Crosslake couple Virginia and the late Kenneth Merrill are this year’s recipients of the Award in Philanthropy from the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation.

The Merrills have displayed a passion for helping others and bettering their communities, a news release stated. They have assisted with the growth and development of Crosslake and the surrounding areas through supporting nonprofit organizations and city of Crosslake operations.

The Merrills used their leadership skills to impact the Crosslake community, including support of many causes to strengthen infrastructure. They helped maintain the well-being of local citizens and gave time and money to support the cultural enrichment of the community.

and through their generosity and exceptional leadership, they have significantly impacted those

“We are especially grateful for the support that Ken and Ginny provided to the camp,” former Camp Knutson Director Rob Larson stated in a news release. “Our mission to serve children with identified needs was very meaningful to Ken and his love for family and for all children shown through in his kind and caring demeanor. Ken was a gentle soul who truly believed in our mission and service to these great kids. The Merrills supported us at a time when the camp was going through a rebuilding process. The camp has made great strides over the past decade and we are grateful to the Merrills for trusting in our ability to make Camp Knutson more accessible for more children.”

Todd Lyscio, former executive director of Crosslake Community School, added: “Because of people like the Merrills, there is a beautiful new school building that will serve the community of Crosslake for years to come. Without their generosity, the building would never have become a reality.”

Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller shared the fire department’s gratitude for the Merrills’ support in purchasing a new fire truck.

Dozens more stories of appreciation for the Merrills circulate throughout the community among organizations like the Park and Library Foundation, the Crosslake Food Shelf, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Lutheran Social Services and the Salvation Army.

"There are too many charities to mention that have benefited from the Merrills’ generosity,” Karl Samp, executive director of Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation, said in a news release. “The Brainerd Lakes and Crosslake Areas are better places because of their philanthropic giving. We are honored to name them as our 2020 recipients of the Award in Philanthropy."

In addition, two local women will be honored posthumously with Legacy Awards — Millie Gjertson and Linnea Anderson, both of whom leave a lasting legacy for all who enjoy and benefit from the projects and activities they supported locally.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, a date has yet to be finalized for presenting the Award in Philanthropy. Please watch for future information on the foundation’s annual dinner.

BLACF attracts and administers charitable funds for the benefit of the local Brainerd area. The BLACF is governed by a local board of directors and is a partner of CommunityGiving, which is a collaborative of several community foundations united under a single framework to create efficiencies that maximize the impact of our donors. Learn more at www.CommunityGiving.org/Brainerd.