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Kootasca Community Action Building Resilience with $400,000 Blandin Foundation Grant

Funding will help fight poverty and build community through long-term planning, program evaluation and organizational development.

Key Points:

  • KOOTASCA supports vital community needs, including affordable housing, early childhood education, community engagement and poverty reduction. 
  • The combined service area of Itasca and Koochiching counties experiences higher rates of poverty and food insecurity and lower median household incomes than the state average. Nearly 39% have incomes under $35,000/year, nearly double the state average of 20% in this category. 
  • The $400,000, two-year grant will strengthen program evaluation, plan for organizational resilience, develop asset management strategies and revenue-generating models and stabilize programming during the planning process. 
  • The grant aligns with Blandin Foundation’s focus on regional impact and helping organizations in the Grand Rapids and surrounding areas build resilience for the long haul.

Grand Rapids, Minn. – (April 8, 2024) With a grant aimed at strengthening services in its home community, the Blandin Foundation has awarded $400,000 to KOOTASCA Community Action. The grant will support the organization with a special focus on planning and capacity building, underscoring the Foundation’s commitment to enhancing rural Minnesota’s resilience and sustainability.

“Capacity-building is really about strengthening the resources and skills needed to address community needs and opportunities for the long haul,” said Tuleah Palmer, President and CEO of the Blandin Foundation. “That concept was central to the mission of our founder, Charles Blandin, and is at the core of our strategic re-alignment for achieving and sustaining meaningful impact throughout rural Minnesota.”

KOOTASCA has been an anchor institution in the Itasca County area since 1965, with a mission deeply rooted in “building community to end poverty.” With a combined service area larger than the state of Connecticut, KOOTASCA offers a wide range of essential services including affordable housing development, early childhood education, and health and safety supports to combat poverty. The Blandin Foundation has supported the organization’s efforts for nearly five decades with 85 grants totaling $8.9 million for various operational and programmatic needs.

The current grant aims to bolster KOOTASCA’s capabilities in several strategic areas:

  • Enhancing program evaluation capacity and processes.
  • Developing capital and asset management strategies to enhance long-term organizational sustainability.
  • Exploring innovative avenues for revenue generation and diversifying funding sources.
  • Planning for organizational resilience.

“This grant supports KOOTASCA as they strive to not only continue their vital services but also to elevate their organizational framework for the future,” said Kyle Erickson, the Blandin Foundation grants program officer who leads community wealth building. “It is an opportunity to innovate, leverage new resources and meet the evolving needs of our communities.”

“This is an important moment for KOOTASCA as we prepare strategically for our future,” said KOOTASCA Executive Director Maureen Rosato. “Instead of one-off planning, we have an opportunity to fortify our systems to better serve needs ranging from early childhood education and childcare, housing development to supporting people in the community struggling to fit in for a variety of reasons in so they can also thrive. The grant will ensure that the organization continues to grow and adapt to the changing landscape of community needs.”

Snapshot of Itasca and Koochiching County – (source: Blandin Foundation Research Office)

  • $56,441 median household income (2017-21 ACS) vs. statewide $77,706
  • 38.6% of households have a household income <$35,000 (2017-21 ACS) vs. statewide 20.5%
  • 11.2% of people have an income below the poverty level vs. statewide 9.2%
  • Food Insecurity Rate (Feeding America, 2021) statewide 6.8% vs.
    • Itasca County: 8.6%
    • Koochiching County: 9.2%

KOOTASCA Community Action is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending poverty and building a stronger community in Itasca and Koochiching counties. Since its inception, KOOTASCA has been a pivotal force in providing affordable housing, early childhood education, and a range of support services to those in need.

Blandin Foundation is a private foundation based in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. One of a handful of rural-based, rural-serving foundations in the country, Blandin Foundation serves rural Minnesota, focusing resources in north-central Minnesota. Our grants, opportunities that connect rural leaders, and policy work build up financial and human capital, so rural Minnesota places can welcome diversity, address injustice, and embrace change to create a sustainable and equitable future.

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