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Image: Image for News Item: Grand Rapids residents complete Blandin Community Leadership Program retreat

Grand Rapids residents complete Blandin Community Leadership Program retreat

Foundation will train another group in 2015

Grand Rapids, Minn. — Twenty-six residents of the Grand Rapids area returned May 2 from a five-day leadership retreat, the first segment of an intense eight-day training provided by the Blandin Community Leadership Program (BCLP). The group also will participate in follow-up workshops in August and October 2014.

A program of Blandin Foundation, BCLP has provided experiential leadership training for more than 6,500 community leaders from more than 400 rural Minnesota communities since it began in 1985. Participants travel from across rural Minnesota to participate in these retreats, all of which take place in Itasca County at Ruttger’s Sugar Lake Lodge.

Local residents participating in this training were:

Britta Arendt, John Bauer, Kim Brink Smith, Laura Connelly, Andy David, Jesse Davis, Deb DeMuth, Kyle Erickson, Luke Francisco, Chris Fulton, Kim Geislinger, Conley Janssen, Dave Kooda, Tara Makinen, Bill Marshall, Sonja Merrild, Isaac Meyer, Sharon New, Kathleen Nuccio, Robin Omberg, Tiffani Ott, Tom Pagel, Bri Solem, Scott Stein, Carissa Wiersma, and Vic Williams.

The goal of the Blandin Community Leadership Program is to develop and train a broad base of local leaders to build healthy communities. Topics covered during the retreat included: identifying and describing community issues and opportunities, effective interpersonal communication, building social capital, appreciating personality differences, managing interpersonal conflict, understanding community power, mobilizing community resources, and goal setting.

“A healthy community depends on leadership engagement of community members,” said Dr. Kathleen Annette, president and CEO for Blandin Foundation.  “The leadership demonstrated by these participants reflects their commitment to Grand Rapids, as well as to the vibrancy of the region and rural Minnesota.”

A commitment to local leadership

Itasca County-area residents have participated in more than 22 BCLP cohorts since the program began in 1985. More than 300 area residents are alumni of the program – the highest concentration of BCLP-trained community leaders in the state. Numerous others have participated in Blandin Foundation-led training on leadership in education, health care, economic development and poverty. This spring marks the first time BCLP has been invited to train a group specifically focused on Grand Rapids, however.

“More than 100 residents applied for this round of training, confirming that interest here in community leadership remains very strong,” said Valerie Shangreaux, director of Blandin Foundation’s leadership programs.  ”As a result of the high level of interest, we will offer training for another Grand Rapids group again in early 2015.”

Recruitment for the 2015 Grand Rapids group will begin this fall.  Information on BCLP and all Blandin Foundation programs are at the website.

“Vibrant, resilient communities like Grand Rapids grow from strong leadership,” Annette said. “We’re pleased to continue to be invited into our home community to stand with seasoned and emerging leaders as they imagine and claim the future.”

BCLP training programs are funded entirely by the Blandin Foundation, whose mission is to strengthen rural Minnesota communities, especially the Grand Rapids area. 


Blandin Foundation works for vibrant rural Minnesota communities by investing in community leaders and working with partners to expand opportunity for all residents.  Located in Grand Rapids, Minn., it is one of only a handful of foundations in the U.S. focused exclusively on rural communities and the largest rural-based private foundation in Minnesota.  Information on Blandin Foundation grant-making, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives: 

Twitter: @BlandinFound



Photo caption – Grand Rapids

Participants in BCLP training  April 28 – May 2 included:

Back Row: (left to right)– Robin Omberg, Andy David, Dave Kooda, Conley Janssen, Carissa Wiersma, Chris Fulton, Kyle Erickson, and Bill Marshall

Middle Row: (left to right)- Ann Glumac (Trainer), Kim Brink Smith, Isaac Meyer, Bri Solem, Britta Arendt, Laura Connelly, John Bauer, Sonja Merrild, Tara Makinen, Jesse Davis, and Bill Mease (Trainer) 

Front Row: (left to right)– Vic Williams, Tom Pagel, Deb DeMuth, Scott Stein, Kim Geislinger, Sharon New, Kathleen Nuccio, Luke Francisco, and Tiffani Ott

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