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Donor Stories

Shelterbelt Fund: Gabe & Annie Berendes

June 30, 2020

Sherry Beames, Office ManagerBy Sherry Beames, Office Manager

Gabe and Annie Berendes are passionate, inspiring young philanthropists who are actively engaged in the local community. Gabe grew up in La Crosse and Annie in Dubuque, Iowa, and both credit their parents for shaping their philanthropic views by encouraging them to use their time, talent, and treasure for the benefit of others.

Annie’s work at the Dubuque Community Foundation in the grants arena and assistance creating their “youth philanthropy” model gave her keen insight into how foundations work and planted the seed for her vision of long-range, impactful philanthropy.

Gabe and Anne met in college and studied abroad together in China. After graduation, they traveled to Chile as volunteers from a local nonprofit. They married in 2007 and settled in La Crosse to start a family. Today, Gabe is a family medicine doctor at Mayo Clinic Health System, and Annie is completing her master’s degree in public health.

Gabe and Annie are inspiring for their forethought and long-term contributions to the community they call home. They created the Shelterbelt Fund in 2017. A “shelterbelt” is a line of trees or shrubs planted to protect an area, like a farm field, from strong winds and the  erosion they cause. The name of their fund is a metaphor for how generosity can help protect our community from harm and reflects their love of the outdoors.

Both Gabe and Annie, along with their two sons, Eddie and Benet, enjoy connecting with nature, especially mountain biking on top of the bluffs or exploring the boundary waters of the Mississippi. They believe that nature should be accessible and available to all. A long-term vision of the Berendeses is to preserve and restore our natural environment and engage children to connect with the wonders of the wild.

Having started a fund before they turned 40, they will be able to watch the fund grow under the foundation’s stewardship, even as they continue to give to their favorite local nonprofits. When their sons are older,  Gabe and Annie plan to encourage them to participate in family discussions on how best to utilize their charitable contributions, thereby cultivating the next generation of community-minded philanthropists to generate their own vision of the future.