Don Zibell is the ‘poster child’ for making a difference in Roseville

Don Zibell of Roseville sits at his desk surrounded by working papers, some for his accounting practice at Boulay, Heutmaker and Zibell, and some for the North Suburban Community Foundation, which he started and shepherded through the last 34 years. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)
Don Zibell of Roseville sits at his desk surrounded by working papers, some for his accounting practice at Boulay, Heutmaker and Zibell, and some for the North Suburban Community Foundation, which he started and shepherded through the last 34 years. (Pamela O’Meara/Review)

When local community and school groups need a little extra money for their programs, the North Suburban Community Foundation is eager help them apply for a grant. For example, the Kids in Need Foundation requested money for free school supplies for needy kids, the Special Olympics Roseville Team needed money for facilities and competition fees, and the Roseville Historical Society asked for help for new building improvements.

The idea for this foundation and the driving force behind it came from long-time Roseville resident Don Zibell.

“It is satisfying to be able to help schools, senior programs and cultural activities in the community. ... Most organizations are very grateful for funding,” Zibell says, adding that for some, it’s a large portion of their budget.

Some ask for money for capital improvement projects or sports equipment they would otherwise have to do without.

The foundation board voted in December to change the name to the Roseville Area Community Foundation to better reflect the fact that it currently supports organizations in the Roseville Area School District, a change that will become official when the state approves it. But overall, it’s basically the same foundation.

Millions in grants

As the North Suburban Community Foundation, the organization has donated $1,120,000 to various community organizations since its formation in 1981, says Zibell, who is both an attorney and CPA with his own accounting firm. He said he and other members of the Roseville Rotary Club decided to form an organization to which Rotarians and others could make tax-deductible donations for the betterment of the community, so he set up the North Suburban Community Foundation.

One of the early recipients was the D.A.R.E. program in which police and schools partnered to promote drug education and prevention, says foundation board member Don Salverda.

In 1991 when money was rolling in from charitable gambling, Roseville decided that its 10 percent share of the money from pull tabs, bingo and other licensed games of chance in the city should be used for grants for local groups that supported health, education, cultural enrichment and the environment, and the city believed the foundation would be a good conduit for disbursing the money, Zibell says. Since then, the foundation has received over $1.7 million from the city from gambling receipts, half of which goes into an endowment fund. During the last fiscal year, the foundation gave out 33 grants totaling $76,000, Zibell adds.

The foundation also has dedicated funds from the Robert Ashbach and Krienke families for scholarships to Roseville Area and Mounds View high schools, and is named beneficiary of Zibell’s life insurance policy. The fund now has over $1 million and earns interest on the account.

“Don Zibell has been investing the funds since day one, and has worked very hard on this,” Salverda says. “He was the founder and shepherd of the foundation.”

“Many small groups, such as youth sports activities, depend on charity for a major share of their operating income, and some have indicated the grants are very helpful in meeting their budget requirements,” Zibell says.

‘An extraordinary leader’

Friend and fellow board member George Krienke says, “It seems like Don does most of the work. He talks to all the grant and scholarship applicants—hundreds have called over the years ... He has such a keen mind and makes good suggestions. He’s a quiet, unassuming, do-everything guy.”

Zibell was one of the youngest people in Minnesota to earn both CPA and attorney degrees. Over the years, he has also been a real estate developer. He has served on many community boards, but now at age 78 is down to just three. He has also received several awards for community service.

He says that after 34 years, he would like to retire from the foundation if he could find someone to do the take over his job as treasurer.

“Don Zibell has been an extraordinary leader in our community,” says Tammy Pust, chair of the foundation board and chief administrative law judge for Minnesota. “For decades, he has been the force behind the community foundation. His efforts have resulted in hundreds of organizations getting funds to support the good work they do in and around Roseville.

“Under his watchful and wise eye, he has grown the endowment to approximately $1 million,” Pust adds. “Through Don’s servant leadership, the community foundation has helped make a difference in and around Roseville in many important ways. ... And Don Zibell has been at the middle of it all from the very beginning. He is the poster child of what it means to make a difference for good.” Pust says. “He deserves recognition.”

Pamela O’Meara can be reached at or 651-748-7818.

Apply for a grant

Grants are given out quarterly. Applications are available by calling Don Zibell at 651-633-3623, writing Tammy Pust at 813 Millwood, Ave., Roseville, MN 55113 and from the city of Roseville.

To inquire about making a tax-deductible donation, contact Zibell or Pust. The foundation is in the process of developing a web presence, where electronic applications will be available as well as a running tally of grant recipients showcasing the positive outcomes they have achieved in our community, in part through the use of our grant funds, Pust says.

Numerous donations over the years

Organizations that have received grants from the North Suburban Community Fund, soon to be officially called the Roseville Area Community Foundation, include but are not limited to: the League of Women Voters Education Fund, Ramsey County Historical Society, Roseville Youth Hockey Association, Roseville Middle School AVID program, Roseville Area High School Cycling Team, Roseville Youth Basketball Association, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, Roseville String Ensemble, Roseville String Ensemble, Friends of Harriet Alexander Nature Center, Bridging, Friends of the Oval Foundation, Roseville Firebears Robotics Team, Girls on the Run Twin Cities, St. Paul Domestic Abuse Project, Northwest Youth & Family Services—STEP Program, hockey and basketball programs, North Suburban Chorus, Roseville Area High School Gifted and Talented program, Special Olympics—Roseville Team and Fishing for Fun. Nearly all grants were for the maximum $2,500 the organization gives.


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