One hallmark of a healthy community is easily accessible resources for people who’ve hit a rough patch in their lives. The Itasca Area Sharing Fund is one such resource in north-central Minnesota, helping those in need bridge life’s gaps until they’re back on their feet.
“There are so many stories about how the Sharing Fund has made a positive impact on those in our community, I could go on and on,” said Sara Copeland, program director at the Grand Rapids Area Community Fountation, which administers the fund.
The Sharing Fund serves immediate, last]resort needs such as emergency shelter, utilities, healthcare, transportation, clothing and education.
For some that means the difference between staying in unsafe situations and finding safe harbor.
Advocates for Family Peace assists women in finding resources to leave hostile domestic situations, which can include financial abuse and control. The Sharing Fund provides money for shelter, food and other basic necessities.
“The fund has been a great help to the women and children who are involved with our agency,” says Bonnie Hertel, housing coordinator of Advocates for Family Peace. “Without the available funding, these women would not be able to make it on their own and stay safe.”
For others, it’s a chance at a fresh start.
“Most of the men assisted by this grant are rebuilding their lives and in need of rent assistance,” said Warren Goggleye, chemical dependency counselor for Hope House in Grand Rapids. “They are recovering from chemical dependency and are healthy, responsible members of the community wishing to start over. The Sharing Fund is a great blessing for them.”
Northern Minnesota’s long, cold winters are particularly challenging and put a strain on the fund. In fall 2009, Blandin Foundation – which has provided long-term continued support for the Sharing Fund – boosted its support of the fund in response to projected increased demand for heating assistance.
Copeland recalls a conversation with Beth Pederson from the Itasca County Veterans Office, who called her to discuss assistance for heating and utility bills.
“The Blandin Foundation immediately stepped up to the plate and convened a meeting with area agencies that provide crisis heating,” said Copeland. “After some discussion and research, we all were able to figure out a plan to help the community with the upcoming winter season. With the generous funding from the Blandin Foundation, we were able to alleviate a possible domino effect, where financially stable families could have been pulled in to poverty simply due to heating fuel costs.”
Helping families maintain financial stability brings them a step closer to supporting themselves and enhances the quality of Itasca County communities.
“Our mission is to strengthen rural communities, especially the Grand Rapids area,” said Linda Gibeau, grants program officer at Blandin Foundation. “We believe support for the Sharing Fund is critical for our friends and neighbors here in Itasca County, because when the human service contacts have exhausted all other avenues of crisis funding, there is no other place to turn.”
Sharing Fund grants are allocated to a variety of critical community needs: 29 percent to transportation; 24 percent to housing and shelter; 21 percent to utilities; and 26 percent to other areas such as workforce development, health and medical initiatives, clothing and food. To date, the Blandin Foundation has granted $720,000 to the Sharing Fund.