St. Charles Area Community Foundation was established in YEAR by a group of citizens who wanted to make a difference in their community...etc. etc.
A crowd of just about 100 filled the Moose Saturday night to feast on giant hamburgers, enjoy a glass of local wine, hear a great speaker, and, the hope is, improve the quality of life of area families.
Saturday was the inaugural fundraiser for The St. Charles Area Community Foundation (SCACF). The SCAF is a newly‐formed, local, non‐profit organization whose mission is, “To develop and enhance the area’s quality of life by proactively responding to existing and emerging needs of our community, while leaving a legacy for our children.” To support the group’s mission, founding board members partner with Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund (SMIF). SMIF serves as the fiscal agent, provide training and seed money, and offer grant‐matching opportunities.
Tim Penny, SMIF President/CEO and former State Senator, was the guest speaker for the event. Penny kept the assembled crowd riveted as he first outlined the history and goals of SMIF and how those goals eventually transitioned the start of Area Community Foundations.
Recognition of the history of SMIF was apt as the not-for-profit is presently celebrating 30 years of service to Southern Minnesota. Penny shared that the State Initiative Foundations were borne out of the 1980’s farm crisis and were initially set in place by efforts of the McKnight Foundation.
Those early efforts were targeted on areas of Early Childhood Development, Economic Development and Community Development. Those target areas remain largely the same to date.
Penny said that through SMIF over $1.6 million is annually invested Southern Minnesota in programs as diverse as Dental Networks, Parenting programs, Book Grants, Small Enterprise Loans, Seed Funds, Community Growth Initiatives, and the Community Foundation work that brought Penny to St. Charles Saturday evening.
True to its roots, SMIF is also still in the business of trying to preserve the farming heritage of Southern Minnesota, Penny said. Through the Area Foundations, SMIF assists retiring farmers in keeping their farmland in productions. Farmers can donate their land to a Foundation and the land remains locally owned, farmed by local tenant farmers and also creates income for life and tax benefits.
With the establishment of the St. Charles Area Community Foundation area the local Foundation joins 25 other Southern Minnesota Foundations or Funds. Communities with such groups are; Blue Earth, Byron, Eagle Lake, Ellendale, Elysian, Goodhue, Harmony, Henderson, Lanesboro, Le Sueur, Mabel, Madison Lake, Maple River, Mapleton Area Foundation, New Prague, Plainview, Preston, Rushford, Sleepy Eye, St. James, Spring Valley, Wabasha-Kellogg, Wanamingo, Winthrop Area Foundation and Zumbro Valley.
After citing some area Foundation efforts, Penny recognized Founding Board members and the work accomplished so far. In the short existence of SCACF funds have been disbursed to Utica to help with the town ballfield renovation, the Resource Center for senior transportation to a Glad Days event and funding to help with the continuation of the Whitewater Country Coalition.
While learning about the efforts of the Foundation and future plans, attendees enjoyed a complimentary glass of wine from Whitewater Wines. Guests said the 2012 Sweet Cicely, a ruby-blushed with a sweet-spicy balance and lingering sweet tone paired nicely with the giant “gourmet burgers” prepared in the Moose kitchen. To say the burgers were giant is perhaps even an understatement. One guest was overheard referring to them as “Brontosaurus Burgers,” ala Fred Flintstone. The giant burgers were capped with a dizzying array of condiments, from traditional toppings, to spicy mustards, to fried eggs to bleu cheese to peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter.
The feast was complete with incredible Laura Schaber cheesecakes and a drawing for door prizes. Guests received choice of items, including handmade crafts from SCACF Board President Amy Behrends, fall mums, pumpkins and gourds, as well as SCACF T-shirts and a bottle of Whitewater Wine.
Final numbers are being tallied, but significant funds were raised by the event. A number of founding members were also recruited Saturday evening. A Founder is an individual or family that contributes $1,000 to the Foundation to meet the ongoing growth of the fund. Many others in attendance expressed interest in joining as Founders and can seek out a board member to realize that interest.
Also accepted at the event were suggestions for future SCACF needs. The suggestion of community needs is at the core of the SCACF. The foundation will allow area groups that seek funding sources for worthwhile events have a conduit to such funds. In the past, groups have scrambled to raise funds through downtown merchant donations and fundraising. SCACF can become another asset in groups’ fundraising efforts. Additionally, the SCACF will work to secure more long-term projects that provide a positive impact on community quality of life.