The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation held a Summer Celebration Thursday, August 15, 2019 at Sugar Lake Lodge. It was the perfect time to celebrate together. Both the Community Foundation and Sugar Lake Lodge are celebrating their 25th Anniversaries! What fun!

The evening started off with about 100 people gathering together, nibbling on cheese and olives, clowning around at the photo booth, and best of all, enjoying the chance to reunite with friends and acquaintances that for some, we have not seen in far too long.

After chatting with numerous people about summer adventures, winter plans, children, jobs, grandchildren – well, there just wasn’t enough time to talk with everyone when we were kindly instructed to venture to the dining room.

25 Years of Impact Program and Dinner

Rhett Johnson, Community Foundation Board Chair welcomed guests to the event and remarked, “Whatever your relationship to the Community Foundation, you’re here because you appreciate the good work the Community Foundation does to make our communities great places to live. You’re here because you appreciate just how fortunate we are to live in a place where generous and caring people step up to make a difference in the lives of our friends, neighbors, and even visitors. This evening is a celebration of all that is good about this place we call home.”

Following the dinner, Executive Director Chris Fulton shared some thoughts on philanthropy and 25 years of impact. “Although most people associate philanthropy with large wealth, the only requirement for successful philanthropy is a sense of goodwill to fellow members of the human race and an active effort to promote human welfare. This is the philanthropy we’re celebrating this evening – a passion for making our corner of the world a better place”.

The annual Celebration of Philanthropy is an opportunity to recognize those demonstrating a spirit of philanthropy across the Greater Itasca Area.

The Charles K. Blandin Community Giving Award was presented to Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI) in recognition of their proven record of outstanding philanthropy benefitting the citizens and communities of the Greater Itasca Area.

Mary Kay and Jake Jacobson: Mary Kay is a member of the MDI Board and MDI Success at Work Committee. She also chaired the Life Skills Academy Advisory Board.Peter McDermott, President and CEO of MDI graciously accepted the award by saying, “on behalf of all the employees and board of MDI, thank you. This is especially meaningful as MDI’s founder, John DuRand, has as ironic connection to Mr. Blandin.” McDermott introduced several people in attendance who are closely connected to MDI:

Rick and Kathy Harding: Rick is a past MDI Board and Success at Work Committee Member, and served as an MDI Board Chair.

Diane and Chad Meyer: Diane is the MDI Employment Service Supervisor and Success at Work Committee Member. She also does awesome work reviewing and evaluating scholarship applications.

Rod and Paula Wood: Rod is MDI’s Chief Operating Officer.

Charlotte McDermott: Charlotte is Peter’s partner and MDI supporter.

McDermott spoke about MDI. “At MDI, our mission is serving people with disabilities by offering inclusive employment opportunities and services. We hire people with and without disabilities, and everyone is expected to show up for work on time, work to their capabilities and respect one another. At MDI, we provide a welcoming and accommodating environment, along with a job opportunity that is not generally provided in the community for people with disabilities.”

McDermott also spoke about giving back. “In 2006 MDI created endowed and non-endowed funds at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, with an initial contribution of $20K in a way to give back to the community. As a non-profit 501(c)(3), we are owned by the community and these funds were set up to be MDI’s way of financial paying “dividends” back to the community.

The Community Foundation Generational Giving Award was presented to the Terry and Muggs Matteson Family in recognition of exceptional philanthropy, demonstrated civic and charitable responsibility, and for making a distinct difference in the betterment of life for the citizens and communities of the Greater Itasca Area. This annual award focuses on the culture of generosity passed down through generations of family members. When presenting the award, Fulton stated, “The Matteson Family’s generosity runs deep, and the true breadth of their giving is known only to those they provide gifts to. Needless to say, we are extremely fortunate to have them in our communities.”

Fun Photos and Other Notables

For more information, visit the Community Foundation website at or schedule a visit by calling (218) 999-9100.Chris Fulton, Executive Director of the Community Foundation spoke about some of the people who took the time to join us at the celebration. “Dede Emerson is the record holder for the Furthest Traveled Attendee, logging 1,362 miles, coming from New York State.” Fulton announced the next category, “It’s hard to win this over Rex and Alice Sala who come from Marcell, but 1st Place for Most Rural Attendee at this year’s event goes to Jack Huhta and Maureen Vorderbruggen who traveled from Cromwell.” The Biggest Rockstar went to Ross Larson, who has earned a total of $12,500 in scholarships from the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation over the past 4 years. Fulton then noted that the person here with the Longest Relationship with the Community Foundation was Wendy Roy. The group of “honored dignitaries” then came forward and helped cut the Community Foundation’s 25th Anniversary cake.