National Philanthropy Day Honorees — 2019

Congratulations to our 2019 honorees!

Wendy Dayton

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser

Wendy Dayton embodies the unique philanthropic ethos of Minnesota, in part because she and her late husband Doug Dayton helped establish that ethos over a lifetime of leadership in the Twin Cities nonprofit community. From her earliest board role with the Blake School Alumni Association to more recent service on the national board of the Smithsonian Institution, Wendy always brings the kind of contagious energy and determination needed to move the needed on causes she cares about.

Among those organizations who have benefitted from Wendy’s distinct combination of talent, energy, and generosity are Artspace, the Compassionate Choices, Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, Hennepin Theatre Trust, Minneapolis Institute of the Art, Minnesota State Arts Board, the PBS Foundation, Twin Cities PBS and the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. Wendy frequently assumes the role of mentor and advisor, sharing her wisdom with staff and fellow board members on fundraising and broader matters of mission and vision.

Though she and Doug maintained independent identities as volunteers and philanthropists, Wendy has lately honored Doug’s memory by championing two organizations that were closest to his heart: YMCA of Greater Twin Cities and the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center. In both organizations, Wendy made lead campaign gifts to create spaces that bear Doug’s name, celebrating his legacy and ensuring greater access for all. The lasting impact of her generosity is surpassed only by that of her volunteer leadership in these organizations. At the same time, Wendy’s leadership has flowered on the national stage. In 2014, she joined the national board of the Smithsonian Institution and helped launch the National Museum of African-American History and Culture as a member of the board’s advancement committee.

For Wendy, giving back is a responsibility, but it is also a pleasure. “It makes me happy,” she has been known to say. “It keeps me moving forward.”

Ryan and Maria Keller – Read Indeed

Outstanding Youth Philanthropists

19-year-old Maria Keller and her 15-year-old brother Ryan of Plymouth announced in May that Read Indeed, their nonprofit literacy organization, has distributed 3 million books to kids in need. Read Indeed is a 501c3 nonprofit literacy organization driven by the vision of Maria, a book lover who wants to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Maria started Read Indeed when she was 8 years old, after hearing from her mom that some children didn’t even own one book of their own. Her brother Ryan Keller, now Program Manager, began volunteering with the organization when he was only 5 years old.

The two siblings have shared their love of reading with 1.5 million kids, reaching all 50 states and 17 countries. A recent book drive held by Providence Academy finally pushed the brother-sister duo over the line. The students, teachers, and parents of Providence Academy raised over 3,500 books for Read Indeed. The three millionth book, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, is a childhood favorite of the siblings.

Maria is now planning for her future and the future of the organization. She started her second year at the University of Notre Dame in Fall of 2019, handing Read Indeed Program Manager duties over to Ryan. To meet steadily growing demand for K5 books, Read Indeed is now solely focused on creating new opportunities for individuals, families and organizations to donate funds for the purchase of books—turning every $1.00 donated into one book distributed—for kids at local, regional, and national schools, nonprofits and hospitals. With the entire operation online in the near future, Read Indeed will be poised to reach more kids in more places with more books and nearly zero overhead.

In some respects, the story has just begun. Since 2009, Maria and Ryan have worked with thousands of volunteers at the Read Indeed warehouse in Hopkins, MN, counting, sorting and boxing books donated by individuals, families, schools, churches, corporations, and publishers. The books were then distributed to at-risk children and teens who have no reading resources in their homes. Although about 80 percent of the books to date have been gifted to Minnesota kids, Read Indeed is increasingly distributing books in greater scope to kids in need, including all 50 states and 17 countries.

Muffy MacMillan

Outstanding Individual Philanthropist

Muffy MacMillan has demonstrated the importance of philanthropy over the last 25 years through the local and international organizations she has devoted her time and efforts to supporting. With a longstanding commitment to philanthropy, Muffy has been a champion for causes ranging from supporting children with disabilities to fighting poverty with food and medical supplies to the arts – her passion and generosity is widespread, benefiting local and international communities.

Muffy is currently a Director on the Cargill Foundation and Waycrosse, Inc., where she serves on the Executive and Corporate Governance Committees and chairs the Education and Human Resources Committees. She also serves on many international, national, and local boards including Board chair of the American Federation of Arts, Opportunity International, including chairing their $50 million agriculture capital campaign, Global Minnesota, The Economic Club of Minnesota, Twin Cities Public Television, The Walker Art Museum, PACER Center, and past chair of the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation.

Over the past 25 years, Muffy has been a board member, donor, fundraiser, and volunteer at more than 20 organizations. She has received many awards recognizing her commitment to sharing with those less fortunate her wealth and knowledge, compassion, talents, and generosity, including the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Pioneer Award at the United Nations. She is seen as a global innovator to creating change, driving economic growth, and expanding humane welfare.

Muffy’s engagement includes sharing her experience, leadership, energy, and financial support to help each organization reach their goals and objectives. She has led fundraising efforts for Opportunity International and Matter, including hosting a 900-person benefit concert, coined by the band KISS who performed as “Muffypalooza”, at her home on Lake Minnetonka. She has also co-chaired PACER’s capital campaign that allowed the organization to buy their current building and strengthen their financial stability to allow for expanding their programs and impact for families with children of disabilities.

Her spirit of giving is unwavering and her desire to create lasting change in communities around the world has been important for her to instill in her children as well. This includes traveling the globe with her children to broaden their perspective, deepen their appreciation of other cultures, and understand universal human need and how they have the ability to positively affect the world.

With her roots firmly planted in Minnesota, Muffy’s passion for philanthropy can be felt locally and worldwide after 25 years of volunteer service – and she’s just getting started.

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Jenny Soderholm

Outstanding Professional Fundraiser

Jenifer Soderholm has been steadfast in her commitment to leading growth of philanthropic capacities for multiple organizations in our community. Most recently as Executive Vice President and Chief Development officer at Planned Parenthood North Central States, Jennifer has been described as unflappable and composed in her approach to fundraising. Sights always set on the big picture, Jennifer has tirelessly sought to ensure that reproductive health care and medically accurate sex education remains accessible for all during one of the most tumultuous times in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Planned Parenthood North Central States is not the only organization that has benefited from Jennifer’s considerable impact. She previously served as President of Children’s Heartlink, an organization that focuses on improving access to quality pediatric cardiac care around the world. Before this, Jenny dedicated twenty years to raising funds for the University of Minnesota’s medical research, education, and care as Vice President of Development. Under her tenacious leadership, the University secured millions of dollars for medical research that will fund countless advances in medical care for generations to come.

A long-time member of Association of Fundraising Professional Minnesota Chapter, Jennifer supports and champions her team members to participate in ongoing programming and professional development. As nominators Sarah Stoesz and Becky Ludvigson from Planned Parenthood North Central States shared, “On the whole, Jenny has revolutionized the working environment for her team by fostering strong internal collaboration and creating a sense of pure joy in our work. She has encouraged and provided opportunities for her team members to grow in their roles and use their talents to the fullest, even creating new positions in which individual team members can thrive. One cannot miss the fact that Jenny’s team members are engaged on a deeper and more committed level. She has created a dynamic environment in which team members are excited to reach for and achieve elevated goals.”

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Sit Family Foundation

Outstanding Philanthropic Organization

Eugene Sit and his family emigrated from China in 1947 penniless and ready to start a new life. They left just before the Communist Revolution in hopes of realizing the great American Dream.

Eugene attended DePaul University in Chicago on a scholarship and began working for Commonwealth Edison, as an investment manager. He worked his way up to run IDS Institutional Investing before leaving to establish his investment firm, Sit Investment Associates. The business quickly grew to establish itself as one of the largest independent, minority-owned investment firms in the United States.

Eugene and wife Gail lived humbly but were always generous in their support of others. These acts of philanthropy served as the building blocks that the Sit Investment Associates Foundation, the Eugene C. and Gail V. Sit Foundation, and other charitable funds that were established.

In 2005, following the tragedy of 9/11, Gene and Gail founded the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund to thank and give back to Minnesota soldiers. Its mission is simple, to say thank you to Minnesota service members and their families by providing cash grants to those making sacrifices to defend our freedom around the world.

In 2017, Eugene Sit was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. He received numerous industry and philanthropic awards, in addition to serving on boards of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minneapolis Institue of Arts and Carleton College.

All of the Sit Family children are continuing their parent’s generosity into the next generation by making investments into their community. These investments extend beyond charitable contributions but in service as well with Rob Sit presently serving as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Twin Cities PBS.

Through countless donations for time and treasure, the Sit Family’s outstanding philanthropic leadership begins at home, yet truly circles the globe.

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Dorothy Day Place Capital Campaign Committee

Outstanding Contribution to Philanthropy

Tasked with a shared vision 16 Twin Cities leaders exceeded expectations for the Dorothy Day Capital Campaign, resulting in the largest public-private partnership of its kind in state history. The Dorothy Day Place Capital Campaign Committee consists of 16 leaders who inspired generosity of others, leveraged their influence, were personally generous and amplified their voice to raise $40 million in private funds and $60 million in public investments to support the Dorothy Day Place.

In 2011, Catholic Charities Dorothy Day Center exceeded capacity for the first time, turning away women, children and families. It was clear that residents needed dignified shelter, permanent homes and pathways out of poverty. As a result the Campaign Committee and vision for the Dorothy Day Place, an innovative new concept to prevent and end homelessness, were created. Co-chairs for the Committee include Doug Baker (Chairman & CEO, Ecolab), Mary Brainerd (former President & CEO, HealthPartners) and Andy Cecere (President & CEO, US Bancorp).

The Dorothy Day Capital Campaign theme, “All of Us Together”, exemplified the spirit of the Committee in building a solid and ambitious strategy. Their strategy encompassed connecting with hundreds of business and personal colleagues, building awareness from the ground-level by volunteering to help those experiencing homelessness and by using their influence and voice to advocate for the project and its impacts. Their years of hard work led to impressive results. Together the Dorothy Day Capital Campaign Committee were able to secure contributions of $1 million or more from 3M, Ecolab Foundation, Frey Foundations of Minnesota, Hardenbergh Foundation, Pohlad Family Foundation, Premier Banks, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Target and U.S. Bank Foundation. The Committee also helped bring in more than 500 individuals and organizations to contribute to the private campaign.

Today, their legacy continues. The first phase of Dorothy Day Place started in 2017. This building along two others will open in late 2019. All told, Dorothy Day Place will provide a wide range of services each day to more than 1,000 people who have nowhere else to turn and its impacts will be felt statewide.

At a time when homelessness is reaching record levels across our state, the Committee’s efforts offer an inspiring model for what a group of committed individuals can do to make our community a better place. They’ve inspired generosity in future campaigns, seen success at the capitol, created a groundbreaking replicable model, and demonstrated what we can accomplish in the social sector. Their legacy will help transform lives for decades to come.

The 16 members of the Dorothy Day Place Capital Campaign Committee include; Doug Baker, Jr., Mary Brainerd, Andy Cecere, Tim Baer, Jim Bauman, Carl Casale, Bert Colianni, Richard Davis, Terry Dolan, Pat Donovan, Tom Handley, Christopher Hilger, Tim Marx, Laura Oberst, Jon Theobald and Carol Frey Wolfe.

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