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Woodbury Community Foundation welcomes new executive director

Lori Nelson, a 25-year Woodbury resident, signed on as the Woodbury Community Foundation's first executive director in early July. Maureen McMullen / RiverTown Multimedia

The Woodbury Community Foundation launched in 2003 as the Friends of Woodbury, a team of volunteers dedicated to meeting the community's needs by connecting people with resources.

In its 14 years of operation, the organization has established partnerships with city officials, local businesses and organizations to build economic opportunities and offer financial relief through five focus areas: philanthropy, leadership, community support, enhancing local organizations, and identifying future needs.

The foundation recently appointed attorney and 25-year Woodbury resident Lori Nelson as its first full-time executive director.

Nelson said she is eager to apply her more than two decades' worth of experience in community leadership and nonprofit fundraising toward the foundation's continued growth.

"The foundation doesn't exist for itself," she said. "Although it's important for us to serve that outreach and coordination function in the community, it's really all about the community, connecting other organizations, and funding other organizations that enhance the quality of life in Woodbury."

Board members say the addition of an executive director will help the foundation gain visibility in the community and expand its capabilities.

Dixie Ewing, who chairs the foundation's board of directors, said she was impressed not only by Nelson's experience, but also her ability to connect with other people.

"She's just so personable and outgoing," Ewing said. "You just click with her; she meets your eye and you just know you've got somebody of substance, quality and concerns for making things better."

Nelson moved to Woodbury in 1993 after earning her law degree from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Having grown up camping, hiking and fishing during trips to Minnesota's northwoods, Nelson said Woodbury's abundance of green space and proximity to the St. Croix River drew her to the community.

Her passion for the outdoors led her to a 20-year environmental and conservation advocacy career. She served as the heartland regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, where she raised funds, lobbied for conservation legislature and promoted resources conservation.

She later shifted her focus to business and community development when she served as president of the Richfield Chamber of Commerce. She later became CEO of the Richfield Tourism Promotion Board.

Although Nelson said she enjoyed her work in conservation, the change allowed her to focus more on the human aspect of advocacy.

"It's probably more people-oriented in a way rather that resource-oriented, which is what I was doing at that point," she said. "Now my primary focus is helping the community and helping people. Community support was like a vehicle to get your other work done, now community support is the ultimate goal. Benefiting the community is the objective."

Over the next few months, Nelson said she will prioritise reaching out to spread more awareness of the foundation's contributions to the community.

"It's going to be a big job for me to have people we help tell the community the foundation's story," she said. "It's very personal stories, and it will be my job to help tell those stories. We're doing a lot of good work and people don't know about it."