Footprints Foundation provides scholarships to NYM students

By Tucker Henderson


As recent spring graduates from New York Mills start their summer jobs, or enjoy their last vacation before starting school again in the fall, many of them do so with an assurance that a portion of their college tuition will be covered.

Footprints Foundation is a local organization that acts as a fiscal base for scholarships in District 553 and has been serving the community since April 20, 1985.

“That’s when we had our first meeting and formally adopted the constitution,” said board member Rich Ericksrud. “Obviously, some work had been done before that. Some particular significance to Footprints is a gentleman by the name J. Eric Anderson. He had been giving dollars to universities in our area for NY Mills graduates for several years, but was not very satisfied with the management of the funds, so he said ‘let’s start our own foundation.’”

J. Eric Anderson was instrumental in the organization of the foundation and gave an initial donation to start the program.

“I can’t over emphasize the leadership and initiative of Anderson,” said Ericksrud. “He was absolutely huge in making it happen, it did happen because of him. In his estate, he also left a significant gift to keep Footprints afloat.”

The organization started with $3,000 in their coffers in 1985 and initial donations were a very limited list of scholarships.

“Early on, with limited funds and limited abilities, we weren’t recognized as a big resource,” said Ericksrud. “But today, we’re pretty significant. We’re just over $26,000 in 49 scholarships annually to NY Mills graduates right now.”

Ericksrud explained that Footprints Foundation doesn’t fundraise for these scholarships like many other organizations do, rather, the foundation manages funds given as memorials, donations, and scholarship money to maintain scholarship opportunities for NY Mills graduates each year.

“We support donors,” said Ericksrud. “Donors give us the money and we then house that money, maintain it for them, and write the checks for the scholarships. One hundred percent of every dollar that comes in goes towards its intended purpose. There’s no salaries, no reimbursements, it’s all in-kind.

“Our growth to the number of scholarships that we can give today is completely due to the generosity of NY Mills graduates and their ties to the community and their commitment to the community, wanting to make sure this continues to happen,” he continued.

Ericksrud said that one of the larger challenges of the organization is helping community members understand the role that Footprints Foundation plays in the community and how they can be a resource for building it up.

“One of our challenges has been to make graduates and families aware of Footprints as a resource for memorials and donations,” he said. “If any family or individual is interested in supporting scholarships for NYM graduates, Footprints Foundation is the resource that can make that happen.”

Another challenge that many non-profits face today is finding an eager volunteer. Fortunately for Footprints Foundation, their board of directors has been strong and stable the past few years and has even recently had a bylaw change in order to add up to 15 board members.

“We’re always looking to grow our board,” said Ericksrud. “Three of our board members are original members. It’s very helpful in terms of background and knowing how the process has gone. We’ve had a number of people step up and step in. We’ve actually had four new board members this year, they would be of a younger category.”

Meetings are fairly light during the year, oftentimes only two meetings are held. Through email and instant messaging, communication has become all-the-more abundant and easy to engage in.

“It kind of carries itself,” said Ericksrud. “Once in a while we get into things that require us to meet more often, but generally speaking with electronics today, we can do quite a bit.

“Our goal is certainly to promote people’s awareness of Footprints and encourage them to consider the foundation as a viable resource for memorials and gifts that would be used for scholarships,” he continued.

Current board members are great resources for those who are interested in learning more about the Footprints Foundation or are looking for a place to manage scholarship dollars. The foundation is committed to geographic boundaries of District 553, which includes graduates as well as community investment opportunities within the district.

Board members include: Rich Ericksrud, Dyann Tigges, Edward Buerkle, David Rud, Brad Helmeke, Karen Oelschlager, Greg Esala, Stephanie VonRuden, James Nardello, Jake Wallgren, Todd Ericksrud and Cody Geiser. 

Anyone who is interested in contributing scholarship money should get in touch with VonRuden at (218) 385-2300. 

For more information about the Foundation itself or joining the board, get in touch with Ericksrud at (218) 639-2343.