Blandin Foundation awards $1.7 million in local grants

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Blandin Foundation trustees approved 60 grants during their Spring meeting, including  grants totaling $1,735,420 for a variety of initiatives under way in the Grand Rapids and Itasca County area. 

In support of the Reif Center’s $8.1 million expansion project, Blandin Foundation awarded an additional $1 million grant in addition to $1.5 million already contributed toward construction.

During her remarks at the Reif’s recent groundbreaking ceremony, Blandin Foundation CEO Dr. Kathleen Annette said, “This is a great day to pause and appreciate what is possible here in Itasca County–where, every day, our neighbors are saying, ‘Count me in, I’ll help get it done.’ We’re honored to stand with you in this great undertaking.”

In another major grant decision by trustees, the Itasca County Family YMCA will boost their efforts to promote healthy lifestyles through their new Active Living Center with the help of an additional $400,000 Blandin Foundation grant. A collaborative project between the City of Grand Rapids, Itasca County YMCA and ElderCircle, the Active Living Center is a community hub for all ages that provides information for seniors, programming for youth and new health and fitness opportunities.

“Communities need vibrant spaces to get connected and stay informed,” said Annette. “How wonderful that a space like the YMCA exists for people in the Itasca area to gather, and to have the opportunity to get healthy–both mentally and physically.” 

Other grants awarded by Blandin Foundation this spring include $25,000 to build on the success achieved by the Itasca area during the past two years as a Blandin Broadband Community. Through this continued support, technology barriers for Itasca area businesses will continue to be reduced by providing technology assessments, social media training offered through community education, Social Media Breakfast events continued, and quarterly meetings for information technology professionals hosted.  As with the previous round of broadband support for the Itasca area, this work is being facilitated by Itasca Economic Development Corporation.

Other local Spring awards included grants to Depot Commons ($90,000) for workforce development programs targeted to youth; Independent School District 2, Hill City ($170,000), for continued early childhood programming; Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans ($10,000) for programming and services for Itasca area veterans; and Itasca Community College ($1,000) in support of O Gitch i Dah Club’s 2015 pow-wow.

“Vibrant communities are fueled by the passion and dedication of local leaders,” said Annette. “Across rural Minnesota, and especially in the Grand Rapids area, we’re continually amazed by what can happen when communities come together. We are grateful to stand with local leaders as they imagine possibilities for a resilient future.”   

Full details related to the Foundation are online at www.blandinfoundation.org, with special sections of the site dedicated to the Itasca area, broadband and other programs.

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Photo: Members of a Reif dance studio perform during the groundbreaking ceremony. Photo by Simeon Aitkin.