March, 2014

Christine Levens and the Ruff Family

Three Generations of Friends

The story of how Friends of the Future Leadership Team member Christine Levens and her extended family came to join the Friends is a favorite at NAZ.

Christine is the Director of Events & Programs at the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and also serves as the President of the Northeast Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. She became involved with the Friends in its early days when the NE Mpls. Chamber joined as one of the Friends’ first members. Christine quickly joined our Leadership Team where her participation and support has been critical to the Friends continued growth and success.

Christine’s connection to NAZ is also personal. Her family, stretching back through multiple generations, has lived, worked and raised their families on the Northside, and Christine herself lived there for the first ten years of her life. Because of that connection, she understands the NAZ mission in a unique way, “NAZ is important to me because it is supporting families in the exact same area of the city that generations of my own family started their lives and eventually thrived. They demonstrated that developing skills and receiving an education could change everything. Every family should have the chance to develop and build toward a future for their families like mine did.”

Last year, Christine brought her mother and grandmother to a Friends of the Future Panel Discussion on helping communities out of poverty by using education as a lever for change. Her grandmother, Mary Ruff, a retired teacher, was “completely enthralled with the presentation, but specifically with the philosophy and educators at [NAZ Anchor School] Harvest Prep,” said Christine. Mary expressed a wish to be 30 years younger so she could join the Harvest staff.

In fact, Mary’s excitement was so great that Christine was inspired to recruit her extended family to join Friends of the Future “in honor of Bob and Mary Ruff”. They joined as a group and presented the membership as a gift to Mary on Christmas. Mary was “delighted” and asked them to continue that tradition yearly.

Christine and the Ruffs bring a special energy to the Friends and to NAZ and their support is deeply appreciated. As a student in the Masters of Fine Arts Degree (MFA) in Creative Writing program at Hamline University and with a demanding career and an active civic life, Christine already juggles an overflowing schedule. Her commitment to NAZ, however, is aligned with and reflective of her belief system. “I believe in NAZ,” says Christine, “because I believe in families.”

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