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Pine River Area Foundation to offer first scholarship

Photo illustration, Metro Creative Graphics, Inc.

After approximately 16 years in action, the Pine River Area Foundation is ready to start awarding scholarships and grants.

"These aren't big by any means, but it's a start so the community knows the foundation is here for these kinds of purposes," said foundation President Steve Hansen.

When the foundation first formed, its goals were to eventually offer scholarships and grants locally. The group feels comfortable enough to offer its first scholarship at the end of this school year - a $250 scholarship to a student who is invested in fine arts.

"That's one of the things identified by a number of our board members, that the fine arts can use additional support," Hansen said. "We have very good fine arts band, choir, plays and that kind of stuff. There are scholarships for a lot of other reasons, but not fine arts."

In addition, the board will donate an undisclosed amount in the form of a grant to the Pine River-Backus Family Center. Both the grant and scholarship are in their beginning stages.

"We would like to see it be more," Hansen said. "We're just starting the process. It's a lot easier over time to increase the scholarships as the money is available than it is to start out and maybe not have money for a couple of years."

The foundation is cautiously balancing expenses associated with its ownership of the Lakes Bluegrass Festival, participation in the annual the Rendezvous Encampment and Arts Off 84 art crawl and other grant administration duties with the ultimate goal of awarding funds to community members.

The group is careful to maintain a "rainy day fund" for the bluegrass festival after several years of rainy days affected the bottom line for the annual event. In addition, the event has its own hurdles in the future, particularly the growth of the festival and its crowds.

"We're full up on camping," Hansen said. "We keep getting earlier ticket buyers and camping reservations. This year the bluegrass festival camping for next year was over 50 percent booked before the festival closed."

The Lakes Bluegrass Festival has been the crown jewel of the foundation's endeavors since its purchase from Tim and Cindy Roggenkamp. Before that, the foundation had involvement with Arts Off 84 and helped groups to apply for grants that require 501(c)(3) status.

Hansen said the group originally formed with the purpose of raising funds for community grants and scholarships from pull tabs. That didn't work, but Hansen said since then the group has helped the Pine River Chamber of Commerce and several other groups with important grant applications, a purpose that has been important to the foundation and that Hansen would like more people to be aware of.

"If people in the community want to see a particular project done or are willing to fund some particular project but nobody is on an active 501(c)(3), that's one of the reasons the foundation is there," Hansen said. "We do it on a very economical basis and take a very minimal amount. Many grants require a 501(c)(3) fiscal agent and we do it for a very minimal amount so the maximum amount can be utilized."

Hansen said the group is always looking for involvement from others in the community. As with most groups, it is run by people who willingly donate time to its causes. The board meets once a quarter, with additional meetings around the time of the Lakes Bluegrass Festival in August.

"We are looking for and would like to see additional community members come and be a part of the foundation board to help give the right perspective," Hansen said. "We need two from the chamber, two from the fire department and two from the community. We are always looking for people who are community minded and would like to come."

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