Mapleton Area Foundation Revived

News article from Maple River Messenger


In May of 1992, a group of people with a vision to “improve the quality of life in the Mapleton area” by supporting local organizations and assisting in community and economic growth, began the Mapleton Area Foundation. The original members were Mike Johnson who was the president of the foundation, Richard Van Brunt, vice president, Norma Blaisdell, secretary, and Marvin Kimm, treasurer.  The Board of Directors of the foundation was Elmer Brocker, Harv Hislop, Jim Swanson, Bill Keller, Loren Cumming, Cedric Rather and Les Anderson.  Linda Jacobson gave the first donation of $1,000 from the South Eastern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.  The foundation pledged to match every $3,000 raised at the local level with another $1,000 up to $5,000. Within a matter of a few weeks, the foundation had raised $3250. At the time, the foundation was hoping to raise enough money to create a base fund upon which an endowment could be built. It was determined that only the interest on the endowment would be used as grant monies. The original foundation helped fund the first Mapleton Youth Center that was located by the Plaid Piper all those years ago, the picnic shelter in Library Park and Veteran’s Park. 


Now, a new generation of people, along with two of the original members of the foundation, Mike Johnson and Jim Swanson, has determined that the foundation should be revived with the same goals and mission, to support the community and economic growth in the Mapleton area. New members of the foundation are Jeff Annis, chair, Adam Knewston, vice chair, Ramona Morgan, secretary, Dan Benrud, treasurer, along with Maggie Vait, Janelle Magalee and James Gordon.  The newly minted Mapleton Area Foundation (MAF) will award grants to “support programs and projects that improve the quality of life and build a stronger sense of community in the Greater Mapleton Area”.  The organization must be a 501(C) 3, a unit of government or a public agency within the MAF area.  The grant guidelines stated that preference is given to projects that “demonstrate potential for long-term community benefit, have the potential for success in achieving its objectives, and encourage partnerships between and among community service groups, non-profit organizations and institutions”.  The organization does not support political campaigns, individual people, capital or building campaigns, endowments, fraternal organizations or school athletic funds, religious organizations, national health agencies, general operating budgets of tax supported educational institutions or governments, sports leagues or athletic organizations for day-to-day operations, general operating support to other foundations, trips and tours.


Any individual can become a part of the foundation by joining the Founders Club and pledging a donation or investment of $1,000.  This is a solid investment in the community and can be paid over a five-year period.  The foundation is kicking off its new era by replacing the swings and slide in the Library Park.  The new equipment should be in place sometime in July.  Renovations to the Heather Curling Club will also be supported by the foundation. These are all things that are for the common good of the city and the area. There are so many children who love to play in Library Park and the curling club offers an opportunity for fellowship, healthy competition, exercise and community recognition, and all things that are important to a vital community.


The Mapleton Area Foundation is a subsidiary of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) located in Owatonna, Minnesota.  The foundation was originally a part of the McKnight Foundation which, according to the foundation’s website, was responding to the 1986 farm crisis which was one of the worst recessions since the great depression of the early 1930’s. The McKnight Foundation was began by William and Maude McKnight in 1953.  William McKnight was the Chairman of the Board for the 3M Corporation from 1949 until his retirement in 1966.  The foundation is a family endowment foundation and is not connected to the 3M corportation. Since its existence it has endowed millions of dollars to Minnesota organizations, schools, individuals, and programs.  Its current assets are at about 2.2 billion dollars. In 2016 alone, the McKnight Foundation granted out over 87 million dollars to organizations throughout the state of Minnesota. The foundation is based on McKnight’s business philosophy that he wrote in 1948 before he became 3M’s chairman of the board:

“As our business grows, it becomes increasingly necessary to delegate responsibility and to encourage men and women to exercise their initiative. This requires considerable tolerance. Those men and women, to whom we delegate authority and responsibility, if they are good people, are going to want to do their jobs in their own way. Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it's essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.”


It is McKnight’s belief in initiative that prompted him and his wife to help others. They felt it necessary to share wealth and encourage others to take the initiative, to try something out of the ordinary, to do and grow. When the great recession of the late ‘80’s occurred they then tried a “great experiment” and established six subsidiary foundations throughout the state whose goal was to help support regional initiatives.  The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation  (SMIF) is one of those six and includes 20 counties: Blue Earth, Brown, Dodge, Faribault, Filmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, L Seuer, Martin, Mower, Nicollet, Olmsted, Rice, Sibley, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Watonwan and Winona.  Since its inception, according to its website at, it has invested over 100 million dollars in the region it serves: 28.3 million dollars in loans, 28.9 million dollars in grants, and 43.7 million dollars in programming.  Annually the foundation invests 5 million dollars.  Some of the programs that it supports regionally are the Backpack Program, Farmer’s Market, Community Garden, Preschool Scholarships, Kindergarten Readiness Camps, Annual Scholarship Program, Community Mural, Community-Wide WiFi, Senior Citizen Programming, Veteran’s Memorial, Summer Pool Pass Scholarships, Downtown Waste & Recycling Receptacles and School Field Trips. 


SMIF also manages the assets of local foundations such as the Mapleton Area Foundation (MAF).  Since its inception in 1992, SMIF has held in trust the original foundation’s money and, after 15 years, it is now ready to grow and to help support the local community.  Any one can help support the foundation through a variety of vehicles such as yearly tax deductible donations, grain money, claiming the foundation as an insurance beneficiary or granting it money through one’s estate.  Certainly, gifting the foundation is an act that keeps on giving.  For further information about MAF, feel free to contact any of the foundation’s executive team or board, or go to the foundation’s website at