board members

Members of the Saving Grace Village Board of Directors come from a variety of backgrounds including business, finance, health & human services and communications. Each member uniquely contributes to SGV’s mission: to empower girls to discover their gifts in a safe, nurturing and creative environment.


Who:  Kara M. Heupel (shown at age 14)

What: Vice president, Service Center Operations, Marsden Services; Saving Grace Village founder and board chair; mother to a teenage boy and teenage girl

Where: Grew up in Roseville, Minn. and currently located in Prior Lake, Minn.

When:  Established the initial vision for SGV in Dec. 2010.

Why: I was soul-searching for ways to help adolescent girls, and opportunities to share my gifts with others. I am inspired by our commitment to accept and nurture girls where they are at and encourage them to discover and embrace what makes them unique.

What brings me energy and joy: I enjoy gardening, reading, developing ideas and helping others light their inner spark.

Who: Barbara Bernard (shown at age 12)

What: Retired director of training and communications for FIRST 5, Santa Clara County; UMD Life Long Learning Program participant; volunteer treasurer of Lake Association; SGV board member.

Where: Born in Duluth, Minn.; lived in California for 30+ years; currently live in Moose Lake, Minn. at a lake where I spent childhood summers.

When: Board member with Saving Grace Village since 2010.

Why: I became involved to support my niece, Kara, and to use my experience in training and facilitating youth leadership development to support the program.

What brings me energy and joy: Sharing information about SGV with the local school, interacting with girls throughout the retreat, and hearing how amazed they are at what they can do! Hiking different trails in Duluth with friends and enjoying the beauty of Lake Superior in the distance.


Who: Barb Buchholz (shown at age 13)

What: Freelance writer and communications consultant at Sans Serif Communications; SGV board member, secretary and Communications Committee co-chair; mom of a teenager.

Where: Born in Duluth, Minn.; currently live in Lakeville, Minn.

When: Became involved with SGV in 2012 in communications/marketing role.

Why: I love that SGV encourages girls to try new things, which I think has a tremendous impact on someone’s confidence, vitality and happiness - at any age.

What brings me energy and joy: I’m a student at heart and love teaching and learning. I’m energized by running, fitness classes and downhill skiing. To wind down I like to read, cook and spend time with family at our cabin.



Who: Chi, Ndikum (shown at age 14)    

What: Finance and human resource professional at RBC Capital Markets; Saving Grace Village treasurer and father of teenage twin girls and a son.

Where: Originally from Cameroon, Africa; schooled in Missouri and Oklahoma; and have worked and lived in Minnesota for over 22 years.

When: I become involved with SGV when I got a call from Kara for coffee, then she shared her vision of the SGV with me and got me hooked on the mission. I’ve been a board member and treasurer since 2010.

Why: As a former co-worker it was easy to say yes to Kara’s vision and mission, and I love helping and getting involved in making the community or someone’s life brighter each day.

What brings me energy and joy: Cooking, soccer and spending time with family and friends.

MarySGVPicture (2).jpg

Who:  Mary Tezak (shown at age 13)

What: Public relations & communications representative for UTC Aerospace Systems; writer and communications consultant at Sans Serif Communications; SGV board member and Communications Committee co-chair.

Where: Born in Duluth, Minn.; currently live in Burnsville, Minn.

When:  I became a volunteer for Saving Grace Village in 2012 to assist with branding and communications.

Why:  I saw it as an opportunity to work with a talented group of individuals committed to making a difference in the lives of adolescent girls. I was inspired by their vision and wanted to help them share it with others.

What brings me energy and joy: Writing, running, yoga, skiing, cooking and baking, spending time with family.