Volunteer Spotlight: Christine Retkwa, Community Builder

By Sally Johnson

Christine Retkwa first came to HumanistsMN a little over 10 years ago looking to connect with other critical thinkers. As she attended events and learned more about humanism, she found it represented much of what she already believed. Humanism’s focus on “helping all humanity” really fit her view of life. 

“I absolutely want to be a part of a thoughtful population that supports helping all humanity,” she thought. “It is an unusual group to offer this!”

Today Christine spends a lot of time and effort leading HMN’s Humanists in Action team with co-chair Marcy Woodruff. The group organizes a range of opportunities for our members to contribute to the community in support of humanist values — including projects to clean up public spaces and easy-to-join sessions in our Secular Saturday program, where participants for example assemble hygiene kits or fleece blankets for community organizations.

Christine has also been active in the HMN project to support a refugee family from Ukraine making a home here in Minnesota. 

“It means a lot to me to have an outlet to help in our community in the varying ways that we can — both in service projects and advocating for the rules or laws of society that enhance life for a broad population,” she says. “The service projects that I like best are ones that directly help our neighbors be their best selves — whether providing healthy food through Open Arms or getting bikes into the hands of children via Free Bikes 4 Kidz.”

Christine also advocates for legislative change, feeling most strongly about criminal justice reform.  She praises recent improvements in Minnesota, including legislation to allow formerly incarcerated people to vote (including while on probation or parole) and reducing the maximum probation time to five years for all but the most serious crimes — vs. the 40 years that many drug offenders faced. “How can a person thrive when they struggle to get a job or housing due to being on probation?” she asks.

In her time as a member she has helped promote HMN in the community and enjoyed seeing our membership grow. “I love to meet people when we table at festivals or those who attend HMN events for the first time — to help people know that there is a name for how they view the world and a community where they might feel comfortable expressing that and building their practice at it,” she says. “The world would be a better place if there were more humanists.” She is also pleased to see younger people join who care so much about the world around them, and hopes our varied programming helps that number grow.

Being of service continues in Christine’s life outside of HMN. She volunteers for her employment union as well as for local and state political efforts. In her work life, she is a data analyst for the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, which serves the one in four Minnesotans on Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s Medicaid program. She worked previously in an IT role, but made this shift “to get closer to putting all that good information to use — and do it in a setting where there isn’t the business profit motive. I am pleased that my ultimate ‘customer’ is any Minnesotan on Medical Assistance.”

Originally from New Jersey, Christine transferred here with a former employer almost 35 years ago. The size of Minneapolis, the access to varied activities, and the lower cost of living have kept her here. “I have always lived in Minneapolis or St. Paul in my time in Minnesota,” she says. “I love all the cultural options (live music, theater, great global food) and very accessible and beautiful outdoor spaces — from parks along the Mississippi to the great bike trails.”

In addition to all she does for the community, Christine enjoys gardening, camping, live music and theater, and spending time with friends in her book club. “And I am very pleased to have adopted the habit of biking to the grocery store and other errands, to be out in the world, vs. being isolated in a metal box with wheels.”

We are so fortunate to have Christine bring her organizational skills and passion for building community to HMN’s many initiatives.  

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2 comments

    • Marcy on July 18, 2024 at 11:37 am
    • Reply

    What a great write-up! Christine rocks!!!

      • Christine R on July 18, 2024 at 9:26 pm
      • Reply

      You’re so sweet, Marcy! We’re a good team 🙂

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