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Blandin Foundation trustees award $4.1 million in grants 

Grand Rapids, MN (July 2, 2021) — Blandin Foundation trustees approved $4.1 million in grants at their June meeting, including several to strengthen Itasca area communities as they begin to build forward from crisis-level action during the COVID-19 pandemic, toward stronger, regenerative futures. 

Two-year grants to 26 nonprofits to fund general operations are part of the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to work that helps Itasca area residents meet their basic needs. Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, Marcell Family Center, ElderCircle, First Call For Help/211, Habitat for Humanity, Northern Community Radio and the Itasca Chapter of Special Olympics are among recipients. 

“Since day one of the pandemic, nonprofit organizations were there — connecting, serving, sorting, informing, sharing time, energy and knowledge,” said Tuleah Palmer, Blandin Foundation president and CEO. “These grants help limit funding uncertainty as nonprofits catch their breath after these long months of serving uncharted community needs. They are one small way to acknowledge their dedication to making sure community members’ most pressing needs are met.” 

The spirit of creativity and innovation that prompted nonprofit leaders to work in new ways during the pandemic is visible in projects that address root causes of instability for rural families.  

With support of a $720,000 grant, KOOTASCA will build capacity to address the housing system in Itasca and Koochiching Counties that disproportionately impacts low-income households. Funding will be used to assess staffing needs to identify, vet and develop housing projects, access training, technical assistance and mentoring, and have seed capital to grow a project pipeline. 

“Safe, affordable housing is the bedrock on which so many other opportunities can build from,” said Palmer. “A home offers a sense of stability, a tangible catalyst for access to new opportunities and conditions where rural people can choose their future.” 

Nearly $400,000 in funding will bolster early childhood programming in Remer and Hill City. The Northland Area Family Services Center and the Independent School District 2’s Early Start program proved critical for families most impacted during the pandemic, providing quality, full-day programming. Programs get kids kindergarten-ready, while also giving parents the flexibility they need to remain in the workforce.  

A $239,400 grant to Itasca Community College provides supports to students who demonstrate financial need to pay tuition, as well as funds for supports like child care, emergency funds and other costs that can affect students’ ability to stay in school.  

Earlier in June, the Foundation shared with 279 Itasca area students that they were awarded Blandin Foundation Education Grants of up to $5,500 for their education after high school. Total amount awarded for 2021-22 is $1,130,500 to students from 11 area schools, including more than 85 first-time recipients.   

“Itasca area communities inspire us with their resourcefulness and ingenuity,” Palmer said. “Our resources simply add to the mix, so work and wisdom ripples even deeper into the Itasca area.” 

The complete list of June 2021 grants awarded, as well as all Blandin Foundation grants since 1943, can be found at its website. 


Picture: Cre Larson, executive director of First Call for Help of Itasca County/211 

Suggested caption: Cre Larson is the executive director of First Call for Help of Itasca County. With support of a $100,000 grant, First Call for Help/211 will provide free, confidential and nonjudgmental crisis intervention, active listening and information and referral services. 

Learn more about First Call for Help’s COVID outreach here



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