When Tom Ritsche was growing up on the east side of St. Cloud, there were few activities for children to participate in. Getting into trouble was tempting. So when Tom sold his business in the mid-1990s and had the opportunity to give back to youth, he made sure it would have a lasting impact.
He established the Thomas A. Ritsche Fund for Youth, a $2-million fund at the Central Minnesota Community Foundation. Since 1995, his fund has provided $1.7 million to youth organizations through 159 grants.
Although he died in June, Tom’s unwavering support of youth will remain. The fund’s balance stands at more than $1.8 million, and a committee that has been recommending grants from the fund since its inception will ensure that those dollars continue to support causes that meant so much to Tom.
Tom is most known for his efforts to bring the Boys and Girls Club to the area. He served on the founding board, and, together with his wife Jan, Tom led capital campaigns to build the first Boys and Girl Club—near his childhood home on the east side—as well as locations at Roosevelt and on the south side. That was just the beginning.
“If it weren’t for Tom and Jan’s support, there would be a good chance that we wouldn’t have a Boys and Girls Club in this community,” said Mark Sakry, executive director of the local Boys and Girls Club.
“He literally saved our operation," Sakry said. "There were times we could not make payroll, and Tom would say, ‘Let me cover that and pay me back when you can.’”
Tom, an accomplished business owner, knew the realities of operations. He not only made it his mission to support capital projects and youth programs, but also specifically to provide funds that support operations—a rarity in the grantmaking world.