Foundational Impact: Southland Community Foundation setting stakes on future success

Published 5:49 pm Friday, March 1, 2024

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With a goal of creating a lasting impact, a fairly new initiative is eying the creation of opportunity for area communities.

Officially started on July 1 of last year, the Southland Community Foundation was established to create a financial support system for programs and activities in the communities of Adams, Dexter, Elkton, Johnsburg, Rose Creek and Taopi.

“We’re really open to anything that’s going to help this community grow and thrive and be long lasting,” said Whitney Thome, who along with Katie Schaefer, is a co-chair of the foundation. “There are a few initiatives we would love to support once they are up and running, but while we’re still growing and establishing ourselves we want to continue to invest in the people in the Southland Community.”

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The foundation established its roots in 2022 when current board members Lynnette Offen Gerber and Angie McDermott Himebaugh began working together with a group of people from a variety of backgrounds.

That same year, the group held a community forum to help gain perspective in creating a base for the foundation. During this forum, the University of Minnesota Extension was brought in and work eventually led to working with the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).

“SMIF has made it so easy to set up this foundation, make it viable, providing us with tools, expertise in fundraising and grants,” Offen Gerber said. “How to form a board, take care of the financial stuff. They are the 501c that handles all of that. They have made that part really easy.”

In general, the foundation was created for community betterment and can include several different areas including community programming, senior citizen needs, education, health, beautification and child care just to name a few.

It’s a broad spectrum that keeps a variety of doors open for the foundation so that it has multiple targets to hit in order to be successful, something that is especially important in these early stages, foundation leaders say.

“SMIF encourages us to be broad, open,” McDermott Himebaugh said, explaining that SMIF gave the organization several examples of what other communities are doing as guidance for developing their own foundation.

“That’s what’s nice about keeping it broad, because we can adjust as the needs of the organizations in the community change as well,” she said. “It allows us to cater to what Elkton needs, what Dexter needs, what Taopi and Rose Creek and Johnsburg and Adams need. It’s a lot of communities and we want to keep it accessible for them.”

The foundation also aims to pair that accessibility with inclusivity, which leads to partnerships with other groups within these communities.

The foundation will work off of a matching grant system, meaning that organizations applying for grants will need to have at least half of the funds needed. That partnership is more than money though, it’s a strength that unites the communities.

“We’re trying to be all inclusive. We all benefit by bringing each other,” Offen Gerber said. “It brings everybody up. Adams is where our school is, but we want to encompass the whole area.”

The foundation is still a ways off from handing out grants within the community as it continues to establish itself. Thome said that to date, the foundation has around $3,000 in hand, with a goal to have $10,000 banked before they start giving out grants.

That has set a $7,000 goal to raise over the next couple of months.

It’s this aspect, they say, that has been among the most challenging aspects of building the foundation. Part of that work is making people aware of what the foundation is hoping to do and to get some of those already charitable souls in the communities to come on board.

At the same time, they want to find paths to being able to pair and create partnerships with other organizations within each community under the Southland banner.

The foundation wants to be able to tap into the growing nature of the community.

“We’re seeing young families come back to the Adams, Southland area. We’re seeing newer families,” McDermott Himebaugh said. “I think there is that pride there that we’re doing well, but we can do better. We can do even better and make this community stronger and more sustainable.”

In turn, the establishment of grants will help build the support within the surrounding communities.

“At this point we haven’t been able to make grants because we don’t have enough funds, but the grants are really where we think it’s going to turn the perspective,” Thome said. “If the communities see they just issued X dollars to this group or this group and they can see the good that’s happening as a result then we hope it just becomes this snowball effect and continues to grow year after year.”

With that growth comes a goal of legacy. Those good things happening in the Southland area can translate into long lasting and beneficial impacts on each community including businesses on Main Streets and answers to childcare needs.

An example Offen Gerber uses is a donation by someone in the community who donated $10,000 to the Southland Robotics club to compete at a national competition.

With more donations like that, the Southland Community Foundation can establish that lasting impact.

“What we’re doing is not just a one-off, it’s for generations,” she said. “It’s generational growth we’re looking for. We’re not here to compete, we’re here to enhance. I just keep going back to where everybody grows and thrives, we all thrive.”

For more information on the Southland Community Foundation, visit or email