Charity begins at home, and the Brainerd lakes area is a charitable place.
As proof, there is the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, which this year passed $1 million in assets.
"That's a fairly substantial amount," said Rod Converse, BLACF board member. He said he would like to see such giving continue. "I don't know where we'll be 15 years from now, but I hope we're blessed and continue to grow as the word gets out."
The goal of BLACF is philanthropy -- linking donors with needs in the community, and beyond, by creating permanent endowments.
In its third year of existence, BLACF has given grants to a wide variety of area organizations: Northland Arboretum, Camp Confidence, Kinship Partners and Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity, just to name a few.
And BLACF is trying to get the word out about its organization, Converse said, by speaking to service groups, organizations and professionals about the community foundation.
"We're out there," he said, "and we're more than willing to talk and visit with anybody about the foundation."
BLACF, along with the Willmar Area Community Foundation, is an affiliate of the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, located in St. Cloud. CMCF was founded in 1985 by a group of community leaders to facilitate donations and set up foundations, said Steven Joul, CMCF president. CMCF has about $38 million in assets. The St. Cloud staff facilitates the Brainerd and Willmar foundations, and the board of each respective foundation decides where the money will go.
Even though BLACF is still trying to inform as many people about the charitable work of the foundation, Joul said passing $1 million in assets is quite an achievement.
"It's a real mile marker for the foundation," Joul said. "It sets the stage for future giving and gives more opportunities for charities to receive."
The Brainerd foundation was started much the same way as CMCF, Converse said.
"There were a few core people sitting around wanting to get it started," he said. But as the Brainerd group researched the idea, they realized because of the work, staff and funds needed to run a charitable foundation the best bet would be to affiliate with an organization like CMCF.
"This way we're able to utilize one of the top, professional staff, as far as I'm concerned, in the county," added Converse. Both Brainerd and Willmar have five-year agreements to stay affiliated with CMCF.
A $630,000 grant from the Bremer Foundation helped launch the Brainerd and Willmar foundations. There are two ways people can contribute to the foundation -- through discretionary donations or through specific funds for specific purposes.
Converse said he appreciates the willingness of Brainerd area people to give to the community.
"You have to have a giving heart," he said. "I tell you, Brainerd has a giving heart."
In addition to Converse, other BLACF board members are Gary Bluth, Bernie Roberts, Allen Hall, Mary Boos, Marvin Campbell, Kevin Close, Bonnie Cumberland, Matthew Engen, Joel Miller, Hope Lindman, Donald Porter, Mark Ronnei, Pat Schulist and John Sullivan.
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