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Image: Image for News Item: Blandin Foundation awards $3 million in grants to 29 local organizations

Blandin Foundation awards $3 million in grants to 29 local organizations

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Education, economic development, youth engagement, and other work to strengthen the Itasca County area will receive support from Blandin Foundation, with the Foundation’s Board of Directors awarding $3.1 million in local grants at its quarterly board meeting in Grand Rapids on Monday.    

Trustees also marked a transition in board leadership, from Marian Barcus to Dr. Michael Johnson (both of Grand Rapids), at this annual business meeting.  Barcus had been chair of the board since 2008 and continues to serve as a trustee.  Johnson is provost of Itasca Community College, serves on the boards of numerous local, regional and statewide organizations, and has been a Blandin Foundation trustee since 2004.

The board also elected Martin Jennings, a Leech Lake tribal member, as vice chair of the Board.  Brian Nicklason, Grand Rapids, will take on the role of the board’s investment committee chair with the retirement from that post and from the board by Gene Radecki in March 2012.  

Grand Rapids businessmanand former Foundation CEO Jim Hoolihan was elected to the Blandin Foundation board, effective Jan. 1, 2012.  This election follows the wishes of Charles Blandin, that the Individual Trustee of the separate Blandin Residuary Trust also serve on the Foundation’s board. 

Hoolihan’s appointment as individual trustee of the Residuary Trust was approved on Nov. 29 by St. Paul District Court Judge Margaret Marrinan, also effective Jan. 1.  Hoolihan succeeds Dr. Bruce Stender on both the Foundation board and the Residuary Trust.  Stender has served the Foundation as a trustee since 1984 and has been individual trustee for the Residuary Trust since 1997.   

“December board meetings are especially exciting in terms of Blandin Foundation business and grants,”said Kathy Annette, foundation president and CEO.  “It is the time of year when Foundation’s trustees review and renew historical grant commitments—reinvesting in work that spans years and has made big differences.  This is especially true in 2011.” 

Of the 29 local grants approved this week, the largest are to Itasca Economic Development Corporation ($500,000 over two years), Itasca Community College ($375,000) and Legal Aid Service of NE Minnesota ($390,000 over three years).

Itasca Economic Development Corporation is focused on creating quality jobs, working primarily to expand and strengthen companies already located in Itasca County.  In collaboration with partners such as the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund (which also received a grant of $120,000) and Area Partnership for Economic Expansion, IEDC also works to support emerging entrepreneurs and attract new business to the region.   Blandin Foundation has provided six grants totaling $10.7 million since 1981 for IEDC’s support of business and job development in Itasca County.

Itasca Community College (ICC) provides accessible, high-quality education through its campus in Grand Rapids, Minn.  Since 1977, Blandin Foundation has made 35 grants to the College for financial aid, totaling $6.85 million. In addition to scholarships provided through the Foundation’s own Education Awards Program, Blandin Foundation supports financial aid programs of ICC (scholarships for traditional, non-traditional and part-time students; work study; on-the-job training experience; and child care).

Legal Aid Service’s office in Grand Rapids provides legal assistance to low-income people.  Blandin Foundation has supported the organization’s local work to provide family safety and protection, employment and income advocacy, and housing stability.  Since 1987, Foundation grants have totaled $2.2 million, including for the service’s nationally recognized Native American Outreach Program. 

Some other grants approved include the work of Bigfork Valley Home Visitor Program, Bovey/Coleraine Youth Center, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, Marcell Family Center, Community Café of Deer River and Grand Rapids, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Campus Life and Ground Floor Youth Center.  A full list of grants aproved may be found at the Foundation’s website (


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