Local projects to be used as models

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2003

Two local organizations will be presented as models for other Minnesota communities at a state-wide conference for their use of innovative funding sources to meet public needs.

Representatives from the Catherwood Home and the Welcome Center, both organizations started through Apex Austin and the Hormel Foundation, will lecture and lead workshops at the conference, called Addressing Diversity, to show other cities how to organize similar programs. The conference is designed by the Center for Rural Policy and Development and the League of Minnesota Cities.

The Catherwood Home is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week child care home that uses a combination of funds from the Hormel Foundation, Quality Pork Processors, community donations and a customer co-pay system.

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"There's a number of complex resources that intertwine together," project coordinator Kathy Stutzman said. "It's already a model for a number of projects."

Stutzman said the home benefits businesses, the community and the parents utilizing its services.

"If each party that is responsible for that need pays a little bit, then no one has to pay that much," she said.

Not only does the home provide a safe place for children whose parents are at work, it provides job opportunities for bilingual workers. Stutzman said it is an "economic and employment development tool." Since Catherwood Home began servicing the community three years ago, 11 bilingual staff members have gotten their license, joining the ranks of the licensed staff already working there.

"It's kind of a multi-purpose community resource," Stutzman said.

The Welcome Center is also sharing the recognition.

Director Liliana Silvestry-Neilon said their program has been a huge help to people coming into the community that do not have the language capabilities to take care of fundamental things like finding housing or signing up for various services.

"There's just so many details we take for granted," she said.

The Welcome Center provides those services not only to people with difficulties speaking English, but also community organizations that need translators, Silvestry-Neilon said.

"We are a tool of the community for both sides," she said.

Communities such as Wilmar and Northfield have already benefited from the Welcome Center model, but Silvestry-Neilon said it is a tough program to start up

"It's going to be very difficult to develop this sort of program unless they have that sort of support of the community," she said.

The Catherwood Home also is used to people utilizing their experience.

"The concept of sharing a vision is not a new one for the advisory committee," Stutzman said. "To get this state-wide recognition probably just means we'll get more calls."

Matt Merritt can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at :mailto:matt.merritt@austindailyherald.com