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Dave Olson, Published February 12 2013

Giving Hearts Day pumps money into charities

FARGO - Giving Hearts Day has pumped millions of dollars into area charities over the past five years, and this year’s event aims to be the most successful ever.

The fundraising blitz has been held each year, usually on Valentine’s Day, since 2008, when $325,000 was raised for area charities, said Pat Traynor, president of the Dakota Medical Foundation and Impact Foundation, which started Giving Hearts Day.

The one-day event, Thursday this year, lets people donate online to causes they care about.

Last year, 140 charities collected $1.6 million in donations.

Come Thursday, the goal is to raise more than

$2 million among the 179 participating nonprofit organizations.

“We get donations from all across the United States and 30 percent of these gifts, on average, are brand new to the organization,” Traynor said.

Giving is easy. Go online to www.impactgiveback.org and click on the “donate” button.

Anyone looking for further information on Giving Hearts Day can contact Dakota Medical Foundation at (701) 271-0263.

Online donations of $10 or more to a given organization will be matched up to $4,000 by the Dakota Medical Foundation and other community donors.

The fundraiser is only 24 hours, but much of the groundwork is done ahead of time, with organizations reaching out via mailings, emails and social media.

With nearly 200 charities involved, the heightened awareness benefits everyone, said David (Doc) Brien, director of development and stewardship at St. Ann’s Indian Mission in Belcourt, N.D.

The St. Ann’s campus, which includes an elementary school and youth center serving the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Metis, took part in Giving Hearts Day for the first time last year, when $11,000 was raised.

“That’s amazing money for us,” Brien said, adding that it goes toward improving campus facilities, many of which were built in the 1930s.

The fundraiser has also been good to St. Gerard’s Community of Care in Hankinson, N.D., which has participated every year the event has been held.

“I have to say, Giving Hearts has been a tremendous blessing for St. Gerard’s,” said Sister Mary Louise, assistant administrator of the facility, which offers a variety of services including short- and long-term skilled care and an independent living community. “Each year we have been able to gain new donors.”

Donations have gone for upgrades such as a new fire sprinkler system. In the future, St. Gerard’s is looking to use Giving Hearts money to establish a foundation and to ease a planned move to electronic record keeping.

“That will be a rather costly project,” Sister Mary Louise said, adding that Giving Hearts is St. Gerard’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo is among the charities that traditionally bring in the most donations from Giving Hearts, growing from about $90,000 in gifts two years ago to more than $160,000 last year, said Jeff Conant, director of development.

Conant said the money is used in a variety of ways, from covering heat and electricity costs to helping students with tuition.

Fraser Ltd. in Fargo received more than $70,000 during last year’s Giving Hearts Day and this year the agency is aiming even higher – $200,000 to $250,000 – as it plans a building project, said Sandra Leyland, executive director.

Leyland, who described the agency’s mission as supporting children, youths and adults on their life journey to independence, said in recent years she has camped out on the roof of the Fargo agency on Valentine’s Day to draw attention to the fundraiser.

She plans to do it again on Thursday while an individual the agency supports carries a sign up and down the sidewalk urging passers-by to free Leyland by making a donation.

Leyland vows to remain on the roof until the agency gets the $4,000 it needs to receive matching dollars.

Kim Pladson, executive director of TNT Kid’s Fitness & Gymnastics in Fargo, said she values the attention the fundraiser brings to the agency, which provides physical activities for about 1,200 kids a week.

“It’s a great way to share your vision with the community,” she said.

Tom Frei, executive director of FirstChoice Clinic, which has locations in Fargo, Devils Lake and Bismarck, said he appreciates the way DMF challenges charities to “up our game” by exploring new ways to raise funds.

“It’s helped us out greatly,” said Frei, who oversees clinics providing pregnancy education services.

How to help

• Go online to www.impactgiveback.org and click on the “donate” button.

• Anyone looking for further information can contact Dakota Medical Foundation at (701) 271-0263.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555