to Minnesota and settling in Grand Rapids.


Cynthia joined the Board of Directors in 2014 as just one of many ways she serves her community through volunteer activities She also serves as General Office Coordinator for the Itasca Surgical Clinic.


Cynthia and her husband Dan have four children: Abby, Abe, Alex and Alaina.  They enjoy living on and spending time on Pokegama Lake near Grand Rapids.

Kristian Myers

Vice Chair

Kristian owns and operates Woodland Insurance in Remer and Longville.  He and his wife, Jill, live near Remer with their two daughters, various pets, and a plethora of wildlife.

He is a graduate of Northland Community Schools, Itasca Community College, Bemidji State University and The National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research.

Kristian is an Assistant Chief and Relief Association President for the Remer Volunteer Fire Department.  He is a member of the Northland Alliance Church, Northland Scholarship Fund committee, coaches boys and girls high school cross country, and serves on advisory committees for Northland Community Schools.

When not at his desk, Kristian enjoys backpacking, running, deer hunting, home improvement projects, and recreational travel.

Amy Trast


Amy Trast is a Financial Advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors in Grand Rapids.  She grew up in Rothsay, MN and moved to Grand Rapids in 1996.  She has worked in the financial services industry for over 22 years.  Amy has been active in many non-profits including Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Grand Itasca Foundation and United Way.  She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Alworth Memorial Fund.  Amy feels it is very important to give back to the community through volunteer activities.

Amy graduated from Bemidji State University with a degree in Business Administration-Finance.  She and her husband Eric have two children, Emily and Theo.  In her free time, she enjoys cooking, fishing and attending all of her kids’ activities.

Sonja Merrild


Sonja moved to Grand Rapids in 2012 when she accepted an offer to join the Blandin Foundation as Director of Grants.  As someone who had volunteered for nonprofit boards for several years (primarily in Wyoming where she lived for 18 years prior to moving to Grand Rapids), she longed to work from a place where she could help bridge the work of rural foundations, rural nonprofits, and rural communities.


Sonja takes seriously her part in furthering the Blandin Foundation’s mission - a mission that is not so unlike the mission of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation.  She hopes that her work for the Community Foundation will help align the work of both foundations for the benefit of all local residents.


Sonja enjoys the outdoors, where she kayaks, golfs, practices Yoga, cross country skis, and walks her dog.  With all her family living overseas, Sonja often travels to Scandinavia too.  She loves the people of the Grand Rapids area, who she says are welcoming, generous, and resourceful. 

Kelly Kirwin

Past Chair

Kelly Kirwin is the Director of Grand Itasca Foundation.  Kelly is originally from Grand Rapids.  She attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, on a college golf scholarship.


Upon graduation, Kelly worked for the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Club for eight years.  Her career with the Hurricanes includes being a part of the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship Team and her name is engraved on the Stanley Cup.


Kelly returned to Grand Rapids in 2008 to work for Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital.  She enjoys working with various community activities and organizations.  She has coached the Grand Rapids High School Girls Golf Team, was a member of the community committee who worked on the Pokegama Golf Course clubhouse project and was a committee member for the 2011 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener.


Kelly also currently serves on the board for Pokegama Golf Course and North Homes Children and Family Services.  She is passionate about community leadership and teamwork, and is a 2009 graduate of the Blandin Community Leadership Program and the University of St. Thomas - Center for Business Excellence Institute for Executive Director Leadership.  Kelly and her husband, Jeff Ericson, have twin boys, Will and Alex.  She spends her free time outdoors with her family and friends.

Shannon Benolken

Shannon is a Business Banking Officer at American Bank of the North. She has a BA in Business Management from the College of St. Scholastica and an MBA with concentrations in finance and public administration from Ashford University. Shannon is originally from Cohasset, and has lived in Itasca County the majority of her life, currently residing on her farm in Warba. She has been active in the community for over 20 years, serving on many local nonprofit Boards. Currently, she is the Treasurer of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. She is also an active Rotarian.


Shannon is an Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) through the National Development Council, a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP) through NASBITE International and she is a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA) through the Exit Planning Institute.


Her hobbies include spending time with her family, horses, hiking and winter camping.

Steve Burggraf

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Steve Burggraf earned a degree in Small Business Management and Sales and Marketing.  Steve brings experience in business management in northern Minnesota.  He is the President/CEO of seven Ace Hardware stores, located in Minnesota and North Dakota, including Burggraf’s Ace Hardware and Paint Company in Grand Rapids since 1989.  Steve moved to Grand Rapids in 1989 and is active in several business and community organizations.  He is a member of the BAD (Big Ace Dealers) and serves on the board of directors of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, Northspan, and Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital.  Steve also owns the Grand Rapids Ground Round and five Verizon Wireless stores in northern Minnesota.  Steve joined the Grand Rapids State Bank board of directors in April 2012.

Kathy Dodge

Kathy Dodge was Executive Director of the Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program but taught English at Grand Rapids High School for most of her career.  She served on the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, and was co-founder of Grand Rapids Arts!.  Currently, she is on the board of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and is a commissioner with the Grand Rapids Arts and Culture Commission.  Her education includes a BA from St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY) and an MA from Syracuse University (NY).

Kelly Kabotoff

Kelly Kabotoff is one of the co-founders of Lake + Co. (Lake Time Magazine, Lake Bride Magazine, and The Lake + Co. Shop).  She is the manager and buyer for The Lake + Co. Shop, located in Grand Rapids and Crosslake, and is a visionary when it comes to Lake + Co., and all things business.  Passionate about growing the north through entrepreneurship and community collaboration, she’s applying her expertise gained from working in merchandising and franchise development over the last 10 year in Denver, CO.  Having returned to her roots, she now lives in Grand Rapids with her husband, Scott, and their four children (ages 10, 7, 5, and 1).

Jim Lamke

Jim Lamke hails from Hill City and is the current owner and general manager of Lamke Broadcasting (KOZY/KMFY/J105) in Grand Rapids.  Jim is active in a number of nonprofit and community causes including serving as past president of the Hill City Lions Club, past member of the Itasca Community College Foundation Board and has been very active with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce serving as a committee chair.  Jim is currently the President of the Haypoint Jackpine Snowmobile Club and also serves on the Fund Advisory Committee for the Hill City Area Community Fund.

Isaac Meyer

Isaac Meyer is the Planning and Development Director for KOOTASCA Community Action. In his role he focuses on community engagement, anti-poverty efforts, and program and housing development. Isaac graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in Political Science, and is an alumni of the Blandin Community Leadership Program and the Marie and Robert Jackson Fellowship.

Isaac first came to Grand Rapids in 2012 to conduct research for the Blandin Foundation on collective impact initiatives during his term as a John Brandl Scholar for the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy. Having fallen in love with the community, Isaac returned to the Grand Rapids area in 2013 to lead KOOTASCA’s community engagement efforts and the creation of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids and Greenway.

Isaac is passionate about rural issues and community life and enjoys working with non-profits on community issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids and Greenway, First Call for Help, and the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation.

Isaac and his wife, Regan, enjoy spending time in the outdoors in beautiful Northern Minnesota. When not at work or volunteering Isaac enjoys cooking, gardening, and woodworking.

Jerry Ophoven

We are pleased to welcome Jerry back!  Jerry served on the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Board from 1997 to 2003.

Jerry is a partner in the law firm of Anderson, Ophoven & Stauffer Law Office, P.A. He practices in the areas of estate planning, elder law, business law and real estate. Prior to making Grand Rapids his home in 1993, he was a police office in suburban Minneapolis.


Jerry and his wife Molli have four adult children, and appreciate all the benefits of living in the beautiful Grand Rapids Area.

Julie Wilcox

Julie Wilcox joined the board of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation in the spring of 2017 and is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Grand Rapids State Bank. 


Julie grew up in West Central Minnesota and after attending college and living out of state for several years, returned to her home state in 2013 and has resided in Grand Rapids ever since.  She holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Coe College and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Iowa.  


Julie loves being involved in the community and is proud to serve the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation.  She has also been a passionate advocate for people with food allergies for several years. Julie’s oldest daughter has several life-threatening food allergies.  Julie has served on the national board of FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) out of Washington, DC since 2009.   Julie chaired the Walk for Food Allergy in Boston for eight years before moving back to Minnesota and also served as a member of the Massachusetts General Hospital Food Allergy Center’s Parent Advisory Committee in Boston.  Prior to Grand Rapids State Bank, Julie spent the bulk of her career working in media and account service at various advertising agencies.  


Julie and her husband, Noah, have five daughters.  They love spending time on the lake, traveling, cooking, skiing and are both passionate advocates for the community banking industry.

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350 NW 1st Ave, Suite E  | Grand Rapids, MN 55744  |  218-999-9100

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