CIRCLE PINES –– When organizations say they support their communities, Anoka Hennepin Credit Union (AHCU) talks the talk — and literally walks the walk.
Executives Jeff Claussen, Terry Anderson and Mark Undis have worked to create a foundation to help support each of its participating high schools, as well as many other entities that ask the local credit union for support. The SPIRIT Foundation was launched April 25 and plans to hold its first fundraising walk May 20, something it hopes to do annually.
AHCU held a silent auction at its annual meeting to raise funds for the foundation. Together with its corporate partners, nearly $15,000 has been pledged, donated or committed to the foundation’s first event.
“There were eight high schools, junior highs, youth programs, Hope for Youth, food shelves, all these different things we contribute to; it got to be very overwhelming,” said Claussen, AHCU president/CEO.
Todd Barduson, AHCU marketing director, is aware schools are struggling to keep their extracurricular programs above water. “I’m frequently asked for sponsorships or donations to help keep those programs afloat. By my math, there is somewhere north of 600 booster clubs across the eight schools we try to support. One booster club is doing five fundraisers for one season of their sport,” he said.
Barduson added, “A steady stream of letters come in every week. We do the best we can to select those (where) we feel our investment can have the biggest impact. We’d love to do something for all of them, and now we feel we have done something for all.”
Included in those eight schools are the Centennial Cougars, the Forest Lake Rangers and the Blaine Bengals. AHCU initiated a partnership with all eight schools three years ago with a SPIRIT checking account adorned with the logos of each school. The 5 percent interchange fee collected by AHCU for each debit card swipe is donated to its corresponding school in support of extracurricular activities.
Those annual funds were absolutely appreciated, but Barduson, a father himself, wanted to do more. “In talking with the different athletic directors, coaches and booster clubs, we were inspired to say, what can we do to really step up and address a need. Working with our board of directors and management team, we decided we were going to create a foundation and do something about this issue.”
To serve different schools and entities with different needs, however, the foundation had to have a common way for AHCU to bring it to life. The idea for a “spirit walk” emerged, deemed the quickest and easiest way to serve everyone with one significant fundraiser.
The major details were set and Barduson was working on the finishing touches when Matt Park of I HEART Media stopped by his office to sell radio advertising.
Unknown to Park, Barduson had been wanting to reach out to KFAN sports radio personality Paul Allen (the voice of the Vikings) for added support of the event. “I will buy advertising if you help me get Paul Allen to be the host of this event,” he told Park.
He then explained the foundation would benefit after school programs, and Barduson soon learned Park was also the downhill ski coach for Anoka High School.
Allen was in full support of the plan, and waived his appearance fee for the foundation.
“This is not a sports-only initiative; D.E.C.A., cheerleading, theater, any extracurricular activity sanctioned by the school is eligible,” Barduson noted.
Claussen added, “The goal of the SPIRIT Foundation is to turn over 90 percent of each dollar raised to these activities.” He was discouraged, he said, to learn that one booster club selling pizzas kept only about 20 percent of the total sales it brought in.
The first annual SPIRIT walk will be Saturday, May 20, at Blaine High School/Bengal Stadium. Check-in is at 7 a.m.; the walk begins at 8:30 a.m. Registration and donations can be completed through the foundation’s website www.ahcuspiritfoundation.org , or www.crowdrise.com/2017spiritwalk
Browse (Crowdrise) for the activity/team you wish to support. Individual names shown may belong to a coach or student who has elected to “challenge” their peers; it allows an automatic outreach through participants’ Facebook accounts. Each school will receive an accounting of funds raised.
“Traditionally, this wouldn’t be something any credit union would take on, but we are a small enough credit union where we have that intimate relationship with our school partners, where we can stand up and do something like this … We know all the people at all these schools, and we want to make sure that they’re successful,” Barduson emphasized.