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Shining a light on Brillion’s generosity

The Brillion Area Family of Funds (one of our five regional affiliate partners) is running a “Light the Giving Tree” campaign. Gifts will be tripled now through December 15, thanks to very generous community matches.  

By David Nordby, The Brillion News

With the help of the Brillion community, there will be a holiday tree lit on Highway 10 outside of Cobblestone Creek on Dec. 15.

The Brillion Area Family of Funds (BAFF) is in the middle of a month-long fundraising effort known as the ‘Light the Star Campaign.’

The Holiday Giving Tree will have a layer of lights lit up for every $5,000 that is donated until a $25,000 goal is met. Once funding is complete, a star will be lit on top on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 6 p.m., the same night that the Milwaukee symphony plays at the Endries Performing Arts Center.

Tom Endries has stepped in to donate a matching $25,000 once the first $25,000 is raised to light the tree.

The Holiday Giving Tree is a part of a larger fundraising effort across multiple years. If the Brillion raises $500,000 by the end of 2023, Robert and Patricia Endries will match that fund with an additional $500,000. The foundation is currently at about $70,000 for that goal. Around $32,000 came during a meat raffle held at Carstens Mill over the summer. The tree will help bring in at least another $50,000, following Tom Endries’ matching contribution. 

Tom Endries

“It’s not easy to raise that type of money and knowing that my roots are in Brillion, and I don’t plan on leaving, I sensed that we really needed something big to get this going,” Tom Endries said.

He adds that the fundraising is following in the footsteps of others. “(Brillion) is quite a gem,” Endries said. “There’s a lot of good people who have lived here and worked here.”

“Mr. Butch Peters was the person who started the Brillion Iron Works,” Endries continued. “If you study his life … it’s unbelievable to think of his life because I can relate to it a lot.”

Steve and Faye Klessig donated the first $5,000 for the giving tree to light the first layer. Steve is the president for the Brillion Area Family of Funds.

“Faye and I have been mentored on the value of giving by Tom, Tom’s parents, Bob and Pat, and that mentorship is the reason that we gave this amount,” Steve Klessig said. “We also believe, like Tom, that we have something here in Brillion that is very special and worth preserving.”

“There’s a lot of people that can understand it took leaders and a lot of risk in a community like this to make it what it was,” Endries said. “We have a gem here and we need to follow the people that have set things before us.”

The tree was the idea of Jo Ann Mignon, a board member for the BAFF, as a unique way around Christmas to contribute to the efforts for the $500,000. A person’s donation is tripled, with Tom Endries doubling it once the giving tree fundraising is complete, and again in two years, when Robert and Patricia Endries double the $500,000.

The community foundation is set up to provide gifts from the interest it’s earning equaling 4.5 percent of the fund’s value annually, so with the goal of adding $1,000,000 to the endowment fund between the Endries’ match and the generosity of people with ties to the area, the community and surrounding area would receive at least $45,000 back annually in gifts that support community causes.

“Think of it as $50,000 each year, because it’s an endowed fund, so we’re just using the interest,” Endries said. “Fifty thousand each year when all of us are gone will continue to go to things in the Brillion area that the foundation board approves of as grants, and that could be such things as the splash pad at the (Brillion) Community Center, the Brillion Fire Department’s equipment, to the Brillion Police Department – key things like that.”


To help promote the campaign, the BAFF is selling shirts stating, ‘I Lit the Tree for _____.’ Community members can purchase the shirts and then share a photo of the reason they donated to the tree using the hashtag #brillionlights on the BAFF’s Facebook page.

“Faye and I are going to get a t-shirt and it’s going to say, ‘I lit the tree for you,’” Klessig said.

Shirts can be ordered by visiting the Brillion Area Family of Funds Facebook page or by contacting Bullseye Screenprinting.

If you would like to be a part of our season of giving, email Jo Ann Mignon, or send donations directly to Community Endowment Fund, Brillion Area Family of Funds, 4455 W. Lawrence Street Appleton, WI 54914.

This story appeared in the Dec. 2, 2021 print edition of The Brillion News and republished with permission

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