New Coon Rapids foundation focuses on improving life

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

Funding for a foundation whose goal is to improve the quality of life in Coon Rapids has been approved by the Coon Rapids City Council.

The Community Strength Foundation, formed last year, was the idea of Mayor Tim Howe and brings together representatives of community/civic groups under one umbrella as well as representatives of the city of Coon Rapids.

The foundation is not operated for profit, but is exclusively for charitable purposes.

Specifically, the foundation will promote Coon Rapids “through civic celebrations, the arts and healthy community building events and activities,” according to its articles of incorporation.

And the money approved by the council won’t come from taxpayers.

Instead, $37,350 was allocated from the 5 percent the city gets from local charitable gambling license holders plus a $9,000 contribution from TC Gateway, the north metro area tourism bureau of which Coon Rapids is a member and which is funded by a 3 percent lodging tax from hotels/motels in member communities.

Some of the gambling license revenues went to help pay for the July 4 fireworks display last year.

According to City Manager Matt Fulton, when council discussed funding at a recent work session, the consensus was to allocate 90 percent of both the gambling revenues and the TC Gateway contribution.

The foundation is not a city organization and as a non-profit organization, there are no formal funding sources so it is also looking to receive grants and donations from individuals, organizations and other sources, Fulton said.

One of the primary events that the foundation plans to financially support is the Fourth of July fireworks display at Sand Creek Park, he said.

In addition, the foundation has awarded a $1,500 grant for the Coon Rapids Citizens Academy, an eight-week program designed to give residents an up-close behind the scene look at city government. It begins Monday, March 5.

The foundation board comprises representatives of community service organizations, charitable gaming organizations, city advisory commissions, fire relief association and general community members.  John Leggate, Coon Rapids North Star Lions Club, is the chairman, with Diane Buszta, Coon Rapids Snowflake Association, the secretary, and Mary Ann Kehn, Coon Rapids Arts Commission, the treasurer.

Through the efforts of Leggate and Kehn, Ray McManus, owner of the Shortstop at Foley and Northdale boulevards in Coon Rapids, has donated $7,500 to support eight of the nine summer concerts in the Coon Rapids Arts Commission’s annual summer concert series. McManus’ contribution is directed to the foundation for the concert series.

Other foundation board members are Bruce Sanders, Coon Rapids American Legion; Jason Vaughn, Coon Rapids Lions Club; Mark Lowe, Coon Rapids Mat Bandits Wrestling Club; Scott Latta, Coon Rapids National Little League; Michelle Picknell, Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association; and Shannon Moen, Coon Rapids Fire Relief Association.