Inspiring Locals

Meet Four Locals Helping the Fargo-Moorhead Community Thrive

Yvonne Denault

Owner of Willow District

Many women in the Fargo-Moorhead community know Yvonne Denault as a force of nature, especially when it comes to the subject of empowering women. Her journey to women empowerment started years ago when you could find her behind the lens of her camera, taking boudoir-style photos for women in the area. While every woman had their own reason behind taking boudoir photos, the goal was always the same: to help women feel sexy and confident in their own skin.

Denault eventually moved away from photography to open her boutique, Willow District, but the desire to promote body positivity has continued to be a driving force in her business and in her annual event, Runway on the Red. The event, which started as a small affair in Denault’s photography studio, soon came to include a fashion show and has since grown to become one of the most anticipated social events in the area. Today, it has the longest runway in any Fargo fashion show, as well as a powerful lingerie segment that features women of all shapes and sizes.

Leading up to the event, Denault puts out a casting call for local women interested in walking in the fashion show. She notes, “many women come to the casting call for the sole reason of getting outside of their comfort zone” but, she and her team make sure each woman is ready for the big day. The chosen models receive extensive training where they learn choreography and how to walk in the show, as well as perform trial runs in each outfit. The days of practice make a significant impact, and you can see the change in them when they walk the runway. They behave like they’re truly a model, walking and posing with absolute confidence. For Denault, that moment alone makes all the work that goes into organizing the event worth it.

Pull Quote: “I’ve learned that it can take years to get truly comfortable with yourself; it’s just not something that comes naturally to humans.”

Trenton Gerads

Director of Development at The Village

Trenton Gerads is no stranger to community service or the nonprofit sector. In fact, he’s dedicated his professional career to helping the Fargo-Moorhead community and its residents thrive. Gerads, who graduated with a teaching degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead, joined The Village as the Director of Development in 2018. Prior to that, he was the Chief Operating Officer for the Northern Lights Council and the Associate Development Director at the Anne Carlsen Center.

The Village provides a wide range of community and behavioral health services including family and individual counseling, help with drug and alcohol addiction, and mentoring. For those in our community struggling with issues like mental health and addiction, the services The Village provides are life-changing. To ensure every patient receives the help they need, the organization takes insurance and private pay options, as well as offering financial assistance made possible by donations.

Because the organization relies on donations, fundraising has a significant impact on The Village. One of the key fundraising events is the annual Wine and Dine event, which takes place every November and provides many of the funds used to serve 7,000 people each year. When it comes to bolstering community donations, Gerads is able to call on his extensive experience working for nonprofits. His goal is to make the event bigger and better each year so that The Village can continue to share its story with people who have the ability to contribute to its success.

Gerads also hopes to remind people that they don’t have to struggle alone. As an active runner, he believes many of life’s big decisions can be compared to training for a big marathon. Whether it’s seeking help for depression or addiction or any other number of things, the first step is often the hardest. But, those steps can lead to big results.

Pull Quote: “It’s important to remember that life is about the steps you take. Small steps lead to great things.”

Deb Kaul & Beth Ustanko

Founders of Memory Cafe

Memory Cafe isn’t your ordinary business. Founders Deb Kaul and Beth Ustanko have created a nonprofit organization designed to help those living with memory loss cope with the sense of isolation that often emerges. Both Kaul and Ustanko have loved ones with memory loss, and have experienced the effects first hand. Kaul recalls, “When I accepted Dad’s disease and stopped focusing on what was being lost and started focusing on the remaining beauty and strengths, I started to appreciate the remaining moments we had together.”

There are many causes of memory loss, including various forms of dementia, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and other medical conditions. Kaul and Ustanko intend to change the way society views memory loss, as well as the language associated with the condition. It’s important not to talk about people with memory loss by saying they’ve “lost their marbles” or refer to them as “an empty shell.”

The pair have created a place where people can gather twice a month to visit, enjoy a fun activity, attend an event, listen to an entertaining or interesting speaker, and learn about the resources available in our community. A guest named Larry states, “I didn’t want to attend Memory Cafe at first because I was in denial. I didn’t want to admit there was anything wrong with me. Then we started to participate, and it’s changed my life.”

Kaul and Ustanko recruit individuals that can educate, inspire and support participants, and engage them in a meaningful way in the FM community. The energetic, fun gathering times take place every first and third Tuesday and third Saturday of each month. The duo has also created a Caregiver Cafe, which is a personal support group for caregivers and meets twice a month at the Frying Pan in downtown Fargo.

Pull Quote: "It’s not okay to talk about people with memory loss by saying they’ve lost their marbles or they are an empty shell."

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