Jim, a Vietnam veteran, and Jackie, a founding board member of the Community Foundation of Chippewa County (CFCC), know firsthand what other veterans go through, their experiences and the sacrifices they make. Wanting to do something to provide assistance to other veterans, they were inspired by Jake Leinenkugel at the fair.
"I saw Jake buying a lot of cows," says Jim Bernier. "And I learned that the meat would be donated to veterans which made us think more about what we could do as well." They decided to start a fund serving Chippewa County Veterans. The Jim and Jackie Bernier Endowment Fund is a field of interest fund that will provide assistance to programs that support Chippewa County Veterans. Jackie Bernier's involvement with the CFCC made it a natural fit for the fund. "You can put some money in a fund, leave that fund sitting there and every year a percentage gets distributed to other nonprofits," notes Jackie. "We always thought we would do it, just a matter of when."
Jim's service in the Marine Corps created a strong personal connection to veterans in Chippewa County. Prior to his deployment as a Vietnamese linguist, Jim spent a year in school learning the language. Once in Vietnam, his job with the 1st Radio Battalion was listening and documenting enemy communications.
After returning from Vietnam, Jim took advantage of the GI bill, graduating from Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This education paired with encouragement from family
would lead him to begin his own local business, Enterprise Tool and Die. After 40 years, the business was sold, which allowed Jim and Jackie to start their fund.
Jim shared, "So to honor the memory of his good friend Fred Bungartz who was killed in the TET offensive in 1968 and all who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country, we want to help those who made it home."
"My sisters and I began another fund in the name of my parents and brother at the beginning of the Foundation," says Jackie. "But we thought it was time we do our own. This was a good fit. It feels good."
Grants support Chippewa County Veterans Services.