Contributions to civic and community causes from the Backus American Legion Charitable Gaming Partnership totaled $26,877 in 2013, an 80 percent increase over the previous year and the highest amount since the recession began in 2007.
Education, youth recreation and local communities and organizations were the chief benefactors, as well as Minnesota state government, which collected $19,364 in taxes, making it as in previous years the single largest recipient of charitable gambling profits.
The $26,877 in donations was an increase of $11,975 over the Legion’s $14,902 charitable gaming giving total in 2012.
Evergreen Cemetery at Backus, where the buried include many veterans and the site of the local veterans’ memorial, received needed equipment replacement through a Legion donation of $8,549 to Powers Township toward purchase of a new commercial grade lawnmower.
New initiatives included:
• $640 first-time grant to the Pine River-Backus youth trap shooting program, a competition that the PR-B School District adopted this year as a sport that will have its first Minnesota State High School League state tournament.
• $300 grant to Central Lake Rotary’s STRIVE project to help underperforming students succeed in school.
ª An increase in support for the Pine River and Hackensack area food shelves from $1,500 to $3,000. Both serve the Backus area.
The Legion also donated $510 to a new program to help Cass County 4H participants, who otherwise may not be able to afford to attend, pay their expenses for exhibiting at the State Fair.
The Backus Legion, based on improved receipts from its gaming program following several years of depressed revenues, is proposing a tentative budget for this year that will again increase its contributions to area charitable causes.
Increases are being proposed for the community’s Corn Fest festival; the Hackensack area Kids Fishing Contest and that community’s Fourth of July and winter festival fireworks; Backus fire and rescue operations; and area food shelves.
The Pine-River-Backus School District’s safe graduation party and scholarship program would also receive increases in a budget proposal the Legion’s management committee has submitted to its membership.
Support for education last year included $3,200 for eight $400 post-secondary scholarships to Pine-River Backus students, and another $1,400 for community and family education, extra-curricular school and safe graduation programs.
Other funding highlights included $2,409 for youth recreation, including maintaining the post’s ball field complex for use by area youth; and $500 for the summer-long Hackensack area Youth Fishing Contest; $1,250 in aid to distressed families, the ill and disabled and child safety programs; $1,600 to area community festivals, including $1,200 to the Backus Corn Fest and $400 for Hackensack fireworks; $1,269 for Veterans Administration hospitals, veterans activities, memorials and flags and support of active duty troops; $2,000 for support of Backus fire and rescue operations; and $650 for children’s holiday parties.
State and federal taxes continue to consume a considerable amount of local and statewide charitable gaming dollars. In addition to the $19,364 the Legion paid in state taxes and fees it was assessed $2,480 in federal gaming taxes.
Since 1991, the Backus Legion has paid $632,601 in state and federal gaming taxes. Donations to education, civic and community organizations, needy families, youth recreation, active duty troop units and veterans’ programs during that period have totaled $711,254.
Paper pulltabs remain popular with the public. This has resulted in a slow start for electronic pull tabs and a “wait and see” attitude by the majority of charitable gaming sponsors who are reluctant to invest operating funds in a technology thus far not faring well with the public. Charitable gaming also includes bingo and raffles.
The Backus Legion Charitable Gaming Partnership includes the Legion and Willard’s Saloon and Eatery in Backus. The program in 2013 successfully completed its annual compliance review from the state Gambling Control Board, as it has for several years.
“We continue to be thankful for the community’s support of our charitable gaming operations,’’ said Post Commander Bill Taylor. “We hope improved conditions in the industry, plus our own management and budgeting efforts, will help our bottom line so that we can maintain and increase our support of charitable causes in our communities.”
The Legion invites nonprofit organizations serving area residents to submit funding proposals. Letters describing requests should be mailed to the Backus American Legion, P.O. Box 3, Backus, MN 56435.