Fund Name:: Dan Baker Foundation Fund
Fund Established: 2001
Community Foundation(s): Willmar Area
Award: 2017 WACF Award in Philanthropy
Dave and Mary Baker have always been partners in effecting positive change in the communities they call home. Dave and Mary attended school in Aitkin, Minnesota, where they were high school sweethearts. They moved to International Falls where their children were born and then moved to Willmar in 1994 when Dave was offered a position to run the local Hotel Campus and Conference Center owned by Torgerson Properties. Soon after, they began to fall in love with the community to which they now refer to as their hometown.
The Bakers were active in International Falls and it wasn’t long before they began playing active roles in the Willmar and Spicer communities. While they owned Melvin’s on the Lake they were instrumental in reviving community events such as Spicer WinterFest and the Green Lake Triathlon, both of which are still going strong today. The energy and volunteerism of businesses and residents in Spicer inspired Dave and Mary to foster this same feeling of community in Willmar and the surrounding region.
The I-CARDINAL Technology Project was one of the first major philanthropic projects led by the Bakers, where they helped spearhead an effort to place 1,600 iPads in the hands of all Willmar High School students to facilitate more inclusive learning opportunities. In addition, Dave and Mary’s support of numerous local organizations including the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber, the Minnesota Restaurant Association and their church family have made a tremendous impact in our area. Most recently, Dave united other community leaders by sharing his dreams for Robbins Island and committing to making Willmar’s Destination Playground a reality through his dedication to raising the necessary funds. Dave and Mary hope that this playground will show emerging community leaders that dreaming and bringing the right people together can accomplish big things.
Dave and Mary remain strong partners both in their businesses and in their charitable giving. Their son’s struggle with an opioid addiction and his passing in 2011 was a major turning point for the family, and it became their calling to raise awareness of addiction to prevent other families from experiencing indescribable pain. Mary says, “We want people to feel hopeful. We want to provide the resources to others that we didn’t know about at the time.” The Dan Baker Foundation has raised over $250,000 to date to benefit local organizations supporting those fighting addiction.
For those inspired to give back but feel they don’t have the means to do so, Dave puts it this way: “We’re not philanthropists. We’re dreamers. We may not always have the financial resources, but we’re not afraid to put in the time and effort to raise the funds, connect the right people and make things happen.”