Volunteers are the heartbeat of our 26 community foundation partners. Each community assembles a local advisory board to lead its community foundation, raise funds to support the vision, coordinate grant applications and educate the community. These volunteers are building communities through their service. Each person has a unique reason for giving
back. Like Avis.
Avis Freitag left her hometown of Granite Falls in 1960 at the age of 17, taking a job in Washington as a secretary at the Pentagon. There she met and married Horace Freitag, whose career in the U.S. Army took them around the world as they raised a family. On Army bases, spouses were often called upon to be hosts, cheerleaders and social workers, including leading fundraisers. Avis absorbed that “can do” attitude and carried it with her when the family moved back to Granite Falls, and it helped her persevere through the challenges of starting the Granite Falls Area Community Foundation (GFACF).
“It wasn’t all work. It was fun. It was challenging and exciting and uplifting,” Avis said of getting the foundation up and running.
While Avis was one of the sparks to start the foundation, and is its unofficial historian, there was a long list of those willing to pitch in a little or a lot to build their community – from generous business gifts to running copies and sending mail.
“This foundation is a way to keep the town going, to support those things that individually people wouldn’t be able to do.” – Peg Heglund
GFACF officially started in 2009 with a gift of $1,000 from its steering committee members, matched by Southwest Initiative Foundation. Those original steering committee members were Robin Henderson, Steven Virnig, Kelly Nokleby, Rosa Lee Studer, Dennis Van Hoof, Mitch McKay, Dwayne Strand, Karen Jacobson, Tammy Edman, Kevin Sharkey, Connie Erickson, Mary Jane Lindholm, Spencer Kvam, LaVonne Koenen, Mike Juenemann, David Norduane, Avis Freitag, Scott and Peggy Heglund, Gordon Kasel and Monica Ike Kasel, the late Sen. Gary Kubly and Craig Bakkeland.
Avis served six years on the GFACF board, the maximum allowed. She remains a donor and supporter of the foundation and was attending the annual fall grant awards party in November 2017 when the Bush Foundation’s $1.2 million gift to GFACF was
“I was so shocked. It just makes me cry, because without the community foundation, how could they have given it?” she said.
Today, that early work building up the foundation and the community continues with the leadership of board members Brett Almich, Hazel Carter, Ron Fromm, Peg Heglund, Ruby Hieb, Molly Hoff, Allyssa Johnson, Jeremy Korner, Jussi Lehti, Brad Peterson, Linda Richter and Jen Sneller.
“This foundation is a way to keep the town going, to support those things that individually people wouldn’t be able to do,” Peg said. “That’s how foundations work: They bring money together to allow you to invest in ideas and make the community better.”