Ernest Stoen, or Ernie as his friends and family called him, was raised to embrace the notion of giving back, and his entire life reflects his generosity.
Born on the Big Bend farm site near Milan, Ernie spent most of his life there—growing up, caring for his parents, and operating the family farm with his older brother, Manfred. He was strongly connected to the land he farmed, the Milan community, and Big Bend Lutheran Church. His small-town, Christian values led him to support numerous worthy causes and organizations.
Ernie married Mae Pederson late in life and adopted her three children, Marcia Neely, Doug Pederson, and Susan Schei. At the time of his marriage, Ernie
retired from farming and moved to Montevideo.
“He was a wonderful father in many, many ways,” reflected Marcia. As he aged, he felt an even stronger pull to giving back. “He felt it was his fundamental Christian duty to do whatever he could to help,” she said. “And he did. He was the most
generous man I’ve ever known.”
Ernie found the Milan Community Foundation through an article in the Milan Standard. “The minute he learned about the Milan Community Foundation, there was no question in his mind … he wanted to give back,” said Marcia.
Established in 2004, the Milan Community Foundation is one of Southwest Initiative Foundation’s 24 local affiliates. Affiliates are advised by local volunteer leaders who help to identify and address community needs, as well as lead local
fundraising efforts to support them.
Our affiliates have been a spark for many great projects throughout the region, including community center renovations, new parks and playgrounds,
pools, memorials, city celebrations and others.
They also provide needed support to service organizations, schools and nonprofits.
With help from the Southwest Initiative Foundation, Ernie created a Charitable Gift Annuity with a generous gift of $50,000. The gift annuity provided
income for his lifetime, and after his passing at age 93, the remainder of over $47,000 was transferred to the Milan Community Foundation general
Southwest Initiative Foundation President/CEO Diana Anderson facilitated Ernie’s gift to help him achieve his charitable goals. “The look of satisfaction on Mr. Stoen’s face while he signed the annuity agreement was inspirational. I remember him saying to me, ‘I’ve waited so long to do this,’” Diana said.
Through careful planning, Ernie was not only able to secure income for his lifetime, he was able to empower Milan Community Foundation to respond
to the community’s changing needs. Ernie always felt connected to the Milan community. His legacy will
forever benefit it.