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Blandin Foundation awards $4.8 million in grants

Grand Rapids, MINN. (June 29, 2022) – Blandin Foundation Board of Trustees approved nearly $4.8 million in grants at its June meeting for work that will strengthen the area’s future workforce and make topics rural communities care about better heard and more visible.  


An array of grants this round lift local organizations working to inspire, support and guide young people from cradle to career.  


A $2 million grant will bolster Invest Early’s work to serve at-risk children ages 0-5, and their families, with quality early childhood education and wrap-around services like transportation, family development, extended day services and mental health support.  


Programming for Itasca area youth will get a boost with a $240,000 grant to Itasca County 4H. Through intentional engagement across youth populations, 4H creates programs that raise youth voice and confidence, while also making vital connections between young people and caring adults. 


Earlier in June, the Foundation shared with 276 Itasca area students that they were awarded Blandin Foundation Scholarships of up to $5,500 for their education after high school. More than $1.15 million for the upcoming school year was awarded to students from 11 area schools, including more than 121 first-time recipients.   


A $185,000 grant to the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency will support Itasca area adults pursuing a postsecondary degree or credentialing program to secure living-wage employment. More than 300 Itasca area adults have participated in the program with nearly 90 percent of recipients completing their program of study and going on to secure quality employment. 


“Investing in our young people today makes for strong rural communities tomorrow,” said Sonja Merrild, grants director at Blandin Foundation. “We’re inspired by the mentors, cheerleaders and supporters who surround our young people with love and wisdom as they explore and build their personal and professional lives in our communities.”  


Anishinaabe Legal Services (ALS) will implement a new program to provide housing-related legal representation as part of a $300,000 grant payable over three years. ALS provides no-cost legal support to more than 500 low-income Native American people in the Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth areas each year. Evictions and homelessness in Indian Country have risen to an inflection point. Research from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and the Volunteer Lawyers Network shows that tenants with legal representation are less likely to face devastating housing consequences. This alleviates pressure on homeless shelters and public resources, while also supporting better long-term outcomes in people’s physical and mental health, ability to work and more. Through this grant, ALS will also boost their development efforts to further sustain their services. 


A pair of grants will build up rural Minnesota’s ability to share news and trends affecting communities. 


Northern Minnesota’s local news and information landscape will become fuller with a $500,000 grant payable over three years to Northern Community Radio (KAXE/KBXE). Local journalism has taken a hit in the past two decades, decreasing by 20 percent since 2004 through closures and consolidations. When quality local news coverage is absent, citizens lose the ability to keep their community informed on local issues and hold elected leaders and private industry accountable. Northern Community Radio seeks to fill this gap by placing more reporters throughout the region and engaging local people in driving the types of news and information the community needs. 


The Center for Rural Policy and Development (CRPD) provides non-partisan research on economic, social and cultural forces that affect rural Minnesota, data that informs policy and decision-making. CRPD staff will use a $300,000 grant over three years to dig deeper on fiscal inequities in rural and Tribal Minnesota, and expand communications so information reaches more decisionmakers and community members.  


“Minnesota’s rural and Tribal communities are working to recover from multiple crises of recent years, while also working within systems that have been stacked against rural for more than four decades,” said Kyle Erickson, grants program officer. “The trusted voice and information CRPD brings to state decisionmakers about the infrastructure, educational and economic realities in rural Minnesota are critical to problem-solving that centers rural perspectives in these processes.”  


For a full grants list and information about Blandin Foundation grantmaking, visit 



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