In an effort to raise money and awareness for their community foundations, four Fillmore County towns are hoping their residents will literally "give to the max" on Nov. 14.

Give to the Max Day is an online-based, one-day give-a-thon held through givemn.org. On the website, people are able to donate money to their favorite non-profit organizations at anytime during the year. However, during Give to the Max Day, organizations have opportunities to win grant prizes made possible through state sponsors and partners.

While it's nice to raise as much money as possible, there are also bragging rights and sporting equipment on the line for the city areas of Preston, Harmony, Spring Valley and Rushford.

Spring Valley vs. Preston

Last year, the Preston Area Community Foundation challenged the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation to see who could raise more money on Give to the Max Day. Their 501 (c)3 fiscal agent and umbrella organization, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), had gotten behind the friendly challenge and secured further incentive for the community members to back their local foundations.

Through an agreement with Miken Sports in Caledonia, it was announced that the community which raised the most money would receive a bonus prize of bats and equipment bags for their local schools' athletic teams. Already rivals on the court and field, Fillmore Central and Kingsland fans and community members got behind their teams and raised over $17,000 between the two communities in one day.

During a Jan. 18 basketball game between the two schools both schools were presented Miken Sports equipment. Preston had fundraised more because of a timely dollar-for-dollar match by F&M Community Bank Chairman Dan Christianson, but both foundations felt like they had won.

It didn't take long for Spring Valley to call for a rematch. Spring Valley Foundation chair Sue Kolling said the community has a few more strategies in place this year to win, but noted that the important part of Give to the Max day is the awareness it generates for the importance of having community foundations. The city has had a foundation for three years and it has been able to fund the Music in the Park, historical society projects, downtown revitalization projects, Kingsland's new outdoor nature classroom and its LEGO project. During the most recent Ag Days celebration, the foundation put on the Little Husker 1K Kids Run, which Kolling said really helped spread the word about the impact the foundation has on the school and community.

"Community foundations are a vital part for the future of these towns. We're here to help create the future," she said.

While Spring Valley reloads and revamps its strategy to win, Preston will continue to draw from its original playbook. F&M Community Bank's Dan Christianson will again provide matching dollars for the Preston team.

"Spring Valley is out to get us!" Preston Foundation Board member Sheila Craig joked, adding that she hopes Preston wins again. After witnessing last year's results Craig realized people seemed more eager to donate since it impacted the youth and the school.

"People are very generous. That's a huge amount," she said, talking about the nearly $12,000 donated in one day last year.

All the money Preston raised went into the foundation's endowment fund from which the interest is granted to successful non-profit, school or government applicants.

Money has gone toward various community projects including the continued restoration of the caboose next to the Old Milwaukee grain elevator. The foundation also donated $3,000 to victims services provider Fillmore County Advocates.

The more money in the endowment fund means more money will be made available for more projects. Craig and the Preston Foundation is looking for another win, but she recognized, "Nobody is going to be a loser whether we get the top prize from Miken or not."

Harmony vs. Rushford

The Preston and Spring Valley foundations' challenge inspired the community foundations of Harmony and Rushford to rejuvenate a long-running rivalry of their own. Just a year old, the Harmony Area Community Foundation has just barely gotten organized, yet has still supported several community projects. Fillmore Central Music Department's Monster Bash production, a $5,000 grant for laptops in the school and a $5,000 donation toward the purchase and installation of new playground equipment in Selvig Park, have already made an impact.

"We worked hard last year to organize the foundation and now we have to let the community build the foundation," shared foundation chair Vicky Tribon.

She had been visiting with Craig, obtaining ideas for fundraisers, when she considered challenging a neighboring community foundation. Tribon called SMIF and asked which foundation could be challenged. Rushford came up.

"The rivalry takes place on the Internet rather in the gym," she said, indicating that Rushford was the perfect area to challenge. "We hesitated in challenging Rushford because they are bigger, but we are building enthusiasm and hoping to build the endowment fund," Tribon explained.

Give to the Max Day will help Harmony's foundation grow even as they continue to pursue individual and business pledges as part of a Founders Club membership drive. They hope to get 100 to pledge at least $1,000 to the foundation. Donors will have their names or business titles placed on a plaque in city hall. The foundation recently received its first $5,000 pledge from Harmony Enterprises.

Tribon expressed, "I feel like every dollar we put into it, we receive the benefit." She recognized the good SMIF has done for this region of the state. "They have great goals. We are really fortunate to have them in the area."

When Rushford Community Foundation chair Jennifer Hengel received the challenge from Tribon her response was, "Yes! We're game!"

The same reasons the other foundations cited for getting involved through the rivalries were those for Rushford. The foundation has been around for 15 years and has been there for community members the entire time, most notably following the 2007 flood. In fact, the foundation still has money in their flood relief fund.

Within the past year, the foundation has granted more than $30,000. A $30,000 project for the Brooklyn Park Rebuild was made possible through the foundation and many other sponsors. The foundation also granted almost $15,000 for new flooring at the Rushford Public Library. The Christmas tree on Magelssen Bluff, Semcac's Substance Abuse Prevention class and Rushford-Peterson school's website project were made possible through grants.

New playground equipment designed for kids with disabilities received a foundation grant and $6,000 SMIF match during August. A grant was provided to the city to start a planning grant for a Safe Routes to School project. The foundation also has a fund for scholarships in addition to its endowment fund.

Hengel encouraged community members to go online and donate on Nov. 14. Donors can choose to designate where their money will go, whether to the endowment fund or another fund. As for the challenge, they want to win of course.

"It adds some fun and additional reasons to give. This can help people show their community's giving spirit," Hengel shared.

Give to the Max details

The winners of each rivalry will receive three bats from Miken Sports with the consolation prizes being two equipment bags.

With both Preston and Harmony attempting to win equipment for Fillmore Central, Craig reminded community members to donate to their respective community fund.

Give to the Max Day begins at midnight of Nov. 14 and continues throughout the entire day, closing right before midnight of Nov. 15.

Websites for each community fund can be found by going to givemn.org and searching for your respective foundation.