Initiative Fund awards grants to community

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 7, 2000

The Initiative Fund recently approved grants for two area organizations, the City of Blooming Prairie and the Parenting Resource Center.

Monday, August 07, 2000

The Initiative Fund recently approved grants for two area organizations, the City of Blooming Prairie and the Parenting Resource Center.

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The city of Blooming Prairie received a $2,000 grant for researching what other communities have done in terms of technological readiness and web site interaction.

Michael Rietz, city administrator, stated by phone that they were going to investigate technological readiness.

"We’re going to assess the technological infrastructure of the community and determine what needs to be improved," Rietz said.

Blooming Prairie is also searching for consultants to evaluate the communities’ readiness.

Rietz, who said that Blooming Prairie also applied for a larger grant from the Initiative Fund, learned about the grant from the fund themselves.

The Initiative Fund, he said, sent out information on grants covering certain "issues" – technological readiness was one such issue.

Blooming Prairie is currently developing a site for the city.

"As a small rural community, we’re trying to create a niche as small and rural," Rietz said, "but up to date with technology use as a development tool."

The Initiative Fund awarded a total of $323,015 in grants to forty organizations. One major emphasis in their grants this year was projects that increase the use of technology, thus making the community a better places for residents and businesses.

"The Initiative Fund is a regional foundation founded fifteen years ago through the vision and generosity of the McKnight foundation," said Carol Cerney, community outreach director.

PRC earns grant

The Parenting Resource Center was awarded a $25,000 grant supporting the start-up of a child care center targeted to Hispanic workers.

Maryanne Law, executive director of the PRC, explained by phone how they plan to utilize the grant.

"We’re developing a child care model, based on Catherwood home child care, which will offer multi-cultural employer sponsored childcare," Law said.

This center will provide 24-hour weekend, sick, and infant care.

Printed materials and the staff will be bilingual; a Spanish speaking staff will work all three shifts, with all meals and programs featuring high cultural inclusivity.

The grant had three objectives, Law explained: to support recruitment, hiring, and training of fourteen staff members, creating a training environment for workers to gain experience and skills and increase child care capacity for the work force by creating a minimum of six child care licensees.

"By the end of the year, we’ll have six new workers," Law said. "At least four of them will be fluent in Spanish."

This will build the capacity for child care, cultural diversity, and non-traditional care, Law said.

Fund helps in three areas

This recent grant is just one of three formed in response to the rural crisis, Cerney said.

The three grant making areas are workforce development, including housing, child care, and training; business development, in which technical assets can help organizations be more successful; and community development which focuses on leadership and diversity.

Cerney called these areas three cogs of the wheel.

"If any of these things are out of kilter the community is not going to grow," she said.

The Initiative Fund provides resources throughout southeastern Minnesota communities to create opportunities to bring a high quality of life to the people living in the area.

In addition to grants, the fund also provides loans to help start up and expand businesses; this is something Cerney said affects business growth dramatically.

Applying for these grants is a lengthy process; first, applicants must complete a one page application which is then reviewed by a staff grant team.

"While screening (the applications), we ask ourselves if it’s a project we want to be a part of," said Cerney.

She then stated that two-thirds of the applicants are approved.

"All grants are a collaborative effort," Cerney said. "We make sure they’re meeting the needs of the community."

If, for some reason, a grant is not awarded, the Initiative Fund awards the organization with a $2,000 mini grant to help them get back on their feet, and provides them with resource ideas.

"If they’re missing aspects, but the core is there, we work with people to help pull together ideas," Cerney said.