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The Woodbury Community Foundation, headed by Executive Director Alisa Rabin Bell and board Chairwoman Dixie Ewing, is the 2010 co-recipient of a Woodbury Chamber of Commerce award.

Woodbury Community Foundation named 2010 'Business of the Year'

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The Woodbury Community Foundation may not be a business, but local business leaders believe the organization's work in the community has been a boon for commerce.

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The foundation, along with Data Doctors, received the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce's "2010 Business of the Year" award.

Mark Streed, first vice chair for the chamber, said the foundation's work in establishing last year's chamber business expo was instrumental.

The goal was to bring up to 60 exhibitors to the expo. Streed said that with the foundation's help, they were able to double that number.

"It was a true partnership," he said, calling the expo "a wonderful event that benefited both nonprofits and businesses."

News of the chamber award came as a surprise, said Alisa Rabin Bell, the foundation's executive director.

"I was flattered," she said. "They see us as a valued partner in the community."

Community enrichment

The groundwork for that partnership was laid in 2003, when the organization began under the name Friends of Woodbury.

"We needed to do some good things in the community," Rabin Bell said.

The group hosted events and pulled together various community leaders and organizations. Before long, the organization was established as the Woodbury Community Foundation and a grant was secured to fund the executive director position.

"We kind of took off from there," Rabin Bell said.

The public foundation's goal is to connect various charities for the benefit of enriching community members' lives.

"(The foundation) really is all about giving back to the community," said Streed, the incoming 2011 chamber chairman.

Rabin Bell said the foundation pools community dollars and bridges different sectors - private, public, faith-based and other nonprofits - to help those in need.

"We link people with causes," said foundation Chairwoman Dixie Ewing.

Last month the foundation released the results of a Wilder Foundation study conducted in late 2009 that outlined basic needs in the Woodbury community.

"The community wanted their voices heard," Rabin Bell said.

The study identified four key concerns the foundation now aims to tackle: youth, employment, housing and food.

"We've spent time since then really digging into those," Rabin Bell said.

And, Ewing said, people have stepped up.

"We're not just talking. We are taking action," she said.

Projects under way

The foundation is assembling community partners to advance on the results of the study.

Among the partners is Habitat for Humanity, which will team with the foundation in the spring for a project Rabin Bell said is being dubbed Brush with Kindness.

She said the project calls for Habitat for Humanity and the city to identify Woodbury homes that could be candidates for "freshening up." The foundation, in turn, will recruit volunteers to work with homeowners on the various projects.

And there is a need, foundation leaders said.

Outside of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Woodbury has more Habitat for Humanity homes than any other Twin Cities community, Rabin Bell said.

But it won't just be the homeowners who benefit, Ewing noted.

"When a house starts falling down, it affects the whole neighborhood," she said.

The foundation has also provided a grant to the Washington County-based Christian Cupboard food shelf. Rabin Bell said the grant goes toward strategic planning and marketing to help raise awareness of the food shelf.

"Capacity building," as she calls it.

Other efforts are under way to tackle employment issues, foundation leaders said.

The foundation also holds a citizens' academy for Woodbury residents. Residents with questions on the academy or volunteering opportunities can reach Rabin Bell at 651-788-6586 or by email at alias@woodburyfoundation.org.

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