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Blandin Foundation awards $4.4 million in grants

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – During their recent summer meeting, Blandin Foundation trustees awarded grants that strengthen rural Minnesota communities, including 23 grants totaling $3.1 million to continue efforts of Grand Rapids and Itasca County area leaders.

Invest Early serves at-risk children ages 0-5 across four local school districts, eight towns and 26 classrooms.  Continued funding from Blandin Foundation supports comprehensive programs and wrap-around supports for nearly 500 children and 400 families each year.  Invest Early’s impacts are annually assessed, with the most recent showing the best kindergarten readiness scores to date, strong improvements in home learning environments, and continued strong academic performance sticking with Invest Early students.  Itasca Area Schools Collaborative provides governance for Invest Early, which has received more than $22.5 million from Blandin Foundation over the past 12 years.

The Boys and Girls Club of the Leech Lake Area was founded in 1999 in response to the community’s call for positive, structured after-school activities for young people on and near the Leech Lake Reservation.  The Club offers a variety of programming such as leadership skills, academic tutoring, peer mentoring, health and nutrition, and career guidance.  A $135,000 grant over the next two years supports the Deer River unit.  Blandin Foundation has supported the Club with grants totaling $664,000 since 2006.

More than 26,000 local customers (mostly young women) have redeemed more than 144,000 coupons that they earned from participating providers for items needed to care for their baby or young child.   Baby Steps Boutique has facilitated this work since 2001, acting as a welcoming gateway for new and expectant parents.  Nearly 200 individual social, medical, dental and educational services collaborate with Baby Steps.  Blandin Foundation has awarded the program $1.5 million in grants since its inception, including $165,000 over the next two years.

Reif Arts Council offers a diverse mix of performing and visual arts to be experienced, exhibited and taught.   Reif programming are available to everyone, regardless of circumstances, and provides an estimated $1.4 million in annual economic impact.  Since 1974, Blandin Foundation has supported the Reif Arts Council with $7,620,000 for programming, capital and operating support.  A $340,000 Blandin grant award over the next two years supports this impact.

Northland Area Family Center, located in Remer, was founded 21 years ago as part of the Northland Early Childhood Collaborative.  Blandin Foundation has supported the center since 2007 to ensure that the greatest number of children who are eligible for preschool attend high-quality, affordable early childhood programs and participate in home visits.   A grant of $180,000 continues the foundation’s support over the next two years.

The complete list of Blandin Foundation grants, including those going back to the first in 1943, can be found online at A summary of June 2017 grant awards is available below.




Suggested photo caption:  Blandin Foundation trustees toured minerals and energy research labs of UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute in Coleraine during their June board meeting.

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