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Image: June 2018 board meeting Kiesler House

Blandin Foundation awards $3.3 million in grants, names new trustees

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. (June 29, 2018) – Trustees of Blandin Foundation elected three new board members and approved 48 grants totaling $3,282,607 during their quarterly meeting on Monday, June 25 in Grand Rapids.

Brian Nicklason, chair of the Foundation’s board of trustees, announced that three Itasca County residents will join the Foundation’s 12-member board in January 2019: Peter Birkey, Laura Connelly and Kayla Schubert-Aubid.  Trustees also elected Dr. Heidi Korstad (Bigfork), to serve as the next chair of the board, starting in January.

“Each of these individuals brings deep background and passion for strengthening rural Minnesota communities, especially Grand Rapids and the Itasca County area,” he said.  “We are honored that they have accepted this invitation and look forward to their many contributions.”

Blandin Foundation trustees provide strategic leadership and governance to the organization and ensure that it carries out the purposes for which it was established in a legal, ethical, accountable and transparent manner.  Profile of current trustees are available at the Foundation’s web site,

Grants approved by trustees at this summer meeting of the board provide $2,459,457 specifically for local initiatives.  Among these 26 Itasca-area grants are:

  • Itasca Area Schools Collaborative was awarded $1.925 million for continuation of the Itasca area’s Invest Early program.
  • Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency will continue to provide adult scholarships with the support of a $302,132 Blandin Foundation grant and another $20,000 will support development of the Arrowhead Mobility Management Program for the Itasca area.
  • Bigfork students will host a documentary and discussion on anxiety and depression with $500 in support, one of many small grants and donations.
  • Ball Club received $20,000 in support for the park that the community is creating.

A full list of the June grants, including those awarded beyond Itasca County (such as Minnesota Public Radio for outstate news coverage, Minnesota Compass for their data and demographic trends website, Wilder Foundation for a homeless youth study in rural Minnesota, etc.) can be found at the Blandin Foundation website.  An interactive map provides grants data back to Charles Blandin’s first grant to the City of Grand Rapids for Blandin Beach in 1943.

Given their fiduciary responsibilities, trustees also took action on two finance-related topics.

Trustees approved a policy statement that governs investments of Blandin Foundation assets, including descriptions of various roles and responsibilities, investment objectives, philosophy, performance criteria, etc.   This key document now is available at the Foundation’s website.

As part of its annual review and approval cycle, trustees also approved the 2017 audited financial statements.  They, too, are online at the Foundation’s website.

Blandin Foundation has committed to transparency, including its finances, and for this has received the “Glass Pockets” designation from the national Foundation Center.   A link to Glass Pockets can be found at the bottom of Blandin Foundation website pages.


Photo: Blandin Foundation trustees met at Kiesler House with Itasca County and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe mental health leaders during the foundation’s summer board meeting.


Key links cited:

Trustee profiles:

Interactive map of grants, leadership training alumni and broadband programs:

Blandin Foundation investment policy:

Blandin Foundation 2017 Audited Financial Statements:

Glass Pockets profile for Blandin Foundation:


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