Former Tri-Valley CEO Dennis P. DeMers Honored with NMF Excellence in Leadership Award

Media Contact: Ashley Johnson, Communications Specialist

201 3rd St. NW ~ Bemidji, MN 56601

Phone: 218-759-2057 ~ FAX: 218-759-2328 ~ e-mail:

Pictured Left to Right: Denny DeMers, Leah Pigatti, NMF Board Member

Bemidji, MN – May 15, 2015 – Since 1993, the Foundation has recognized the contributions of individuals and organizations in northwest Minnesota. Sixty-nine excellence awards have been given, which includes an unrestricted grant from the Foundation to the nonprofit of the recipients’ choice. This represents $69,000 in grant-making to our partners to develop assets in our communities and improve the quality of places throughout the region.

This year’s award luncheon was held in Bagley, Minnesota to honor four award recipients and to remember the contributions of Ruth Edevold, the first and founding Executive Director for the Northwest Minnesota Foundation.

Since its inception in 1986 as the Northwest Minnesota Initiative Fund to its evolution into a diverse community foundation, Edevold worked toward achieving its mission to improve the quality of life for the people of northwest Minnesota. She helped build a rural experiment in leadership and development into a major regional force.

The Ruth Edevold Excellence Awards recognize posthumously the work she did for our region. The Excellence in Leadership Award is given to individuals who have participated in the Foundation’s training or leadership programs and then returned to their job, their volunteer activities and their community actively using the skills they learned. 

Denny DeMers was this year’s recipient. DeMers is now retired but worked for the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council for more than 40 years. Tri-Valley is a nonprofit action agency headquartered in Crookston that provides services in Minnesota and Northeast North Dakota.

Northern Dental Access Center is the recipient of the Ruth Edevold Organizational Excellence Award. This recognition is given to nonprofit organizations that have staff or board members who attended a Northwest Minnesota Foundation-sponsored training program or received a grant from the Foundation.

The Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji was founded in 2006 as the Mississippi Headwaters Area Dental Health Center. They have a mission to “provide a dental home for those in need.” Patients drive up to 150 miles for services.

The Quality of Place Award recognizes Northwest Minnesota Foundation partners, grantees, training participants and loan clients who have helped to develop community assets in a manner that enhances the quality of the places in the region through specific activities supported by NMF.

Tamera and Craig Anderson of rural Trail, Minnesota became the owners of the Schoolhouse Grocery Store in July 2014.  The Schoolhouse Grocery Store is the only grocery store in a 10-mile radius. A grocery store serving a rural region is a critical service that binds a community. Gonvick, the next closest town, lost its only grocery store to a fire and was not re-built.  This loss heightened the importance of maintaining a grocery store in Gully for the greater community’s needs.

Paul Bunyan Communications (PBC) is also a recipient of the Quality of Place Award. PBC is a true community partner, who has been working in the Bemidji area since the 1950s. The CEO and General Manager Gary Johnson was one of the founding members of IMPACT 20/20 and its Broadband Taskforce, which has worked to support installation of high-speed internet access throughout the region and encourages local businesses to adopt a more robust telepresence.

With PBC’s announcement in 2014 to create the Giga-Zone – one of the largest all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the United States – economic development and expansion will position the PBC territory to be a contender in attracting new businesses to the region.

Each award recipient chose to pay it forward by awarding their $1,000 grant to a nonprofit of their choice. Those organizations are Hope House, The Nameless Coalition for the Homeless, Clearbrook-Gonvick Summer Recreation Program, the City of Gully for their playground, and Tri-Valley Opportunity Council.

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation is a public, charitable foundation serving 12 counties of Northwest Minnesota by investing resources, facilitating collaboration and promoting philanthropy.