The internet gets its first mention, Ronald Reagan takes office, 3M launches Post-It Notes, and researchers finally locate The Titanic’s wreckage.
It’s 1981, which also means the birth of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation – less worthy of history books, perhaps, but significant to the nonprofits and other organizations that over the past 35 years have benefited from the Foundation’s 550 or so grants totaling nearly $1.6 million.
The organization over the years has annually gone about filling unmet community needs and stretching the budgets of nonprofits and agencies so they can serve more people in Eden Prairie. More than $80,000 to the Eden Prairie Fire Department, $40,000-some to Camp Eden Wood, $40,000 to PROP, nearly $29,000 to Chrestomathy – these are examples of cumulative Foundation impact over the years to organizations that touch thousands of people in Eden Prairie.
That notion of “raising money for needs we couldn’t do through taxes” was part of what sparked the Foundation’s start in summer 1981, according to Roy Terwilliger, one of the founders. The late 1970s and early 1980s were a period when many civic organizations and institutions were launched in Eden Prairie, and often by the same small circle of folks.
Terwilliger remembers the Foundation being “a collective idea,” and one that had worked in other nearby communities. In announcing the Foundation’s launch, its first chair, Billy Bye, said it was done to make certain Eden Prairie continued to be vibrant and progressive through its development boom and beyond.
Other organizations rallied to help. For example, on that first board of directors, Dean Edstrom had a Rotary background. Duane Pidcock had chamber of commerce involvement. And so it went. “Everybody pitched in,” explains Terwilliger.
That collaboration served Eden Prairie well through its growing pains. “Leadership worked together very well,” Terwilliger adds. “I think that gave us a jump start at becoming a bigger community.”
Foundation bylaws required the board to have some representation from city government, schools, chamber, clergy, and clubs. Annual Foundation Balls raised money for grants and scholarships, awarded once and sometimes twice per year – some $1.6 million since the Foundation’s inception. The semi-formal Ball gave way to the less-dressy EP Gives event, and the even more casual Prairie Brewfest.
Eden Prairie has nearly four times the population it did in 1981, but Terwilliger and Edstrom say the idea of having a community foundation in Eden Prairie is still a sound one.
“It has had the impact we saw in the beginning,” Edstrom says.