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Celebrating 25 years: DACF continues work to benefit region

A FILE PHOTO shows the board of the Dickinson Area Community Foundation — from left, in front are Jeff Smith, Janet Spring, Cindy Gustafson and Jennifer Gordon; in back are Bill Leonoff, Al Anderson, Mike Roell, Meagan Easterling, Jacob Lynch, Matt Lutz and Duane Manier. Not shown are Faith Peterson and Gene Dziubinski.

This is the first in a series of articles on the Dickinson Area Community Foundation, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Dickinson Area Community Foundation has one clear mission — to enhance the quality of life in the region.

“For good. For ever” is more than a motto; it has been the fundamental driving force of the non-profit organization since its founding in 1995.

“This year we crossed a threshold by giving away $4.1 million in that time span,” DACF Executive Director Tamara Juul said. “That’s a lot of money making a huge impact for our rural community.”

DACF promotes philanthropy — receiving and administrating charitable gifts to invest in programs that benefit all residents of Dickinson County, as well as Crystal Falls and adjacent Wisconsin communities.

TAMARA JUUL

“It’s the job of the Community Foundation to connect the needs with the resources to the best of our ability,” Juul said.

Programs of support include arts and culture, education, environment, health and human services and youth.

“It’s pretty broad, what we fund,” Juul said. “As our mission states, anything that will improve the quality of life here, we are on board with it.”

DACF is made up of 116 charitable funds, each named and designated by donors.

The foundation has approximately $11.5 million in assets, which provides grants and scholarships to eight different area high schools.

The Dickinson Area Community Foundation has two affiliates — the Crystal Falls Area Community Foundation and the Norway Area Community Foundation. “This has really helped us reach more people,” she said.

They also have three Youth Advisory Committee, or YAC, programs involving students from Norway High School, Forest Park High School and Iron Mountain and Kingsford High School.

The DACF officially opened its doors 25 years ago, after a group of volunteers took advantage of an offer made by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which is youth-based, to establish a community foundation.

Some of those instrumental in getting the organization started were Dick Abraham, Bob Forgette, Ed Koerschner, Bob Brown, Jim Benbow and the DACF’s first director, Carolee Dodge Francis.

“How awesome was it that those people had the foresight to say, ‘Let’s not pass up on this opportunity,'” Juul said.

“I think of how proud they must be of their effort 25 years ago and seeing us at $11.5 million now,” she added.

As they celebrate the 25th anniversary, foundation members want to education the public on the services it provides.

“It’s a unique organization, so it is difficult to explain what we do,” Juul said.

They are a “lean” organization, with only three part-time employees in the foundation’s office at 333 S. Stephenson Ave., Suite 204, in Iron Mountain, Juul explained.

In addition to Juul, who has served as executive director for 10 years, on staff is Melissa Wentarmini, vice president of finance and marketing; and Audrey Smith, office manager.

“We have a great staff right now. They both are more than their titles,” Juul said.

The foundation is governed by a volunteer board. Current members are Al Anderson, Mike Roell, Meagan Easterling, Jacob Lynch, Matt Lutz, Duane Manier, Jeff Smith, Janet Spring, Cindy Gustafson, Jennifer Gordon, Faith Peterson and Gene Dziubinski.

Though celebrating a quarter-century in 2020, the foundation has faced funding challenges this 25th year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have had to cancel two events that raise money to support endowment funds and help the community by providing grants,” Juul said.

So they created a 30-second video that looks to the future, hoping it will spur the fundraising campaign.

“It’s doesn’t matter the size of the donation — every little bit adds up to make a big impact on our rural community,” Juul said.

Donations are tax exempt and donors will receive a receipt.

To make a donation, go to the Dickinson Area Community Foundation’s Facebook page, the website at www.dickinsonareacommunityfoundation.org, or call 906-774-3131. Donations can also be mailed to 333 S. Stephenson Ave., Suite 204, in Iron Mountain.

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