Regional Highlights

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the Initiative Foundation awarded a grant to my daycare! I purchased essential cleaning supplies, diapers, wipes, learning books, puzzles and some toys.”

– Ronda Palmer, Tiny Tots Daycare, Walker

Barrett Petfood Innovations (BPI)
MORRISON: The new Barrett Petfood Innovations (BPI) manufacturing plant is located in the Little Falls Chief Hole-in-the-Day Industrial Park.

MORRISON COUNTY | It’s in the Bag: Pet Food Maker Starts New Plant Production
Ninety new jobs are contributing to the local economy with the start of production this summer at the Little Falls location of Barrett Petfood Industries (BPI), a producer of more than 150 pet foods that are distributed around the world. In August 2019, the Initiative Foundation joined Bell Bank and a host of community partners to fund BPI’s 165,000-square-foot construction project. BPI’s original production plant is located near Brainerd. Combined, BPI’s two locations employ nearly 200 people.

TODD COUNTY | Communities Get Helping Hand to Tackle Child Care Shortage
In Central Minnesota, there is a need for as many as 17,000 child care slots to meet the demands of would-be working parents. Supported by the Initiative Foundation’s Child Care Solutions program, four regional communities—Greater Todd County, Greater St. Cloud and Kanabec and Morrison counties—are working to make a difference. Each has received a $10,000 Initiative Foundation grant plus ongoing consultation to seek solutions and address the shortfall.

WADENA COUNTY | Campus Tours Help Students Envision College
Experience Studies show students who make campus visits can more easily picture themselves attending college. The Staples-Motley school district during the 2019-2020 school year organized trips so more than 80 students could visit area college campuses. The effort was supported by a grant from the Staples Motley Area Community Foundation, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund. Students were able to meet with admissions staff and faculty to explore career options and learn about the college experience.

Aquatic Invasive Species Ambassadors
CASS COUNTY: Eric Hansen, owner of Pehrson Lodge Resort, shows an employee how to inspect a boat for aquatic invasive species as part of the Resort Ambassador program.

CASS COUNTY | Stopping the Invasive Spread in Minnesota Lakes
Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and starry stonewort: All of these aquatic invasive species and more are found in Minnesota lakes. Supported by $4 million in funding from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council with approval from the 2014 Minnesota Legislature, the Foundation in early 2020 completed its support for 17 statewide pilot projects, including a Cass County plan to teach resort workers about mitigation efforts. Learn more at

CROW WING COUNTY | COVID Creativity: Art Kits Spark Kids’ Imaginations
When times get tough, the creative get more creative. And that’s just what the Crossing Arts Alliance did to help kids and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent graduate of the Initiative Foundation’s Jumpstart program, the Brainerd-area nonprofit is distributing free Creativity Kits for local kids. Each kit features the work of local artists and contains two art projects and a coloring sheet. The move was so popular it attracted Frandsen Bank & Trust and Mid Minnesota Federal Credit Union as sponsors.

MILLE LACS COUNTY | Load the Car and Drive the Mille Lacs Scenic Byway
Ready for a drive? Load up the vehicle, grab a points-of-interest map from an area business and tour the 68-mile Mille Lacs Scenic Byway. Climb a 100-foot observation tower, learn about Ojibwe traditions and culture or simply enjoy the scenery of Minnesota’s second largest lake. The Initiative Foundation supported initial planning for the scenic byway designation, which is now under consideration by the Federal Highway Administration as a national scenic byway.

Lupulin Brewing
SHERBURNE: Lupulin Brewing in Big Lake received a grant from the Sherburne County Outdoor Capacity Relief Fund to upgrade its outdoor seating area.

BENTON COUNTY | Downtown Foley Mural Gives Nod to Art, History
When art and history meet, something beautiful can be created. Supported by an Initiative Foundation community development program, Foley citizens are on the cusp of completing a hometown mural on the exterior of Dombrovski Craft Meats, just across from city hall. The community-approved mural design pays tribute to Foley’s rich history and is expected to be finished by November. Committee members hope the mural instills local pride and attracts visitors.

SHERBURNE COUNTY | County Initiative Brings Relief to Reeling Restaurants
When statewide shut-down orders were lifted in June, the hard-hit restaurant industry was reeling. To ease the impact, the Sherburne County Outdoor Capacity Relief Fund was created. Seeded with $20,000, the fund reimbursed locally owned and operated bars and restaurants for outdoor accommodations such as tents, tables and chairs to support social-distancing efforts. The Initiative Foundation and Three Rivers Community Foundation helped to create the fund and distribute grants.

STEARNS COUNTY | An Essential Role: Boys and Girls Club Fills Child Care Gap
With students out of school in mid-March, childcare providers were heroes to working parents, especially those who weren’t able to telework. The Boys & Girls Club of Central Minnesota stepped up to provide free child care to essential workers and a “Grab and Go” meal program. The effort was supported by an Initiative Foundation grant. “The Boys & Girls Club is doing whatever it takes to support children and families in need during the pandemic,” said Mary Swingle, president of the organization.

WRIGHT COUNTY | Awareness Day Addresses Mental Health
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Students and staff at Delano High School are working to end the stigma of depression and shed light on suicide so teens can help themselves and one another. Supported by the Delano
Area Community Foundation, an Initiative Foundation Partner Fund, students during February’s suicide prevention month explored mental health topics and learned about creating connections.

Tusen Tack
KANABEC: Tusen Tack volunteers staff an event in pre-COVID times at the Braham Events Center as a way to contribute to the wider community.

CHISAGO COUNTY | Giving Essential Workers and Kids the Very Best Care
From firefighters to mental health professionals to public safety employees, essential workers continue to make important contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from an Initiative Foundation grant, staff with the North Branch school district’s Youth Connections program were able to provide free care to the children of essential workers. The program is located in the North Branch Area Education Center and provides a safe and nurturing environment for youth.

ISANTI COUNTY | Meal Deliveries Expand for Local Seniors
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many senior citizens into isolation, and sourcing food has become a particular challenge. The Isanti County Commission on Aging responded to the cause and now delivers 35 meals per day—up from a pre-pandemic level of 10 meals a day—thanks in part to a grant from the Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation, a Partner Fund of the Initiative Foundation.

KANABEC COUNTY | Fundraising Challenge Accepted: Tusen Tack
Unique times present unique challenges. And a host of Central Minnesota nonprofits were up to the task during #GiveAtHomeMN, a May fundraising event. Enticed by a $3,000 matching grant, Tusen Tack, a Braham-based thrift store that uses proceeds to support regional communities, earned the top prize by being the first to reach $3,000 in donations. Surprise grants of $1,000 were awarded to Friends of Linden Hills, Inc., in Little Falls and New Pathways in Cambridge.

PINE COUNTY | County, Foundation Pair to Care for Local Businesses
From salons to campgrounds to restaurants to the Grand Cinema movie theater in Hinckley, scores of businesses have had to shutter or make revenue-changing adjustments during the statewide stay-at-home orders. During the first weeks of an ongoing program, with help from the Initiative Foundation, Pine County was able to award more than $200,000 and alter the economic course for 30 local businesses using federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

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Regional Highlights

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Regional Highlights

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

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