When trying to make a community a better place, "talk doesn't get you anywhere," advises a founder of the Community Foundation of Chippewa County.
"Its actions, and actions through a number of avenues," said David Fish, who established the Fish Family Endowment Fund along with his wife, Dianne.
The more people get involved, the more fulfilled they become and the stronger the community will be, said David, who served as president and CEO of HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls for 33 years before retiring in 2010. Dianne described their fund as "a seed to help the community continue to flourish."
She learned the value of community service from her father, a mayor in Mississippi for several years, while David is an Iowa native. "We've lived all over the country and in Europe, and we have come to realize what a special community this is," said David, who is retired from the military. The couple helped launch the community foundation in 2001. David, Bert Swanson and Gerald Jacobson discussed with local leaders the idea of forming an organization in Chippewa County to provide individuals, organizations and businesses an avenue by which to give back in perpetuity to the community. "The community foundation is one of many vehicles, but an important one, that can assist the community in identifying and addressing its needs. The whole community can be involved, whether financially or through giving of their time," David said.
He stressed people don't have to be wealthy to give. "I don't consider us wealthy. We still have to watch our money, but we think this is important," Dianne said.
Bob Hogseth of Chippewa Falls, a former chair of the foundation's Board of Directors, credited David's passion, leadership and inspirational skills for making the idea a reality. "In my opinion, there would not be a community foundation without David Fish," he said. He is impressed with the Fishes' commitment to Chippewa Falls, despite not having roots here. "They moved to the community and really embraced it and became two of the most supportive people you'd ever want in your community."
Like Hogseth, the Fishes have established an Unrestricted fund. This type of fund allows the foundation's Grants Committee and Board of Directors to focus on community priorities. "The (community's) needs are significant and unfortunately will continue to grow. For the Board to have access to unrestricted funds gives it the ability to respond to needs that it can't plan for," David said.
"With the fund being unrestricted, it allows the Foundation to be as responsive as the assets and earnings from the fund will allow it to be," he said. After retiring from the hospital, David spent five years as a political and government relations advocate with the Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS). He previously worked for the Iowa Hospital Association, which had 145 member hospitals, and at the HSHS corporate office in Springfield, IL.
Dianne, a registered nurse who worked for 14 years as a triage nurse, was a stay-at-home mother to their five children. They also have 14 grandchildren that keep them busy.
Both Dianne and David have been involved in a number of community organizations. Dianne, who learned the importance of community involvement through her father's example, said she hopes they can instill in their children and others the importance of community and giving if you're able.
"Being able to put yourself second to others," David remarked.
Funds will be used for grant-making at the discretion of the Foundations Board of Directors.