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City's new booster

She has lived in Woodbury for 12 years, has a passion for the city, its people and its businesses.

That's good news for residents, as Alisa Rabin Bell has just taken over as the Woodbury Community Foundation's first executive director.

She will be responsible for turning the foundation into a thriving charitable organization, raising millions of dollars in funds and distributing them among non-profit, health and arts groups, all with the intention of making Woodbury an even better place to live.

"My first year is going to be a lot about operational logistics, PR and marketing," Rabin Bell said.

"A lot of people don't even know this organization exists, so that's a large part of my job this first year - to get the word out that we are here to do great things for a community that is growing by leaps and bounds."

Rabin Bell, 38, is originally from California, where she lived in the northern suburbs of Los Angeles.

She moved to Woodbury in 1996, working first for the Saint Paul Convention and Visitors Bureau, then as a fundraiser at the Regions Hospital Foundation.

In 1999 she met her husband-to-be, former St. Paul Saints player Richard Bell, who was the team's pitcher in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

"I went to a game with a girlfriend," recalled Rabin Bell. "We went to meet up after the game as she knew some of the players and coaches.

"I was wearing my UCLA sweater, and as Richard was from southern California he came over."

The rest, as they say, was history, and the couple ended up marrying in a whirlwind in October 2001, bringing their wedding forward by several months after the events of September 11 prompted them to speed things up.

Just three weeks after deciding to move the big day forward, the pair tied the knot at Woodbury Community Church.

"The whole wedding was really a God thing," said Rabin Bell. "It was just amazing the way all the details came together."

Four years later, Rabin Bell gave up work to stay home looking after the couple's newborn baby daughter, Raelyn, who is now three.

At around the same time, Richard was retiring from baseball, quickly finding himself a job in I.T. with Ecolab in Eagan. That job came thanks to some hard study he put in during his spare time while playing ball, achieving a Bachelor's degree in information technology online with the University of Phoenix.

After two years at home with Raelyn, Rabin Bell decided it was time to head back into the world of work, and worked for a year at the Montessori Training Center in St. Paul for a year before applying for the job as the new executive director of the Woodbury Community Foundation - and getting it.

"Alisa is goal driven and she has the experience, contacts and professionalism to help guide the WCF to the next level and beyond," said Dick Krumm, the chair of the Woodbury Community Foundation board of directors.

"She understands and has embraced our mission of connecting people and organizations with causes that matter in order to strengthen our community for the benefit of all."

She has just taken over office space at 7650 Currell Blvd., space which was donated for the use of the foundation by Woodbury Mayor Bill Hargis, who sits on the board.

The board has 20 members, drawn from across Woodbury's civic and business community, many of whom are winners of the Woodbury Citizen of the Year, according to Rabin Bell.

"They are like a veritable Who's Who of Woodbury," she said. "They are very active and that's really great to have such an active board."

A year from now, she says she would like to see the WCF established as part of the landscape in Woodbury, and already bringing in some dollars for the endowment fund.

In five to 10 years, her aim is to have increased the endowment up to $3-$5million and to be making regular contributions to the non-profit organizations working in the city.

"I'm so excited," said Rabin Bell, looking to the future. "It's a huge blessing to me, and I hope I can be a blessing to the community."

WCF - The Facts

• The Woodbury Community Foundation was set up in 2003.

• It was first known as the Friends of Woodbury, and one of its first projects was to raise money to buy the grand piano for Central Park's amphitheater.

• Until Alisa Rabin Bell's appointment, the foundation was run entirely by volunteers.

• The mission of the WCF is "Connecting people with causes that matter."

• Visit the website