A Coon Rapids community member was recently honored for her leadership and support.
The ABC chapter of the League of Women Voters recognized Lori Anderson for her vision, support and leadership in founding Transformative Circle with its “Friend of League” award. Transformative Circle is a group dedicated fostering conversation between people of different cultures and backgrounds.
“They gave the award to me, but I owe it all to my board,” Anderson said.
According to the League of Women Voters, the award is presented each year to “recognize an individual or organization making an impact on our communities through cooperation and support of (League of Women Voters) goals.”
Anderson got the idea for the group after she started working at the Coon Rapids Civic Center more than six years ago.
She was “astounded” by the number of people she came in contact with from all over the world.
Growing up in New Hope, which she described as a predominantly white city, she didn’t have much opportunity to communicate with people of different backgrounds and cultures than she is.
“I was pretty naive six years ago when I started,” Anderson said.
Seeing such a mix of cultures at work, Anderson said she was pleasantly surprised.
“I was pleased because diversity is such a good thing,” she said.
Anderson and a coworker had the idea to host meetings to bring people together and facilitate discussion among them.
So they did.
The three meetings were predominantly attended by white individuals. The group was leaving meetings informed, but Anderson said no one was really building community like she wanted them to.
Those meetings inspired Transformative Circle, which now meets September through May on the first Thursday of each month.
Each month has a theme, such as parks, history of women of color, or faith. It has also hosted discussions about the LGBTQ+ community and law enforcement.
The meeting attendance has grown more diverse through the years, Anderson said, with about a third of attendees being people of color.
Many of those who come month to month are people Anderson described as the “movers and shakers” of the community. They’re local business owners and philanthropists, as well as people who want to build community and make friends.
To facilitate conversation in the overarching themes of the evenings, Transformative Circle provides “question cards” people can use at each table.
In December, in honor of the month’s many religious holidays, Transformative Circle will host a meeting about faith, where people of different religions are encouraged to talk to teach other and find things in common.
“People would never think they could find things in common because they wouldn’t have these conversations otherwise,” Anderson said.
Since creating Transformative Circle and meeting people from all over the world, Anderson said she’s learned a lot.
“My life has become so enriched from hearing their stories and what makes them happy,” Anderson said.
Throughout the year, Transformative Circle hosts a variety of events for the community, aside from its regular meetings.
In January, the group is hosting a human trafficking summit to increase awareness of sex trafficking in Anoka County and the rest of the state.
Additionally, each year the group hosts a multicultural Night to Unite event in August.
No matter what Transformative Circle is doing, Anderson said she hopes the group is building community in one way or another.
“That’s our thing,” Anderson said. “Let’s bring people together.”