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Largest StepUP Gala Ever Celebrates Hope

The StepUP® Gala on October 29 was a night of celebration for the StepUP Program, with a record-capacity crowd, a special guest appearance by Senator Amy Klobuchar, and generous support for StepUP’s students and the future of the program.

This year’s Gala generated nearly $500,000 for the program in one evening – with $150,000 raised from the Fund-a-Need. Thank you to the StepUP Board, the Gala committee, and co-chairs Gina Gage and Cindy Piper, for an evening to remember, which included some notable highlights:

• 500 guests in attendance
• 100+ StepUP Program alumni and students
• Barbara and Skip Gage and family received the Toby Piper LaBelle Award
• The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation received the inaugural Keystone Award
 Alumni speaker Peter Hubbard ’10 shared his experiences connecting students with alumni

Thanks to all who attended and made the event such a success!


Man of the Hour

Photo of Jon A.Last Friday, March 27th StepUP connected with a handful of Alumni and we had a surprising guest speaker.  Jon Ackerman (Pictured on the Right), a graduate of the StepUP program and Augsburg College.  A young entrepreneur was the man of the hour giving a great presentation of his experience, strength, and hope.

Jon is originally from Dallas, Texas and came to Minnesota to attend Hazelden Center for Youth and Families.  After he joined the StepUP program to find out a year later that school wasn’t for him and so he left Augsburg.  During his time away from school Jon DJ’d, and was very engaged in the Minneapolis music scene by attending shows and planning his own.

Jon reached a point in his career that he wanted an education and re-enrolled at Augsburg College.  He didn’t rejoin the StepUP program but became friends with students involved in the StepUP program since Jon was also in recovery.  He would put on shows and received help from StepUP students by paying them in Red Bull to help blow up balloons.  This time around at Augsburg things went a lot of smoother because he had a purpose and a dream.  Jon graduated with a communication major.  He spoke of the benefits of his major and how it tied into his career.  He benefited the most from a small group communications class since he spends a lot of time meeting and negotiating.

His career continued to grow and today he is a large contributor to the success of the annual Zombie Pub Crawl that takes place in Minneapolis.  He is also now working for Red Bull and with a lot of the clubs around the cities.  He loves what he does and made a career out of it, which is very inspiring and brought hope to the students attending the “Connecting with Alumni event.”

Overall, the event was a success and a large thank you goes out to Jon and all the other alumni that took time out of their lives to talk with the StepUP students.  Business cards were exchanged and connections were made, which after all was the purpose of this event.  I for one feel more secure about my future after attending this event and hope to give back as these Augsburg alumni have when I graduate.

-Blake Halvorson

Coffee Matt

-Blake HalvorsonMatt pouring coffee from a tap.

One of StepUP’s former students is doing big things within the coffee industry.  Matt McGinn, nicknamed Coffee Matt while attending Augsburg, graduated from the StepUP program and Augsburg College in 2013 with a Social Work degree.  He did a couple of internships for his major and realized social work was not for him so he dove into his passion of brewing cold press.

Matt, now 26, has been brewing for over 10 years. With his past experience in brewing and working at other coffee shops he obtained a job after college at Mapps Coffee on Riverside. There he became the operating manager and in no time the store increased their operations and profits.

He knew he had a talent in the unsaturated market for cold press yet needed an investor.  This last October Matt teamed up with his new partner Jake Nelson through an apprentice on Craigslist.  Matt was looking for someone to invest in him and Jake was looking for someone to invest in. It was a perfect partnership.

Blackeye roasting company's logo.They hit the market quick and opened up their own business called the Blackeye Roasting Company where the roasting is done right in the Twin Cities.  They are selling it in a bottle or on tap (pictured above).  Blackeye cold press is sold at over 20 locations in Minnesota with Augsburg as one of the newest locations on the map. Augsburg’s very own Nabo: a neighborhood cafe located in the same building as the StepUP program is now selling Matt’s product.

Matt also runs his own coffee shop by the name Quixotic Coffee located in St. Paul, MN. It has a meeting room available which occasionally hosts 12-step meetings and often attracts people in recovery.  He has been working long hours with big payoffs. With the rate of growth it leads me to believe that this is just the beginning for Matt.

Coffee Matt, a man with a passion for cold press, is making a career out of it. The StepUP program is extremely proud of his accomplishments and knows there are many more to come. Matt will celebrate four years of sobriety in March. He is an inspiration to students about how following one’s passion can lead to a fulfilling career.  We wish Matt the best and cannot wait to see what he brews up next!