The news at the Granite Falls Area Community Foundation’s annual grant awards event last Tuesday evening put a lot of smiles on the many faces in the crowd at Granite Run.

The annual event showcased several nice grant awards by the foundation to deserving organizations. The awards, which totaled more than $9,400, were made from the generous donations that folks and their families give to the foundation and also from the foundation’s endowment funds, which generate investment income that is set aside for the annual awards.

Building a foundation endowment fund sounds like a challenge but the foundation’s board members, past and present, have raised money and found ways for folks to make significant donations to the endowment fund, assuring that there will be local grant awards for years to come.

Giving out those awards will be changing however thanks to the generosity of the board of directors and staff at the Bush Foundation. Greg Keane, Chief Financial Officer of the Bush Foundation was on hand to share some fun news about that.

He told the crowd that Bush Foundation President Jennifer Ford Reedy had been researching records from the foundation’s past and proposed to the foundation’s board of directors that they might want to consider a grant program honoring the founder of the Bush Foundation, Archibald (Archie) Bush and his legacy. The research showed that Archie Bush had two favorite towns, his hometown of Granite Falls and his adopted hometown of St. Paul. Establishing a legacy grant in each city would be an appropriate way to honor that legacy. The Bush Foundation’s board of directors agreed that that they would like to move forward with this and asked their staff to come back with some recommendations.

Last April, a few local folks were contacted about serving on a committee to help explore and shape ideas for what was termed “a Bush Foundation investment in the Granite Falls area”. Greg Keane and Justin Christy, of the Bush Foundation staff, came out to meet with the committee, which included Peg Hegland, Molly Hoff and Pat Kubly from the board of the Granite Falls Area Community Foundation (GFACF), YME High School Principal Ryan Luft, Bert Raney Elementary Principal Lisa Hanson, Diane Fagen and myself. The Bush foundation also invited Jeff Vetsch, the Community Philanthropy Officer with the Southwest Initiative Foundation, which helps to manage the GFACF funds.

Greg told us about their ideas and that they would include college scholarship money for YME High School seniors as well as funding that addressed community- identified needs with what he called an “Archie Bush big idea catalyst grant”. He also mentioned the possibility of adding to the GFACF’s endowment funds.

After a short discussion where we tossed around several ideas, it was decided that we needed the input of YME High School success coach Robin Henderson to help with background for the scholarship component. Robin joined the committee at its next meeting and the Bush Foundation announced that, with our approval, they would like to work with Twin Cities-based Wallin Educational Partners to manage the scholarship component of this legacy grant.

We met several times and discussed funding for local child day-care needs, funding for the innovative multi-high school career academy offerings at the local Minnesota West campus, the Neighbors United Food Shelf and a few other ideas. We also met with staff from the Wallin organization to discuss scholarship ideas that addressed the needs of students attending both four-year and two-year post-secondary schools. Greg advised us that the legacy grant would definitely include additional money for the endowment funds for the GFACF but that amount remained uncertain, although it sounded like there could be “a substantial amount”.

Those words rang true when we got an email from Greg on October 2nd informing us that the Bush Foundation board of directors had decided to go ahead with the Archie Bush Legacy grant to Granite Falls and it would include $600,000 for scholarships over the next several years. Greg’s email also said that there would be a $200,000 grant for a project or projects in Granite Falls, to be selected by the GFACF board and that the Bush Foundation would grant $1 million to the GFACF to establish an Archie Bush Legacy Endowment Fund with the GFACF which will enable them to select and fund many future community needs. SWIF will aid the local foundation board in dealing with the details that come with having a much larger endowment.

In making his announcement last Tuesday evening, Greg mentioned the major role that Archie Bush played at 3M Corporation and the history of the Bush Foundation. He also mentioned the long relationship that Archie Bush and the Bush Foundation has had with Granite Falls and the current connections that we have with Granite Falls native Jennifer Alstad serving on the foundation’s board of directors and YME graduate and Clarkfield native Anita Patel who is the Leadership Program Director at the Bush Foundation. They are wonderful connections to have and Greg shared that they were strong advocates of this legacy grant to Granite Falls.

This wonderful news that Greg Keane shared last Tuesday night brought the biggest smiles of the evening. The programs or projects that are funded and the scholarships that are awarded in the coming years will benefit our community and our area and will be a fitting tribute to the legacy that Archie and Edyth Bush established when they formed the Bush Foundation in 1953. Over the years this community had benefitted greatly from their generosity and their willingness to invest in our people and our community. This good news assures that generosity will continue and will provide many more opportunities for our students and for the community’s needs. What wonderful news for all of us. 

We weren’t able to attend the Veteran’s day program at the Fagen Fighter’s World War II Museum last Friday morning but we heard lots of good things about the program and about the large crowd, which included several dozen area veterans.

Fortunately for those of us who weren’t able to be there, Pioneer Public Television recorded the program and put together a half hour program that was broadcast last Saturday evening. The entire program can still be seen on Pioneer Public Television’s website at www.pioneer.org and then go to “Veteran’s Day Special” then click “watch on line”.

Holding the program at the museum adds a lot of meaning to the annual Veteran’s Day program and helps to remind us what so many of those veterans did in service to our country. Thanks goes to the Fagen Fighter’s World War II Museum and the YME High School students and staff for the hosting and helping with the program and thanks to Pioneer Public TV for taping and broadcasting the event so that many more people across our region were able to see it.

The Fagen Fighters World War II Museum was also featured on a “Finding Minnesota” segment on WCCO TV on Sunday night’s newscast. Reporter John Lauritson, a native of Milan, did a nice job of showcasing this amazing place. His report is archived on the WCCO website.