Members of the Preston and Spring Valley Foundations gathered in Preston on Friday evening to accept donations of sports equipment from Miken Sports. The equipment donations were a result of a community fundraising challenge between the two foundations last November for Give to the Max Day. In front, from left, are members of the Spring Valley Foundation, Mitch Lentz, Dave Foster, Stuart Gross and Sue Kolling. The members received two bats and one equipment bag for the Kingsland baseball team. In back are members of the Preston Foundation, which won the challenge and received four bats and three equipment bags. From left are Dan Christianson, Sheila Craig, Nick Ebner, Tim Penny and Dwight Luhmann from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund, Jacob Ristau and coach Keith Larson.
Members of the Preston and Spring Valley Foundations gathered in Preston on Friday evening to accept donations of sports equipment from Miken Sports. The equipment donations were a result of a community fundraising challenge between the two foundations last November for Give to the Max Day. In front, from left, are members of the Spring Valley Foundation, Mitch Lentz, Dave Foster, Stuart Gross and Sue Kolling. The members received two bats and one equipment bag for the Kingsland baseball team. In back are members of the Preston Foundation, which won the challenge and received four bats and three equipment bags. From left are Dan Christianson, Sheila Craig, Nick Ebner, Tim Penny and Dwight Luhmann from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Fund, Jacob Ristau and coach Keith Larson.
In what was a classic showdown between rival high schools Fillmore Central and Kingsland, the Jan. 18 basketball game at Fillmore Central also played host to the culminating event from last November's "Give to the Max" day.

Representatives from both the Preston and Spring Valley Area Community Foundations were on hand to receive awards based upon their respective city's fundraising efforts last Nov. 15. Since Preston had raised $11,905 through a matching donation by F&M Community Bank Chairman Dan Christianson, Fillmore Central Athletics received a donation of four baseball bats and three equipment bags from Miken Sports of Caledonia.

Receiving the award for Fillmore Central were Preston Foundation Student Advisory Board members Nick Ebner and Jake Ristau. Both students play on Fillmore Central's high school baseball team and expressed gratitude for the significant donation.

Ebner said the team was looking into buying new bats for the upcoming season before they found out they would be getting four for free.

"Those bats are expensive," noted Ristau, "and better than the ones we would have bought."

Fillmore Central's athletic director, Chris Mensink, also shared his appreciation for the equipment. "Anytime you get equipment for free, that's a good thing," he said. "These bats are very good quality and the kids are excited to use them."

Mensink thanked all the families that donated to the Preston Foundation on "Give to the Max" day and also the Foundation for their continuing support of the school.

Representatives from the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation accepted a consolation prize of two bats and an equipment bag for their fundraising efforts that totaled $5,420.

Spring Valley Board member Sue Kolling noted that even though they didn't beat Preston in the amount of money raised, there were "truly no losers in this deal."

This is because the money raised for both community foundations will go into each community's endowment fund, which will continue to be used to support community interests in education, recreation and other possible projects.

Spring Valley's community foundation endowment fund was started a couple years ago and has been growing ever since. "We're dedicated to improving the quality of life not just for Spring Valley, but extending to Ostrander and Wykoff as well," shared Kolling.

Despite their foundation being quite younger than Preston's, Kolling said Spring Valley has already been able to make an impact through the funding of Kingsland's Gateway Community, which is a program focused on science and technology education.

The rivalry with Preston on "Give to the Max" day was an idea Kolling had last fall. "When we can beat Preston, we go for it," laughed Kolling, who added that she is looking forward to challenging Preston next year in the hopes that it becomes an annual occurrence.

Preston Foundation Board member Sheila Craig commented that she thought the competition between the schools really drove the fundraising effort. "The offer from Miken Sports really enhanced the effort," said Craig, "I think that was the key thing that got peoples' interest."

Seeing an increase of the number of people who donated was one of the most positive things for the foundation, according to Craig. "Every year we see more and more people becoming aware about the foundation and what it does," shared Craig, "Through events like Give to the Max day we can show the public that the money they give comes back to benefit the community."

Just as with Spring Valley, Preston's endowment fund grows with each donation and continues to grow under the watch of an "umbrella" foundation, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).

SMIF lends its expertise in investment and management to 19 community foundations in a 20 county area in southern Minnesota.

"We are eager to play a supportive role in this kind of fundraising activity," stated SMIF President Tim Penny, who participated in presenting the Miken Sports equipment to both foundations. He noted the challenge aspect of the fundraising effort would be an example to other community funds throughout the region.

It was through SMIF that Miken Sports agreed to donate the equipment and Penny said that future corporate sponsorships would be used to motivate communities.

"These two communities are really setting the pace," commented Penny. "We don't have too many foundations that raise $17,000 in an entire year! We will be holding Spring Valley and Preston out as examples for other communities."