Caring for youth, clothing those in need, and sharing musical talent


Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation Annual Grants support Open Closet, YMCA Youth, and Itasca Orchestral Society. The YMCA Youth Center, Zion Lutheran Church Open Closet and the Itasca Orchestral Society are caring for youth, clothing those in need, and sharing musical talent.

[PHOTO: Brianna Spry, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation presents a grant to Silvia Olson, Volunteer at Zion Open Closet.]

Zion Lutheran Church provides free clothing through the Open Closet Program

The Zion Lutheran Church Open Closet provides good, used, or new clothing at no cost to area residents who are finding it difficult to meet their family's needs. The Open Closet program seeks to fill these needs and prays that their actions will truly reflect God's love. They accept donations of clothing or money. Zion’s Open Closet is open most Thursdays from noon until 5PM.

If you are interested in visiting the Open Closet, Zion Lutheran Church is located on Pokegama Avenue across the street from Home Depot and Walmart, just south of the Judy Garland Museum. Please go to the south upper parking lot (toward the back of the building) so that you can enter on the second level. This entrance provides much closer access to the shop. (There is a sign.) Volunteers from Zion Lutheran Church manage and staff the Open Closet. “The amount of time and love that the volunteers put into the Open Closet is amazing,” says Brianna Spry, Program Administrator at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation. See Silvia’s video tour of the Open Closet.

The program is receiving funding from the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation’s Endowed Sharing Fund.

[PHOTO: L-R: Nick Hansen, Executive Director, Itasca County Family YMCA; Brianna Spry, Community Foundation with her daughter Brynlee and Joni Namyst, Itasca County Family YMCA meet at the Youth Center in the Y.]

Itasca County Family YMCA Youth Center offers after school care to grade school students

The Y's Youth Program includes a free, supervised drop-in Youth Center, open to youth in grades 2-9 from 3:30-7:30 weekdays during the school year. Summer hours have been extended to meet high demand.

The Y's Youth Program provides supervised care, homework help, a snack and a variety of activities that model the YMCA core values of honesty, caring, respect and responsibility. Many working parents are unable to afford after school care for their children or the youth feel they are too old for "babysitters". As they arrive, children are greeted by the Youth Supervisor and volunteers and served a snack because many children arrive without food or money, and may not be picked up until early evening. Youth are encouraged to take advantage of homework help, but most importantly, someone is there to listen to them as they come off the bus.

The Youth Center offers games, arts and crafts and outdoor play is encouraged on the Y's green space. Special events, such as dances and holiday parties, are also provided. Everyday living skills are taught through activities such as cooking classes. “We want to offer a safe place where youth feel welcome, rather than sending them home to empty houses or hanging out on the streets or in places where they are not welcome, which can increase the likelihood of at-risk behavior,” says Joni Namyst, Itasca County Family YMCA. “We have seen a steady increase in attendance in 2016 and through 2017, with youth visits up 92% since 2015. Funds for the center are raised through donations, small fundraisers, grants and vending income.”

The Itasca County Family YMCA has served the Itasca County area since 1981 with a mission to strengthen ourselves, families, and communities by promoting growth in spirit, mind, and body. Anyone interested in supporting youth activities at the Y can contribute to the YMCA Youth Program Endowment at the Community Foundation.

The Greater Itasca Area Community Fund provided funding.

[PHOTO: A performance of the Itasca Orchestral Society at the Reif Center]

Itasca Orchestral Society musicians practice and share their music with the community

The Itasca Orchestral Society program provides opportunities to hear, learn and perform orchestral works for the youth and adults of Itasca County. The Itasca Symphony Orchestra (ISO) plays challenging works, musicians hold themselves to high standards, and are proud of their performances. The ISO is a diverse group of volunteers, who provide the community with three quality orchestra performances each year at the Wilcox Theater in the Reif Center.

The purpose of each concert is to promote a healthy, creative community that unites people of diverse backgrounds. About 25 local musicians meet weekly to learn symphony music and members range in age from 16 to 80 years young. “One of the things that most people don’t take into consideration is the sheet music,” notes Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Community Foundation. “While our community is fortunate to have extremely talented and dedicated musicians, they still need sheet music. We are so pleased that we have the Betty Kauppi Music Fund, which provides grants for sheet music. Anyone can donate to this endowed fund so we are able to provide new and varied works of music to the community.”

Check out the next performance of the Itasca Orchestra and Strings program on February 24!

You can also check out the Orchestra’s YouTube channel by simply searching for “Itasca Orchestra” on the YouTube website. They also have a Facebook page. Funding is provided with grants from the Fund for the Arts and the Betty Kauppi Music Fund.

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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