Youth fishing off a dock in Itasca State Park

Shaped by Community

2023 Impact Report

For more than 50 years Mardag Foundation has been serving Minnesotans in the East Metro and Greater Minnesota.

Formed as a charitable trust in memory of Agnes Ober, who turned to philanthropy after growing up in poverty, it has grown into a foundation that strives to support youth, families and older adults in our community.

Keeping up that family tradition of generosity and care is Sam Eberhart, president of Mardag Foundation’s Board of Directors. As the great grandson of Agnes, he has been a vital member of the board for over a decade. Under his leadership the Foundation has advanced its goal of becoming an anti-racist and more equitable foundation.

We recently sat down with Sam to discuss the Foundation and look back at some of the highlights of 2023 and his vision for 2024 and beyond.

As president of Mardag Foundation, what have been your top three wins of 2023?

This year we had our first board retreat in person since the start of COVID. We’ve had a couple of meetings in person, but being able to come together, laugh, hear about each other’s families and touch base was a huge victory.

Part of what we did in that session was to become grounded again in our overall values, tenets and how we work together as a Board. We focused back on some of our key values thinking about how they shape what we do. These are:

Sam Eberhart headshot
  • Dignity – Every person is valued no matter their starting point, path, identity, or experience and is entitled to lead a life of dignity.
  • Empowerment – Communities have the knowledge to help people improve, and with the right support, they can achieve their goals.
  • Impact – Solutions that are generated within communities create lasting impact.
  • Humanity – Our art, stories, and history enable us to know ourselves and each other.

We also recognized a board member who served for 20-plus years, Gretchen Davidson, who rotated off the board this year. We wanted to honor her service. To have family members participate for as long as Gretchen with that level of commitment and sense of service to their community is commendable. It’s sad to see Gretchen go but it was an honor to serve with her and to learn from her.

Ashley Eimer has joined the board this year as a community member from Mankato. She brings a background in philanthropy that will help steer future conversations and strategy. I know I speak for the entire board when I say we are honored to serve with her.

Lastly, we granted over $3 million to area nonprofits serving youth and families, older adults, and the arts and humanities.

Our Impact


Grants Given in 2023

Supporting youth and families, older adults and arts across Minnesota


Dollars Granted in 2023

Providing general operating and some capital support to nonprofits


Years of Generosity

Investing in the well-being of children, youth, families and older adults

How has community insight informed or driven your organization’s work?

There are many things we’re learning from program officers around the needs of community. We get updates on what they’re seeing, the conversations they’re having with different organizations and the constraints those organizations face.

That information and those recommendations have contributed to the grants that we’ve given to organizations like Open Doors for Youth out of Elk River and Ruth’s House of Faribault.

I think program officers have done an exceptional job highlighting key issues children and families are confronting throughout Minnesota, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. These events have informed our conversations this last year and will guide key decisions in 2024.

I know needs can shift, they can grow, but it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to operate in a spirit of attentive ears and open minds. I just remain in awe of our Minnesota nonprofits, and am grateful for all the hard work, energy, effort and creativity.

Sam Eberhart

What are your hopes for the Foundation in 2024 and beyond?

2024 will be my last year on the Board. I’ve learned so much over the last 12 years and have been privileged and honored to serve with people like Kim Faust, Pat Medure, Armando Camacho, Marcus Pope and many others. I deeply value the work they are doing in our community and how that impacts our work as a board.

I am excited to give other family members and community members a chance to serve on the board because this is a great learning opportunity. I want to see that continue through a diverse body of board members. I think that’s what has made us a strong board that remains responsive to the needs of Minnesotans.

I know needs can shift and grow, but it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to operate in a spirit of attentive ears and open minds. I remain in awe of our Minnesota nonprofits, and am grateful for all their hard work, energy, effort and creativity, which is critical to the health and well-being of all Minnesotans.

As Senator Paul Wellstone said, “we all do better, when we all do better.”

Thank You

Thank you to our nonprofit partners, board members and staff. We look forward to working together in 2024.