Meet the Community Foundation Board Board officers guide the Foundation with experience, leadership


This month, we are taking a pause in our Endowment Series to highlight the board members of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation. Today we feature our six board officers who form our Governance Committee.

Nonprofit Boards of Directors play a unique role in their organizations. While the organization’s Executive Director leads the day-to-day operations, the board’s relationship is collaborative and focused on setting direction, ensuring adequate resources, and providing appropriate monitoring and oversight. The Community Foundation has fifteen dedicated, volunteer board members that support the Foundation’s mission of inspiring individuals and organizations to give to the community and improve the quality of life.

“We are extremely fortunate to have board members who come from across the Greater Itasca Area and are connected to the communities they represent. Each brings unique traits and skills to provide diverse and representative leadership to the Community Foundation,” says Chris Fulton, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Executive Director.

The full board nominates and elects six members to form the Foundation’s Governance Committee who are then voted into an official office.

Meet the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation’s board officers for 2018

Kelly Kirwin, Chair

Kelly Kirwin is the Director of Grand Itasca Foundation. Kelly is originally from Grand Rapids. She attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, on a college golf scholarship.

Upon graduation, Kelly worked for the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Club for eight years. Her career with the Hurricanes includes being a part of the 2006 Stanley Cup Championship Team and her name is engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Kelly returned to Grand Rapids in 2008 to work for Grand Itasca Clinic & Hospital. She enjoys working with various community activities and organizations. She has coached the Grand Rapids High School Girls Golf Team, was a member of the community committee who worked on the Pokegama Golf Course clubhouse project and was a committee member for the 2011 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener.

Kelly also currently serves on the board for Pokegama Golf Course and North Homes Children and Family Services. She is passionate about community leadership and teamwork, and is a 2009 graduate of the Blandin Community Leadership Program and the University of St. Thomas - Center for Business Excellence Institute for Executive Director Leadership. Kelly and her husband, Jeff Ericson, have twin boys, Will and Alex. She spends her free time outdoors with her family and friends.

Rhett Johnson, Chair Elect

Rhett Z. Johnson is currently the Director of Network Operations at Johnson Telephone Company in Remer, Minnesota, where he has been an employee since July, 2006. Some of his previous roles at JTC include Plant Operations Manager and Technical Operations.

Rhett was also the owner and operator of Thunder Lake Lawn Service, Inc. (TLLS) from 1996 to 2014. The business focused on Lawn Maintenance, Lawn Care, Irrigation Installation and Maintenance, and Landscape Installation and Maintenance. In 2005 Rhett stepped away from day-to-day operations work while continuing his role as owner. In 2014 he sold TLLS and started Go Green Lawn Care MN (GGLCMN) that serviced the Minneapolis Metro and Brainerd Lakes Area. In February of 2017, Rhett sold GGLCMN.

Rhett graduated from Northland High School in Remer, MN in 2001, and from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2006 with BA in Business Administration. Rhett was pleased to join the Board of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation in 2011.

Rhett, his wife Kimberly, their son Rhett Jr. (RZ) and daughter Veronica love spending time on the lake and with their family and friends.

Sonja Merrild, Secretary

Sonja moved to Grand Rapids in 2012 when she accepted an offer to join the Blandin Foundation as Director of Grants. As someone who had volunteered for nonprofit boards for several years (primarily in Wyoming where she lived for 18 years prior to moving to Grand Rapids), she longed to work from a place where she could help bridge the work of rural foundations, rural nonprofits, and rural communities.

Sonja takes seriously her part in furthering the Blandin Foundation’s mission - a mission that is not so unlike the mission of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation. She hopes that her work for the Community Foundation will help align the work of both foundations for the benefit of all local residents.

Sonja enjoys the outdoors, where she kayaks, golfs, practices Yoga, cross country skis, and walks her dog. With all her family living overseas, Sonja often travels to Scandinavia too. She loves the people of the Grand Rapids area, who she says are welcoming, generous, and resourceful.

Cynthia Margo, Vice Chair

In 1988, Cynthia earned her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) from the University of North Dakota. She worked in several out-of-state hospitals as an ICU nurse and an ER nurse before moving back to Minnesota and settling in Grand Rapids.

Cynthia joined the Board of Directors in 2014 as just one of many ways she serves her community through volunteer activities She also serves as General Office Coordinator for the Itasca Surgical Clinic.

Cynthia and her husband Dan have four children: Abby, Abe, Alex and Alaina. They enjoy living on and spending time on Pokegama Lake near Grand Rapids.

Keith Anderson, Treasurer

Keith Anderson was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. He was admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1984 and until very recently served as a partner in the Anderson, Ophoven, Stauffer Law Office in Grand Rapids, dedicated primarily to matters involving estate planning.

Keith's education includes a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota in 1980, and a Juris Doctor from Hamline University College of Law in 1984.

Steve Burggraf, Past Chair

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Steve Burggraf earned a degree in Small Business Management and Sales and Marketing. Steve brings experience in business management in northern Minnesota. He is the President/CEO of seven Ace Hardware stores, located in Minnesota and North Dakota, including Burggraf’s Ace Hardware and Paint Company in Grand Rapids since 1989. Steve moved to Grand Rapids in 1989 and is active in several business and community organizations. He is a member of the BAD (Big Ace Dealers) and serves on the board of directors of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, Northspan, and Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital. Steve also owns the Grand Rapids Ground Round and five Verizon Wireless stores in northern Minnesota. Steve joined the Grand Rapids State Bank board of directors in April 2012.


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350 NW 1st Ave, Suite E  | Grand Rapids, MN 55744  |  218-999-9100

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