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Recent Blandin Foundation grants support community work on poverty, learning, healthy lifestyles

Grand Rapids, MINN. (March 25, 2022) – Blandin Foundation Board of Trustees approved nearly $1.2 million in grants at its March meeting.

A $620,045 grant to KOOTASCA Community Action, paid over the course of two years, will support staff as they reflect on and adjust their strategies and programs to better meet the needs of local people living in poverty. They will also work to deepen community knowledge and understanding of their mission to build local support and help them better advocate for change.

The City of Hill City received a $6,000 grant for the Hill City Community Garden and Learning Center. With broad financial support from community leaders and organizations, two garden plots were secured to begin building community through hands-on learning about gardening and nutrition. The first, adjacent to the K-12 Hill City school, will be managed by local educators and students as part of class curriculum, and the second plot, donated by the City, will have raised garden beds, a gazebo, and a tool shed available for community use.

Also approved was a $172,550 grant to Itasca Community College for financial aid and wrap-around supports for Itasca-area students. Nested in this grant are supports like childcare funds, emergency grants for food or shelter, and on-the-job training funds that make education accessible to local students driven to forge a new future.

March grants were the first round of grants approved under the Foundation’s updated mission, vision and values. Approved by the board at its December meeting, the updates express the Foundation’s continued commitment to being a stable, local funding partner.

In addition, long-term challenges facing the Itasca area and rural Minnesota — like more than four decades of demographic changes and inequitable rural funding, along with two years of pandemic crisis response — prompted the board to reorient the Foundation’s long-range vision toward addressing chronic disparities facing rural people and communities, especially in the local area.

“Our mission is to connect, fund and advocate for ideas and people to inspire resourcefulness and move rural places forward,” said Mark Hawkinson, Blandin Foundation trustee. “This focuses our hearts, minds and hard work on seeing, understanding and working with communities to change systems that create rural disparities in the first place. It’s the way forward toward our vision of rural Minnesota places that welcome diversity, address injustice and embrace change to create a sustainable and equitable future. Our values – we love rural, courage through change, lead with compassion and seeds for the future – ground our guiding statements and are the passions that fuel our work.”

“The Foundation continues to see its critical work as steadying local communities as they emerge from countless months of crisis stress,” said Tuleah Palmer, Blandin Foundation president and CEO. “The storms of the pandemic have eased up a bit. Now is the right time to notice what situations our neighbors and communities face, think about what’s coming next and adapt to be ready for it.”

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




Photo: Hill City residents will have a chance to dig into gardening and nutrition with its Community Garden and Learning Center, which received a $6,000 grant.

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