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Rice trust fund awards nearly $70K in grants to needy patients in west central Minnesota

WILLMAR — The Cushman A. Rice trust fund gave nearly $70,000 in grants last year to help 254 qualified needy patients pay their bill at Rice Memorial Hospital.

The need far exceeds the amount of grant dollars available each year, advisers with Bremer Investment Management and Trust, which oversees the Rice trust fund, told the Rice Hospital finance committee on Friday.

The number of people receiving Rice trust grants has more than doubled in the past few years. In 2010, 111 individuals qualified for $45,000 in grants to help pay their hospital bill.

“The program seems to be working very smoothly,” said Carol Hruby, vice president of Bremer Investment Management and Trust.

The fund holds a unique place in Rice Hospital’s history. It was established in 1932 after the death of Col. Cushman Rice, son of one of Willmar’s founding families. Rice bequeathed his family’s money to build Rice Memorial Hospital and also made provisions for creating a fund “to help pay for operations and hospital attendance for poor and needy persons at the Rice Memorial Hospital,” according to the terms of his will.

Over the years the trust fund, which is court-supervised, has undergone several changes in how investments are made and how grants are awarded.

Patients can now apply at Rice Hospital’s business office to see if they meet the income and asset guidelines for receiving a grant.

As of Dec. 31, the fund’s value stood at $2.6 million, according to the Bremer report. Just under 3 percent of its beginning market value was paid out last year in grants.

The financial strategy has been to concentrate about half of the trust fund in equities and the remainder in fixed income, alternative investments and cash.

“We want to produce income to be able to give grants,” Hruby said.

The fund also retains mineral and royalty interests on land in Minnesota, North Dakota and Canada that Cushman Rice bought and sold during his lifetime and for which he kept the mineral rights.

About half of the 20 or so parcels are in Kandiyohi County. Most of the remaining parcels are in Bottineau County in north-central North Dakota.

The trustees signed a two-year oil exploration lease in 2011 for a parcel in Saskatchewan, Canada, but the Rice fund has historically earned little if any income through its mineral rights.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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