Offutt Family Foundation announces record-breaking Community Builder grants awarded across RDO footprint

R.D. Offutt Farm team members demonstrate their commitment to the communities where they work and live in many creative ways. One way is participating in Offutt Family Foundation’s Community Builder grant program. For nearly a decade, this unique initiative has recognized grant proposals submitted by RDO team members that demonstrate the potential to move a community forward in meaningful ways.

This year’s Community Builder had RDO team members nominate charities within three vital categories:

  • Education: Organizations providing children and adolescents opportunities to reach their full potential.
  • Healthcare: Organizations improving health outcomes through innovative solutions.
  • Community Development: Organizations strengthen local communities by providing access to resources that allow them to thrive.

Altogether, $345,500 was awarded to 48 recipients across RDO's company footprint. In addition to funding from Offutt Family Foundation, R.D. Offutt Company, the parent company of R.D. Offutt Farms., partnered with the foundation to support each award as a tribute to nominating team members and their passion for causes within their communities.

Here are a few examples of this year’s Community Builder grant recipients and the RDO team members who nominated them.

Friends of Wadena County Youth – Charlie Wachlin: The mission of the Friends of Wadena County Youth is to endeavor to service and strive for the betterment of the young people growing up in the greater Wadena area. RDO Team Members Charlie and wife Diane are Ag Society members and Charlie serves on the Wadena County Fair Board, which works closely with the 4-H program. With the grant, the organization is reconstructing the current 4-H building to upgrade the kitchens and bathroom and convert the main space into an event center to enable the community to use the building year-round. “We are big supporters of 4-H – it’s a great program and very impactful to our community,” Charlie said.

Hubbard County Development Achievement Center – Debra Bannerman: The DAC mission is to provide high quality, specialized services to persons with developmental disabilities and mental illness. These services promote personal growth, dignity and the development of work and social skills and provide opportunities for becoming part of the community. RDO Team Member Deb Bannerman nominated the DAC for the grant because they helped her son, Joe, get a job with his architecture and computer-aided design and drafting tech degree. After working with a DAC job coach on interviewing techniques, Joe secured a paid internship with Northwest Cabinet Inc. By August, he was hired as a full-time employee.

Brooten Community Foundation – Elizabeth Martinez: The Brooten Community Foundation serves the surrounding area, school and city with healthcare and community development needs. With the grant, the Foundation will be installing a lifesaving AED. It will be self-contained and it will automatically contact the emergency response team when activated. RDO Team Member Chris Strom said that while serving with Brooten Fire and Rescue, he’s seen a lot of different situations and he has reported to the Brooten Pavilion for many different medical needs. “The AED will be a very helpful and useful tool for the community – every second matters when someone’s life is on the line,” Chris said.

Bertha-Hewitt Sports Boosters – Jonathan Robbins: Bertha-Hewitt Sports Boosters is an organization that helps support the effort of sports teams, clubs and students at Bertha-Hewitt. Bertha-Hewitt is one of the few remaining schools in the state where students do not pay to participate in any sport or club. The grant will provide the means for the kids of all ages and abilities to have the ability to participate in physical activities throughout the year. RDO Team Member Jonathan Robbins nominated the Boosters; he and his wife have been volunteering as their children have grown more involved in sports. “This group of people really care about all of the kids, and without this group, there would be a lot less student athletes in our school just due to financial hardships in the local communities,” Robbins said. “The Boosters organize fundraisers to earn enough money every year so the children can get the proper uniforms sports equipment – whatever the kids need to compete.”

Heartland Lakes Development Commission – Luke Warmbold: HLDC is the nonprofit economic development organization that serves Hubbard County. The organization is working on several projects to bolster economic activity. At The Hangar, they are expanding services available to entrepreneurs and small businesses, such as mentoring/coaching services, training events, networking opportunities and access to capital. RDO Team Member Luke Warmbold said he became interested in the organization because of its efforts to make Park Rapids more attractive to retain and recruit people to the workforce. “As an employer in the area, it is critical that Park Rapids and the surrounding area have available housing, childcare and quality schools,” Warmbold said. “We are always looking for more team members, and the work HLDC is doing will make a meaningful impact for people who want to live, work and raise families in Hubbard County.”

Century School PTA, Helping Hands – Patricia Stephens: The Helping Hand program at Park Rapids’ Century School provides assistance to students who need school supplies, winter gear and other essentials. RDO Team Member Patty Stephens nominated the organization because as a former educator, she saw the great needs that students have beyond what they can get in the classroom. “A kid shouldn’t have to stay in at recess because they don’t have a warm coat or be unable to do their algebra because they don’t have the right calculator. Helping Hands fills in those gaps,” Patty said.

MN Ag in the Classroom – Jen Maleitzke: Minnesota Ag In The Classroom (MAITC) is a unique public/private partnership between the Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc. Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). This collaboration allows the program to prosper, grow and provide support to Minnesota’s education community. RDO Team Member Jen Maleitzke said the breadth of programming and education MAITC provides throughout Minnesota is critical for students to better understand the ag industry, where their food is grown and future career opportunities. “Between summer teacher tours, student field trips, AgMag and other educational resources, the Minnesota Ag in the Classroom team is doing an amazing job to arm educators and students with real-world knowledge in this important industry,” Jen said.