2016 Annual Letter

July 2017

Dear Friends:

In 2016, Mardag Foundation’s Board of Directors continued to build on the legacy established by our founder Agnes Ober. Agnes understood that our community is stronger when everyone has an opportunity to succeed. Her dedication to the state of Minnesota set her apart as a philanthropic visionary, and continues to be a cornerstone of the Foundation’s work. Last year, many of Mardag Foundation’s grants supported critical services throughout Minnesota.

Our grantmaking focus to improve the lives of at-risk families, children, youth and young adults took us from the northern suburbs of Saint Paul to the north shores of Duluth. We invested in services supporting seniors from Rochester up to Walker. Our work to increase the capacities of arts and humanities organizations spanned from Bemidji to Mankato. And we continued to support community development in Saint Paul, our state’s Capitol and Agnes’ hometown.

Below, you will see summaries of our grantmaking and our affirmation in the belief that we are all one community, working toward a brighter future.

We also, with great sadness, share the news of the passing of two of Mardag Foundation’s most dedicated volunteers and board members. It is in their memory that we continue to build a strong legacy of caring for those in our state who have few other resources to which they can turn.

Richard Ober was a long-term board member of Mardag Foundation, and grandson of Agnes Ober. His dedication and commitment to our community were driving forces for good in our state. His work with the Union Gospel Mission in particular serves to highlight his community-focused spirit. His contributions as a brother, friend and philanthropist will continue to bring inspiration to our work.

Tom Mairs was one of Mardag Foundation’s founders and earliest supporters. Without his vision, we would not be where we are today. He created a strong legacy of community work during his lifetime, and it is our honor to continue building on that legacy for years to come.

Finally, I wish to thank the Board of Directors and the staff at The Saint Paul & Minnesota Community Foundations for their tireless efforts and thoughtful insights.


Timothy M. Ober

President, Board of Directors


Grant Highlights

In 2016, Mardag Foundation made 101 grants totaling $2.37 million across Minnesota in its four priority areas. The following is a snapshot of our 2016 grantmaking by area. You can also find a full list of grants here.

Improving the lives of at-risk families, children, youth and young adults:

A $20,000 grant to Kindred Family Focus supported their efforts to expand the availability of foster care in northeaster and central Minnesota. This initiative will increase the number of new, licensed foster care families by hiring two full-time recruiters and licensors. Kindred Family Focus conducts outreach to potential families, facilitates orientations and licensing support for new and existing foster families and hosts special training and appreciation events to retain current foster parents.

A $40,000 grant to Life House assisted in renovating and outfitting a new 10-bed shelter program, The Loft, on the upper floor of Life House’s current drop-in center. As the region’s only drop-in center, they serve hundreds of homeless youth each year and adding a shelter program for unaccompanied minors helps meet demand for shelter beds in northern Minnesota.

Supporting seniors to live independently:

A $10,000 grant to Interfaith Caregivers – Faith in Action Fairbault County supported the expansion of the ALERTLINK program to Martin and Fairbault counties. ALERTLINK is a Personal Emergency Response System that connects to a telephone line and button transmitter that can connect the user to an emergency responder. This funding allows Interfaith Caregivers to add 200 new subscribers to the program.

A $20,000 grant to Senior Citizens Service supported their Decreasing the Risks of Loneliness and Cognitive Decline through Art program. This grant supported furnishing the Rochester Senior Center’s art studio with pottery equipment, computers and printers, shelving, art supplies and more. The art programming offered by the center, including pottery, painting and sculpting classes serves a two-fold purpose – decreasing loneliness through arts engagement and delaying cognitive decline.

Building the capacity of arts and humanities organizations to benefit their communities:

A $30,000 grant to the Bemidji Community Arts Council served as a challenge match for the Council’s capital campaign to create a Native American gallery that will honor contemporary and traditional work that previously had no permanent venue. The gallery provides a unique cultural intersection and allows space for residents of all ages to participate in classes and workshops.

A $30,000 grant to the Mankato Symphony Orchestra Association supported additional administrative support for office management, maintaining donor records and upkeep of the website and ticket sales system. The Symphony’s programs include concerts, Music Appreciation at the Elementary School Level (MAESL) education programming and tours to rural Minnesota communities and outreach programs at regional libraries.

Supporting community development throughout Saint Paul:

A $50,000 grant to Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) supported their capital campaign to expand their headquarters. CLUES addresses the needs of the Latino community for individuals and families of all ages. In 2015, CLUES served nearly 12,000 people through direct services and another 10,000 through outreach activities and community events. The expansion of their headquarters helps alleviate the space restrictions of serving that many people and will increase their capacity to meet the needs of a growing Latino community in the East Metro.

A $20,000 grant to Rondo Avenue Inc supported the design and construction of The Rondo Commemorative Plaza. The plaza combines landscaping and on-site terminals to engage visitors in some of the major events in the history of the Rondo Neighborhood. From its settlement and growth to the division of the neighborhood during I-94 construction, the plaza serves as a launch pad for a broader and deeper understanding and connection of the neighborhood’s past and present. Online photos and maps will guide visitors through the old streets of Rondo as they learn about its residents. Onsite technology will help visitors add their own stories and expand the existing knowledge base of the area.