The tens of millions of dollars that have been donated back to their hometown was one of the things that impressed me most about Red Wing, MN. It is a tradition that dates back over a century and has made a huge difference for this town of 16,000.
One of the first evidences of superlative giving is the T. B. Sheldon Theatre, named for the local citizen who left $83,000 of the $92,000 cost to the city when he died in 1900. The theater eventually became a movie theater in 1936 and slowly deteriorated from there until a $3.5 million bond referendum in 1986, which passed by a 5:1 margin, restored it to its past glory. It is a wonderful asset for the town.
The local YMCA and St. James Hotel, both 1900 structures have been redone to their past glories because of local citizens. The YMCA’s $7.5 million local fund raising has allowed Red Wing to have one of the nicest Y’s I’ve seen. The St. James was rescued and restored by the Red Wing Shoe Company, another major local employer and giver. The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies is located on the estate of A. P. Anderson, a local who invented Puffed Rice and other food products, leaving it to the community.
Red Wing boosts more than 900 acres of parks, many of which were donated land from locals. The Red Wing Wildlife League, which was formed in the 1920’s, has purchased and preserved over 3,000 acres of wetlands on the edge of town abutting the Mississippi River.
Those are only some of the examples of incredible giving that I saw in Red Wing. They exemplify one of the best examples of what local citizens who care about their town can do to make it a wonderful place in which to live.