Caring communities provide support for youth and families

Bridges Kinship Mentoring, Great Minds Learning Center, Deer River Area Food Shelf, and Loon Country Quilters received funding from the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation to provide programs for youth enrichment and support, feed the hungry and create quilts that comfort many.

Bridges Kinship Mentoring encourages positive youth experiences through mentoring

The mission of Bridges Kinship Mentoring is to help children and adolescents achieve their greatest selves by connecting them with positive role models who can befriend, inspire, encourage and guide them. Their goal is to provide a positive adult (or teen, in the case of Student Mentoring) role model for children in our community (Itasca County) who need such a relationship. Bridges Kinship Mentoring offers three programs, Community Mentoring, Lunch Buddies and Kinship Connections (KinCon).

Community Mentoring is an adult-youth program where children ages 5-17 are matched with an adult and spend at least six hours a month together for a minimum of one year. Activities may include those at the mentor’s home as well as in the community. The program provides strong personal relationships, which can support a youth through challenging years, positive experiences for those who might otherwise not have access to those relationships and experiences, and encouragement for the youth.

“We have very committed volunteer mentors who commit their time to making a difference in a youth’s life,” says Deb DeMuth, Executive Director, Bridges Kinship Mentoring. “Activities could be in the community at a special event, or something as simple as walking the dog together or riding a bike, baking cookies or raking leaves. We do regular check-ins to monitor the match, and offer regular opportunities for mentors and mentees to gather as a group for a fun event. “

Bridges Kinship Mentoring is based on the premise that a positive adult role model and friendship will enhance a youth's life. This organization works to meet the needs of youth by providing an adult partner to youth in need. There are no restrictions of race, religion, or national origin. There must be an identifiable need in the youth's life, which could be improved through a relationship with an adult partner. Referrals are accepted from a variety of sources such as parents, schools, local government agencies, counselors, churches, etc. Staff follow up on referrals and interview potential mentees and their parent/guardians, as well as mentors. Background checks are required for anyone 18 years and older in the mentor household. Funding was provided during the Community Foundation’s Annual Grant Cycle by the Peter Burich and Gloria Sella Burich Fund.

Students develop confidence through literacy instruction from Great Minds Learning Center

The Great Minds Learning Center program provides structured literacy instruction to children and adults with difficulty reading and/or writing; promotes early detection and screening for dyslexia. Great Minds Learning Center is a nonprofit organization that works with children and adults to develop confidence as students learn effective reading, writing and math skills in order to accomplish educational and personal goals.

“Our students and their parents have told us our instruction has been ‘life-changing’ and has helped them succeed in school and in the workforce,” says Marianne Jylha, Executive Director, Great Minds Learning Center.

Great Minds Learning Center uses the Barton Reading System to help students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. The Barton Reading and Spelling System is a multi-sensory, researched-based, structured literacy program that is Orton-Gillingham influenced. Funding from the Greater Itasca Area Community Fund during the Annual Grant Cycle will help them purchase more Barton Reading materials to better serve their growing student population.

Serving the Deer River community with food, personal and cleaning supplies

The Deer River Area Food Shelf mission is to feed the hungry in the area, through an efficient distribution system of food and nonfood products, and educate the public about the nature of hunger.

The Deer River Area Food Shelf serves the School District 317 area. Food, personal and cleaning supplies are mainly purchased from Second Harvest Food Bank in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and on a limited basis from local grocery stores. The program is funded by donations from individuals, churches, businesses, and grants from different organizations, as well as several fundraisers organized by volunteers each year. They purchase food and personal and cleaning supplies for distribution, and offer free of charge, to needy households who participate in the Deer River Area Food Shelf.

In 2016, food, personal, and cleaning supply costs were $35,673 and they served an average of 105 households or 386 individuals per month. In the first 6 months of 2017, they served an average of 110 households or 404 individuals per month. Participants are encouraged to utilize the Food Shelf once a month or more often if emergency situations arise.

Funding was provided during the Community Foundation’s Annual Grant Cycle by the Edgar and Hannah Hetteen Fund.

Loon Country Quilters touch hearts and give hope with quilts

Loon Country Quilters is a group that meets to create warm and inspiring quilts through their special programs - Quilts of Valor, Linus Quilts, Hospice Feely Hearts, Hug a Bears, and Community Connect quilts. They have been meeting since 1983 when several area women interested in quilting, decided to sponsor and promote the art and appreciation of quilting by uniting like-minded women to share ideas, techniques and fellowship.

Quilts of Valor are presented to local veterans as a thank you for their service and sacrifice. Hug a Bears are specifically made for children. Health and Human Services provide Hug a Bears to children in a medical emergency. The soft fabric bears are also provided through the Sheriff’s department when they encounter upset children. Home Health Nurses have Hug a Bears when they go on home visits for newborn babies. Everyone needs comfort at some point in time, and the Loon Country Quilters even stitch little Feely Hearts – a bit of softness to caress and given by Hospice Nurses to family members. If someone you know could use the recognition and comfort provided by the Loon Country Quilters, they can be contacted through Your Quilting Room shop located at 72 SE 7th Street (behind Minuteman Printing) or on Facebook.

The quilters are dedicated to creating and donating quilts to those in need of comfort and hope. They received funding through the Community Foundation’s Annual Grant Cycle from the Wildcat Fund and the Peter Burich and Gloria Stella Burich Fund to buy fabric, batting, and supplies needed for Quilts of Valor, Linus Quilts, Hug a Bears for children in distress and Feely Hearts for Hospice families. All members donate their time and talents for these special projects that are given locally.

Bridges Kinship Mentoring has an endowment at the Community Foundation. Anyone can support the operations and programs of Bridges Kinship Mentoring on a permanent basis by leaving a planned gift to the Bridges Kinship Mentoring Endowment Fund through a will or estate plan.

Look for some fun and informational videos from our Annual Grant Cycle award presentations on the Community Foundation Facebook page and our video page here on the website.

The Board of Directors and staff at the Community Foundation send a huge thank you to our donors who participate in our Annual Grant Cycle and directly assist us in our mission of making our community a better place to live for all.

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350 NW 1st Ave, Suite E  | Grand Rapids, MN 55744  |  218-999-9100

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