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Give to the Max Day makes charitable giving easy

The annual giving event Thursday, Nov. 18, raises millions for almost 6,000 causes statewide, including nonprofits like Wild and Free, a Garrison-based wildlife rehabilitation program. People can select from a wide variety of organizations to donate to by going online at GiveMN.org.

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Dr. Katie Baratto holds a red-tailed hawk, which is rehabilitating in the new flight building at Wild and Free wildlife rehabilitation center in Garrison. The new flight building was built with some funds from last year's Give to the Max Day fundraiser. The new facility gives raptors room to fly from perch to perch to strengthen their muscles until they can be released. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Give to the Max Day organizers are encouraging people to donate financially to nonprofits, schools and other organizations on Thursday, Nov. 18.

The 13th annual online fundraiser raises millions each year for almost 6,000 causes across Minnesota and beyond, according to Jake Blumberg, executive director of GiveMN, a collaborative nonprofit venture to transform philanthropy in the state by moving more of it online.

“This year is unique in the sense that the disasters that prompted so much of the giving last year are not really over yet,” Blumberg said Tuesday. “They're still ongoing. They're still deeply impacting nonprofits and schools, and we need donors to match that passion for support.”

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“We believe giving is a joyful thing.”

— Jake Blumberg, executive director of GiveMN


Through this online marketplace for generosity and giving events like the annual Give to the Max Day, GiveMN has helped to generate nearly $200 million for more than 10,000 nonprofits and schools from the Give to the Max Day from previous years, according to its website.

“One of the things donors tell us about Give to the Max Day that inspires them to give is the sense of civic engagement and civic pride that comes with participating with a statewide celebration of generosity,” Blumberg said. “People feel like they're giving together towards a greater goal.”

People can go to GiveMN.org and search for a cause to find specific organizations near or far, or while at the website find organizations they may have considered donating to in education, animal rescue, health, housing, conservation, community, art, culture, religion and more.

Wild and Free

Wild and Free is a Garrison-based wildlife rehabilitation organization. Animals from all over the state are brought to the nonprofit for veterinary services and rehabilitation.

Officials expressed appreciation at the group’s Give to the Max Day webpage to those who donated last year to the nonprofit’s Raptor Flight Pen. The $80,000 building was completed in 2020 and provides space for larger birds, such as eagles, to exercise their wings and rehabilitate.

“We believe giving is a joyful thing. And we bring lots of joy to the process on Give to the Max Day,” Blumberg said.

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Dr. Katie Baratto, with the Garrison Animal Hospital and Wild and Free Rehabilitation Center in Garrison talks about the new flight building Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, which gives raptors a chance to strengthen their muscles before being released. The building has panels which swing into place to seperate birds that do not need a long flight distance. On the sides of the building, perches have ben built for resting areas for the birds. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Wild and Free’s stated mission is to rehabilitate and return as many animals as the organization can back to their natural habitat. The organization plans to build another 1.25-acre bear pen, however, because the group expects to receive underweight yearlings because of the drought.

“Bears need to weigh between 40-50 pounds to survive hibernation. With the lack of food supplies for these animals this year, we are certain that we will be receiving many underweight yearlings,” according to officials.

Dr. Katie Baratto is a Garrison Animal Hospital veterinarian and a Wild and Free animal rehabilitator.

“We need more bear space. We are one of the only facilities in Minnesota that is licensed to handle black bears,” Baratto said Monday of the 24 bears rehabilitated last year at Wild and Free. “The bear population is up, so we receive more cubs than we used to.”


“We need more bear space.”

— Dr. Katie Baratto, Wild and Free rehabilitator


As of September, Wild and Free has received over 950 animals, including baby mice, raccoons, fox, bobcats, a myriad of raptors and black bears, but it receives no state or federal funding and instead relies on goodwill donations, membership and fundraising, Baratto said.

“We very much are put into the position of getting these animals back where they belong and teaching people that most of the time these animals just need to be left alone,” Baratto said. “But we're here for when they do need help and to help to do it safely.”

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Crow Wing County Historical Society

The Brainerd-based Crow Wing County Historical Society on Laurel Street is also included as another nonprofit people can donate to on Give to the Max Day.

Hillary Swanson, executive director of the society, said donations in the past from the fundraiser have gone toward general operating support such as archival supplies because there are a lot of costs involved in the proper preservation of objects.

“For instance, when someone donates a photograph, it needs to be processed by staff, put into a museum software database, put into a special envelope and then into an archival box,” Swanson said. “All of this is expensive and that is just one photograph.”

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Elaine Leach, 87, of Lake Shore, reminiscences as she looks at the new sesquicentennial exhibit unveiled Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, at the Crow Wing County Historical Society Museum and Research Library's grand reopening and open house in downtown Brainerd. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Larger items need boxes that can cost upwards of $100, according to Swanson, and if not properly preserved, the historical items will deteriorate much more rapidly.

“Private donations are our second-largest source of funding and extremely important to preserving and sharing the history of the area,” Swanson said of the society, which also sells memberships that include free admission to the museum and free use of the research library.

The society’s sesquicentennial exhibit was unveiled in September at the grand reopening of the history museum and library during Brainerd History Week.

“History provides a foundation for critical thinking, a sense of community and inspiration for leadership. Local history provides a context for daily life and gives a sense of community pride,” Swanson said.

Kinship Partners

The impact of Give to the Max Day continues to grow, according to officials. Last year's $30.4 million donated is more than double the amount raised during the inaugural campaign in 2009.

“In terms of GiveMN and Give to the Max Day, it’s great they are encouraging giving and really getting people to think of philanthropy this way. They also make it easy for people to support multiple organizations at once,” said Amy Gray, executive director of Kinship Partners.

Kinship Partners is a youth-mentoring program with about 250 year-round child-adult pairings, according to the nonprofit.

“Our priorities over the next year are to create a more robust and comprehensive mentor training program to ensure our volunteer mentors feel equipped to navigate the evolving needs of kids,” Gray said Tuesday.

RELATED: Kinship Partners seeks volunteers, donations with grill out at Cub Foods
The nonprofit’s other priorities include developing more impactful and symbiotic relationships with its supporters “to truly empower our community and those we directly serve, and to explore the feasibility of a one-on-one career mentoring program for high schoolers.”

Kinship Partners serves families within Crow Wing County, southern Cass County and the Staples-Motley area by providing positive role models to youths in those communities.

“I think people should direct their hard-earned money where their hearts are. If donor hearts are with kids and providing intentional opportunities for meaningful connections, which is our mission, we would be honored to partner with them,” Gray said.

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Kinship Partners community grill out Friday, July 30, 2021, at the Cub Foods in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The nonprofit’s other priorities include developing more impactful and symbiotic relationships with its supporters “to truly empower our community and those we directly serve, and to explore the feasibility of a one-on-one career mentoring program for high schoolers.”

Kinship Partners serves families within Crow Wing County, southern Cass County and the Staples/Motley area by providing positive role models to youths in those communities.

“I think people should direct their hard-earned money where their hearts are. If donor hearts are with kids and providing intentional opportunities for meaningful connections, which is our mission, we would be honored to partner with them,” Gray said

Lakes Area Music Festival

Each summer, the Lakes Area Music Festival brings 200 all-star artists from top orchestras and opera companies around the world to perform three weeks of classical music performances in the Brainerd lakes area, according to the nonprofit.

“Over the past three years, LAMF has averaged over $8,000 through Give to the Max gifts. Many of those gifts are from our loyal donors and … many gifts are $10, $25 or $50,” said Carol Russell, a Lakes Area Music Festival spokesperson.

“From chamber music and symphonic orchestra to productions of opera and ballet, and drawing thousands of attendees each year, LAMF has become one of the most significant summertime destinations for classical music in the Midwest,” according to its webpage.

RELATED: Lakes Area Music Festival presents 'Renaissance' recital

Russell said, “Last season, in the midst of the COVID pandemic, we used these funds to help produce the streaming concert videos, which helped us stay connected with our audience when live events weren’t possible.”

This year’s financial contributions from Give to the Max Day will support the seven concerts remaining in its winter series of concerts, presented live at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts in Brainerd.

“Rather than having a designated ticket fee, we invite our audience to contribute as they are able whenever they attend our performances,” Russell said Tuesday.

Performing Arts Center
Brainerd High School's new performing arts center will be called Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts, the school board decided Monday, May 10, 2021. "Gichi-ziibi" is an Ojibwe term meaning "big river" or "Mississippi River." Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

In addition to those gifts, the nonprofit relies on additional annual gifts from many of its supporters, corporate sponsorship from businesses in the community and various foundation and government grants.

“Give to the Max Day is just one more opportunity for our audience and community to show that they believe in our mission and the value of professional music experiences in the lakes area,” Russell said.

Sexual Assault Services Inc.

Sexual Assault Services Inc. provides support services for victims affected by sexual assault and exploitation. The Brainerd nonprofit’s stated mission is “to bring hope, healing and empowerment to those affected by sexual abuse and exploitation.”

“Emergency needs are one area we always have a need … to purchase things like clothing, temporary shelter, transportation, food, etc.,” Executive Director Marianne Washburn said Monday.

Sexual Assault Services provides 24-hour sexual assault crisis intervention and support services, accompaniment for forensic collection/rape kits, trauma-informed crisis counseling services, assistance within the criminal justice and civil court systems, and more.

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Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, during The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence event at Mills Ford in Baxter. The event benefited Sexual Assault Services Inc. in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“We offer free and confidential services to those who have been affected by sexual violence. SAS assists survivors after the initial trauma and provides follow-up services for months or more often years,” Washburn said.

Sexual Assault Services assistance is confidential, free of charge, “and driven by the needs of the individuals impacted by sexual violence,” according to its website.

“Sexual violence is a serious issue that affects people of all ages, genders, races and socioeconomic levels. It takes on many forms and unfortunately it has become socially acceptable,” Washburn said.

RELATED: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event raises awareness, benefits Sexual Assault Services
The nonprofit is funded through the Office of Justice Programs’ two-year grant awards cycles and hosts small fundraisers during the year as time and staff allow.

“Experiencing an assault can affect the victim for years after the event, leading to serious complications. Some develop mental health conditions, severe reactions to triggering events, and unhealthy and dangerous coping mechanisms,” Washburn said.

Golden Tickets

Each financial gift made during Give to the Max Day enters the donor to win money for the cause they support. Prizes will be awarded every 15 minutes all day long during Give to the Max Day.

“We believe giving is a joyful thing. And we bring lots of joy to the process on Give to the Max Day,” said Blumberg, executive director of GiveMN. “Thanks to our partners at the Bush Foundation, we'll be giving away more than $100,000 in prizes.”

Since the inaugural Give to the Max Day in 2009, GiveMN has given away more than $2.5 million in prize grants thanks to the support of its sponsors,” according to officials.

“There is a sense of fun and kind of friendly competition that comes from it as well,” Blumberg said.

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Jake Blumberg is the executive director of GiveMN, a collaborative nonprofit venture to transform philanthropy in Minnesota by growing overall giving and moving more of it online. Submitted photo

Give to the Max Day

To participate in Give to the Max Day, donors may visit GiveMN.org and search for the causes they care about most by name, keyword, ZIP code and more.

Give to the Max’s “Early Giving” period began Nov. 1 and continues through Give to the Max Day on Thursday, Nov. 18, with random drawings throughout for more than $100,000 in prize grants for Minnesota organizations.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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