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Retiring Board Member Tribute: Jim Keul

Jim Keul and Sherry Ristau at the historic Dayton House in Worthington.

Jim Keul and Sherry Ristau at the historic Dayton House in Worthington.

Our Fiscal Year 2014 ends Monday, so we’d like to share a special tribute to our retiring board member Jim Keul.

Throughout his service to Southwest Initiative Foundation, Jim represented a number of southwest Minnesota communities, including Slayton, Tracy and Jackson. Using his strong business acumen and background in rural economic development, Jim has thoughtfully balanced local realities with a regional vision.

Jim served on the board for six years from 2008-2014. He served on the Loan Committee helping SWIF support many businesses, as well as the Finance and Audit Committee where he helped strengthen SWIF as an organization.

During that time, Jim’s professional experience—including media and marketing expertise—helped guide SWIF’s rebranding process, a significant, board-led effort to refresh our messages and reach more people.

As a veteran himself, Jim served as a volunteer medic for Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota and advocated continued SWIF support for this special opportunity to recognize and thank our region’s veterans. Traveling together as guardians on the same flight was a privilege for me—and Jim was the reason behind a VERY special personal connection I made with a veteran and old family friend.

It’s so hard to put into words what Jim brings to SWIF as a leader. His funny one-liners in person and in emails bring smiles to our faces. And, Jim is incredibly supportive, interacting with me, our board, our staff, our donors and our partners in very meaningful ways.

Friendships are important to Jim—and I, along with our entire SWIF board and staff, are honored to call him our friend!

Thank you, Jim!

Special Announcement: Change

Sherry Ristau

Sherry Ristau

Any good leader will tell you that if you’re going to make a change, you should do it on the highest note possible. That’s certainly the case for me right now.

I have accepted the position as new President/CEO of the Great River Bend Community Foundation, serving communities along the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area of Davenport and Bettendorf (in Iowa) and Rock Island and Moline (in Illinois).

After 20+ years at Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF), including the last 17 as your President/CEO, I wasn’t looking for a change. When I was first approached about this new opportunity, I brushed it off. I LOVE what I do here for southwest Minnesota. We are doing incredible work here in our region thanks to the generous support of MANY people like you. I’ve built my life, family and career in rural Minnesota. How could I leave?

The answer is I believe strongly that “change” is good and I believe in the possibilities of the future.

SWIF is a truly unique and innovative organization. We have what I have recently started calling a winning “Super Bowl” staff and board. It takes a lot to put together a winning game plan, but it takes even more to win the game. Southwest Minnesota is winning the game!

I see exciting opportunities for the Quad Cities region, too. The Great River Bend Community Foundation is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. While there are some similarities between our foundations and regions, this change will bring me new challenges. It will put my strengths to use–building new relationships, lifting up community, business and rural leaders, thinking big and helping inspire others about the future. And, it will be a great philanthropic experiment, putting ideas from our coveted Minnesota Initiative Foundations model to the test outside of our great state.

It has been an absolute honor for me to serve this organization and our southwest Minnesota regional community. I have been blessed beyond belief by what SWIF has given me. This has been a difficult decision to make, but I believe this is an opportunity to “raise the bar” that I must find the courage to embrace.

I am SO grateful for your friendship and support given to me personally and to SWIF. My employment at SWIF ends Sept. 5. Rest assured this organization is in great hands! Our Board of Directors, led by Chair Rob Saunders, is implementing our succession plan. You’ll be kept informed as the process unfolds.

I have surrounded myself with the BEST people–and that includes each one of you. Know that you mean so much to me and I look forward to what the future holds for us all!

All the best (and hugs to each of you),

Sherry E. Ristau

Download announcement news release

Bring on the Wind!

windsurferSouthwest Minnesota often gets overlooked when it comes to talking Minnesota lakes. But this weekend, Lake Okabena in Worthington is getting national attention as it hosts the U.S. National Windsurfing Championships for the third time.

WCCO TV’s reporter Liz Collins is a Worthington native. She’s hosting their “Goin’ To The Lake” series with meteorologist Lauren Casey. Check out video and stories from their trip so far, and live broadcasts throughout the weekend!

Board of Directors Visits Worthington

Some of our board met for dinner at the historic Dayton House in Worthington Wednesday night.

Some of our board met for dinner at the historic Dayton House in Worthington Wednesday night.

It’s been another great week in southwest Minnesota!

Our Board of Directors spent an awesome two days in Worthington. We’ll share more from our inspiring visit and annual board meeting in the coming weeks.

For those who have never visited the historic Dayton House, I highly recommend it!

Some of our board was able to join us for dinner at this beautiful home Wednesday night. Thank you to the wonderful Dayton House staff and volunteers for welcoming us!

Remembering Our Veterans

October 2010 Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota veterans who visited Washington, D.C. to see their memorials.

October 2010 Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota veterans who visited Washington, D.C. to see their memorials.

It’s already Memorial Day. It may seem like we’re rushing to take advantage of spring—which finally arrived here in Minnesota. Maybe your holiday weekend plans include celebrating a graduation, gardening, going to a ball game or camping. However you spend your weekend, I hope you’ll join me in taking time to recognize and honor at least one veteran and their family.

If you haven’t heard me share my Honor Flight story—which I’ve come to call, “What am I doing on this flight?”—I can sum it up by saying it was a life-changing experience for me. In October 2010, Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota took 104 World War II Veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Air Force Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery/Changing of the Guard, Navy Memorial, Korean Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Air and Space Museum. I will never be the same. What an incredible honor it was for me to serve as a guardian and volunteer on this well-organized flight. I am deeply grateful for all the veterans who participated.

And, this experience made me realize more clearly how important it is to thank our veterans.

This weekend we especially remember veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice serving our country, and those men and women who served but are no longer with us. We must never overlook what all generations of our veterans have done and continue doing for our communities, southwest Minnesota regional community, state and nation.

I wish you a safe and meaningful Memorial Day.

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