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A Donor's Generosity Helps Many Recognize Their Potential

A Lifelong volunteer and community mentor shares his philosophy on the importance of giving.

Ray, a donor at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, recently shared his philosophy on the importance of giving. After growing up on a farm during the Great Depression, the need to help others has fueled his lifelong volunteerism and philanthropic vision.

Why do you give?

I give to make a difference.

My philosophy is, “Give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime.” That is why I started volunteering for a nonprofit organization that helps prevent homelessness, prison support groups, and life application Bible studies. With my wife Alice, we have really enjoyed making a difference in the lives of others.

When I moved into my current residence at Presbyterian Homes, I recognized a need to assist residents in connecting to high-speed internet. Having a background in electronics, I was able to help the staff and new residents moving in get connected to the internet. As I worked with each person, I kept a list of their email addresses, which led to a directory for the entire campus.

With the directory, we were able to assist in forming interest groups and share volunteer opportunities and programs with one another. It was a new and effective way to connect, to bring a community of people together. A retired 3M inventor, I’m always looking for something to fill a need. And in this community, that turned out to be another way to help others.

What is your earliest memory of giving?

It started when I was a kid. I grew up on a farm during the heart of the Great Depression. I saw farmers lose their farms and everything they worked hard for; it was a tragic time. I witnessed my dad almost lose our family farm, which he bought back in 1928, before the Depression.

He managed to convince the banker to let him pay only the interest while he recovered financially, and we were able to keep the farm. After that, he became the town clerk because he was good with finances. He was then able to help other farmers in the same situation, which prevented many from losing their properties.

How has that memory shaped your philanthropy?

Having grown up in the farming community, it instilled a desire in me to help others when they need it most. Through volunteering, I’ve seen people become teachers, engineers, medical technicians and nurses. It’s a special moment when you help someone realize they can succeed.

What inspired you to open a fund?

I opened a donor advised fund with the Foundation in 1992. At the time, I was working at 3M alongside individuals who saw a vision of investing in the Saint Paul community. I had started to invest in nonprofit organizations giving families living in near-chaos an opportunity to live a healthy, productive life and eventually opened our charitable fund at the Foundation.

What made you choose to carry out your philanthropic journey with the Foundation?

My wife and I chose the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation because it focused on building a stronger community. It also gave us an opportunity to give during our lifetime, and for our children to continue their own philanthropy after we pass.

The Foundation also provided an opportunity to open a charitable remainder trust 28 years ago. Through the trust, I am able to plan for my family’s future, while investing in community programs.

Given my relationship with my philanthropic advisor, it’s been easy to carry out my giving aspirations. I know she respects the causes I care about, while also giving me ideas of places or programs to invest in. I’ve also enjoyed attending the various events the Foundation offers, as I learn more about the needs of the community and programs I can give to.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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