Mark Klukow is a Minnesotan doing all he can to improve the quality of life for kids in Minneapolis. Born in Albert Lea and now living in Minneapolis, Mark is a police officer dedicated to helping people and keeping people safe. Along with being a standout police officer, this loving husband and doting father has a hand in numerous programs to help local youth. Inspiring individuals like Mark Klukow make the world a better place for everyone. Learn more about Mark below.
Schweigert: You’re involved in several initiatives to help Minnesota youth. Tell us a little bit about Lemonade Day.
Mark: Lemonade Day is a community-wide event brought here by the Liemandt Foundation, from the Prepared 4 Life people from Houston, TX. In short, it’s a Sunday in June when every adult screams at the top of their lungs, “Kids matter!” while buying lemonade by the gallon and supporting aspiring entrepreneurs. There were 4,600 stands in its inaugural year and big hopes for the future. It’s June 5, 2011, so it may be too late to participate, but June 2012 is fast approaching, and getting kids focused early is a key to their success. Check out http://twincities.lemonadeday.org/ for more information.
Schweigert: What does Bike Cops for Kids do?
Mark: So, this is my number one passion at work. My police partner, Mike Kirchen, and I created this project two years ago, and it’s exploding in reach and impact in the summer of 2011. During the school year, we both work inside Minneapolis public schools as police officers assigned by the Juvenile Division of the Minneapolis Police Department. Together, we have over 35 years of police experience in squad cars answering calls for service and arresting bad guys. What we’ve seen is a tremendous void of positive police interaction with the little kids who witness unedited crime and urban policing during their childhood, especially in the summer, when the street cops are busiest. The bad guys soak up all of our time, and the kids are left wondering, “Why?”
During the summer, we trade our police cars for police bikes and hit the streets and alleys of the high-crime neighborhoods in search of these kids in hopes that we can give them an experience that will stay with them forever. Ages 5-12 are ideal, but we’ll throw a football with the big guys if given the chance. We’ll jump in the wading pools, walk on our hands and trade witty banter. What’s unique is that we’re meeting the kids on their turf, many times in their own yards in very fragile communities.
Our ice-breaker? The bike helmet. We tow a bike trailer full of bike helmets and fit the kids on the spot. That moment when a cop is adjusting the straps and doing the fit-test is a precious few seconds of one-on-one time. It’s in that moment that the magic happens.
One trusted adult + one at-risk kid = an everlasting memory.
Here’s the best part: If we catch them wearing their bike helmet, we’ll give them a brand-new Trek bike from Penn Cycle!
In two summers, we’ve given away over 1,000 helmets and 90 bikes. We currently have 2,000 helmets and 56 bikes in storage ready to launch our summer of 2011 with a team of eight bike cops working in the most challenged Minneapolis neighborhoods. Private donors include Mike and Ann Ciresi, The Phillips Family, Emily Malz, Sue Mortensen, Jim and Peggy Feilzer, along with many others. If you’d like to donate, go to www.citypeace.org and follow the prompts. $10 buys a helmet and roughly $150 buys a new Trek bike – thanks to the great mechanics at Trek and Penn Cycle.
New this summer is the Bike Cops for Kids partnership with the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Look for their CEO, Alan Goldbloom, on his “bike-along” in late June. Oh, I almost forgot: You can follow us on a virtual bike-along by joining our fan club on Facebook.
Schweigert: What is the goal of the PEACE Foundation?
Mark: The PEACE Foundation attacks systemic cultural barriers that limit children’s opportunities in north Minneapolis. Now doing business under the name Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ), they collaborate with over 60 organizations in an effort to help kids achieve. Their goal is to support families while changing the elements of a system that no longer work. They are a big reason why crime is down in Minneapolis. Their next goal is helping education evolve to meet the needs of modern children. Visit http://northsideachievement.org/ for more information.
Schweigert: What does it mean to you to have Schweigert as a local brand in your community?
Mark: You know what’s cool? Schweigert meats started in North Minneapolis and moved to Albert Lea, and I was born in Albert Lea and found North Minneapolis as my professional home. As a street cop on the northside for 12 years, I fell in love with the people and the places around the northside that many will never see. The topography and the landscape of mature trees are true beauties.
There’s this underdog quality to North Minneapolis that makes you want to embrace it with both arms and never let go. Crime is down in North Minneapolis, and the reputation that precedes it is out of sync with reality. The recent destruction of the May 22nd tornado will be viewed in history as a moment in which Mother Nature allowed the northsider to show the rest of the city just how lucky we are to have them. Schweigert should make a new hot dog and call it the “Underdog” in honor of its birthplace, North Minneapolis.
Schweigert: What’s your favorite Schweigert product?
Mark: I have to say that I can’t go to a Twins game without getting a Dinger Dog. The beauty is in the long bun and the ability to get relish, ketchup and mustard in each bite. My mouth waters for the Dinger Dog as I type this.
Schweigert: Do you have any original recipes you’ve created with Schweigert products? (This can be anything from a casserole recipe to just a special way you like your brats.)
Mark: This is a tough one because my tolerant wife does dinner at the Klukow house. As far as original recipes, I would say that for a special treat at lunch, I’ll chop up Schweigert hot dogs into the mac and cheese as a surprise for my boys. They think it’s pretty special.
Schweigert: What achievement in life are you most proud of?
Mark: I’m really a proud father. I’ve got three hearty little boys (8, 6 and 4) who have all of my pride locked up. Charlie is our star reader and baseball player, George is our little artist with awesome hair and Henry fills every room with his astounding spirit. If I do nothing else from here on out, I’ll die a happy man because I was able to be a daddy to these guys.
Schweigert: Who has been your greatest inspiration in life?
Mark: This is really tough because, as it turns out, I’m literally surrounded by inspiring people. My dad, my sister, my friends and extended family really are good people. Even my barber, Sammy Coi, has an inspiring story of immigrating to Minneapolis from Viet Nam. I work with teachers, police officers and other ordinary folks who do wonderful things every single day. I find inspiration in these regular, everyday people who operate in the trenches of life and help others along their way. In a character contest, I’d side with my cool neighbor Heidi over Queen Elizabeth any day. Picking my greatest inspiration, I’ll say it has to be my wife, Danielle. Never judging, always confident and with a stunning perseverance to match her beauty. Is it too much if I add that she’s the reason I breathe? Okay, that was too much, but I really love her and find that everything I do in life comes back to her. I’m a better man because of Danielle, and she knows it as much as anyone else. Plus, she’s a great mom to those aforementioned little boys we’re raising.
If there’s someone you’d like to nominate for a future Community Spotlight, send us an email and tell us a little bit about them.