Anne Carlsen Center: A Bold Dream Realized

By J. Patrick Traynor

Here in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, our ancestors were real-life pioneers. They braved the elements, disease, and immense uncertainty in search of a better life for themselves and the people who would come after them. I believe we all have a responsibility to continue that pioneering tradition today through our charitable missions.

Perhaps no regional charity has embodied that more than Jamestown-based Anne Carlsen Center, which now provides residential services, medically complex care, and early-intervention services to more than 4,000 individuals and families across North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. That wasn’t always the case, though. In the early 2010s, Anne Carlsen served about 225 people within a single community.

“They were happy with what they were doing,” says former Anne Carlsen Center CEO Eric Monson, who oversaw the expansion.

And with good reason. The services and support were truly transformational for the families the Center helped at that time.

“They started dealing with autism before people knew how to spell it. They had this magic with medically fragile kids with dual diagnoses. They rescued these kids. They’d come in flat on their back and leave running. (Anne Carlsen Center) was magical.”

Seeing firsthand how essential the Center’s work was, Monson and the Anne Carlsen board asked themselves a simple question: Are we doing enough?

The question had a double meaning:

  1. Can we help way more people than we are currently?
  2. Can we serve our existing clients much better?

They ultimately decided they could do much more and came up with a 10-year plan. Among the highlights of the plan were:

  • Replacing the Center’s antiquated building and facilities
  • Expanding Anne Carlsen’s services statewide and into communities that had never had access to such specialized services
  • Building a dedicated fundraising team
  • Developing better relationships within the state legislature
  • Better supporting families
  • Developing better discharge and transition services for patients
  • Bolstering Anne Carlsen’s credibility and brand

Anne Carlsen Center recently completed its move into the 110,000-square-foot Ballantyne Berg Campus in Jamestown.

One of his first priorities as CEO was to get the right people on the bus, so to speak.

“The reason you keep your foot on the pedal as a leader is because then people have to make a choice as to whether they’re in or out,” says Monson, who came to Anne Carlsen Center following a 20-plus year career in healthcare leadership. “And that’s not in a mean way. It’s just, we as an organization are trying to get to a certain place, and they have to make that choice.”

This extended to his board as well. He recruited a diverse group of directors — including parents, legislators, and physicians, among others — who he knew were fully bought into Anne Carlsen’s bold vision and would do whatever it took to deliver it.  

A map of all Anne Carlsen Center locations as of 2024

“We tried to match up the board with our needs and then match those needs up with people who had fire and passion,” he says. “It allowed me to find people who would say, when presented with an idea, how might we make that work? With no dollar constraints, what would we build?”

He developed a close relationship with each board member and met with each one of them regularly.

“You learn what excites them, what makes them tick, and what their background is,” he says.

As a result, he created a small army of people who helped provide expertise, opened doors, and served as champions for the Anne Carlsen Center cause — especially during those times when things didn’t go perfectly.  

“Everyone at the table needs to understand that you could run into some turbulence,” Monson says. “So let’s not ditch something at the first sign of trouble.”

Thanks to a big, bold dream and stellar execution, thousands of lives have been positively impacted by the expansion of Anne Carlsen Center’s services across the state.

The question now is: What can you and your organization do to follow in Anne Carlsen Center’s footsteps and multiply your impact?

Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration