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Published November 12, 2011, 07:35 PM

A friend to farmers in need

Group will honor Nelson for aiding financially-troubled farms For almost three decades, Lavon Nelson has given farmers financial and moral support. On Monday, Nelson, of Mayville, will receive an award for his work when the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Northern Plains chapter, honors him with the Lifetime Achievement Legacy of Giving Award. The award will be presented to Nelson at the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon in Fargo.

MAYVILLE, N.D. — For almost three decades, Lavon Nelson has given farmers financial and moral support.

On Monday, Nelson, of Mayville, will receive an award for his work when the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Northern Plains chapter, honors him with the Lifetime Achievement Legacy of Giving Award. The award will be presented to Nelson at the National Philanthropy Day Luncheon in Fargo.

During the past 27 years, Nelson has helped more than 400 family farmers, according to the association. Nelson saved 120 farms in North Dakota from foreclosure and also has helped farmers in South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin who were facing financial difficulties, the organization said.

In 1992, Nelson, a farmer who has worked in the banking industry and for Farm Credit Services, helped found Partners in Progress, a group that helped farmers restructure debt and provided them with financial assistance.

Giving support

Partners in Progress later formed a non-profit corporation which raised most of its money through private gifts. Between 1992 and 2005 the group gave more than $4 million, mostly in bridge loans, to farmers, the association said.

Besides helping farmers facing foreclosure with financial assistance, Nelson meets with them face-to-face and helps them to figure out how to get their operations back in the black.

“I’ve found my purpose is to simplify the complicated. I never tell anybody what to do. I give them two, three, four options,” he said. His banking and Farm Credit Services background is helpful to him when he’s helping farmers deal with farm lenders, he said.

“It’s got to work on both sides of the desk or it ain’t going to work.”

Nelson, who nearly lost his own farm to foreclosure in the early 1980s can empathize with farmers who are in similar situations today.

“It’s not only the ability to sort out numbers, but understanding human nature, understanding depression,” he said. “I’ve gone through it. I know what it’s like.”

For Nelson, assisting farmers facing financial difficulties is one of the ways he can put his Christian faith into action.

“What good is it to know everything about something and not do anything about it?” he said.

Reach Bailey at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to abailey@gfherald.com.

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