Regional Highlights

“The Initiative Foundation listens to the community and facilitates the distributive flow of resources to maximize the common good for humanity! Much respect.”

– Suzanne Begin, ARC Retreat Center, Stanchfield, Minn.

Wadena Library
WADENA: The Wadena Library will be moving into the former First National Bank building. Photo courtesy of Michael Johnson.

MORRISON COUNTY | Going Beyond ¡Hola! and Adiós
Royalton Spanish-language students aren’t just talking the talk, they are reading it, too, thanks to grant support from the Royalton Education Foundation, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund. Royalton High School’s Spanish Free Voluntary Reading Library was installed in 2021 so students can read everything from Spanish-language biographies to graphic novels. Teacher Lake Mathison reports that each student has finished multiple books since installation.

TODD COUNTY | Crafting a Fund to Honor Teresa Crews
Teresa Crews passed away unexpectedly in 2017. To carry on the 53-year-old’s legacy, Teresa’s father, Charlie, who lives in Staples, partnered with the Initiative Foundation to create Teresa’s Stash Legacy Fund. A lifelong quilter, crafter and seamstress, Teresa had 28 quilting projects in process at the time of her death. Her Christmas tree skirts, hot pads and bridesmaid dresses can be found throughout the Twin Cities. The donor-advised fund will support Todd County nonprofit organizations.


WADENA COUNTY | Wadena Area Takes Library Remodel to the Bank
The former First National Bank in Wadena is undergoing a makeover, and when it opens this summer as the Wadena Library it will transition from depositing dollars to lending literature. The Friends of the Wadena Library created the Wadena City Library Fund, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund, and raised $1.2 million toward the $2.7 million project. Capital improvement bonds will cover the remaining costs. The ADA-compliant library will include a makerspace and more room for library materials and meetings.

Happy Dancing Turtle
CASS: Happy Dancing Turtle added a hammock and other fresh-air fun to its outdoor classroom.

CASS COUNTY | Funding Fosters Fresh-air Fun for Area Kids
Kids at Happy Dancing Turtle in Pine River can now hang out in hammocks, boogie on balance beams, and tinker in tents, thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), distributed by the Initiative Foundation. Happy Dancing Turtle enhanced its outdoor classroom for its many summertime camps and programs. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Foundation has collaborated with MDE to award more than $470,000 to 65 organizations supporting Central Minnesota kids.

CROW WING COUNTY | New Brainerd Shelter Welcomes the Unhoused
A new warming shelter in Brainerd is providing a safe place to sleep and a roof overhead for those experiencing homelessness. Crow Wing County, several churches and nonprofits, including the Initiative Foundation and Sourcewell, came together to support the warming shelter, coordinated by Bridges of Hope. The shelter has been open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. since December 2021 with space for 20 people.

MILLE LACS COUNTY | Project Preserves Ojibwe Language
In the Ojibwe language, zaagi’idiwin means love and nibwaakaawin means wisdom. These words and more are being preserved by the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in partnership with Rosetta Stone, a language software company. Several project liaisons participated in the Initiative Foundation’s fall 2021 Enterprise Academy through a Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures partnership to improve their business expertise and support the language preservation initiative.

Community Aid of Elk River Food Shelf
SHERBURNE: Multicultural foods are available at the Community Aid of Elk River food shelf.

BENTON COUNTY | Tutors Log In to Support Students’ Learning
In late 2020, St. Cloud-area employers recognized the difficulties employees were having in balancing work and at-home learning responsibilities. With support from area higher education institutions, AmeriCorps Seniors and the United Way, the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC) launched Around Cloud Tutors. During the program’s first year, English-, Somali- and Spanish-speaking volunteers tutored nearly 300 students. The Initiative Foundation is a GSDC annual investor.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | Grant Stocks Shelves With Multicultural Foods
Family meals and the ingredients to make them are a part of our cultural identity. Community Aid of Elk River is expanding its food shelf offerings with grant support from Three Rivers Community Foundation, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation. From fufu flour to goat meat, the expansion is a reflection of the community served. When those facing food insecurity can obtain familiar ingredients, it’s much easier to cook for their families.

STEARNS COUNTY | Grant Helps to Ignite After-school Programs
After-school hours are a crucial time for development, yet thousands of Minnesota youth are left unsupervised. Programming through the Central Minnesota Community Empowerment Organization
(CMCEO), a partner of the Initiative Foundation, is getting a boost with support from a $1.2 million Ignite Afterschool grant. CMCEO coordinates programs that support East African youth in their academic, social-emotional and mental health needs. The grant will support programming into 2024.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Program Paves Path to Financial Independence
When someone is living in a domestic violence situation, they may be financially dependent on their abuser. An Initiative Foundation grant is helping staff at Monticello’s Rivers of Hope implement a program that will aid domestic abuse victims on their path to financial independence so they might escape their situation. The mission of Rivers of Hope is to end family violence through advocacy, education and collaboration.

North Star Family Advocacy
ISANTI: A virtual tour website feature allows would-be clients to see the North Star Family Advocacy Center before they visit.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Lindstrom Downtown Revitalization in the Works
A thriving and beautiful downtown increases business attraction and hometown pride. Partially funded by an Initiative Foundation grant, the Lindstrom Economic Development Authority (EDA) is partnering with a design firm to study downtown parking and housing; establish connections to lakes and trails; address pedestrian safety; and update the stormwater system. The goal of the project is to transition to a safe, welcoming and beautiful downtown.

ISANTI COUNTY | Advocacy Center Virtual Tour Eases Anxiety
A first-time visit to Braham’s North Star Family Advocacy Center can trigger anxiety for a child or a vulnerable adult who has experienced abuse. Prospective clients can now visit the center’s website for a virtual tour with close-ups of the waiting area and interview rooms. The virtual tour is supported by grants from the Initiative Foundation and East Central Energy. Staff report the visually driven features of the website helped to reassure clients and encouraged new year-end donors.

KANABEC COUNTY | Love the Journey Expands to Hinckley
Lori Peterson started Love the Journey in 2014 to provide outpatient mental health counseling in Mora. When it came time to purchase the Mora building and renovate it in 2017, Peterson accessed an Initiative Foundation loan. Now, Peterson has expanded Love the Journey to Hinckley, thanks to a partnership with Neighborhood National Bank and a subsequent Initiative Foundation loan. The expansion has resulted in increased mental health services and the creation of jobs in Hinckley.

PINE COUNTY | Sandstone Library Writes New Chapter
Grants are sometimes a long-term investment. Take, for example, the Sandstone Library. As part of its 2013 participation in the Initiative Foundation’s Thriving Communities Initiative, volunteers logged hundreds of hours on a host of projects, including the local library. This summer, the library will move to the former Pine Habilitation and Supported Employment, Inc., building on Main Street. The handicap-accessible renovation will offer space for community gatherings and children’s activities.

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