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Foundation suggests building a legacy

What will New Richmond look like and be like in 50 years?

The New Richmond Area Community Foundation suggests that we all have a say in the area's future and we should all participate.

That was the central message of the foundation's annual meeting held June 4 at R&D Catering Banquet Center.

Emcee Tim O'Brien noted that the foundation was started in 1980, but its focus remained limited for many years. In the past couple years, however, the foundation and its Board of Directors are trying to have a bigger impact on the community.

He encouraged all in attendance to join the organization as it strives to help New Richmond grow and prosper.

"The question is what will be the legacy that we leave?" he challenged.

A founding member of the foundation board, Jim Craig, expanded upon the theme of leaving a legacy. He outlined the steps people can take to establish an endowment fund that would benefit the community and its residents for decades to come.

Board member Steve Skoglund said existing foundation funds have had a huge impact on area organizations already. Over the past year, he noted, 23 organizations were presented with grants totalling $102,334 to help them operate programs of importance to the region.

Representatives from three grant recipients were on hand to tell their stories and thank the foundation for its support.

Patty Draxler, director of the Family Resource Center of the St. Croix Valley, said the funds received have helped her organization fund a "play & learn" program that helps young parents connect and learn important parenting skills.

Mary Conroy-Johnson, board chair for the Free Clinic of Pierce and St. Croix Counties, said the 6-year-old health care organization has met the medical needs of numerous people in the region. She said about 59 percent of patients come from St. Croix County. Without the funds provided by the foundation and others, some patients would go without medical care, she added.

Jo Wrich, executive director of The Deerfield, and resident Mary Lou Smith talked about the foundation's support in finishing the town center complex that provides space for entertainment and social events.

Representatives from several newly established funds within the foundation also spoke to the crowd.

Jean Needham, Westfields Hospital's community liaison, said the health care organization has had a free-standing foundation for about 20 years. But the hospital decided to affiliate with the NRACF to increase their visibility in the region.

Katy Neitzke and Joan Simpson, coordinators for the Gap Fund, which provides emergency assistance to students with limited resources, said their fund helps disadvantaged kids "feel normal."

Jesse Kvitek, an agent with Thrivent Financial, talked briefly about his organization's Choice Program and encouraged members to direct their charity dollars to foundation-supported organizations.

In her final moments as president of the foundation Board of Directors, Heather McAbee said she is happy that the foundation's asset base has grown significantly over the past two years (from $1.3 million to $2.3 million today)..

She handed the reins to incoming President Paul Mayer, who presented McAbee with a statue of thanks for her hard work over the past two years.

Mayer pledged to "continue the progress that we have begun."

"It's not about the dollars and cents," he said. "It's about what the dollars can do. Come with us on this road."

Speaking of the future, Michele Hermansen informed the crowd of the continuing "FutureWalk" project that the foundation is undertaking.

She said the goal is to develop a vision for New Richmond, but it will take the participation of many people to make the process worthwhile. She said the hope is to interview at least 1,500 area residents in the coming months to gather their input about where the community should head in the future.

Several community meetings will be scheduled in the coming weeks to begin the process for gathering people's stories and vision for the future, she said.