Columbia Rises to the Challenge | South Dakota Community Foundation

Columbia Rises to the Challenge

February 21, 2023 // Community Savings Account, Donors
L to R: Pat Gallagher, SDCF and CCF Council Members Julie Lillis, Larry Vietmeier, Lorie Gilchrist, Cyndy Larson, and not pictured, Terry Birck

In 2022, the small town of Columbia in northeastern South Dakota did a big thing and made quick work of a challenge offered by the South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF).

The year before, Columbia native and founder of Waste Management, Inc., Dean Buntrock and his brother Clayton Buntrock made a significant commitment to his hometown with plans to restore its city park and baseball field, which had been flooded by the James River years before. Work on the project got started in 2022. Having a goal of providing a permanent source of funding to help maintain the parks as well as to support charitable activities in Columbia, the Buntrocks established the Columbia Community Foundation (CCF) as a Community Savings Account (CSA) in the SDCF with a $250,000 gift in March 2022. Then things got interesting.

We’re thrilled by the impact the CCF can have on our hometown.

Council President Cyndy Larson

When the CCF advisory council convened, the members felt a sense of obligation to at least match the Buntrocks’ generosity to their town by committing to raise funds for the foundation, and they entered into a CSA Challenge Grant agreement with the SDCF. If they could raise and receive $200,000 in donations, the SDCF would add a grant of $50,000 to the CCF to match their benefactor’s gift.

So in summer 2022, the council members—Cyndy Larson, president; Larry Vietmeier, vice president; Lorie Gilchrist, secretary/treasurer; and board members Julie Lillis and Terry Birck (who represents the Buntrock family)—sat down to identify people and businesses in the Columbia area who felt the same way, wanting to ensure the long-term strength of their community. Joined by Cyndy’s husband and son, Ray and Josh, the team made a plan to solicit donations that would meet the SDCF’s three-year timeline to raise $200,000 by July 2025. And they went to work.

The commitments and cash rolled in quickly, and perhaps appropriately, by just after Thanksgiving, the CCF fund had received more than $200,000 in donations, and the SDCF awarded the challenge grant—two and a half years before the deadline.

Then in December, just in time for Christmas, word came that the Buntrocks would add another gift: $150,000, which matched the donation from the Congregational Christian Church of Columbia UCC, the largest the CCF had received in its campaign.

The fundraising continues, and the CCF has already become one of SDCF’s larger CSAs with donations nearing $800,000.

“We’re thrilled by the impact the CCF can have on our hometown,” Council President Cyndy Larson said. “We’re also not surprised by the response of our friends and neighbors who have donated to this wonderful cause. We’re very grateful to Dean and Clayton Buntrock for their philanthropic support as well as for the generosity they inspired in Columbia.”

Supporting the CCF is easy.

Donors can visit the Columbia Community Foundation website page here, and make a secure credit card donation. Checks made out to Columbia Community Foundation may be sent to SDCF, PO Box 296, Pierre, SD 57501.

Learn more and donate here.

The Columbia Community Foundation was established in partnership with the SDCF. With careful investment, the fund will continue to grow and enhance quality of life in the local area forever. This fund is one of more than 80 communities in partnership with SDCF.

About the South Dakota Community Foundation

SDCF is a public non-profit organization established in 1987. SDCF, with offices in Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Aberdeen administers 1,200 funds benefiting hundreds of charitable organizations annually. The Foundation distributed nearly $30 million in grants in 2022 which made a tremendous difference in communities statewide. This would not have been possible without the generosity of our donors. If you have a specific cause you would like to support or would prefer to give for the general good of our state, please visit to learn more or call 1-800-888-1842.