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They’re off to a fast, fabulous start

By Staff | May 1, 2015

The Blue Earth Community Foundation has been in existence for one year and they have a lot to celebrate.

So, on Sunday night, April 26, the board of directors of the foundation held a thank you dinner for everyone who has contributed to the new organization.

“We are off to a good start,” foundation president John Huisman said. “After just one year, we have raised about $130,000 for our endowment fund. And we want to thank everyone who has contributed.”

Huisman announced the foundation’s very first grant was going to the new Friends of the Blue Earth Library group. He presented a check for $3,000 to Sue Ellingsen, chairman of the Friends of the Library on Sunday night at the dinner.

Foundation board member Lill Robinson also revealed an artist drawing of another of the foundation’s first projects.

“We have received a “Paint the Town” grant from the Valspar Paint Corporation to design and create a mural in downtown Blue Earth,” Robinson said. “And we have hired an artist, Steve Delaitsch of Waseca, to create the mural.”

Delaitsch has created several murals in other towns such as Waseca and Owatonna, and also designs the artwork on tombstones for Blue Earth Monument.

Robinson said the mural will go on the north wall of the Blue Earth Graphics building.

“Steve is an amazing artist, and he has created a beautiful design for our mural,” Robinson added.

The featured speaker at the dinner was Tim Penny, president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).

Penny explained how SMIF works with communities in 20 southern Minnesota counties, specifically in the three areas of early childhood education, economic development and community investment/ community funds.

“We have partnered with 23 community funds, such as the Blue Earth Community Foundation,” Penny explained. “We invest the funds, along with our own, at no fee to the communities.”

Because the $2.5 to $3 million in community funds are added to the $30 million SMIF has in its endowment fund, foundations like the one in Blue Earth see a very good return on their dollars, Penny said.

Over the past years, SMIF has made some significant investments in Faribault County, to the tune of $1.1 million. They have made 15 loans in the county, totaling $809,000 as well as 69 grants of $341,742.

Schools, libraries and child care organizations have been the major recipients of the financial assistance, as well as seven businesses in the county, including Simplified Ag Technology in Blue Earth and the Kee Kafe and Kiester Market, all in 2014.

Penny, a former U.S. Congressman, is a graduate of Kiester High School.

The SMIF president praised the leaders of the new Blue Earth Community Foundation and said out of the seven keys to success for small towns, one of them is forming a community foundation.

“Another one is local leadership, people willing to step forward and give of their time, talent and money,” Penny said. “And you have that here. I am sure you will meet your goals, and we are here to help you do it.”