Blooming Prairie Center nets grants

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2000

BLOOMING PRAIRIE – For residents of Blooming Prairie and surrounding communities, the Blooming Prairie Center just keeps getting better.

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

BLOOMING PRAIRIE – For residents of Blooming Prairie and surrounding communities, the Blooming Prairie Center just keeps getting better.

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Recently, the center was awarded three grants, allowing it to continue funding current programs.

The Federated Insurance Foundation of Owatonna awarded the center $500, the Kopp Family Foundation of Edina approved a $5,000 grant, and GTE awarded an additional $5,000.

Ardis Knutson, interim executive director for the center, explained how she became aware of the grant money.

"I simply approached our local GTE and they sent me along," Knutson said. "I was very lucky."

Knutson did research on the Internet for others. She said the center was fortunate to be given money.

Marla Stark, a secretary for Federated Insurance, explained how her foundation determines awards to be given out.

"We always go by requests," Stark said.

The categories for awards are based on what the organization is and what it does, Stark said.

The Blooming Prairie Center won in "Civic and Community" for its assistance to Hispanics, helping them fit better into the community.

The center, originally founded by Father Paul Halloran in 1988 as a Hispanic center, instituted its current programs in 1994.

"In 1994, the board came up with the decision to change it because the original concept did not develop the way it was expected," Knutson said.

The center, whose mission is to promote mutual understanding, acceptance, appreciation and respect among the diverse membership of the Blooming Prairie community, provides a number of programs and services to Blooming Prairie residents, as well as residents of surrounding communities.

The two main programs that they focus on are outreach and education.

Knutson described the outreach program as a way in which to solve problems that commonly occur for Hispanics in school, with employers and with police because of their limited English skills.

There also is a translator available whom Knutson said translates "just about anything."

The adult education program was designed with the following opportunities in mind: graduation equivalency diploma courses, English as a second language and driver’s education. These skills will not only ready individuals for the job market, but also increase their ability to work independently.

Many programs also are targeted toward children.

While many of the center’s children come from Blooming Prairie, Knutson said that they’re "happy to serve anybody that can benefit from what we have to offer."

The center is offering a variety of activities for school children to participate in during the warm summer months, including a minicamp; a one-day art camp scheduled for July 26; a one-day bicycle camp set for July 28; and the possibility of a science club.

One program Knutson seemed particularly excited about was a cultural program that helps individuals share in the Hispanic culture.

Tenants living in a building provided by migrant services "provide important services to people in the community."

Knutson explained that the center provides a work force for residents of Blooming Prairie, and is hoping to establish contacts in the Austin area, as well as Owatonna.

Many individuals have, did or will live in Blooming Prairie and like the community.

"We’re impacting a community larger than just Blooming Prairie per se," Knutson said.

Because of the center’s large influence on Blooming Prairie and surrounding communities, she said, they hope to expand their services in the future to better serve area residents.

"We hope to perhaps get a woman’s program as well as a small computer lab," Knutson said.

There is need for more Internet and computer access, she said, and they are "doing so to a limited extent based on what they have."

Members of the center staff hope to also provide more opportunities for children to exercise their individual creativity as time and money allow.

For more information on any of the Blooming Prairie Center’s programs, or on how to become involved, write Blooming Prairie Center, 401 Fourth St. SE, P.O. Box 433, Blooming Prairie, Minn. 55917, or call (507) 583-6699.