It has been a busy, exciting few months for us here at Ampersand Families!

First of all, a big CONGRATULATIONS goes out to Michelle Chalmers, Ampersand Families’ co-founder & co-executive officer. She is receiving the “Hero for Children” award from the Children’s Law Center tonight to honor her career in child welfare.

As someone who has worked closely with Michelle for nearly ten years, I can tell you that she deserves this award. Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, we were in the office together when she returned a phone call that she’d received from a young woman living in another state out east.  This young person was 3 months away from aging out of the foster care system, was trying to connect to good resources, and apparently found Ampersand in a Google search.  Michelle spent a good 45 minutes on the phone with this teen, genuinely trying to help, listening to her story, and encouraging her to allow Michelle to connect with this young woman’s social worker.

No one paid Ampersand Families for Michelle to talk to this teen; Michelle knew this, but did it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. And we’re all busy, right?  But Michelle knew it was important to try to help, to encourage, to take time to listen and give suggestions.  She didn’t know I’d be writing this today and that other people would hear the tale; this is just one small story of many that I could tell you about Michelle.  But I think it exemplifies what Children’s Law Center is honoring tonight: the fact that there are among us quiet heroes walking around and doing their job in a way that always puts the kids first, no matter the barriers or the time it takes or whether or not there is payment or recognition.  Always.  And those of you – like me – who are fortunate to know Michelle also know that this describes my colleague perfectly.

And yes, that’s the only time I’ll ever put the words “quiet” and “Michelle” in the same paragraph. *smile*

To change gears: In other news, we’ve helped in 5 adoption finalizations this summer! We’ve also helped in matching 11 youth with families… this means that the teen is either living in their new home or is on the way.  All of these youth are ages 10 – 17.  Since Ampersand opened, we’ve helped 31 young people find permanency.

And as we celebrate our 4th birthday on October 1st, that number will continue to grow.  It’s hard to believe how quickly time flies.  Happy birthday, Ampersand!

Finally, on that subject, we’ve been so busy that we’re looking for candidates for a Permanency Specialist position and a Development Director position. Interested? Please check it out or spread the word. We are accepting resumes through the end of the week.

Thanks for tuning in once again.


Here’s to hope,

Jen Braun, Co-Founder & Co-Executive Officer




We wrapped up our fiscal year on June 30th with strong support from individuals, corporations, and foundations.  In fact, our individual donor contributions exceeded our expectations by 61%!  Wow!!  We’re honored to have such tremendous support for our mission from all of you.

Special thanks to those who gave grants in the past months: the Otto Bremer Foundation for their continued strong and generous funding, the WCA Foundation for their large general operating gift, the Mardag Foundation and Target for their continued support of the Minnesota Heart Gallery, and the BNSF Railway Foundation as a new Heart Gallery contributor.

Thank you to all – we couldn’t do such excellent work on behalf of waiting youth without your support. See our full list of our contributors on our website.



The Minnesota Heart Gallery will be at the 15th annual Circus of the Heart. The Circus of the Heart is a celebratory event for adoptive families, foster families, and those who are interested in adopting. It’s on Sunday, November 4, 2012 from 1 pm – 4 pm at Prom Center, 484 Inwood Avenue, Oakdale. For more info, click here.

As many of you know, the Minnesota Heart Gallery  is an Ampersand Families’ outreach effort that harnesses the talents of volunteer professional photographers to take personality-capturing photos of older kids who are in foster care and awaiting adoption. If you are part of an organization that might be interested in having the Heart Gallery exhibit on display at your site, contact Alyssa at to set things up.

As always, huge thanks to our Heart Gallery photographer volunteers.


About Me Sydnee is the Minnesota Heart Gallery Coordinator and a professional photographer by trade, coming to Ampersand with a love for photography, story-telling and youth. Sydnee holds dual degrees in both photography and English, which includes a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in St. Paul and an associate’s degree from Minneapolis Community & Technical College. Her attention to detail, dedication to forming relationships and networking, passion for youth and excitement for new ideas makes her a great addition to the team at Ampersand Families.

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