Mark Jenson honored with Unity Foundation's Ernie Unruh Christian Award

Jenson is the 14th recipient of the award presented by an interdenominational group of business people from Alexandria and the surrounding area.

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Mark Jenson was in disbelief when he realized he was the recipient of the Ernie Unruh Christian Award. He was honored at a luncheon Friday, April 9. The award is sponsored by the Unity Foundation, an interdenominational group of business people from Alexandria and the surrounding area. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Mark Jenson has a passion for serving others and a deep love for the Lord.

This was very evident by those who spoke on his behalf during the Unity Foundation luncheon Friday, April 9.

During the event, Jenson was surprised to learn that he was the recipient of the Ernie Unruh Christian Service Award. He was actually supposed to receive the award last year, but COVID-19 happened and the 2020 luncheon was canceled.

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Tim Cullen (left) talks with Mark Jenson, who was awarded the Ernie Unruh Christian Award by the Unity Foundation at a ceremony Friday, April 9, at Broadway Ballroom.


Jenson is the 14th honoree of this award, which is sponsored by the Unity Foundation, an interdenominational group of business people from Alexandria and the surrounding area. The 2021 award winner will be honored at a luncheon this fall.

The person receiving the Ernie Unruh Christian Service Award is someone who has made a positive impact on the community through their leadership and service.

And Jenson has definitely done that, according to the nearly 20 people who took to the microphone on his behalf during the luncheon, including his brother Jay Jenson, who was the person who nominated him. In his letter, Jay Jenson said his brother has been providing Christian service to the community for the past two decades in a plethora of ways.

"God pursues you. He doesn’t give up on you. How can you run away from that?” ."

— Mark Jenson

Mark Jenson is actively involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization, instrumental in FCA hockey camps, was pivotal in getting the NorthStar Christian Academy up and running, helped start an adult Christian hockey league, hosted NorthStar hockey players in his home and is currently the vice president of the NorthStar Board of Directors and is a member of the executive committee.

Jay Jenson also said that if it wasn’t for his brother, he may not be alive today. Almost 15 years ago, Jay said he was trapped in a world of addiction and through his actions, lost everything – his wife, family relationships, job, his home and more.

“Over the years, I shunned Mark’s numerous attempts to share with me that there is hope in Jesus,” Jay said. “However, Mark was courageously relentless and never gave up on me.”


It was in 2006 that Jay said Mark was prompted by the Lord to make a visit to his house where he was literally dying. He said his brother showed him true unconditional love and personally took the lead in helping him get into a treatment facility.

“I am forever in debt of gratitude to Mark for being radically obedient to the Lord’s leading,” said Jay, who is now the pastor of The Church in The Pines . “I’m just one of many who have stories of how Mark impacted their lives with the love of Jesus. Thanks for being my hero. Thanks for being my brother.”

So many other people shared stories of how Mark made an impact on them.

Two manufacturing leaders in the area – Vern Anderson and Brent Smith – praised Mark for his service to the community. They said he is a blessing to the community.

Smith said he believes NorthStar Christian Academy wouldn’t have happened without Mark’s help. He called Mark a good and faithful servant.

Two of Mark’s children – Ben and Sam – spoke on his behalf and how he made such a big impact on their lives. They each shared stories of their childhood and what a great mentor he had been for them.

During the luncheon, letters were shared from family members and videos were watched that had been recorded by people who couldn’t attend the luncheon.


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Mark Jenson, who was honored with the Ernie Unruh Christian Award by the Unity Foundation, addressed the large crowd during the luncheon in his honor Friday, April 9. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

Every person shared stories of why Mark Jenson deserved the award, saying how proud they were of him and how he has impacted so many lives in the community. He was thanked for leading youth and adults to a life filled with the love of God. He was thanked for being a great Christian role model and for always being there for people when they needed him.

Upon receiving his award, Mark Jenson said it is easy to serve this community and then he joked that the Unity Foundation needed a new vetting process for choosing the recipient of the award.

Mark thanked his wife, Vicky, and said she is and always has been supportive of all his endeavors. And he said their children are great because of her.

He ended by saying, “God pursues you. He doesn’t give up on you. How can you run away from that? Thank you again, this really is an honor.”

Past recipients of the award

2008 – Ed Christopherson

2009 – Brett Paradis

2010 – Tim Ferguson


2011 – Ernie Unruh

2012 – Gary Anderson

2013 – Lois Digre & Karla Stotesbery

2014 – Dr. Lowell Gess

2015 – Deanne Novotny

2016 – Jean Schonberg

2017 – Craig Bjerke

2018 – Joe Salo


2019 – Bill Jarvi

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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