The Initiative Foundation is still seeking community input to recognize six exceptional individuals, businesses and organizations for awards recognizing philanthropic excellence in central Minnesota.
Categories include outstanding entries for community, enterprise, environmental initiative, non-profit, philanthropist and volunteer. Award winners will be recognized in an Oct. 23 event in St. Cloud's restored Paramount Theatre. Award winners also receive a $1,000 grant to their favorite charity.
Letters of nomination may be completed and submitted online at www.ifound.org/nominate. Deadline for nominations is Friday. Nominations may also be postmarked by Friday and mailed to -- Award nominations, Initiative Foundation, 405 First St. S.E., Little Falls, MN 56345.
The Initiative Foundation also recently received three large grants to support economic, community and youth programming in central Minnesota.
The foundation received more than $550,000 from two private foundations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Representing its second largest award ever from a private funder, the foundation received a grant of $390,000 from the Bush Foundation to support its Healthy Communities Partnership and Youth as Resources programs for the next three years.
"The renewed funding partnership with the Bush Foundation is crucial to our organization and will enable us to assist many communities throughout our region with important community development activities," said Kathy Gaalswyk, Initiative Foundation president.
The grant will cover expenses related to training, materials, consultants and staff technical assistance.
The foundation launched its HCP program in 1997 to help communities develop and implement comprehensive, citizen-based plans. Communities apply to the program as a 15-20 member team, representing the area's social, cultural and professional diversity. The Initiative Foundation provides each HCP community with a $10,000 grant, ongoing staff assistance and priority project funding.
The Bush Foundation grant will also be used to expand Youth as Resources programming throughout central Minnesota. YAR programs aim to inspire community service by giving the newly formed youth/adult board members the financial means to mobilize youth-led projects in their hometowns.
To date, the Initiative Foundation has awarded grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 to eight separate YAR groups in Cass Lake, North Branch, Pequot Lakes, Pine River, Staples, St. Cloud, Crow Wing and Morrison counties. A YAR group meets regularly in Brainerd, seeking youth input for grant projects and awarding funding for several youth-generated proposals.
Karl Samp, director of community initiatives, said each group has its own board of directors, establishes funding priorities, solicits future financial support and makes small grants to youth organizations. Grants have funded such projects as literacy and homelessness education, a skateboard park, community garden and animal waste drop-off sites, Samp said.
The foundation also received a $70,000 challenge grant from the Points of Light Foundation, a national grant-making organization that addresses social issues by mobilizing volunteers. The grant will support youth service, intergenerational service programming in Crow Wing County and the regional expansion of Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Network, a national volunteer service model that aids chronically ill, disabled and homebound citizens by mobilizing volunteers to provide transportation, respite for caregivers, minor home repair and friendly visitation.
One more grant of $96,000 from the Department of Agriculture will allow the Initiative Foundation to assist two central Minnesota businesses -- Bio Builder Inc., Alexandria/Little Falls and CON-COR Homes Inc., Brainerd. Assistance comes in product research and development, marketing and prototype creation. Both businesses have also received supplementary loan financing from the Initiative Foundation in what the foundation calls two critically important areas of water quality protection and affordable housing.
The USDA Rural Enterprise Grant Program, which funds businesses that show the promise of benefiting rural communities through innovative applications of emerging technology, chose the project from a large pool of national applicants.
Bio Builder Inc. manufactures phosphate-free fertilizer by combining liquefied non-game fish with a grain residual from the Central Minnesota Ethanol Cooperative in Little Falls. Removal of the bottom-feeding fish is expected to improve water quality and the fertilizer does not contribute to excess aquatic vegetation or chemical contamination, particularly for applications in shoreline property areas.
CON-COR Homes developed a patented process providing for the construction on poured concrete foundation footings and walls in a simplified, one-step procedure. Concrete-core housing construction requires low maintenance and is energy-efficient.
The Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation serves 14 counties in central Minnesota. For more information about the foundation, call toll free at 877-632-9255 or visit the online site at www.ifound.org.
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