GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – During their spring meeting March 17 and 18, Blandin Foundation trustees approved 91 grants totaling $2.8 million that strengthen rural Minnesota communities.
It was 75 years ago that Charles K. Blandin established the foundation, with the first grant awarded in 1943 for the creation of Blandin Beach in Grand Rapids. Today, the foundation awards an average of $12 million in grants and scholarships each year, with at least 60 percent reserved for communities throughout the Itasca County area.
Among the spring awards are several long-standing, committed grantees in the Grand Rapids and Itasca areas, including:
Itasca Economic Development Corporation’s $500,000 grant award continues the organization’s work to strengthen the Itasca area economy. Blandin Foundation funds support IEDC’s business loan coaching, community-wide business technology learning opportunities, and business recruitment and expansion.
Itasca County Sharing Fund provides crisis assistance to Itasca area residents for shelter, utilities, transportation, work clothing and health care needs. The $200,000 two-year grant supports Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation as it responds to 35-40 requests for Sharing Fund assistance each month.
Nearly 1,000 youth between ages 13 and 18 in the Deer River area use the resources of the Boys and Girls Club of the Leech Lake Area each week. At the club, trained staff and volunteers provide leadership skills, academic tutoring, mentoring and more. Blandin Foundation trustees approved a grant award of $70,000 as operating support in 2016.
KOOTASCA Community Action provides programs and services for low- and moderate-income residents of Itasca and Koochiching County. Five of its key programs – Circles of Support, the Crisis Nursery, the Teenage Parent Program, Community Engagement and Homelessness Prevention – will be supported through a new $539,800 operating grant over two years.
The Myles Reif Performing Arts Center is a centerpiece of the Itasca area’s artistic, civic and economic vitality. Blandin Foundation has provided operating support since 1974 for the Reif Center, which attracts theater, orchestra and dance performances to the region and engages the region in the arts. In addition to recent grants for capital improvements, a $170,000 grant will continue the Foundation’s operating support.
Local students who choose to attend Itasca Community College may apply for special Blandin Foundation-funded scholarships to help put college within reach. In addition to $1,000,000 in annual Blandin Foundation education awards, trustees again approved $375,000 for scholarships available specifically through ICC.
Dozens of other grants awarded range from $24,000 to the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency for a living skills program for Itasca area homeless youth to $1,000 to the Northome School to update its library books to $50,000 for the Riverwalk project in Bigfork. All foundation grants, since its first in 1943, are listed at www.blandinfoundation.org.
Photo: Reif Dance troupe performing during Reif Center expansion groundbreaking event, spring 2015. Photo courtesy Reif Center.