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Associated Press, Published April 08 2013

Farm Rescue founder launches separate foundation

BISMARCK – North Dakota farmer Brett Kakela was only 27 in 2010 when he suffered a stroke that cost him the use of an arm and hampered his ability to walk. But the nonprofit Farm Rescue came to his aid just a few months later, providing free labor to help plant about 800 acres of wheat at his farm near Langdon.

Now, Kakela is one of the first people to receive assistance from the Farm Rescue Foundation – a separate nonprofit created by Farm Rescue’s founder and CEO – that provides equipment to farmers who are incapacitated or hindered by major physical ailments or injuries.

Bill Gross hopes to quickly expand the Farm Rescue Foundation to the other places that Farm Rescue serves: South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and eastern Montana.

“Farm Rescue helps farmers in their immediate crisis, with planting and harvesting,” said Gross, who grew up on a North Dakota farm and now makes his living flying a cargo plane out of Anchorage, Alaska. “After that, there’s the Farm Rescue Foundation, helping during their recovery process.”

Gross started Farm Rescue in 2006 with just a handful of volunteers and very little money, to provide physical labor for farmers stricken by injury, illness or a disaster. It has since evolved into a nonprofit corporation with a board of directors, a handful of paid staff and an annual operating budget approaching half a million dollars. It still relies on donations, business sponsors and volunteer laborers – it has a database of nearly 1,000 of them nationwide.

Gross said he had wanted to start the foundation for a while and was finally able to do so this year with a $50,000 anonymous donation.

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