Woodbury Community Foundation Gives and Receives

by | Sep 2018

Left: Jodi Ritacca, Vice chair of communications and marketing; Right: Lori Nelson, Executive director

Left: Jodi Ritacca, Vice chair of communications and marketing; Right: Lori Nelson, Executive director. Photos: Joel Schnell

What does it mean, to you, to be a conscientious member of the Woodbury community?

Having opportunities to express—both in words and spending power—what you like about living and doing business here?

Feeling that your ideas to improve the quality of life for everyone in your city will be recognized and supported?

Knowing that money you donate to local causes will be managed responsibly?

If it’s any of these, you’ll want to keep an eye on a growing local asset: the Woodbury Community Foundation.

Chef Fest

The foundation’s primary fundraising event is on November 18. Last year, food was prepared by 11 notable local chefs at nine different stations. In addition to great food, there is a silent auction, an auction with a live auctioneer and other entertainment. Tickets are $75.

Full-time Leadership, Full-speed Ahead

Some version of a Woodbury foundation as a resource for local initiatives has been around for almost 15 years. Starting as Friends of Woodbury in 2003, one of its first projects was to raise money for a grand piano for the indoor Woodbury Central Park. Since then, the organization has grown and expanded its name and vision so that today’s Woodbury Community Foundation, complete with its first full-time executive director, Lori Nelson, can state its mission with confidence: to connect people and organizations to causes that matter.

“Basically, we raise money and give it away to promote quality of life in Woodbury,” says Nelson, who started her tenure a little over a year ago. Her background is in law, politics and conservation; she’s worked in nonprofits for over 20 years. Her board for the foundation numbers 20, three of whom are students. As part of their newest growth strategy, she explains, “We’re trying to get away from the ‘We’re doing everything’ model and move towards partnerships with the community.”

These community partnerships take a variety of forms. One way to understand the many functions—both on the giving and receiving ends—of the foundation is to describe several ways in which individuals as well as for-profit and nonprofit businesses can get involved.

Support the Foundation through Woodbury Cares

Woodbury Cares, a vehicle for business support of the foundation, is the brainchild of Paul Parnell, a three-year Woodbury Community Foundation board member and founding partner of Ballast Advisors, a financial planning firm with branches in Minnesota and Florida. Parnell imported the idea of corporate support of a community foundation from his experience in Florida. “Corporate sponsorship gives businesses an opportunity to give back to the community,” he says. Particularly useful, says Parnell, is that corporate donations can be used by the foundation for any of a variety of the foundation’s programs, including, for example, Woodbury Thrives (concerned with community health and well-being) and the Woodbury Citizen’s Academy (an eight-week program of civic education free and open to all). Several unique opportunities are available to the first wave of local businesses signing up for Woodbury Cares. Contact the foundation for details.

Donate to an Existing Fund

The options here are many. Some of the funds currently managed by the Woodbury Community Foundation, says Nelson, are the Horizon Fund, a donor-advised fund by Dick and Diane Manson that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship; the Miller Barn fund, which is working to save the historic Miller Barn in Woodbury; and Restore America, a fund that helps restore local homeowners’ properties that have been damaged. Another fund, Koins for K-9’s, was set up by Donna Smith Stafford, a secretary on the board, to raise money to purchase K-9 officers for the Woodbury Department of Public Safety.

Come Up with Your Own Fund

The Woodbury Community Foundation will help you from start to finish to set up a fund of your choice. “We’ll talk with you about the purpose of your fund, draw up fund agreements, help you with marketing,” says Nelson. “You don’t have to do the paperwork to set up your own nonprofit; we serve as an umbrella 501(c)(3).” There is currently no minimum dollar amount needed to set up a fund.

Apply for a Grant

Each year the foundation identifies three areas of concern for the community. “This year,” says Nelson, “we queried supporters and did some research with the state. The top three areas of concern were public safety, youth leadership development, and healthy lifestyles.” The foundation is now partnering (via a program called the Nonprofit Roundtable) with local nonprofits to encourage these organizations to apply for a grant. The goal is to award the grants (the amount of which has yet to be determined) in November of 2018. If your nonprofit might benefit from one of these grants, contact the foundation as soon as possible, as deadlines for applying will be coming up.

Come to Chef Fest

Chef Fest, the foundation’s primary fundraising event, is scheduled for November 18 at the Envision Catering and Hospitality center (formerly known as the Prom Center) in Oakdale. “It’s an evening of elaborate food tasting,” says board member and incoming vice chair of communications and marketing Jodi Ritacca. Last year, food was prepared by 11 notable local chefs (including event founder Angelo Montes of Sole Mio) at a total of nine different stations. In addition to great food, there is a silent auction, an auction with a live auctioneer and other entertainment. Tickets are $75.

Outside of her board member responsibilities, Ritacca is president of the upper Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. As do many board members, she brings exceptional professional skills to the foundation—an example of which is a video about the foundation and Chef Fest that you can find on YouTube (search for Woodbury Community Foundation Chef Fest Video).


Opportunities exist both with the foundation itself and with partnering community organizations. A volunteer form can be completed via a direct link from the website.

Consider a Legacy Donation

At no cost to businesses or their clients, the Woodbury Community Foundation can help people formulate charitable giving and other financial goals. Printed materials about giving through the foundation are available. “We’re trying to be strategic about how we address charitable giving into the future,” says Nelson.

“This is the hardest-working board I’ve ever worked with,” she adds. With their support and that of the community, the foundation can make a difference, she says, for everyone who lives, works and plays in Woodbury.


Recent Stories

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This