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A White Bear Lake foundation that received a nearly $1 billion windfall in 2019 spread the wealth that year, newly released tax documents show, sending out more than 200 grants worth some $50 million to the arts, education, the environment, Native American programs and veterans groups.

The Manitou Fund, created by the late Minnesota businessman Donald McNeely and his wife, Marjorie, became one of the largest charitable foundations in the state in 2019 when McNeely's warehouse business was sold. Most of the proceeds went to the Manitou Fund to continue McNeely's vision of charitable works to benefit humanity.

The sale set off something of a scramble for the fund's trustees, now McNeely's three children and fund president Oliver Din, who had to comply with tax regulations that they donate 5% of the fund's worth before the end of the year or risk paying a tax bill of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The fund's 990 Form for the year shows they spread about $50 million far and wide. They also drew paychecks — the fund paid the three McNeely children $225,000 each in 2019 as trustees, and president and CEO Din earned $412,500, according to the return.

The hundreds of grants, meanwhile, benefited everything from veterans groups and guide-dog organizations to the local music scene in Austin, Texas, and a volunteer fire department in California.

A $25,000 grant for the Bee Project at Oregon State University helped with the project's efforts to educate pesticide applicators so that they don't accidentally kill bees, said Andony Melathopoulos, an Oregon State professor.

"They came to us at a really critical time," he said of the Manitou Fund. The grant paid for cards that the Bee Project was able to send out to pesticide applicators across Oregon. The state saw a massive bee kill in 2013 when pesticide was applied incorrectly, suddenly poisoning thousands of bees.

A more than $1 million gift to the College of St. Scholastica will help pay for nursing-simulation labs, and the conceptual design of a new nursing center, among other things. The fund also made a $2.9 million gift to Franklin University Switzerland, a private university in Lugano, Switzerland.

Closer to home, the St. Paul Foundation received $1 million, the Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota got $175,000 and the White Bear Center for the Arts received $50,000. Cerenity Senior Care in White Bear Lake was the recipient of a $355,000, and the Lower Phalen Creek Project in St. Paul was awarded $300,000.

Several gifts focused on water projects locally and elsewhere, including a $243,500 gift to H2O for Life, a White Bear Lake-based nonprofit that helps students in the U.S. and Canada fight for clean water and hygiene projects at schools around the world.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329