Darwin community members came together to dedicate their new Veterans Memorial this fall. Its black concrete pillars face west with plaques inscribed to honor the five branches of the United States Military. On the base of the U.S. flagpole, circular emblems represent each military branch. Two more poles fly flags at the memorial, one honoring prisoner of war/missing in action service members and the other for the state of Minnesota. Benches offer a spot to sit and reflect on the lives of those who have answered the call to serve in times of war and peace.
Darwin Community Legacy Foundation, one of Southwest Initiative Foundation’s 30 affiliate partners, raised $60,000 to construct the memorial, starting its efforts in 2018, just a year after the new community foundation launched.
The memorial dedication came together with support from many, including the foundation, the Darwin Community Club and the City of Darwin. The Darwin Lions Club started the evening with a community picnic. Litchfield Area Male Chorus members provided acapella music. Darwin Mayor Josh Johnson welcomed the crowd of 130, and Pastor Joe Midthun offered a prayer. Dassel American Legion Post 364 raised the American flag, followed by a rifle salute from fellow Legion members.
Patrick Hansen (Captain) US Army Retired addressed the gathering and encouraged those present to continue supporting veterans. Pat grew up in Darwin and enlisted right after high school. He served 20 years in the Army National Guard as a combat engineer.
“It was a sense of duty, of giving back. I wanted to do something to serve the country,” said Pat, who works as an electrician in his civilian life and owns local small business Bonniwell Electric.
He hopes the local memorial will inspire his fellow Darwin community members, especially younger generations, to remember the sacrifices made and consider what they might do for the good of others.
“I’m very proud that our community is acknowledging our veterans and providing for them a well due recognition,” Pat said at the dedication. “Veterans, I thank you for doing your part to make and keep our country free. Thank you for your service.”
Mayor Josh Johnson closed the dedication by thanking all those involved, including donors, contractors, DCLF board members, and “most importantly, those who served. To all veterans and their families: We sincerely thank you for your service.”
In addition to raising dollars for specific community projects like the Veterans Memorial, Darwin Community Legacy Foundation has a permanent endowment funded by donations from individuals and organizations. The principal is invested, and its earnings are distributed annually to fund local projects. The local foundation’s mission is to provide a better community for tomorrow through charitable giving today.
“The Darwin Community Legacy Foundation has really inspired generosity in the community and beyond,” said SWIF Community Philanthropy Officer Jeff Vetsch. “There’s obviously a lot of affinity for this small town, both from people who live there and people who grew up there and remember it fondly.”
Darwin Community Legacy Foundation board members are Jenny Smith, board chair; Joe Midthun, vice chair; Dave Kelly, secretary; Josh Johnson, treasurer; Eric Gabrielson; Kim Hawes; Sarah Kotila; Chris Hansen; and Maggie Johnson. They are responsible for raising funds to sustain the foundation’s vision, coordinating grants and involving the community. Southwest Initiative Foundation provides administrative, technical and professional support to the local advisory board.