LITTLE FALLS - A $219,675 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program helped the Mid-State Education District in Little Falls continue its groundbreaking Interactive Television program.
Steve Wenzel, state director of USDA Rural Development, recently recognized Mid-State's grant award and learn more about how the grant is benefiting the organization and the communities it serves.
"There was a definite need here for updated equipment and thankfully we were able to step in and help," Wenzel said. "Mid-State has been a pioneer in the distance learning field and I'm proud of the partnership USDA has with the organization."
Ten school districts in central Minnesota had their ITV equipment updated through the grant. These included the Holdingford, Upsala, Swanville, Isle, Onamia, Little Falls, Pierz and Nay-Ah-Shing (Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) districts.
The grant comes from Rural Development's Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program, which aims to improve access to education and medical services through the use of technology. Mid-State used the grant to update its ITV equipment, including delivering programs to desktop computers.
Mid-State was the first organization in the nation to deliver a multipoint ITV classroom network. Today it serves 10 school districts in Morrison, Mille Lacs, Todd and Stearns counties. Professors from Central Lakes College in Brainerd, St. Cloud State University and other Minnesota colleges and universities offer college courses to daytime students in high school and non-traditional adult evening courses.
"I think it's awesome that USDA believes in this as much as we do," said Charlie Diebel, Technology Coordinator for Mid-Sate. "There are people other than us that see the value in these programs and work to deliver them to rural areas in Minnesota."
For more information, go online to www.usda.gov/rus/telecom/dlt/dlt.htm. Rural Development also offers programs to assist with home ownership, community facilities, renewable energy, job creation and other economic development ventures.
Community foundation assists with year-end charity donations
The Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation helps area individuals and families receive tax credits for end-of-the-year gifts.
Individuals can use a charitable-giving option called a donor-advised fund to donate a desired amount before the end of the year and choose charities to benefit from those dollars next year or at another later date.
The use of donor-advised funds is on the rise nationwide, posting double-digit increases from 2006 to 2007, the BLACF reported. Much of that success lies in the large transfer of wealth taking place as baby boomers age, the BLACF said.
BLACF and its parent organization, the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, now have nearly $20 million in assets in donor-advised funds. The number of donor-advised funds established annually at the foundations increased about 50 percent from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2007.
At this time of year, the foundation reported experiencing a spike in requests from donors and professional advisers to establish donor-advised funds because the process is quick and allows donors after the New Year to give additional thought to how they want to make a difference. Donors need to invest a minimum of $1,000 to establish a fund. Dollars can be distributed to charities once the fund reaches at least $10,000 in assets.
The Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation is a public charity that attracts and administers charitable funds for the benefit of local residents. For more information, call (877) 253-4380.
Former Crow Wing commissioner Sluss named to Drug Court Initiative
Former Crow Wing County Commissioner Terry Sluss was appointed to the Drug Court Initiative by the Minnesota Judicial Council, the policy body of the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The Drug Court Initiative will be convened to examine the long-term and systematic challenges facing the judicial branch as it seeks to more effectively deal with alcohol and other drug cases in the court system. The initiative will oversee and advise policy formation and distribute funding for problem-solving approaches.
Sluss is a former methamphetamine prevention coordinator for Crow Wing County. He has served on the Supreme Court Chemical Dependency Task Force.
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