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Funding the future

Terri Licking
for Tri-State Livestock News
The sun rises on the bins of MasterHand Millings distribution center east of Thedford heralding a new year, a new positive economic impact to Thedford and the ranchers they will serve. Photos by Terri Licking

Rural Nebraska offers spacious skies, great scenery and abundant wildlife. People and downtown businesses are more of a rarity.

The state claims cattle outnumber people 4 to 1, but in central Nebraska that ratio is even higher.

Organizations find it hard to find funding to maintain their community buildings. The answer for several counties has been the formation of community foundation funds with or without the umbrella of the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF).



The NCF serves 250 communities in 80 counties and since 1994, the NCF and its affiliated funds have invested over $269 million in students, organizations and other economic development endeavors in the state.

Foundation boards raise these investment funds in various ways – from the small individual donations to the large contributions such as estates giving back for the betterment of their community.



The verbiage of foundations’ mission statements may be different but their goals are the same – to accept donations and memorials to be used for the betterment of their residents.

Fundraising is never ending. The donations are accepted by the board members anytime throughout the year but for both boards, one gala night of good food, seeing friends, both old and new and an auction of donated items enhance their respective funds considerably. Members of both funds work hard, wearing out their fingers as well as their feet to ensure the success of the evening. Many work at their jobs during the day and spend countless volunteer hours dedicated to this one night. Both foundations saw approximately 200 take part in their galas.

Thedford Area Community Foundation Fund (TACFF) in Thomas County and the Sandhills Area Foundation (SAF) in Cherry county are two such foundation funds ensuring the future is bright for their respective areas.

Thedford Area Community Foundation Fund

The TACFF is affiliated with the NCF.

The headquarters for both are sixty-five miles apart on U.S. 83 north and both have businesses in common – Sandhill Oil and Security 1st Bank. The leaders on both funds work tirelessly in order to see their home communities thrive.

The TACFF formed in 2004 and benefits their three communities of Seneca, Thedford and Halsey as well as the Cherry county village of Brownlee. They have raised $152,649 so far to aid in youth programs, building enhancements and helping fund tourism attractions such as the historical marker and life size bronze on the courthouse square and the electronic informational kiosk east of Thedford.

TACFF endowment has given a total of $7,000 the last three years to high school students.

The TACFF saw its best fundraising effort to date this year, over $37,000.

The TACFF for the first time worked with AgLand ATV of Broken Bow, “they gave us a very good deal on an ATV,” stated TACFF board member, Richard Jameson, owner of Sandhill Oil in Thedford, Valentine and Hyannis. After the gavel fell, TACFF netted $1,300 on the ATV. Another new donor, Elite Endeavors, LLC, owner Dusty Turner donated 2 twenty plus tons of feed. MasterHand Milling is the segment of Turner’s company the feed will come from. The plant is in Lexington so trucks now come from there to the ranches to deliver feed. New bulk bins are being erected by the company east of Thedford, between the Lonely Grill and Sandhill Oil. Over $11,000 was made on the auction of those two loads.” Having the distribution center at Thedford will help make deliveries to our customers, saving on delivery costs and time,” said Angie Florea, owner of The Feed Bunk in Stapleton, one of the area distributors for MasterHand Milling.

“Dusty Turner came to us offering the feed, which was a tremendous boost to our auction,” stated Jay Jones another TACFF member. “We have vacation packages, home décor, rifles and small items, but we seek out those items ranchers can truly utilize. Our members travel to neighboring communities as personal face to face requests are the most successful,” said Russell Licking, another TACFF board member and emcee for the evening at the Thomas Co. Fairgrounds where their fundraiser was held.

Sandhills Area Foundation

The SAF is its own entity, not affiliated with the NCF.

The SAF was formed in 1997, benefitting the 10 communities within Cherry County. The county has close to ten times the population of its neighbor to the south. They will celebrate their 20th anniversary of giving this year. Their endowment is over the $1 million mark with $1,001,540.37 endowed.

SAF in 2015 awarded a total of $61,250 to 17 graduating high school seniors, 24 college students and three non-traditional students. Since its inception, SAF has awarded $551,950.00 in scholarships.

This past November, on different nights, the SAF endowment increased by $41,000. The SAF board held its fundraising gala at the Cherry Co. Fairgrounds.

Tim and Kim Marlatt of Wood Lake donated the average sale price of one bull after their 29th annual bull sale on December 5, 2016. “We have experienced firsthand the attributes of the SAF. Our daughter Sarah, now a senior at Chadron State received one of their scholarships. Seeing what they have done helping the veterans with their roof fund for the Vet’s Club, the assistance they give the youth programs, the help they gave to have Valentine a satellite campus for the Mid-Plains College – we too wanted to give back to our community fund and felt this was a good way to do it,” stated Marlatt. The amount the family donated was for $5318.

For more information:

Sandhills Area Foundation – POB 444, Valentine, NE 69201 info@sandhillsareafoundation.com

Thedford Area Community Foundation Fund – Jamie Taylor, taylor@neb-sandhills.net 308-645-2547

Nebraska Community Foundation – POB 83107, Lincoln, NE 68501, 3833 S 14St Street, Lincoln, Ph (402) 323-7330, info@nebcommfound.org


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