Regional Highlights

“The Initiative Foundation really helped our organization through a tough time when a majority of our revenue was lost due to COVID. A generous grant helped us survive 2020 and focus on re-opening in 2021.”

– Emily Marshall, YMCA Camp Miller, Sturgeon Lake

Staples, Cardinal Pride sign
TODD: The Cardinal Pride installation in Staples. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Pruitt)

MORRISON COUNTY | A Walk in the Park for Royalton Dogs

Royalton dogs now have a place to run and play, thanks to a grant from the Morrison County Area Foundation, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation. Hunter Malikowski spearheaded the creation of a fenced-in, two-acre dog park on East Centre Street as part of his Eagle Scout project. Scout volunteers and Hunter’s family joined in to build dog agility features and benches—a win for dogs and dog lovers alike!

TODD COUNTY | Cardinal Pride Goes on Display for Staples-Motley Athletes

Cardinal pride is on display for all to see with the installation of a multi-directional sign at the intersection of First Avenue Northeast and Highway 210 in Staples. The sign celebrates Staples-Motley athletic achievements: 28 team and 62 individual state high school championships! The installation was supported by a grant from the Staples-Motley Area Community Foundation,
a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation.


WADENA COUNTY | Fellow to Research Power of Art and Economy in Wadena

Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will look different in each community. The Wadena Economic Development Authority and Little Round Still, a craft distillery, have an idea: focus on bringing more art to Wadena to attract residents and to spur economic development. With support from an Initiative Foundation grant, a fellow with the nonprofit Lead for Minnesota will research ways to bring more artisan businesses to town, highlight downtown and help local students experience more of the arts.

Mille Lacs Area Community Foundation

CASS COUNTY | Community Volunteers Rally Behind Gull Lake Trail Project

Completion of the Fairview Township portion of the Gull Lake Trail has had its twists and turns,
yet community volunteers continue to see the project through. With the cost to finish the remaining 7.8-mile stretch coming in high, planners hope to complete 4.1 miles of the trail this summer and surface the remaining section when funds are available. Initiative Foundation grants have helped
to support efforts to connect to the existing trail system.

CROW WING COUNTY | Helping Healthcare Heroes Heal

Healthcare workers have been true heroes throughout the pandemic, risking their wellbeing to care
for others. The Sourcewell Region 5 COVID-19 Relief Project, a new Initiative Foundation Partner Fund, awarded a grant to Essentia Health Foundation to support wellness resources, snacks and cards of encouragement for about 400 healthcare workers. To date, the fund has awarded $44,000 to hospitals and nonprofits throughout the five-county Sourcewell region.


MILLE LACS COUNTY | Reinvigorated and Ready to Make a Difference

Thanks to renewed local commitment, the Mille Lacs Area Community Foundation is primed to make a difference. Formerly known as the Isle Area Community Foundation, the fund was started in 2006 with a single $9,000 gift. Not long after its creation, the board disbanded and the fund quietly grew to $20,000. Six community members recently came together to establish priorities and guidelines, and today the fund is ready to award Mille Lacs Lake area grants!

Enterprise Academy Cohort 5
STEARNS: St. Cloud Enterprise Academy students in March 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

BENTON COUNTY | BIPOC-Led Organizations Receive Boost, COVID Training

Six St. Cloud area nonprofits received training and a $5,000 boost through their participation in a
four-month Nonprofit Academy training program with a focus on COVID-19 recovery. Formerly known as Financial Resiliency, the Initiative Foundation’s Nonprofit Academy program helps local nonprofits thrive so they can do their best for the communities and people they serve. Congratulations to the Nonprofit Academy graduates, and a special thanks to the Otto Bremer Trust for supporting this program!

SHERBURNE COUNTY | New Jugaad Leadership Cohort Under Way

The Jugaad Leadership program kicked off a new cohort in March to serve the Greater St. Cloud area. The seven-month leadership initiative seeks to empower and encourage people of color and those in underrepresented groups to get involved in their communities. Supported by the Initiative Foundation, the Central Minnesota Community Foundation and United Way of Central Minnesota, among others, the program has graduated nearly 50 St. Cloud-area leaders since it was founded in 2015.


STEARNS COUNTY | Enterprising Individuals Amp Up Entrepreneurial Endeavors

Since 2018, some 80 aspiring entrepreneurs have participated in the Initiative Foundation’s Enterprise Academy, the centerpiece of which is a 12-week educational course to get their business idea on the fast track. Originating in the St. Cloud area to support underserved communities, the program has since expanded to serve students in the Brainerd and Mille Lacs Tribal Economy areas. Upon successfully completing the course, entrepreneurs have ongoing access to lending and technical support.

WRIGHT COUNTY | True Friends Camp Training Fills Employment Gaps

True Friends Camp has a fresh approach to seasonal staff recruitment and training in its effort to lead 25,000-plus children and adults with disabilities through summer camp and other services. About 300 staff members annually assist with a variety of programs at the Annandale-area camp. Updated recruitment and training techniques, supported by an Initiative Foundation grant, helped the camp provide the right supports while also creating a larger pool of qualified workers to fill regional employment gaps.

Hilltop Recreation Area
PINE: The Hilltop Recreation Area in Pine City has a new multipurpose facility.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Viking Vittles Tackles Food Insecurity for Kids

Viking Vittles, coordinated by Trinity Lutheran Church in North Branch, is tackling local food insecurity by distributing take-home food to North Branch-area students for weekends and summer months. With grant support from the Initiative Foundation, an average of 125 backpacks containing two breakfasts, lunch and snack items were distributed weekly during summer 2020. A Care Closet has been added where kids can shop for food and other essential items to bring home.

ISANTI COUNTY | Hotel Becomes Home for Those in Need

For those experiencing homelessness, the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly challenging. Prior to the pandemic, New Pathways in Cambridge had been supported by faith communities to house families in local churches. When the pandemic shut down churches, New Pathways turned to local hotels. Supported by the Memorial Hospital Foundation, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund, New Pathways was able to offer hotel housing to 11 families.

KANABEC COUNTY | Child Care Providers Trained for Success

A group of Kanabec County providers received free child care and business finance training through First Children’s Finance by participating in the Initiative Foundation’s Child Care Solutions program. With support from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Initiative Foundation is working with communities and counties to develop innovative solutions to address the shortfall of nearly 15,400 child care slots needed to meet family demand in Central Minnesota.

PINE COUNTY | Volunteers Create Improved Space for Recreation

Thanks to hard-working volunteers and generous grant support from the Greater Pine Area Endowment, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation, Pine City’s Hilltop Recreation Area has a new year-round multipurpose facility with a warming house, bathrooms, locker rooms and a storage area to add to its outdoor skating facilities. When the project is complete, there will also be a covered outdoor area for basketball, hockey, pickleball and more.

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