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Wellness Center fundraising comes down to the wire

The massive fundraising effort for the upcoming wellness center in Wadena is roughly $150,000 short of projected program costs, according to a report by the Wellness Center Fundraising Committee. Groundbreaking ceremonies are planned for next month and construction bids will come in next week for the foundation and framing of the new structure, dubbed the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center.

Although seemingly large on its own, the fundraising shortfall is dwarfed by the amount already raised: more than $11 million comprised of both pledged funds and money that fundraisers actually possess in hand. The $177,332 estimated shortfall also seems small compared the amount the committee says it is in the process of obtaining: the fundraising report has a range of $656,100 to $1,330,100 classified as “in process and ongoing fundraising”

The Wadena City Council met with builders and fundraisers Tuesday to discuss the wellness center project.  The gathering was optimistic in tone, despite the shortfall

“We’re within $150,000 or so of an $11.5 million project,” said Joel Beiswenger, CEO of major fundraising donor Tri-County Health Care. “We’re talking about peanuts in the end that I’m convinced we’ll find.”

Speaking for the fundraising committee, former Wadena City Council Member Don Niles gave an overview to the other groups and individuals present at the meeting of where fundraising numbers stood.

“Overall, the Fundraising Committee feels really proud to have worked with the city on this project, and very proud to see where we are today,” Niles said. “There are a lot of communities in this nation that have suffered a tornado and would be green with envy if they could see what we’ve accomplished.”

Niles said a project this large had never been attempted before in Wadena.

“This is likely the largest fundraising effort in the 139-year history since Wadena was incorporated (as a city) in 1874,” he said.

Optimism from raising so large an amount may have led the city council to relieve the existing Community Center group of their commitment to give $30,000 to wellness center fundraising efforts through the Wadena Hockey Association's purchase of the ice arena. Niles suggested on behalf of the fundraising committee that the council forgive the $30,000 and allow the committee to make up the difference in lost funding. Several meeting attendees voiced concerns that to hold the Community Center to the money would force them to compete with ongoing wellness center fundraising efforts as they worked to replace the $30,000.  

“I would hate to see us sacrifice community goodwill for three tenths of a percent of the budget,” Council Member Gillette Kempf said.

Council Member Toby Pierce felt it was unreasonable to expect donors to give money they couldn’t afford to lose.  

“If they don’t have the money, they don’t have the money,” Pierce said. “They can’t give something they don’t have.”

Niles was pleased at the council’s action to relieve the $30,000 burden. .

“There’s been a lot of human effort and human mistakes though the course of this, but at the end of the day when you look at where we are, we’re a very blessed community,” he said. “Let’s go forward positively.”