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Image: Image for News Item: Blandin Foundation sets future direction, awards $2 million in grants, names new trustees

Blandin Foundation sets future direction, awards $2 million in grants, names new trustees


GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. – Trustees of Blandin Foundation announced this week a variety of recent decisions on behalf of the organization—electing trustees, refining its future focus, and issuing new grants. 

Marian Barcus, chair of the Foundation’s board of trustees, announced that three Minnesotans will join the Foundation’s board in January 2011: Hayden O. Creque (Sartell), Heidi O. Korstad, M.D. (Bigfork) and Liwanag Querijero Ojala (Mankato).  “Each of these individuals brings deep background and passion for strengthening rural Minnesota communities,” she said.  

Background summaries for Blandin Foundation trustees are available at the Foundation’s web site,   

“We are fortunate to have these three new trustees joining our board,” said Dr. Tim Bonner, trustee and chair of the Foundation’s nominating committee.  “It is truly gratifying to know such outstanding candidates.  They bring perspectives, backgrounds and experiences that will help the Foundation and its partners strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area.”                                                                                                    

Trustees also recently established a refined strategic direction for the Foundation, announced Foundation President Jim Hoolihan.  “As rural Minnesota evolves, so must our work to help build healthy communities,” he said.  “Trustees have asked us to focus our resources over the next several years in three key areas: Commitment to Home, Community Leadership Capacity and Building Inclusive Prosperity.  Already, Foundation staff is working to bring to life strategies that:

  1. Optimize the work of the Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids, its home community.
  2. Further strengthen the Foundation’s ability to develop and sustain the capacity of leaders to build healthy rural communities.
  3. With partners, simultaneously pursue educational attainment, economic vitality and greater inclusivity in our communities so that all rural residents, especially in the Grand Rapids area, have greater opportunities to prosper.”

 “These are ambitious intentions, and we’re excited to focus all our resources—our financial assets, our voices, our experiences, our passion, our partnerships—in new and strengthened ways.  And, yet, always at the forefront of our work is Mr. Blandin’s legacy and our stewardship of his promise to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, today and for all generations to come.”   

Grants approved by Foundation trustees in March and June 2010 total $2.027 million, follow the revised Foundation priorities, and include: 

Support of $100,000 will help to establish a science and math education program at Rainy River Community College in International Falls.  Rainy River’s model for its program builds on success with inclusivity in the engineering programs at Itasca Community College and is designed to attract a diverse range of educators interested in serving rural communities at the middle-school and high-school level.    

A grant of $650,000 over two years sustains critical home-community programs such as Circles of Support, Itasca Area Crisis Nursery, Teenage Parent Program, Crisis Housing and other community engagement programs of Kootasca Community Action at a time when both resources are shrinking and needs are growing. 

Over two years, $50,000 in operational support for the Wells Academy, Bemidji, Minn.  This unique non-profit academy increases employability for Native American apprentices.  It is an offshoot of Wells Technology, a manufacturing company that provides precision machined products to aerospace, medical, electronic and computer industries. 

A significant regional economic and arts force, the Reif Arts Council will use $310,000 from the Blandin Foundation over two years to continue stimulate arts in northern Minnesota, including programs for children’s performing arts, family, artists, and dance. 

Over the next three years, the Itasca County Trails Task Force will leverage $150,000 from the Foundation with public and other funds and volunteer effort to foster development and long-term sustainability of the county’s multi-faceted systems of trails and facilities. 

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Workforce Development Initiative will use $50,000 from the Foundation to continue its work to foster partnership that prepare people to perform successfully in the region’s workplaces through quality education, training and skill-building. 

Two regional schools, Bug O Nay Ge Shig and Northern Lights Community School, are pursing programs to strengthen their student communities.  Bug O Nay Ge Shig received $50,000 over two years to strengthen efforts toward truancy intervention and prevention.  Northern Lights Community School will receive $57,000 over three years to create ItascaCorps, a local service program based on the national AmericaCorps Promise Fellows model. 

Full listings of Blandin Foundation grants can be found at the organization’s web site,  


Blandin Foundation, Minnesota’s largest rural-based private foundation is located in Grand Rapids, Minn.  Its mission is to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area, through grants, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives.

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