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Tom and Janet Grones made a connection early on in the central Minnesota community. They came with what felt like a few nickels 30 years ago and created a legacy of giving back in big and small ways.
With a young family at home, the couple seized teachable moments with their children. During Lent, they did not simply fill the rice boxes they received with spare change. The family ate only rice for one dinner each week and put what it would have cost to eat their regular meal in the collection box for world missions.
“To have a big heart, it has to be nourished,” Janet said. “It doesn’t grow on its own.”
The couple took a big step in the spring of 2013 when they sold their majority ownership in GeoComm, Inc. to Granite Equity, a St. Cloud-based private equity firm focused on local ownership.
Trained as a paramedic and having led the Stearns County emergency services department, Tom started GeoComm to help people in their time of greatest need. He imagined better systems for emergency response. Under Tom and Janet’s leadership, GeoComm grew to serve more than 12,000 dispatchers in 800 emergency 911 call centers, helping to keep more than 84 million people safe.
The business sale created an opportunity for the couple to enhance their philanthropy. By giving company stock to a donor advised fund at the Foundation before the sale, Tom and Janet leveraged tax benefits that will allow them to do more to support their favorite causes.
Much of the couple’s philanthropy is focused on meeting people’s basic needs so that everyone has a chance to be successful. “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” Janet said. They are also interested in civic projects like parks and historical restoration, which help make the community a great place to live.
“In a very real sense, the community had a heart and reached out to us,” Tom said remembering the couple’s humble beginnings. Their fund at the Foundation was a way for them to return the favor. “It is part of what you do,” Tom said. “You give back to the broader community.”