Donor Stories

The Leroy & Agnes Urban Family Fund 

The Leroy & Agnes Urban Family Fund was established in 2020 as part of the Family of Funds of the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation and administered by the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. The fund was established by Leroy and Agnes’s children as a way of honoring their parents. Both Leroy and Agnes grew up on small truck gardening farms in Rose Township, now Roseville. Leroy’s parents moved out to what is now Vadnais Heights in 1938 and Leroy and Agnes purchased the adjacent land in 1943. Together the Urban family has farmed land near Centerville Road and County Road F for now 83 years. Besides farming, Leroy worked for the Vadnais Heights public works department for 31 years, much of it part-time and Agnes worked for 34 plus years for the White Bear Lake Schools Food Service. In their jobs, both Leroy and Agnes were known for their hard work and giving extreme customer service to those they served. Leroy was a 20-year charter member of the Vadnais Heights Fire Department, and both served our community for many years as members of the Vadnais Heights Community Club or “Booster Club” which served our community from 1947 to 1980. Leroy and Agnes both took part in the 1957 election that broke off our area from White Bear Township and created Vadnais Heights.

Leroy and Agnes believed that education and job creation for all was very important to families and the community. They also believed in helping the less privileged, those with health issues and the elderly. When Leroy and Agnes weren’t working, they enjoyed music/dancing, community recreation, fishing, and being with friends and family.

In honor of Leroy and Agnes Urban their Family Fund will issue grants annually in perpetuity through the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation to support charitable organizations or programs engaged in: Music, Community Recreation; Agricultural/Horticulture; Job Creation; Education; or helping the less privileged.

The children of Leroy and Agnes Urban hope to grow this fund in the future and encourage others to donate to this fund or other funds of the Vadnais Height Area Community Foundation, or create your own family fund to support our Vadnais Heights Area Community. The geographic definition of the area served by the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation is the White Bear Lake and Mounds View School Districts Areas. For more information on grant applications or donating go to . 

2021 Grant Recipients

The Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation (VHACF), an affiliate of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, awarded approximately $10,000 in grants in 2021 thanks to the generous support of our donors. 2021 grant recipients were as follows:

  • Lakeshore Players Theatre 
  • Northeast Youth & Family Services
  • Phoenix Alternatives, Inc. (PAI)
  • Strive Scholarship Corporation
  • Tubman: Movement for Violence Prevention Program
  • White Bear Center for the Arts: 2021 High School Visual Arts Contest
  • White Bear Lake Area Schools, District 624: Engaging BIPOC Students with STEM Careers
  • White Bear Lake Early Childhood: Handwriting Readiness for At-Risk Pre-K Students

2019 Spring Grant Awards

VHACF has finalized grants to seven different nonprofit organizations in an effort to assist neighbors in need and to enhance the community.

“We are extremely pleased with the opportunity to support so many of our local organizations in this round of grant making,” stated VHACF Chair Jerry Moynagh. “There were so many applications from diverse areas that were so deserving, leading us to give grants to a near record seven groups.” 

Grants were provided for a variety of projects including to Mounds View Community Theater for its upcoming production of Man of La Mancha, an exciting play adapted from Cervantes’ Don Quixote. This production aims to include area actors and stage hands from all walks of life, giving those with the passion for theater a local outlet. 

The Matoska International School (an International Baccalaureate World School), a WBL 624 elementary school, received a grant to conduct a workshop with employees and staff around social justice and anti-bias in the classroom. “It is so critical that our children receive an education geared towards them. We felt the mission of eliminating bias in our classrooms helped meet that need and we are pleased that we could contribute to this worthy mission,” Moynagh said. 

VHACF also provided a grant to the Willow Lane Elementary School PTO to help provide scholarships for fifth graders to go on an environmental field trip at Camp Icaghowan in Amery for two days. 

Newtrax was provided a grant to expand its community senior circular transportation, which has been a success in helping seniors continue to live in and move about the community.

Rounding out the grants this session also included a grant to the White Bear Center for the Arts’ 2019 White Bear High School Visual Arts Contest and a grant for animal therapy for clients of Merrick, Inc., whose mission is empowering adults with disabilities.

Submitted by Evan Cordes, Board Member, printed in Press Publications

Teacher Grant Funds Educational Travel

A local history teacher will be taking a trip to Florence, Italy, to study Renaissance art and architecture and bring alive the past for his students.

Brian Martinez has been teaching sixth through eighth grade history at Liberty Classical Academy in White Bear Lake for three years. He’s been a teacher for 22 years.

Martinez received the grant, of about $4,500, from Fund for Teachers and the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation (VHACF).

“Professionally, it is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Martinez said. “I think it brings the past into the current for students.”

He teaches medieval, Renaissance and Reformation and modern history. Before coming to Liberty, he was not very familiar with the Renaissance and conducted considerable research in order to teach about it, he said. This is why he chose Florence as a place to further his education in person. For one week this summer, he will visit museums and focus on how art and architecture of the era influenced history. He will also take students on field trips in the Twin Cities to see how Minnesota was influenced by Renaissance art and architecture. His experience in Italy will help bring history alive for students, he added.

“There’s just a sense of joy that I have been given this opportunity,” he said.

VHACF has been partnering with Fund for Teachers for nine years, said board member Muriel Janneke. Approximately half of the annual grant is funded by each entity. Any PreK-12 teacher in the White Bear Lake or Mounds View district areas can apply. For two or more teachers working together, the grant can be up to about $10,000.

VHACF has funded several teachers to travel in order to further their expertise on a topic related to their teaching, Janneke said. “By going and experiencing, it brings context to everything you teach,” said VHACF Chair Jerry Moynagh.

The first grant awarded in 2011 was for two teachers to attend a conference in Minnesota, Janneke noted. In 2012, two teachers attended a conference in New York. Beginning in 2013, grant recipients have traveled internationally to Namibia, Argentina, Poland, London, Spain and Iceland. The grant amount was increased in 2016 with the support of Fund for Teachers. This year, Fund for Teachers awarded $2 million in grants to 502 teachers.

Raymond Plank, who grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota, founded Fund for Teachers in 2001. He founded and managed Apache Corporation, a global energy enterprise, for 55 years. Since he founded Fund for Teachers nearly 20 years ago as a way to do something for the community, the fund has given grants to 8,500 teachers nationally.

A Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation committee selects a local winner of the grant each year. Applications for next year open Oct. 1. For more information on how to apply or donate, visit The foundation also supports other local organizations in the Vadnais Heights area.

Liberty Classical Academy history teacher Brian Martinez, center, received a grant of about $4,500 from the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation. He is pictured with Rebekah Hagstrom, right, headmaster of the school, and Muriel Janneke, left, advisory board member of the foundation.

Press Publication article by Sara Marie Moore, Editor

2018 Grant Summary

VHACF had a big 2018, having granted thousands of dollars to directly benefit our local community. Grants were given to support the Student Emergency Assistance Fund at Century College,  towards expanding and providing a show choir for local students who may not otherwise be able to pursue their passion for singing, supporting the community theater production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, a scholarship to support a student from AFSA High School to attend college, helping fund elementary school students who have an economic need at Willow Lake to be able to attend a unique learning camp, and funding for the Tubman’s Youth Violence Prevention Program to help combat physical and sexual abuse. 

VHACF also partnered with Fund for Teachers to provide two Oneaka Elementary teachers in Hugo a grant to travel to London for a homestay/school visit experience under the direction of Kayla Denzier.

2017 Wrap Up

In 2017, as in 2016, VHACF continued to receive four times as many grant requests than we are able to fulfill. However, we are pleased to list those recipients we were able to support this past year:

Century College Foundation – Emergency Assistance and Food Pantry for students

Midwest Ski Otters – new stage for their water performances

White Bear Center for the Arts – High School Visual Arts Contest

Northeast Residence – Extended Day program for children and adults with developmental disabilities

City of Vadnais Heights – 2017 Heritage Days

Willow Lane Elementary – Camp Icaghowan scholarships

AFSA – Environmental camp scholarships for 5-8 graders

Newtrax – White Bear Lake Area Senior Shuttle Pilot

Shoreview YMCA – transportation for summer swimming lessons for area 6-8 graders

White Bear Lake High School Senior – Scholarship to Carrie Hunner, to attend Duke University to study Electrical Engineering

Vadnais Heights Lions Club – Emergency Food Shelf

White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf – Onsite Food Pantries at AFSA and Central Middle School

And we are especially pleased for this year’s recipients, Lindsay Lamwers and Matthew Skogen, White Bear Lake science teachers at Sunrise Middle School, who received a $10,000 fellowship from us, in partnership with Fund For Teachers®. They traveled to Iceland in August to study the many tectonic and landform features unique to that country, including volcanoes, glaciers, rift valleys, hot springs and geysers. They used a special 360 degree camera there, while their students back home will be using virtual reality viewers to see amazing up-close videos of walking inside a volcano, actual tectonic plate boundaries, snorkeling the Silfra fissure and more.

Please join with VHACF in helping us to continue to meet the growing needs of our community by donating today!

You may give here or send your tax deductible donation to:

VHACF, PO Box 270502, Vadnais Heights, MN 55127

2015 Partnership Award


VHACF Chair Shelly Hauge & VHEDC President Kevin Whelan

On Thursday, November 5, VHACF was given the Partnership Award at the annual VHEDC (Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corporation) dinner.


VHEDC Executive Director Ling Becker


VHACF Chair Shelly Hauge


We are honored to receive this award and have been pleased to partner with VHEDC from when we first began giving out grants in 1990. We helped them establish a revolving loan fund for area businesses and are happy to support their efforts annually.



VHACF Board Member Dave Stimpson and former Board Member Chuck Sandstrom


It is partnerships like these within our area community that help our community be strong and vibrant. Thank you to VHEDC for recognizing and honoring us with the award!

Century College

Our February Board meeting was held at Century College East Campus, who generously provided us with a meeting room, coffee and bakery treats. We were happy to hear about their Random Acts of Kindness Program and note the many students in need who were helped by this program our recent grant went to. We are very pleased to support young adults furthering their educational goals.


2014 Holiday Luncheon

Hank Tessier and Mary McNellis with Shelly Hauge

Hank Tessier and Mary McNellis with VHACF Board Chair Shelly Hauge

On December 11, 2014, VHACF held a small Holiday Luncheon at North Oaks Golf Club with present board members, several recent grant recipients and local city officials. We honored two past board members for their many years of dedication and service to the Foundation:  Hank Tessier and Mary McNellis.

We also had the pleasure of hearing from a few of our recent Grant Recipients. Sara Swoboda was our 2014 Fund For Teachers recipient and told us how her time spent studying Spanish in Argentina enhanced her classroom teaching.

Sara Swoboda, 2014 Fund For Teachers Grant Recipient

Sara Swoboda, 2014 Fund For Teachers Grant Recipient

Trisha Cummins Kauffman, Executive Director of Solid Ground in White Bear Lake, spoke of the inspiring work this nonprofit is doing and handed out materials showing us the many programs Solid Ground offers in helping local families build strong and stable foundations.


Trisha Cummins Kauffman, Solid Ground Executive Director

We also heard from John Wayne Barker, Executive Director of Merrick, Inc., a nonprofit whose mission is empowering adults with disabilities. In addition to their Vadnais Heights facility, Merrick also operates a second program site for Adult Day and Memory Care services in downtown North St. Paul.

John Wayne Barker, Executive Director of Merrick, Inc.

John Wayne Barker, Executive Director of Merrick, Inc.

Finishing up the program was Patrice Abbe, Manager of Community Affiliates for Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. Patrice explained how VHACF is affiliated with the St. Paul Foundation and Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, and receives ongoing encouragement, training and support from them.

Patrice Abbe, Manager of Community Affiliates, MN Philanthropy Partners

Patrice Abbe, Manager of Community Affiliates, MN Philanthropy Partners

It was an enjoyable time for all!


VHACF Donates to Local Boy Scout Troop

Troop 494 of White Bear Lake, MN is presented a $3000 Grant from the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation (VHACF). The check was presented during a ceremony held at Vadnais Heights City Hall. Funds will be used by the Boy Scouts to acquire new camping gear and aid in the purchase of a new trailer required for their day-to-day use. VHACF commends the troop for their thoughtfulness and appreciation as they turned out in great numbers to enjoy rolls and refreshments with VHACF Board members.