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Image: Fall scenic Mississippi River aerial Weis 2020

Blandin Foundation grants strengthen area news, community networks

Grand Rapids, MINN. (October 7, 2022) – Blandin Foundation recently awarded grants to strengthen local media and activities that build up community connections and resilience.

Itasca County’s news and information ecosystem will be strengthened with a $500,000 grant to Itasca Community Television (ICTV). Paid over three years, ICTV will build up program offerings, audience outreach and overall organizational financial health by evaluating current operating and financial structures, creating a plan for future growth and adding the additional capacity needed to get there.

This type of growth in rural media is sorely needed. Local journalism has taken a hit in the past two decades, decreasing by 20 percent since 2004 through closures and consolidations. As local coverage shrinks, research shows that taxes increase, bonds rates worsen, and community economic development suffers.

“Locally run Public Access Television serves a critically important role in rural communities,” said Sonja Merrild, director of rural grantmaking at Blandin Foundation. “As people evolve how they access and consume local news, like city council and school board meetings, the news source must also evolve. Blandin Foundation’s funding will assist ICTV as they explore new ways to reach a broader local audience.”

In addition to approving the ICTV grant, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees ratified more than $316,000 in grants at its September meeting for work that rebuilds networks as communities emerge from the pandemic. A two-year bridge grant to the Itasca County Family Services Collaborative’s Truancy Prevention Program (TPP) will help the multi-agency initiative continue to remove barriers that can lead to student truancy, like access to transportation, food and clothing. During the pandemic, student truancy more than doubled locally, while paused state funding risked staff cuts at a critical time.

The Sharing Fund administered by Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation continues to see high use by area residents for crisis needs like emergency shelter and utilities, with more than 1,000 requests so far this year. A $90,000 grant provides funds for these needs.

A grant to Haven a Place For All provided support for their third annual LGBTQIA+ Community Pride picnic and community education event, which drew its largest crowd to-date and has grown through the more involvement of additional community support organizations. Other projects that received funding include a healing garden at Bigfork Valley Hospital, Itasca County Community Connect, and Bovey Farmers Day.

“Activities like these boost the connections between people and across communities that research shows helps communities thrive amidst change,” Merrild said. “Strengthened relationships help people stay healthier and happier, allow communities to respond to change, and grow resilience — all part of the fiber of rural.”

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

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