Linda Lee is one of five people being honored Oct. 27 by the Three Rivers Community Foundation. The other honorees are:
by Jim Boyle
The future is uncertain, but Linda Lee is proud to say there’s a foundation in place to support the community’s efforts to meet the challenges of the day.
She will be recognized by the Three Rivers Community Foundation for her role in getting the foundation up and running.
She knows all too well things can change in a hurry. She came to Elk River in 1975 from St. Louis Park with her husband, Terry, and two small children.
Terry had been paralyzed in a work accident at the Becker power plant. His life was forever altered from that day forward, and so was hers.
Having battled epilepsy as a child, Lee stepped up for her husband and their children. This stay-at-home mother was thrust into her new role.
It was not easy.
She eventually got involved in volunteering to give herself an outlet to the outside world. She suspects it all started by responding to an article in the Star News calling for volunteers at the extension service that was then located on Jackson Avenue.
She would go on to serve home extension until it dissolved. She participated in a Minnesota Citizens Advisory Committee that lobbied for extension service activity and served as counsel for the University of Minnesota dean of agriculture.
Over the years she also helped out in the Elk River Community Theatre ticket office and served as both an election judge and a chief election judge. But it was Lee’s involvement with the extension office that put her in a position to push for a foundation.
She recalls a forward-thinking individual from the University of Minnesota showing up one day questioning where does this community, the Elk River area, want to be in 10 years.
Lee found herself at a forum to address such a question. From there it was committees to explore where to go next. And then it was a board post to forward the idea of a foundation.
She dug into the volunteer effort, triggering others to suggest she take a job considering how much she was volunteering. She was fine volunteering her efforts.
“Volunteering is special,” she said, noting its not the same as work that comes from a job.
As far as she was concerned, establishing a foundation was a great idea but by no means an easy proposition. That’s what made Lee such a good advocate.
“She was persistent,” said Don Heinzman, the former editor of the Star News speaking about Lee’s involvement.
No matter how good an idea, Lee said the challenge is to get people latched on to an idea. Lee felt the Initiative Foundation, with the support of the McKnight Foundation, could pull it off. She vigorously pursued this vision for a foundation.
Lee is proud of her association with Three Rivers Community Foundation.
“It’s great,” she said of the foundation. “It’s so flexible.
“We don’t know what lies ahead and what the funding will be needed to support. But the funds will be there, and you know they’re there to do good.”
Terry died the day after Sept. 11, 2001.
Lee joined the workforce at that point, taking a job in Plymouth where she did accounting and worked as a receptionist. She retired from that in 2009.
She has thought about returning to her days as a dedicated volunteer. So far, she has found herself to be too busy. But she knows how rewarding volunteering can be and has by no means ruled it out.