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'Valley Foundation celebrates success; 'Front Porch', homeless effort cited

STILLWATER, Minn. -- The St. Croix Valley Foundation recently held its fifth annual celebration of its donors and philanthropy in the St. Croix Valley with some 100 people attending the event at the Washington County Historic Courthouse in Stillwater.

Board chair Steve Wilcox acted as emcee, offering a history of the foundation since its beginning in 1995 and commenting on the evening's theme of how a community foundation can make an impact in the community.

Keynote speakers were Bill Buell, immediate past chair of the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, and Dr. Carole Mottaz, fundraiser for Our Neighbors Place in River Falls.

Buell told how the New Richmond Area Community Foundation (NRACF) stepped up to take a leading role in changing the public discourse in the community.

Fractious relationships in a community are not unusual, but he said New Richmond went from being a community that always said "No" to a community whose public discourse is improved and where new leadership is nurtured.

In 2008, the NRACF became the lead agency for the Front Porch Project. In that role, the Foundation is continuing to address the needs for sound leadership across all sectors of the community, both public and private. The principles of the Front Porch Project also support the Foundation's core value of citizenship being engaged in and giving back to one's community. His key point is that each community makes a choice as to what kind of place it wants to be. The New Richmond Area Community Foundation was the change agent for good in their community.

Mottaz told the story of how citizens of River Falls came together to address the problem of homelessness by creating Our Neighbors Place. Homelessness, especially in a nice community like River Falls, tends to be invisible in every-day community life, but the school system and the churches know it exists.

Many families were living in their cars in River Falls. With the help from churches initially, and eventually from hundreds of community residents, the board of Our Neighbors Place came into being. They first needed a nonprofit to serve as their fiscal sponsor so they could apply for grants to fund their work. Through the River Falls Community Fund, the St. Croix Valley Foundation stepped up to help.

For over two years hundreds of River Falls residents sent a minimum of $10 each month to Our Neighbors Place's fund at the St. Croix Valley Foundation. Then, with a loan from the City of River Falls they were able to buy an apartment building to house the community's homeless families; through the establishment of the Day Center they provided help looking for jobs, a laundry and a closet for clothing. Today, after two and a half years of fiscal sponsorship, Our Neighbors Place has its own non-profit status.

The St. Croix Valley Foundation was established in 1995 to help the generous people of the St. Croix Valley with their philanthropy.

Headquartered in Hudson, it serves five counties: Washington and Chisago in Minnesota and Pierce, St. Croix and Polk in Wisconsin.

It currently has seven affiliate foundations: Amery, Chisago Lakes, Hudson, Lower St. Croix Valley, New Richmond, River Falls, and Stillwater.