LITTLE FALLS - Responding to economic challenges, the Initiative Foundation invested about $2.8 million to strengthen central Minnesota communities and businesses in 2009.
The foundation awarded $805,000 in grants in the areas of children and families, economic development community planning, environmental preservation and nonprofit effectiveness. Responding to economic hardship and unemployment, about 60 percent of its total grants were tabbed to help distressed families, displaced workers and small businesses.
Another $2.1 million in foundation business loans helped to start or expand 25 locally owned companies that secured 410 quality jobs, the foundation reported. The foundation defines "quality jobs" as those that pay an average of $18 per hour including benefits - the living wage for a family of four. Its business loans are targeted to manufacturing, technology and "green" businesses.
"Early in 2009, we realized that the economic situation called for a major response from those of us who had the resources to respond," said Lee Hanson, Initiative Foundation board of trustees chair. "We have hundreds of generous donors who invested in us in the good times so we could respond in the bad times."
The foundation also grew its leadership programs that rally citizen volunteers around community planning, healthy lakes and rivers, early childhood, and effective nonprofit management. More than 1,100 citizens participated in the programs.
Hanson said that planning regionally, helping working families, creating jobs, and serving donors will remain the foundation's priorities for 2010.
"We have to stay the course," he added. "We're the only central Minnesota foundation that prioritizes economic development to raise the tide for all people, and we're not out of the woods yet."
Based in Little Falls and serving central Minnesota's 14 counties, the Initiative Foundation offers loans to businesses, grants to nonprofits, and a variety of leadership programs that enable citizens to build stronger communities.
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