Regional Highlights

“I hope to keep donating to the Initiative Foundation in future years. I like to support groups I think are doing positive things.”

– Charlotte Stephens, donor and program participant

MORRISON: Little Falls High School senior Jordan Witt is gaining real-world experience during his Initiative Foundation internship.

MORRISON COUNTY | Intern Gains Real-World, Practical Experience
We are pleased to welcome Jordan Witt as an Initiative Foundation intern. A senior at Little Falls High School, Jordan spends eight hours a week assisting staff members and learning how a regional community foundation operates. Jordan’s internship is made possible through the Little Falls Internship program, a program developed through the city’s participation in the Foundation’s community development program.

TODD COUNTY | Community Literacy Efforts Receive Boost
Reading for the Future, an initiative of the Freshwater Education District, has set a goal to distribute books to more than 500 young children in the Staples area. Powered by an Initiative Foundation grant, the project aims to inspire young readers and encourage family reading time.


WADENA COUNTY | VISTA Position to Build Capacity, Drive Volunteerism
Wadena County Developmental Achievement Center, Inc., (DAC) has been selected as a 2017-2018 AmeriCorps VISTA host site through the Initiative Foundation. The VISTA project will focus on developing a robust volunteer program and will seek to expand local business partnerships. DAC, which provides vocational programs for adults with disabilities, will recruit in April for a service position that begins in July.

Family in grass
CROW WING: The Spirit of Hope fund delivered $17,000 in holiday assistance.

CASS COUNTY | Invasive Species Training Arms Inspectors with Tools, Tips
The Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District used an Initiative Foundation grant to sponsor a series of workshops aimed at interrupting the spread of aquatic invasive species in Central Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. The workshops provided in-depth training in conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques and lake-science ecology fundamentals.

CROW WING COUNTY | Fund Brings Holiday Hope to Brainerd Area
Struggling Brainerd families received assistance this past holiday season from the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation’s Spirit of Hope Fund. Created to address unexpected financial emergencies, this fund provided one-time donations to help with needs ranging from medical expenses to car repairs. In all, combined with matching funds from the Initiative Foundation, 150 households and 250 individuals received $17,000 in assistance.


MILLE LACS COUNTY | VISTA Member Helps Brighten Smiles in Onamia
In her second year of service with the Onamia Area Early Childhood Coalition, AmeriCorps VISTA service member Karen Nelson has been working to develop, implement and facilitate oral health education and screenings. As a result of her efforts, the coalition has been able to leverage donations to provide 72 oral hygiene kits, 552 toothbrushes and 42 tooth-brushing timers to Onamia children.

Teacher recognized
BENTON: Teachers recognized, rewarded for classroom-enriching initiatives.

BENTON COUNTY | Innovative Educators Receive Classroom Grants
Nine Sauk Rapids-Rice teachers have received nearly $4,000 in grants from the Sauk Rapids-Rice Education Foundation, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation. Each educator was recognized for initiatives that create rich classroom experiences. Winning projects ranged from the sponsorship of
a book-sharing field trip to the purchase and deployment of a refurbished 3-D printer.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | Supplemental Food Eases Stress, Provides Assistance
Families in the Elk River, Zimmerman and Otsego areas gained access to healthy meals thanks to the efforts of the Community Aid of Elk River’s Kidz Kitz supplemental food program. The program leveraged a grant from the Initiative Foundation to income-eligible qualifying families with extra food to supplement daily meals and ensure that children do not go hungry.

STEARNS COUNTY | Pillars Event Celebrates Success, Addresses Challenges
Nearly 350 community members gathered at the River’s Edge Convention Center in February for the seventh annual Greater St. Cloud Community Pillars event. The Initiative Foundation co-sponsored gathering highlighted successes such as local trails, corporate wellness efforts and pre-school programming while acknowledging that more work needs to be done for race and economic opportunity.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Strategy Document Plots Region’s Economic Future
Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services of Monticello leveraged Xcel Energy and Initiative Foundation funds to help Wright, Stearns, Sherburne and Benton counties update a five-year economic development strategy plan that identifies opportunities to spur job growth. The plan also clears the way for potential federal investments for infrastructure needs and assistance in the event of an economic or natural disaster.

Solar panel installation
CHISAGO: Initiative strives to develop clean energy projects and reduce energy consumption.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Clean Energy Hub Spurs Innovation, Solutions
The Chisago Lakes Area is approaching a goal of 100 percent energy independence thanks to the early success of its Clean Energy Financing Hub. Created in partnership with an energy consulting firm, and using a grant from the Initiative Foundation, the Hub leverages public and private financing resources to develop clean energy projects and reduce energy consumption.

ISANTI COUNTY | Isanti Broadband Target of New Study
A countywide broadband study is underway to identify service gaps and infrastructure improvements. The effort, driven by statewide efforts to invest in broadband improvements, includes input from schools, hospitals and higher education institutions and will guide local officials as they plan and execute updates. The study is being funded, in part, by a grant from the Initiative Foundation.

KANABEC COUNTY | Green Light for SBDC Outreach Training
Heidi Steinmetz, executive director for the Kanabec County Economic Development Authority, has been given the go-ahead to pursue outreach training from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). SBDC outreach training and certification provides economic development professionals with the tools to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs. Funding for a portion of the training is made possible through an Initiative Foundation grant.

PINE COUNTY | Nonprofit Pilots Innovative Workforce Project
A project to create sustainable jobs for people with developmental disabilities, severe and persistent mental illness or brain injuries is underway at Pine Habilitation and Supported Employment, Inc. Working at an aquaponics facility, employees are providing fresh produce for the Nemadji Community Resource Center’s Meals on Wheels and senior dining programs. The project is supported by a grant from the Initiative Foundation.