Minnesota Couple Finds Fulfillment Through the Gift of Giving

Stephen and Barbara Slaggie are pillars of their communities in Minnesota and in Florida. Over a decadeslong relationship with Mayo Clinic, they’ve found a community with the organization too.

Stephen Slaggie was running a routine errand — dropping off his lawn mower for repairs. The shop owner, an old acquaintance, told Stephen that he had recently been to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for cancer care.

While there, the man had been referred to the Mayo Clinic Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center, a resource for patients to learn about cancer and share their experiences.

“He said to me, ‘That’s really something. It’s such a benefit, and I can’t believe you did that,’” Steve says.

For the Slaggie family, including Steve and his wife, Barb, this kind of reaction is what their philanthropy is really about: the simple thanks of a neighbor who has benefited from a gift the Slaggies say they are blessed to be able to give.

Mayo Clinic has been a part of the Slaggies’ lives for many years. Both Steve and Barb have a history of care at Mayo, and their children and grandchildren are patients too.

Blessed to Provide

The couple, who now reside in Marco Island, Florida, have supported many Mayo Clinic initiatives, including the Center for Regenerative Medicine, the Center for Connected Care and, most recently, the Mayo Clinic Health System Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Mayo Clinic recognizes the Slaggie family as Philanthropic Partners.

In addition to their long relationship with Mayo Clinic, the Slaggies are philanthropic leaders in other areas of their communities in Marco Island and Winona, Minnesota. They support education, arts and humanitarian causes. Their four children are following in their footsteps by finding their own interests to support with their time, talent and resources as members of the Slaggie Family Foundation Board.

Value of Giving

Both Steve and Barb come from modest backgrounds. Barb grew up on a farm with 13 siblings and parents who, despite the challenges of providing for their family, were attentive to the needs of their community. While the family didn’t have much, they were always ready to help when a neighbor needed it.

“They taught me to look out for the other person,” Barb says. “I think it’s our responsibility to educate our four kids and our grandchildren to do the same — and not only with financial support, but with your heart.”

Steve holds the same values of compassion and selflessness. He was educated in a Catholic school system under the Sisters of Saint Francis, the same order that teamed with Dr. William Worrall Mayo to create Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, in 1889.

Later in his life, Steve enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and later deployed with the U.S. Army to Korea, about six years after the major conflict.

“It was such an eye-opener, such a growing up and broadening of my horizon,” Steve says.

For a young man from a small town, military service introduced Steve to an incredible range of people and cultures. It also placed him face to face with the realities of poverty and need. When he looks back now, Steve is glad for the experience and its effect on him personally.

“That was really one of the best decisions I ever made — maybe second to marrying Barbara,” he says with a wry smile.

The Seeds of Success

After his military service, Steve joined his father at the family’s insurance, real estate and investment business in Winona. In 1967, he responded to a request from his close friend and former classmate at Cotter High School to invest in a startup company selling nuts and bolts. Steve invested, more for the close bond he had with his friend than the idea that they could be successful selling nuts and bolts.

That company, Fastenal, grew into a national business sensation, praised for its ingenuity, efficiency and sound business ethics. Today, Steve sees a parallel between Fastenal’s core belief, “growth through customer service,” and Mayo Clinic’s primary value, “The needs of the patient come first.”

The success of Fastenal has given Steve and Barb the means to be philanthropic leaders. They’ve dedicated themselves to being active, involved and generous members of their communities, supporting organizations such as Mayo Clinic where they find an alignment of values and purpose.

The Slaggies tour the Mayo Clinic Health System Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

The most meaningful part of giving back has never wavered: The Slaggies want to see the impact their gifts have on the people around them. Their philanthropy has always been about the personal interactions that give them a sense of fulfillment and belonging.

In the Mayo Clinic Stephen and Barbara Slaggie Family Cancer Education Center, there is a notebook for patients to sign and share their experiences. The Slaggies received a copy of one of these notebooks, filled with notes of gratitude and hope, and it has been a powerful reminder of their role in patients’ lives.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as a conversation over lawn mower repair.

“For our family who have been so fortunate, to have lived the American dream and all its benefits, we have an obligation to support and to share our resources to where it is most needed,” Steve says. “And when we’re able to help, it’s a pleasure on our end.”

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