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Dedication to education

Teaching and serving is what Ken Anderson, of Buffalo Lake, knows best. Anderson, a retired Buffalo Lake-Hector teacher, believes education goes beyond the classroom. Educating our future comes first. He has done this by creating the Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart School Foundation for the students he cares so much about.

Anderson taught agriculture classes at Buffalo Lake for 33 years and retired in 1991. He also was mayor of Buffalo Lake from 1984 to 1991, and served on the BLHS school board from 1991 to Dec. 2011, and was the treasurer that entire time. In 2007 he was nominated to the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame and in 2010 was named to the Minnesota State School Board Association All State School Board. He is still involved with other state, county and local organizations, including his church in Buffalo Lake.

How the foundation started Ken and his wife, Janet, were returning from a trip to her parents’ farm in Lac qui Parle County near the South Dakota border and were listening to the car radio. He was going to attend a school meeting in Hector concerning school finances. “I was pondering this school finance situation and felt there was another way to provide for the needs of our students,” Ken said. “There was a great deal of negativity toward taxes as a revenue source.”

“All of a sudden a program called ‘Now, for the Rest of the Story,’ aired on the radio. The word ‘foundation’ was used, and it stuck with me all the way home,” said Ken.

“I went to the meeting and was determined to have the school establish a foundation. I brought up the idea of a foundation, but it was turned down,” Anderson recalled.

Still determined to start a foundation, Ken invited the Southwest Initiative Foundation to a school board meeting in May 2003 and arranged for them to present information about foundations. The school board discussed the idea but felt the upcoming referendum took precedence because, like many schools, BLH was facing budget challenges and needed to pass a referendum in order to continue educating students at the level to which it had committed. Therefore, the foundation idea was tabled again.

In 2005, after a school finance meeting, a small group gathered in a huddle on the gym floor in Buffalo Lake. Out of nowhere, a person asked, “Should we have a foundation?” Someone replied, “Yes, but how do we do that?” Ken interrupted them and told them about SWIF, and asked if anyone would care to go to the SWIF office in Hutchinson to get more information. Two people volunteered to go with Anderson, farmers Brian Broderius and Steven Peterson.

Ken scheduled an appointment with Diana Anderson from SWIF and the three went to her office and got information from Anderson and Liz Cheney on creating a foundation for the school. They needed $1,000 to start a partnership with SWIF. By partnering with SWIF, gifts to the Buffalo Lake-Hector School Foundation are tax-deductible for donors and are invested for maximum return.  “I reached for my billfold but realized I did not have that much cash,” Ken said. “So, I went to my car to get my checkbook. As I was writing the check the SWIF staff suggested that I make the $1,000 gift in memory of my wife, Janet, who became an ‘angel’ on Sept. 6, 2005.” Anderson’s commitment didn’t stop there. In order to start making grants from the endowment fund earnings to benefit the students of BLH and the school itself, the endowment must have a balance of at least $10,000. According to Ken, while Brian and Steven were a bit worried about raising the remaining $9,000 for the endowment, Anderson was not. “I knew in the back of my mind that I would make sure the minimum amount was met,” he recalled.

The official starting date of the Buffalo Lake Hector Public School Foundation is Feb. 15, 2006, in partnership with SWIF. Recently, the Stewart community joined the Buffalo Lake-Hector school district, and the foundation name was changed to Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart School Foundation.

Now, for the rest of the story … To date, the foundation has raised more than $200,000 and made gifts of more than $140,000. They have set up two funds: the Endowment Fund and the Project Fund. Donations made to the Endowment Fund are invested and interest made on investments can be used for the future needs of students. The Project Fund has financed projects such as $2,443 for furniture in the kindergarten classrooms; $3,000 for after-school homework help; $1,571 to expand the high school physics program; $2,777 to purchase SMART boards, and more.

Serving on the board is Keith Johnson, president; Brian Broderius, vice president; Jared Winkelman, treasurer; Lynette Clark, secretary; members Ken Anderson, Kurt Kottke, Brad Oldre, and teacher board members Joe Gartner and Loni Sharp. The goal, according to Anderson, is to provide for the needs of students in preschool and on.

Ken made the lead gift to start the Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Public School Foundation  in memory of his late wife, Janet, and he continues to make gifts on a regular basis in honor or in memory of friends, family and loved ones. He hosts an annual garage sale and donates the proceeds and has also included the foundation in his estate, plan so his gifts continue beyond his lifetime. “The foundation’s existence depends on future donations,” said Ken.

In a recent article in  Growing Home, a publication of the Southwest Initiative Foundation, it stated that to dedicate one’s life to educating our youth is inspiring. Not only has Ken spent a majority of his time in the classroom, educating through hands-on teaching, his vocation continues even today in a slightly different way. The lessons Ken continues to teach his community are that of making a difference — inspiring others to share in your vision and giving unselfishly to what you care about. The foundation will continue forever thanks to the endowment fund. And students will reap the benefits.

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