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Learn how one man’s generosity in Waseca strengthened his community.

For Gyles Randall, Waseca will always be home. To ensure its stability, he has invested both time and money in the place he loves.

Gyles moved to the southern Minnesota community in 1972 when he took a job at the University of Minnesota’s Southern Research and Outreach Center, where he worked up until his retirement in 2010.

“I’ve had a number of opportunities to leave this community,” said Gyles. “We decided to stay because I liked my job and its broad range of opportunities. Both my parents and my wife's parents were around, we like the school and we've been pretty active in the community.”

Growing up, giving wasn’t something that was top of mind for Gyles or his family. He first learned about the power of giving in 4-H, but it wasn’t until college that a mentor’s kindness made him value the true importance of giving back.

“While in school I worked in the Soil Testing Laboratory at the University of Minnesota and became like a son to my advisor who was a Latvian,” Gyles said. Because of World War II, Gyles’ advisor was unable to return home to his family, so he took Gyles under his wing, teaching him the science of field and laboratory research and the art of fishing in many Minnesota lakes and rivers – all leading to a close long-time personal friendship.

Giving From the Heart

This provided the spark he needed to give back to others, which grew when he joined the Waseca Area Foundation (WAF) board in 2008.

Since joining, Gyles has held various positions, including vice president and president of the board of directors. His knowledge of the organization and its mission led to him giving the foundation one of its most unique gifts.

“The one thing you learn from being in the executive director’s seat is what it takes to raise dollars for operations,” said Amy Potter, executive director of WAF. “Gyles saw this in his time on the board. Instead of opening a new fund, he and his wife decided to give significantly to our operations and that’s just been a blessing.”

This past spring, WAF granted $355,000 to 39 different nonprofits. It is support like Gyles’ that has helped WAF become a community foundation with over 60 funds totaling $10 million in assets.

That gift has allowed the organization to focus more on their work around community programs and make grants instead of fundraising efforts for operations.

“The Waseca Area Foundation was going through some changes and they needed money to support their operations,” said Gyles. “I decided not to put any money into a personal fund, and that took a load off their shoulders. Now it is abundantly clear that this was an opportune time and way to provide fiscal support for WAF operations, which have greatly benefitted the Waseca community.”

He's the kind of guy that everybody wants to be like. He’s that example of how I would want to live my life and who you’d want to be as a community person and professional.

Amy Potter, WAF executive director

In addition, he and his wife also gave gifts to other local causes such as the Waseca Public Schools (arts and athletics), the Waseca library and art center, the Mayo Clinic Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, the City of Waseca Beatification Fund, the Waseca Area Neighborhood Service Center and their local United Way.

“He's the kind of guy that everybody wants to be like,” said Amy. “He’s that example of how I would want to live my life and who you’d want to be as a community person and professional.”

The Waseca Area Foundation has been a member of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation’s Community Affiliates program for more than 30 years. This program helps build the capacity of local, volunteer-led community foundations across the state. Thanks to support and the generosity of donors like Gyles, WAF will soon make the big transition to become its own independent nonprofit community foundation.

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