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YMCA gets $500,000 boost for expansion

John Wedum, who passed away in 2003, and Mary Beth Wedum, who died this past March, were long-time supporters of charitable causes and helped keep the J.A. Wedum Foundation going strong. (Contributed photo)

It's fun to play at the YMCA, now more than ever.

The J.A. Wedum Foundation in Minneapolis has awarded a $500,000 matching grant to the Alexandria YMCA to help build an 8,000-square-foot addition, which will bring the total square footage to 64,000 square feet.

The phase II priorities for expansion include:

•Construction of a new multi-purpose room, dedicated to group exercise and youth program space.

•New child-watch center to complement the number of growing children and families.

•Development of outdoor field space to accommodate youth and adult programs on site.

•Renovation of the existing child-watch center to a cycling studio.

"The timing of the receipt of this gift could not have been better," said YMCA Executive Director Jeff Bartholomew. "Having a dollar-for-dollar challenge match gift gives potential donors additional incentive to give, knowing their gift will be matched, in essence doubling the impact of the donor's gift. We are confident that this gift will provide the momentum we need to raise the remaining dollars and achieve our goal."

The new grant is the second one awarded to the YMCA by the J.A. Wedum Foundation. In 2008, it provided a $20,000 grant toward the capital campaign to build the new YMCA.

Since then, the YMCA has experienced significant growth and needs more space to accommodate its membership, according to YMCA leaders.

At its peak, the YMCA serves more than 5,800 members, 136 families in child care, and many other program participants. Last year, the YMCA awarded more than $178,000 in financial assistance.


"The J.A. Wedum Foundation has its roots in Alexandria and a long history of supporting local non-profit organizations in the community," said Jay Portz, foundation president. "The foundation is extremely pleased to announce our support for the Alexandria YMCA expansion. The facility will provide many generations with a quality place to change and improve their lives."

The foundation was incorporated in 1959 by the Wedum family of Alexandria. J.A. Wedum owned and operated a number of hardware and lumber businesses throughout west central Minnesota. He was an entrepreneurial banker and business man who worked with rural farmers in Douglas, Grant and Pope counties.

It wasn't until after J.A. Wedum passed away that his assets were truly known. Throughout his life, he provided dozens of loans to rural farmers on a simple hand shake. These appreciative farmers diligently made payments on their loans long after his death. Those payments were used to start the foundation.

John Wedum, J.A. Wedum's grandson, became the driving force behind the foundation. John followed in his grandfather's footsteps and became a successful businessman and long-time supporter of charitable causes. He married Mary Beth, and as a team they continued to drive the foundation forward.

In addition to the YMCA, the J.A. Wedum Foundation has provided grants to the community of Alexandria through the following organizations: Alexandria Uncompensated Care Plan, Theatre L'Homme Dieu, Alexandria Public School Foundation, Kensington Historical Society, Alexandria Technical College and Foundation and Knute Nelson.

The mission of the foundation is to develop and use its resources to positively improve people's lives in the spirit of stewardship and generosity exemplified by John A. Wedum, grandfather, and carried forward by John A. Wedum, grandson.

More information about the foundation can be found at


On January 1, the YMCA will re-engage the "Continue the Dream" capital campaign to raise the remaining dollars to meet the $2.5 million goal. The campaign began in June 2012, but paused in August due to the annual United Way campaign.

A portion of the $2.5 million will also retire existing debt from the original capital campaign. Upon completion of the campaign in April, the YMCA will break ground, and complete construction by February 2014.

To date, the YMCA has raised more than $888,000, in addition to the J.A. Wedum Foundation gift, and is on its way to meeting the $2.5 million goal.

The YMCA will use the $500,000 matching gift from the J.A Wedum Foundation to provide the impetus to raise the balance needed to reach the campaign goal.

Bartholomew said the crux of the YMCA campaign will be "500 for 1,000" or recruiting 500 individuals/businesses to give $1,000 each.

"The contributions of this community are, and always have been, critical to our success. One person can make a difference and influence the outcome of our campaign," said Jill Wagner, capital campaign co-chair, along with Jon Ballou. "The real impact of this gift will be felt for many years to come, as the YMCA places added focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility."