National Trout Center board member George Spangler shows the Preston Area Community Foundation dinner attendees a "statistical" brook trout that was created for the Minnesota State Legislature; specifically, the Capital Investment Committee. Spangler also introduced new National Trout Center director Heath Sershen.   PHOTO BY ANTON ADAMEK/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
National Trout Center board member George Spangler shows the Preston Area Community Foundation dinner attendees a "statistical" brook trout that was created for the Minnesota State Legislature; specifically, the Capital Investment Committee. Spangler also introduced new National Trout Center director Heath Sershen. PHOTO BY ANTON ADAMEK/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
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Over 150 people packed the Branding Iron Supper Club on Monday evening for the Preston Area Community Foundation's (PACF) seventh annual fundraising dinner and celebration. For the second time, former Minnesota State Senator and NFL linebacker Duane Benson was the keynote speaker for the event.

In his talk, Benson briefly mentioned he was the speaker at the first PACF dinner when only 40 people attended. In addition to Benson's speech, which will be the topic of a future article, representatives from the past year's grant recipients and the Southeast Minnesota Initiative Foundation spoke briefly.

A live and silent auction were also held during an event that showcased the generosity and generous spirit of Preston area community members.

Following an invocation by the Rev. Michael Smith, pastor of Preston United Methodist, and a meal by the Branding Iron staff, Charles Aug began the program by inviting spokesmen from the past year's grant recipients to speak.

George Spangler, who serves on the National Trout Center (NTC) board, introduced new director Heath Sershen to the crowd. Spangler also showed the audience a "statistical" brook trout, which was the printed image of a trout on individual pieces of cardboard. These trout had several facts about the trout fishing industry in the area printed on them. Spangler explained that these "statistical" trout were created to present to the Minnesota State Legislature to help them be more aware of the importance of the industry to Southeast Minnesota.

Fillmore Central athletic director Chris Mensink also spoke and thanked the PACF and those who contributed to the Give to the Max Day, which was held last November. The Fillmore Central Athletic Department benefited from the $11,905 donated to the PACF's endowment fund and had received four bats and a couple equipment bags from Miken Sports of Caledonia for their fundraising efforts. Mensink explained that the bats they had received had not met regulations and that Miken had later replaced the bats with regulation bats. In the process of switching bats, Miken Sports also generously donated four regulation softball bats to Fillmore Central. Mensink expressed his gratitude on behalf of the school and said the student-athletes were very excited with receiving the new equipment.

As PACF's umbrella organization, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) sent Development Associate Alissa Blah to congratulate the PACF on their successful year. She shared that Preston's foundation, "is a shining example of a community foundation within our region."

SMIF is a non-profit organization that helps 21 other community foundations in southeast MN in economic and community development by being their fiscal host. Blah shared that Preston has been using innovate approaches to involve the community and she cited the Give to the Max Day as an example. She shared that Preston has the largest community foundation of all that SMIF serves.

PACF President Dwight Luhmann expounded upon that fact, by sharing the PACF fund balances. The endowment fund, from which interest is used for local grants, has just over $230,000. The year-end balance for all PACF funds was just over $425,000. Luhmann also stated that PACF is beginning a capital campaign to raise $25,000 for their endowment fund each year for the next two years. In order to reach that goal, matching funds have been promised by Dan Christianson, Ron Gehling, Phil McElroy and Buzz Meighen. He mentioned that any donation received that evening would be matched up to $12,050.

Luhmann also explained that all donations go toward the endowment fund or other funds for grants that are given. A separate operating fund for administrative expenses is kept open by donations as well.

He also shared the list of grant recipients in the past year: the Preston Historical Society for their 1951 Milwaukee road caboose restoration, the One-Block-At-a-Time daycare center for staff training, the Commonweal Theatre for the Fillmore County free nights, the Fillmore County Advocates for office space, and the Zumbro Valley Audubon Society for the chimney swift kiosk and tower at the Preston trailhead.

He concluded by announcing that the PACF is now on Facebook.

Matt Gehling from Gehling Auction held a live auction for five items. A John Deere wagon was sold for $250 to Amy Luhmann, a John Deere canvas print for $100 to Jason Schwarz, an entire hog and meat processing for $625 to Dave Sikkink, a hot air balloon flight by Will Mensink for $1,025 to Ron Gehling, and an Apollo Liquor wine tasting for $675 to Duane Bakke.

The total of $2,675 was matched by F&M Community Bank, which also matched the money brought in from 35 silent auction items.