Community Giving

Walt and Raeanna Gislason

Community Foundation(s): Willmar Area
Award: 2007 Award in Philanthropy from Willmar Area Community Foundation

Walt Gislason learned to be generous through his father whom he watched giving to others throughout his life, and from his mother who served countless meals on the back steps of their home to hobos who had nothing. Raeanna Gislason learned to be generous from the rural Nebraska farm ethic that surrounded her as a young girl. From those lessons of childhood, the couple has served the Willmar area community in countless ways.

They have served through their business and community organizations. Caring about individuals is clearly a central value for them. They have been involved in numerous community organizations, served on boards of community and state organizations, and sponsored fundraising efforts for churches, schools, arts organizations and youth activities. And they have fun with their gifts—like bidding $450 for a sour cream raisin pie at the Shelter House gala. The Willmar area has been enriched by their generosity and service.

Their most impressive service, however, is in the way they live and the generosity they display daily. They are trusting, open and honest people who truly believe in the value of each person. Walt has literally taken people off the streets and into their home, where Raeanna and Walt provided a bed, food and friendship. Some of them worked at their car wash business for a time and then moved on.

Walt shares his time and wisdom with friends and employees. Scott Barney, a business associate of Walt's says he is “constantly teaching—everything from proper English to good manners.”

Raeanna shares her time and musical talent with area students and the community.