Regional Highlights

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the Initiative Foundation’s continued support. The folks who work for the Foundation are helpful and forward-thinking.”

– Kim Brubaken, A Place For You, Pine City

Sourcewell staff
TODD: Sourcewell staff receive the Commissioner’s Circle of Excellence Award from Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead. (Photo by Jeremy Doyle, Sourcewell)

MORRISON COUNTY | Upsala Elementary Ramps Up People-Powered Playground Plan
Plans for a new playground are being drawn by a teacher group from Upsala Elementary. With goals for a safe, accessible and fun playground, funds are being collected for a community build planned in the future. The group hopes to add communication signs for the nonverbal, picnic tables, kickball fields, a zipline and more. Their efforts are supported by grants from Sourcewell’s Innovative Schools Project and the Initiative Foundation.

TODD COUNTY | Sourcewell Models the Way in Addressing Child Care Shortage
Sourcewell, a friend and partner of the Initiative Foundation, has developed a plan to address the child care shortage in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison,Todd and Wadena counties. Through its licensing model, the nonprofit will standardize and simplify the process of opening a child care facility. The organization recently received the Circle of Excellence Award from the Minnesota Department of Human Services for its work as a regional licensing center for providers.


WADENA COUNTY | Staples Revs Up Business Expansion Plans
Thanks to a newly released business retention and expansion report by University of Minnesota Extension—supported in part by the Initiative Foundation—the Staples Economic Development Authority and a Wadena task force set new business growth and retention goals for the area. While residents report being happy with the quality of life in Staples, there still are gaps in opportunities for entrepreneurs and shortages in housing and child care. Work will continue to identify creative solutions.

Child dental care
MILLE LACS: The Initiative Foundation has long supported work in early childhood dental care, including mobile dental clinics in Mille Lacs County. Photo credit: Paul Middlestaedt

CASS COUNTY | Historic Farm Site May Become Heritage Center
What did a farmstead look like in 1903? One day, visitors to the proposed Abe and Lydia White Heritage Center in Cass Lake may be able to find out. Through the work of Heritage Group North, Inc., and grant support from the Initiative Foundation, a University of Minnesota graduate student has been hired to identify opportunities at the farm site, which could include a commercial cannery and kitchen, garden demonstrations and chances to learn about the history of the area.

CROW WING COUNTY | An App For Crow Wing Heart Health
Each year, more than 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest. Thanks to the Brainerd Fire Department and a host of community sponsors, including the Initiative Foundation, the PulsePoint app will soon help drive that number down in Crow Wing County. PulsePoint pushes CPR notifications when there is a sudden cardiac arrest incident and directs responders to the nearest automated external defibrillator.


MILLE LACS COUNTY | Mobile Dental Unit Helps Heal Smiles for Hundreds
Tooth pain can make it tough for kids to focus on school. Thanks to continued support from Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, more than 400 income-eligible Mille Lacs County children and mothers visited a mobile dental clinic in 2019, with nearly 200 receiving restorative treatment. The Initiative Foundation has long supported this work in conjunction with local partners. The goal is to double patients served in 2020, thanks to new funding from Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation.

EPIC, St. Cloud
BENTON: Students learned about the culinary arts during the second annual Exploring Potential Interests & Careers (EPIC) day.

BENTON COUNTY | Students Gain EPIC Glimpse Into High-Demand Careers
More than 2,500 local 10th-grade students took a career analysis inventory as part of the second annual Exploring Potential Interests & Careers (EPIC) day in February 2020 at St. Cloud Technical & Community College. Sponsored in part by an Initiative Foundation grant, the event also offered students hands-on activities related to high-demand careers. Stations included toolbox building, welding, identifying blood type, solving a crime and more.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | Pathways Makes Inroads on Youth Homelessness
On any given night, as many as 100 youth experience homelessness in the greater St. Cloud area. Pathways 4 Youth is a resource center that helps 16- to 24-year-olds finish their education, find secure employment and gain stable housing. In 2019, with Initiative Foundation grant support, Pathways tallied 2,000-plus visits while helping more than 260 homeless and highly mobile young people. Even better, 35 percent of youth served by the nonprofit found jobs, while 17 percent gained housing.

STEARNS COUNTY | Arts Board Builds Cultural Bridges
The Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB) in Foley believes art can travel across cultures and language barriers to bring people together. Thanks to an Initiative Foundation grant, CMAB staff recently took the Intercultural Development Inventory and hired a consultant to review results and talk about using art to build bridges across Stearns, Sherburne, Benton and Wright counties.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Community Team Takes Action on Census Count
Federal funding and congressional representation are driven by census numbers, so we all benefit when everyone is counted. Wright County Community Action (WCCA) will use Initiative Foundation funding to rally community members and ensure hard-to-count populations fill out their 2020 census. Visit for more information.

Housing Fund of the Greater Mora Area
KANABEC: The Initiative Foundation awarded a $1,000 grant to the Housing Fund of the Greater Mora Area during a 2019 event in Mora.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Read This: One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten
Being read to as a young child results in higher reading scores throughout elementary school. East Central Regional Library wants to make sure Central Minnesota kids are on track. With grant support from the Initiative Foundation, the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program is proving to be successful. Participants celebrate with prizes and events throughout the year.

ISANTI COUNTY | Giving Nursing Students A Hand
About 25 nursing students at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Cambridge campus, received a nice boost through the generous support from the Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation. Students from the Cambridge, Isanti and Braham areas each received up to $1,500 to assist in their nursing education goals. Without this funding, some of the students may not have been able to attend college.

KANABEC COUNTY | Hometown Team Tackles Mora’s Housing Shortage
Communities across Greater Minnesota struggle with affordable and available housing. Last fall, Mora community members decided to take action by forming the Housing Fund of the Greater Mora Area, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund. Recognizing a need for affordable housing and apartment options, a committee was formed to come up with nnovative solutions to help ease the housing shortage. The Initiative Foundation welcomes this new Partner Fund!

PINE COUNTY | Community Garden Gets Masterful Makeover
Thanks to a grant from the Greater Pine Area Endowment, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund, the Pine City Community Garden has been revamped after being closed due to the city’s pump station construction project. Managed by the Pine County Master Gardeners, the upgrades include seven raised beds, coordination of six gardening classes and the installation of 24 plots and a pollinator garden. More improvements and a grand opening are planned for this summer.

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