Jill's Journal: Building brighter tomorrows

Jill Meier, Journal editor

I clearly remember the day when Gene Johnson walked into the local newspaper office 15 years ago. He was all business and he had one thing on his mind that day: He asked if I would help spread the word on an idea that he had that would pay dividends to the people and organizations of this community. 

Gene’s idea was to start a community foundation, and the generous man that he was – which extended to his wife, Diane, and family – planted the initial seed to get this fund growing.

As many of you know, he rallied a group of community leaders, all of whom tagged their friends, family, co-workers and employers to bring the Foundation to fruition.

At the time, Candy Hanson was the executive director of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, which manages the Brandon fund. She pitched a proposal that if this group could raise a certain dollar amount in the first year, the SFACF would contribute a sizeable donation to the pot.

In true Brandon style, the community met the challenge in near record time. I think the speed in which it was achieved had Candy’s head spinning.

The mission of the BCF – to partner and collaborate with area residents to build a brighter tomorrow through philanthropy, investing in nonprofits and ideas that improve and enrich the quality of life for all ages through the arts, recreation, health, education, public safety and more – remains the same yet today.

Gifts to the endowment fund continues to grow, thanks to the benefit of a pooled investment that generates long-term asset growth. 

Through the power of endowment, each and every year the BCF has the ability to award important grants to Brandon-area nonprofits. To date, more than $300,000 has been distributed to local nonprofits and causes, esessentially touching the lives of people right here at home. 

I wasn’t one of the BCF’s founding board of directors, but I do remember the excitement that surrounded the early fundraising efforts and watching the endowment’s balance grow one zero after another. 

I joined the BCF in 2008 as a non-voting board member and in 2017, the same year the Brandon Valley Journal began publishing, was brought on as a voting board member.

Over these past 13 years, I’ve worked alongside many of our community members to grow this fund all with the intent of “building brighter tomorrows” for the greater Brandon community.

In the past few years, I’ve served as the chairwomn of the grants committee, and this year with 19 grant applications, I can assure you that it was not only exciting – but also challenging – to decide which requests we would fund.

When we first began the grant program, we had about $20,000 to work with, which made the decisions even more difficult to make.

But here’s the good news: As our endowment fund continues to grow, so does our ability to spread the wealth.

If you would, please consider a gift to the BCF this year. And as we celebrate the Foundation’s 15th year on Friday, we’re asking you to consider a donation with a “15” in it, whether that be $15 or $15,000!

While it’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to grow a community foundation, who in turn has the good fortune of “building brighter tomorrows” for us all.


The Brandon Valley Journal


The Brandon Valley Journal
1404 E. Cedar St.
Brandon, SD 57005
(605) 582-9999

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