“ Higher Works Collaborative is proud to be in partnership with the Initiative Foundation. Together we will continue to be a resource to all who aspire to fix a need in the community.”

– Buddy King, Higher Works Collaborative chief operating officer, Enterprise Academy partner

Pierz In-Harmony Child Care
MORRISON: Children grew vegetables in an on-site garden at In-Harmony Child Care in Pierz.

WADENA COUNTY | Grant Keeps Grocery, Thrift Store Doors Swinging in Verndale

When the freezers go out at the only grocery store in town, quick action is needed. Supported by an Initiative Foundation grant, partially funded by the Minnesota Council on Foundations and its Disaster Relief Fund, Grocery & Treasures, Too in Verndale was able to fix its freezers so residents could continue to shop locally. The combined grocery and thrift store is operated by the Wadena County Developmental Achievement Center, which employs those with developmental disabilities.

MORRISON COUNTY | Health, Horticulture and Happy Times for Kiddos

Children at In-Harmony Child Care in Pierz got their hands dirty this summer while learning about gardening, harvesting and healthy eating. Supported by a Minnesota Department of Education grant distributed by the Initiative Foundation, the children had supplies to plant, grow and harvest vegetables. Staff also led children through yoga exercises, all with a goal of providing wellness opportunities to children affected by pandemic-related interruptions.

TODD COUNTY | Help Wanted: Uncovering Hidden Talent

The workforce shortage is expected to last at least a decade. To fill job openings, Long Prairie’s Community Growth Fund hosted a webinar on creating felon-friendly workplaces. The effort was supported through a Department of Corrections partnership and a grant from the Initiative Foundation. Staff from CareerForce, Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program and Twin Cities Rise, Inc., served as presenters. The event has spurred interest in future sessions on tapping other under-utilized workers to meet the needs of employers.

WonderTrek Children Museum

CASS COUNTY | Year-Round Outdoor Learning Abounds in Pillager

Pillager students can step out of the classroom and into the woods, thanks to grant support from the Pillager Education Foundation, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund. The grant helped the school better utilize 40 acres and includes a trail loop and canoe launch; cleared areas for wildlife observation; and the purchase of cross-country skis, snowshoes, drones, camera equipment and spotting scopes. The improvements enhance outdoor learning opportunities for the forest, science and digital arts programs.

CROW WING COUNTY | WonderTrek Children’s Museum Hits the Road

Staff from WonderTrek, an emerging children’s museum serving Wadena, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison and Todd counties, spent spring and summer hosting more than 100 hands-on educational events, from painting classes to fort design and outdoor survival. The Initiative Foundation joined Sourcewell and other local funders to support early planning for the museum. Visit wondertrekmuseum.org to see future events.


MILLE LACS COUNTY | Health System Distributes COVID-19 Safety Kits

When COVID-19 vaccines became available, Mille Lacs Health System patients were snapping up appointments as quickly as they opened. The health system used the opportunity to promote continued best practices by distributing COVID-19 safety kits. The kits, supported by an Initiative Foundation grant, included a box of masks, educational materials and a mask hanger for home or the car. Kits also were donated to local food shelves.

Savvy Teens Seminar
BENTON: St. Cloud-area young women attended the Savvy Teens Seminar in June.

BENTON COUNTY | Savvy Teens Equipped for Bright Business Futures

More than a dozen St. Cloud-area high schoolers gathered in June to learn finance and business skills at the first Savvy Teens Seminar, supported by St. Cloud’s American Association of University Women and an Initiative Foundation grant. Participants heard from accomplished local women on financial management, goal-setting, career assessment and more, all with a goal of introducing young women to career options and the tools to be successful.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | Compliance on the Menu for St. Cloud Restaurants

To help Somali-owned restaurants meet Minnesota food-safety requirements and have a Certified Food Protection Manager on duty, staff with the Initiative Foundation’s Enterprise Academy during the past year hosted two St. Cloud trainings. As a result, 27 restaurant workers passed the exam, resulting in more than 20 restaurants complying with the requirement.


STEARNS COUNTY | Robotics Program Makes Pandemic Pivot, Drives Forward

Robots could help solve Central Minnesota’s workforce shortage, but not in the way you might think.
The students behind the robots are the answer. Supported by an Initiative Foundation grant, the
Central Minnesota VEX Robotics program was able to continue teaching students science, technology, engineering and math concepts throughout the pandemic. Organizers used the grant to create a virtual competition platform and secure donor support for future expansion.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Training Series Meets Need for Child Care Providers

Fifty-six child care providers received CPR and first-aid training with support from Wright County Economic Development Partnership and a Minnesota Department of Education grant distributed by the Initiative Foundation. In a recent survey, Wright County child care providers cited a lack of in-person training as a barrier to completing licensing requirements. Sessions will continue with the goal of training 100 providers by December 2021.

Pine Technical and Community College
ISANTI: The Pine Technical & Community College Foundation received a John & Bonnie Schlagel Endowment grant.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Rise Helps Break Down Employment Barriers

For those experiencing homelessness, a recent release from incarceration or mental and physical disabilities, entering the workforce takes a few extra steps. Rise, Inc., provides solutions to challenges for anyone with barriers to employment. Visit rise.org to learn how this Initiative Foundation- and Partner Fund-supported organization unlocks potential and opens doors to success for people with disabilities and other challenges.

ISANTI COUNTY | Schlagel Endowment Boosts Local Nonprofits

The John & Bonnie Schlagel Endowment, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation, recently provided a $35,000 boost to 14 nonprofits. Local students will have a jump start with college financing thanks to donations to the Pine Technical & Community College Foundation and the Cambridge-Isanti Dollars for Scholars. A Place For You and New Pathways, serving those experiencing homelessness in Pine City and Cambridge, also received grants. Thanks to the Schlagels for their big support of those in need.

KANABEC COUNTY | Counties, Tribal Nation Pave Way on Broadband

For nearly 20 years, the Blandin Foundation has been committed to helping rural communities connect to broadband resources. Because many East Central Minnesota households do not have access to broadband internet, a group from Kanabec and Pine counties and the Mille Lacs Tribal Economy worked with the Blandin Foundation’s Community Broadband Resources Program to learn how to acquire and deploy federal and state broadband funds. Several Initiative Foundation-funded broadband feasibility studies are in process.

PINE COUNTY | East Central Minnesota Industrial Sites on Display

Site selectors and business owners got a birds-eye view of East Central Minnesota during a spring virtual familiarization tour, backed by an Initiative Foundation grant. The tour displayed business parks and industrial sites in the GPS 45:93 region of Pine, Kanabec, Chisago and Isanti counties and the sovereign territory of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Attendees agree the proximity to the Twin Cities and the transportation and real estate opportunities at seven shovel-ready sites make the region well-positioned for growth.

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Regional Highlights

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