Community Foundation(s): Willmar Area
Award: 2016 Award in Philanthropy from WACF
John and Mary Lindstrom are active in their local community where their passion for its wellbeing is apparent in their countless hours of volunteering and charitable donations. Mary’s first experience with charitable giving occurred at the tender age of four, when she donated her toy to displaced children in Europe; even at a young age, she wanted to make things as fair as she could for others.
Mary attended Wilson College in Pennsylvania and St. Mary’s University in Minnesota. After Mary and John were married and moved to Willmar in 1967, Mary joined the League of Women Voters, serving two terms as President and she was instrumental in several movements to effect system change. One of the most enjoyable was female appointees to Willmar city commissions. Becoming more adept in social justice, Mary volunteered with Woodland Centers Sexual Assault program and Shelter House for battered women and their children. She became its Executive Director from 1986 to 2000. Mary has served on the City Housing and Redevelopment Commission, the Willmar Area Food Shelf Board of Directors, the Kandiyohi County YMCA Board of Directors. Currently, she is on the board of the Green Lake Lutheran Ministries and the Public Relations board at St. Benedict’s Monastery. Issues of equitable access and just policy remain paramount.
John attended St. John’s University and the University of Minnesota Law School. He became a partner in the law firm of Johnson, Schmidt, Thompson, Lindstrom & Thompson. He was elected as a State Representative and was later appointed and elected as a District Judge in the Eighth Judicial District. After serving as a Judge for 29 years, he retired in 2005. He realized the importance of giving back by establishing a scholarship at St. John’s, becoming involved in various area organizations, including the Willmar Area Community Foundation, Bethesda Health & Housing, Rice Hospital Board, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center, Kiwanis, and the CommunityGiving Board.
John and Mary believe that the key to building community is to eliminate barriers and connect people. This belief triggered a series of events that culminated in John and Mary’s real estate gift of their Willmar home to Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid as a permanent office in Willmar. Mary’s advice to those unsure where to begin with their own charitable giving efforts is “to focus on a few areas or issues of interest and pursue them wholeheartedly.” John advises donors to be flexible and to remember that “giving back to one’s community is both a privilege and an obligation.”