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Willmar, Minn.-based Let's Go Fishing seeks new funding sources in order to stay afloat

WILLMAR -- Let's Go Fishing is looking for support from individuals and other partners to help keep it afloat as state support for the organization ends, director and founder Joe Holm announced.

Launched in 2002 with a mission of enriching lives through fishing and boating, Let's Go Fishing has grown into an successful and popular statewide nonprofit organization. The organization's free fishing and boating trips allow seniors, kids and military veterans a chance to be on the water and the trips have proven extremely popular. In fact, the organization now has 29 chapters across Minnesota that are expected to serve more than 70,000 guests by the end of this season.

While chapter numbers and the number of guests they serve continue to increase, Let's Go Fishing has reached a critical stage regarding funding. As a nonprofit organization, Let's Go Fishing relies on donations and various fundraising projects. It has also received state of Minnesota funding in the form of matching grants.

However, recent budget cuts mean Let's Go Fishing will no longer receive state funding. It is a blow to the organization at a critical time.

"We are currently in the midst of a major youth expansion and very much want to launch a veterans program expansion as we see a need in serving those who served our countries and their families," Holm said. "Now, however, the state's decision forces us into somewhat of a survival mode."

Two possible solutions are finding corporate sponsorship and the forming of individual partnerships, with an additional long-term goal of building an endowment.

While fishing is certainly part of the Let's Go Fishing program, Holm sees it as more than fishing trips. "Our guests fish, but it's really about serving people by getting them out on the water, enjoying the outdoors and the fellowship of being with other people," Holm said.

"Lots of our senior guests fished and boated throughout their lives and no longer have the means to do this on their own. Maybe it's their health or financial state. Regardless, we are there to help them back on the water."

Holm said he also sees health benefits to the seniors. "There are lots of hurting people and we know that our program helps combat the depression, loneliness and hopelessness that some of our older people feel," Holm said.

"We are also getting kids involved who might not fish without this program," he added.

Those added benefits are what have drawn Let's Go Fishing state board of directors member Jim Shoerbel, of Alexandria, and others to the program.

"We hear story after story of the good Let's Go Fishing has done for people," Shoerbel said. "And, as a volunteer on the boat, I see the positive impact it is having on folks on a daily basis. The smile I see on a senior when he or she gets on the boat is priceless."

The organization's service mission is what makes the Let's Go Fishing board believe it is an attractive partner to a major corporation.

"The health care industry, for example, may be a possibility," said Tom Casey, board member from Wayzata. "We would love to find a Minnesota corporation that sees value in our service to people and whose values align with ours."

Seeking major corporate sponsorships is currently in the works at Let's Go Fishing. Casey said the organization is also forming individual partnerships. "We are currently forming partnerships where individuals make a yearly recommended contribution of $20," he said.