RACF: Improving our quality of life

Pat Dingels
Redwood Falls Gazette

In 1988 a group of local business people had a vision for a new community resource that would improve the quality of life in the Redwood area. Led by Wolfgang Sarrazin, a local attorney, the Redwood Area Communities Foundation (RACF) was created as a non-profit for the welfare and public benefit of Redwood County residents and organizations.

Community foundations are place-based non-profits committed to developing their community. They have a board of local citizens who maintain the organization and determine the needs of their region, being all inclusive in the demographics they serve, and they are non-political.

Funding sources for community foundations include individuals, families, businesses, grants and fundraisers. Community foundations focus on supporting local non-profits and building infrastructure to improve their immediate community.

The main roles of community foundations are teaching and promoting philanthropy, acting as intermediary organizations, community leadership, promoting community development, increasing accountability of nonprofits and focusing resources in times of disaster.

The Redwood Area Communities Foundation provides all of these services for the area.

However, there are a number of unique ways that the RACF serves the area including:

• Support outstanding local people who are doing significant work to better our communities

• Support your efforts to advance your cause in our communities

• Support your values

• Available in emergencies on the local level

• Partner with volunteers to build community

• Provide the means for a wide range of donors to create permanent funds to meet local needs

• Supports a wide variety of causes

The Redwood Area Communities Foundation accepts gifts of various sizes and types from private citizens, local corporations, other foundations and government agencies.

Many types of gifts, such as real estate, stock and insurance, can be contributed to a community foundation. Gifts are also made from bequests and by living donors through various types of funds and deferred giving vehicles.

The first major donor to the RACF was the Martin and Winifred Ehlers family in 1989. Their donation created the Martin & Winifred Ehlers Student Loan Fund to “assist and permit ambitious, deserving and qualified area high school graduates to continue their post-high school education in a trade school, technical school, college or university by providing such students with interest free loans.”

"By helping the youth of our community to better themselves through education, we are assuring the betterment of our community for the future,” said Martin Ehlers.

The Ehlers Student Loan Fund is one of 32 subsidiaries that presently partner with the Redwood Area Communities Foundation.

Other entities are: Apple Gourd Project; Celebrate Redwood Falls; Country SnoRiders; Dominick Bruns Memorial Fund; Erik’s Memorial Fund; Ernie Werner Ag Scholarship; Friends of the County Fair; Friends of the Park; Giving Back – Red-wood Lions & Rotarians; GRASP – Greater Redwood Area Suicide Prevention; Hinterland Art Crawl; Leave A Legacy-SW MN; LINC Redwood County; Minnesota Indigenous Women Society; Minnesota Valley ATV Riders; Orrin S. Estebo Foundation; Friends of Parkview Senior Living – Belview, MN; Redwood Area Community Youth Foundation; Redwood Area Hospital Foundation; Redwood Area Junior Golf Association; Redwood Area Theatre; Redwood Chamber Community Partners; Redwood County Purple Ribbon Club; Redwood Electric Trust; Redwood Valley Baseball Association; Redwood County Warrior Foundation; Redwood Westside Center; Share the Spirit; Technology and Trades on the Prairie; Tape & Tinker and the Wanda Cemetery. 

The RACF provides the support and structure for these area projects to focus on their mission and receive assistance with non-profit structure, operations, bookkeeping, fundraising and grants.

Our focus is on the greater good and how we can work together to make positive change in our community.

For information on all the subsidiaries of the Redwood Area Communities Foundation or to learn more about setting up your own non-profit or leaving a legacy to support your passion in our communities, contact us at (507) 637-4004 or visit our Web site at .

- Pat Dingels serves as the executive director of the Redwood Area Development Corporation (RADC)