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Time flies: Woodbury Community Foundation to mark milestone in May

What was once a response to a nice gesture has become a philanthropic organization all about connections, volunteerism and community development.

Founder of the Woodbury Community Foundation, Dick Stafford, was so humbled by the fact that the R. H. Stafford Library was named after him, he wanted to give back to the community even more.

Now 10 years later, the WCF is celebrating a decade of service in Woodbury with a gala featuring a historical walk of the city, a book and an out-of-the-box event.

Sitting at the planning table for what was once dubbed “Friends of Woodbury,” Dixie Ewing remembers how Stafford, a key citizen behind numerous philanthropic efforts, envisioned the foundation and what it would bring to the community for decades.

“He knew that if you connect with people, you can get more done,” Ewing said, “and you know more of what the issues are by tapping those people.”

The organization started out with just seven members who then reached out to a few more and connected with a dozen more. It was built on a “neighbor helping neighbor” philosophy.

Members worked with the city, Woodbury Chamber of Commerce, District 833, athletic associations and the YMCA to provide services to residents.

WCF started out volunteering to buy the piano at Central Park, but then the economy tanked and houses began going into foreclosure, and the funds needed to go elsewhere.

The foundation began focusing on helping the Christian Cupboard Emergency Food Shelf, which was busier than ever helping people in need.

Then WCF surveyed residents to find out what else the community wanted.  People said the community was missing youth programs to keep youngsters out of trouble while both parents were working as the economy continued to struggle.

“As a result of that grew an initiative, 20 to 30 groups,” Ewing said. “Instead of serving as silos, they work together.”

Though it’s still a work in progress, foundation members are proud of what they’ve accomplished over the past 10 years.

WCF is celebrating with a gala in May that will bring old Woodbury to life with a “historical walk” that will showcase where the city has come from since farmers began settling here.

One of the highlights of the event will be keynote speaker Inez Oehlke, an original Woodbury resident who will tell stories of the beginning of Woodbury.

Event organizer Margaret Wachholz said the group is excited about the foundation’s 10th anniversary, but they’re also looking forward to Woodbury’s 50th birthday coming up in three years.

“We are looking at the generations and all those precious milestones that Woodbury hit,” she said. “And now looking forward to the future and the 50th anniversary.”

The “heritage walkthrough” will feature actors from the Woodbury Community Theatre who will take audience members back in time with scenes from a Woodbury history book produced by a group of volunteers.

“We have lots of surprises coming up,” Wachholz said, adding, “We’re just happy to have our elders be part of this whole project.”

Roger Green has been a WCF volunteer for the past three years and said the organization’s efforts to connect veterans with jobs, businesses with leadership trainings and community members with volunteer opportunities has been vital.

One of the main programs that WCF handles each year is the Woodbury Citizens Academy, a chance for residents to learn about local government, nonprofits and businesses of the community.

“It’s  really a remarkable sort of exposure to the entire spectrum of things it takes to make Woodbury the great community that it is,” Green said.

The leadership forum, on the other hand, is designed to give business executives an opportunity to learn about trends in the community and the region and to provide input to the board on how the foundation might find more innovative ways to meet community needs.

The WCF is still working to come up with ways to provide more volunteer opportunities and community connections.

“We’re where we needed to be in 10 years,” Ewing said, “but the next 10 years need to focus on volunteerism and endowment so that we can fund things better.”

WCF’s 10th anniversary gala will be held Saturday, May 17 at the Prom Center in Oakdale.

“The gala is going to be an event that everyone will wish they had been to if they don’t go,” Ewing said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.