“We are so thankful for the grant to support our company as we navigated the negative impact of COVID. It is through organizations [like the Initiative Foundation] that businesses are still open to help others—and their own employees. Thank you!”

– Molly Perry, Academic All Star Tutoring, Buffalo

VEX Robotics State
MORRISON: Participants celebrate at the Minnesota State VEX Robotics Championship held in St. Cloud in March 2022.

MORRISON COUNTY | Royalton Robotics Team Rallies Local Support
Toss out any preconceived notions that extracurricular activities are limited to football, volleyball and baseball: Robotics has become the fastest-growing Minnesota extracurricular activity for middle and high school students. A $5,000 Initiative Foundation challenge-match grant helped the new Royalton team raise the same in local sponsorship. The end goal is to compete at the 2023 state competition this spring in St. Cloud.

TODD COUNTY | From Shuttered School to Senior Housing
Some of Minnesota’s most rural communities are home to large, shuttered schools. A project to use the former Eagle Bend school for senior housing, a community gathering space, an auditorium and more is on a roll. The building already is home to Hilltop Regional Kitchen, where staff and volunteers produce thousands of meals annually for seniors and shut-ins. Volunteers are coordinating the senior campus project, and an Initiative Foundation grant will advance planning, coordination and an economic feasibility study.


WADENA COUNTY | Farmers Market Adds Art and Music to the Table
You may go to the Wadena Farmers Market for fresh green beans and delicate new potatoes, but thanks to the work of Lead for Minnesota Fellow Lillian Norman, you may leave with a dried flower project and a song in your heart. The Wadena Development Authority partnered with several organizations and the Initiative Foundation to hire Norman to elevate the arts. In addition to the Farmers Market expansion, she has worked on a murals project, created an arts and culture plan and more.

Keep It Clean Logo
MILLE LACS: The Mille Lacs Area Community Foundation is promoting its Keep It Clean Campaign.

CASS COUNTY | Double Your Donation: Grant Funds Challenge Match
When the COVID pandemic hit, food pantries had to find innovative ways to distribute food while meeting needs as people lost jobs and children were left without school lunches. Second Harvest North Central Food Bank shifted from a food pantry model to pop-up distributions. Donations are needed to fuel this more expensive model. A $5,000 Initiative Foundation grant will serve as a challenge match for funds raised during November’s Give to the Max Day. Support the food bank at givemn.org/Secondharvest.

CROW WING COUNTY | Child Care Centers Backed by Grants
Up to 17,000 Central Minnesota children and families lack access to child care. Innovative solutions will help to address the shortage. The Brainerd Family YMCA’s answer: the purchase of a neighboring building to add up to 85 infant and toddler slots to their program. A proposed center for up to 63 children in Onamia (in Mille Lacs County) is also taking shape with support from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Both projects also received Initiative Foundation grant funding.

MILLE LACS COUNTY | Keep it Clean Campaign Expands to Mille Lacs Lake
The advent of fish houses on wheels has driven more people onto the ice, and with more people comes more trash and other waste. The Mille Lacs Area Community Foundation, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation, recently adopted the Keep it Clean Campaign, to encourage a leave-no-trace mindset for ice anglers. The campaign provides simple tips like using colored trash bags, securing garbage while traveling and checking the ice before leaving.

Ali Aden
BENTON: Ali Aden graduated from the Initiative Foundation’s Enterprise Academy program in May 2022.

BENTON COUNTY | Building a Bridge to Mental Health Services
The Bridge Healing Center in St. Cloud connects clients in need of mental health services to a therapist who understands their culture and speaks their native language. Ali Aden, an Initiative Foundation loan client and Enterprise Academy graduate, and Lul Nur opened the center in June after recognizing a need for culturally-fluent services in the St. Cloud area. The couple plans to employ therapists who can offer services in English, Somali, Spanish and Arabic.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | Funding Furniture for Those in Need
A bed, table and couch are essential to a comfortable home. Granny’s Closet, which serves the Elk River area, received funding from Initiative Foundation-hosted Three Rivers Community Foundation for Good Nights from Granny’s—a program that gets beds to senior citizens in need. Becker’s Great River Faith in Action received an Initiative Foundation grant to cover delivery costs for a similar program called Furniture for Families.


STEARNS COUNTY | Shop Local: Bringing Halal Meat to Central Minnesota
The drive to buy local food has gained momentum. But buying local isn’t always possible for our Muslim neighbors and others who eat halal (Arabic for “permissible”) goat meat. The goats are raised and butchered as far away as New Zealand and Australia. Grants from the Initiative Foundation and the Family Farm Fund, a Partner Fund of the Foundation, are supporting feasibility studies for a local, halal-certified meat processing facility and to teach farmers the process of becoming halal-certified.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Grant Funds Grins in Wright County
Dental issues are painful and can lead to long-term health issues. With Buffalo’s new Wright Smiles for Central Minnesota, thousands will have access to dental care, with a particular focus on the uninsured and those on Medicaid. Twin Cities-based nonprofit Community Dental Care has worked with dozens of partners over the past few years to bring the clinic to fruition. The Initiative Foundation is funding a collaboration with St. Cloud Technical and Community College to staff the facility with diverse dental professionals.

Changing Gaits
PINE: Nine Pine City High School students visited Changing Gaits for a horse therapy program.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Businesses Get A Boost From Otto Bremer Trust Funds
Millions of dollars in COVID-19 pandemic relief have gone to businesses across Central Minnesota. With all the funding delivered, some of the smallest businesses fell through the cracks. Thanks to a grant from the Otto Bremer Trust, distributed by the Initiative Foundation, 12 Chisago County businesses received more than $100,000 in grant support. In total, the Initiative Foundation’s microenterprise grant initiative delivered $675,000 to 86 businesses in Central Minnesota.

ISANTI COUNTY | Confronting the County-wide Child Care Shortage
In a time of record low unemployment, Minnesota needs every single worker. But parents can’t enter the workforce if they don’t have child care. Initiative Foundation staff, along with board members with the Initiative Foundation-hosted Memorial Hospital Foundation Partner Fund, are teaming up with First Children’s Finance to develop strategies to increase child care availability in Isanti County, where there’s an estimated shortage of 1,000 slots.

KANABEC COUNTY | Grant Funds Necessary Upgrades at Mora Senior Dining
More than 400 Kanabec County seniors rely on Catholic Charities for congregate dining and home-delivered meals. The nonprofit served 38,175 meals in 2021. An Initiative Foundation grant will help the Mora-based Catholic Charities organization purchase a steam table to keep meals warm and to label home-delivered meals with nutritional information to stay current with Minnesota Department of Health standards. Catholic Charities served nearly 1 million meals to Central Minnesota senior citizens in 2021.

PINE COUNTY | Horse Therapy Program Helps Bring Healing to Teens
Nine Pine City High School young women facing mental health and grief issues had the chance to build confidence and make some new friends of the equine variety. A grant from Initiative Foundation-hosted Greater Pine Area Endowment helped send the young women to Changing Gaits in Brook Park for a one-day horse therapy program. School staff reported that all the young women experienced positive moments during the enrichment experience.

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Regional Highlights

Get the latest highlights from Central Minnesota’s 14 counties and two sovereign Native nations. Read More

Regional Highlights

Get the latest highlights from Central Minnesota’s 14 counties and two sovereign tribal nations. Read More

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