Alden Area Community Foundation ‘building a stronger community for years to come’

Published 1:11 pm Wednesday, March 1, 2023

By Kim Gooden, for the Tribune

ALDEN — Serving the city of Alden and its surrounding areas by supporting programs and projects that improve quality of life and build a stronger community has been the mission of the Alden Area Community Foundation since 2017.

“Previously there was a development corporation in Alden which was established to help new businesses,” said foundation President Barb Zeller. “But it was no longer productive in the way that it had been set up many years ago.”

Email newsletter signup

So Zeller and other members of the community reached out to Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation to explore the possibility of a different type of foundation.

After learning what the requirements were to become affiliated with SMIF, the decision was made to create a new foundation.

“Being associated with them was the best way to get our foundation going,” Zeller said. “So the development corporation was dissolved and the remaining funds were transferred to AACF and placed in an endowment fund.”

Because they had funds to start with, the foundation was able to hit the ground running in a way other foundations aren’t able to. And hit the ground running they have.

Over the past five years, grants have been used for a lake restoration project around Morin Lake, a cemetery beautification project, the flower basket fund, support for the Alden Lions to sponsor a visit from Santa Claus, an Easter Egg project, S’mores on the Shore during Morin Lake Days and development of a wraparound program at Alden-Conger School.

When foundation board members are looking at grant applications, they try to look at things that will make the most impact on the community. They also like to support youth-driven activities such as the Easter egg hunt because those involve and affect the whole family.

“With the help of the foundation grant we were able to start our flower basket fund,” said Lori Nelson, organizer of the project, which provides and maintains hanging flower baskets on Broadway in Alden. “We have had lots of good comments and support from the community, including donations and help with watering the flowers.”

Money for the grants comes only from the interest earned by the endowment fund. What they currently have in the endowment fund allows the foundation to disperse $3,000 to $5,000 each year in the way of grants to local activities or needs within the community.

Thus, as the endowment fund grows, so will the amount of money they can disperse back to the community — which is why the foundation is always working to build the endowment fund.

Money to build the endowment fund comes through annual donations, memorials or commemorative gifts, donations from people who no longer live in Alden but still feel a connection, the yearly newsletter and an online auction.

“Our last online auction raised $7,500 for the endowment fund due to the generosity of both the donors and bidders,” Zeller said.

She noted there are other ways to give and opportunities for people to be involved that most people are not aware of. Acres for Good, trusts and bequests are just some examples.

Another part of building a stronger community for the foundation is initiating an interagency within the community.

“We meet four times each year with almost all of the other groups within the community to see what they are doing or what they need,” Zeller said. “Some of the groups have gotten smaller and can’t handle large events on their own, but by working together with other groups these things can happen.”

One example of this is the FFA students who have helped water the hanging baskets on Broadway throughout the summer.

“It’s an opportunity for organizations to collaborate on projects, which is a good way for the community to see the organizations working together and to learn more about the organizations and what they do,” said FFA adviser Pam Koenen.

The community foundation is currently working with others in the community to address the shortage of day care in the Alden area.

According to Zeller, more outreach is needed to make people aware that the foundation is a presence in the community and that it is there to help. Creating welcome packets to let new people in the community know what is available to them is one way they are striving to accomplish this.

“Giving back to the community is our way of building a stronger community for years to come,” Zeller said.

Grant applications can be obtained from any Alden Area Community Foundation board member. More information can be found on the foundation website at or through a link on Donations can be sent to Alden Area Community Foundation at PO Box 1, Alden, MN 56009.