Community members gave $55,000 to Betty Mann's birthday card bash. The monies are for the new Rock County Historical Center.

Birthday card fund drive yields $55,000 for History Center

Betty Mann turned 85 on May 1, and she said birthday cards are still trickling in. “I just got three more today,” she said Monday.

Mann, president of the Rock County Historical Society, is among a group of volunteers raising money for a new History Center to start construction this summer in downtown Luverne.

It will occupy the Herman Motors building once that business relocates to its new dealership location on South Highway 75.

Cost estimates for renovation and relocation are at more than $1 million, and fundraising totals last month had reached $750,000.

To spur more support, Mann’s friend Esther Frakes suggested a birthday card campaign for Mann’s 85th birthday on May 1.

“We can give Betty the best gift for her 85th birthday on May 1 by making a donation in her honor to the Rock County Historical Society for their new building,” Frakes wrote in an open letter to friends.

The response was resounding.

Cards poured in with checks enclosed and messages of encouragement.

In all, the birthday card campaign resulted in more than $55,000 for the History Center.

Because an anonymous donor promised matching funds, that amount comes to $110,000.

Mann said Tuesday she’s still shaking her head.

“I’ve shed more tears in these past few weeks than I probably have in a lifetime,” she said, her eyes welling with more tears.

“I have been absolutely blown away … I could never have expected this.”

She said she was touched by a young girl with modest means who gave $8.50, and at the other end of the spectrum, one birthday card held a check for $5,000.

Many donors used the fundraising campaign as a way to thank Mann for her contributions to the community.

“The expressions to me personally … that’s why I shed so many tears.”

Greg Burger, chairman of the History Center Fundraising Committee, told Mann he wasn’t surprised.

“Your diligence is being recognized, Betty” he said. “It has been an amazing response. … It’s been kind of fun.”

Mann said she’s grateful for the enthusiasm for the project.

“It proves to us that people are interested in history and want to preserve it,” she said, adding that a great deal of support came from former Luverne residents who haven’t lived here for decades.

Burger said, “People grow up and leave, but they still consider Luverne to be a great town and their home base.”

He thanked donors for their generosity.

“Luverne is an extremely generous community for a good cause, and we want to thank them.”

The matching funds will also apply to History Center donations going forward.

To give to the cause, tax-deductible donations can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, PO Box 741, Luverne MN 56156. Checks can be written to Rock County Historical Society Endowment Fund.

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