Quote Me, Howie

by Howie Hanson

Albert L. Ordean’s vision for Duluth was a bold, yet patient, commitment to long-term solutions that address systemic poverty in our community.

The Ordean Foundation, which strives to inspire, encourage, and support effective community efforts to confront poverty and nurture a healthier community for all residents, will celebrate its 90th year in 2023.

In 1926, Ordean drafted a will calling for “A corporation for the purpose of furnishing relief and charity…without discrimination as to age, sex, color, or religion.” Ordean died in 1928 at the age of 72 and after the death of his wife Louise. The Ordean Foundation was created on December 19, 1933.

“It’s remarkable when you consider the impact that Albert and Louise’s gift has made in our community over those 90 years,” said Ordean Foundation Executive Director Don Ness (pictured). “He obviously ran in elite circles, in Duluth and nationally, yet when it came time for him to make decisions about how to use his accumulated wealth, he focused on poverty issues in the city of Duluth specifically. They could have put their name on a museum in New York City. Instead, they decided to invest in the potential of low-income residents in our community.”

The Foundation’s grant priorities?

Again, it’s the Ordean’s vision that the Foundation be focused on issues related to poverty in Duluth and adjacent communities which we address in two ways. One is addressing those basic needs, food, shelter, clothing, making sure that folks have access to those resources to allow them to live a life of dignity and safety. And then the second part of that is trying to address the pathways out of poverty, to do preventative work.

Ordean prioritizes work with low-income kids and families in our legacy neighborhoods. We hope that every child in our community has opportunities, encouragement, and support to create a pathway to escape the trap of generational poverty.

How much has the Ordean Foundation awarded over the years?

We’re right around $80 million of donations in the community. As we get closer to our 90th year, we’ll be going through the historic records to determine the exact figure. When you think about that initial gift of a few million, it has now resulted in $80 million of investment into the health of our community and has made a profound difference in our community. Most importantly, that initial gift and vision has improved thousands of lives over several generations.

The current Ordean Foundation fund balance?

Our endowment is about $38 million, which obviously fluctuates with the markets.

Can people support the Foundation?

The best way folks can support our mission is through their generosity and their heart to helping those in need. That can take a lot of different forms – volunteering, donations to non-profits, helping a neighbor, or advocating for policy changes that start to address the profound inequities in our nation.

From our perspective a donation to CHUM or Damiano or the Community Foundation helps fulfill our mission. We want folks to follow their passion and find the best ways to express their generosity – we’re always looking for ways to inspire support for our partners.

Ordean has a particular model – we have very low overhead, and we operate with 2.2 FTE staffing in order to prioritize our grant making. We prioritize general operating support and we manage a very limited number of programs in order to maximize the dollars that have the greatest impact in the lives of our residents.

There are some folks in the community who really value and appreciate Ordean’s approach and have made generous donations to support our mission. We love this sort of support of our mission, but our approach is to employ the softest of the soft sells – letting our work in the community make the case for support.

Your board members?

We’re fortunate to have a dynamic and engaged board. We’ve really prioritized bringing in board members that are fully engaged in addressing issues related to poverty, We are looking to bring in board members that bring a valuable lived experience with poverty issues, which helps them inform the decision making.

It’s a fun board, because they’re engaged, intellectually curious, and have a deep commitment to the health of our community. It’s an honor to support their vision for our city.

Editor’s Note: Board members are Jon Nelson (board chair), John Strange (board vice chair), Marcus Jones (board secretary), Traci Morris (board treasurer), Marsha Hystead, Chuck Walt (past board chair), Maria Isley, Ariuna Taivan, Stacy Johnston, Tony Yung, Richard Howell.


You probably already know that a good laugh can lift your spirits and brighten someone’s day, but did you also know that laughter can positively impact your health and promote healthy aging?

To learn more, check out Duluth Aging Support’s recent blog post about the benefits of laughter, including 10 easy ways to add a healthy dose of the giggles to your life: https://duluthagingsupport.org/how-laughter-can-benefit-healthy-aging/


Urshan Retirement Group, Inc. strives in helping people achieve retirement goals. This is accomplished through education of the financial planning process, analyzing each individual’s investment needs, as well as continuously reviewing and monitoring their personalized plan. Jordan Urshan (pictured) and Dan Urshan work as partners to ensure long-term consistency to your investment portfolio. They look forward to earning your business. Please give them a call to schedule your appointment. Call 218.625.7575 or stop by their office located at 5033 Miller Trunk Hwy, Hermantown, MN 55811.

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