Gretchen had some good advice for our son, Jeff, on a recent trip to Colorado: “Remember, fundraising is about giving people an opportunity to do good things.”

Knowing that she has been a volunteer fundraiser for decades, Jeff had asked for advice on how to raise money for a new truck for the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team, a group of dedicated volunteers who have been carrying injured people off mountains and lifting them out of gorges without pay since 1974. Their gifts to the community and those they have rescued have been priceless. So don’t be shy about asking for donations, she added.

That got me thinking during this end-of-the-year giving season of all the projects here that keep on giving, thanks to fundraising efforts in our communities.

In Onalaska, the hugely successful YMCA building is getting a $4 million addition after a successful fundraising effort that included an addition in La Crosse. The project will include an expanded wellness center, another gymnasium to support after-school and family programming, an additional fitness studio and a new multipurpose room.

In West Salem, the Marie W. Heider Center for the Arts has become an arts and entertainment fixture for the entire area, a project made possible by the gift, along with fundraising by Forward West Salem and a referendum, of a charitable trust created by Marie Heider, a retired school teacher who was a volunteer for West Salem schools. She died in 2002. Her gift to the project, named for her, was for more than $1 million.

That highlights another of Gretchen’s frequent comments I’ve heard over the years: you never know who has the interest and financial ability to make a major contribution to a project that is important to them. You must treat everyone as if they were a major contributor. Oh, and one more thing; you have to ask.

Which brings us to Holmen, where backers of the Holmen Area Community Center project are asking for contributions to the building fund. Laurie Kessler, one of four co-chairs of the project, said Monday they have raised $1.5 million in donations, pledges and in-kind contributions, toward the $4.4 million needed for the building. She said that additional details are being prepared on how the center will be sustained once it is built to answer questions raised by potential donors.

Contributions from a private donor and the town of Holland have paåid for the building site near Holmen High School on McHugh Road. The county and village also have pledged support.

Kessler has pointed out that families make up about 80 percent of all households in the area, and half of these family households list children under the age of 18 – evidence, she said, of the need for facilities and programs to support young families. The center would serve young people and seniors alike, however, with space for senior adult programs such as nutrition and exercise and recreation, a full-size gym for community use and programming by partners including the YMCA and Gundersen Health System. The center will offer space for a variety of youth activities as well as space for community events and meetings.

This project has the potential to be every bit as important to Holmen and the surrounding area as the YMCA building is to Onalaska or the Heider Center to West Salem. After a decade of efforts to establish such a center for a rapidly growing community its time has come.

As Gretchen puts it, the community center fundraisers are offering people an opportunity to do something good.

For information about donating to the Holmen Area Community Center, visit

Dave Skoloda is an award-winning journalist and former owner and editor of the Onalaska Community Life and Holmen Courier.