Improving the well-being of families and youth

Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation annual grants support Baby Steps and CASE

Baby Steps and CASE (Community Against Sexual Exploitation) were awarded grants through the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation to provide support to families and raise awareness and prevent sexual exploitation of youth.

Baby Steps provides for basic needs of families and parents Baby Steps was awarded a grant to purchase diapers for their "Emergency Fund" to help parents that do not have the funds or coupons to purchase diapers. Diapers are a basic need item that is an essential part of raising a child. On the average, Baby Steps purchases 300 boxes and 150 packs of diapers a year.

Baby Steps works to improve the health and well-being of families with children ages 0-5 and pregnant women by encouraging individuals to use services that benefit their families. They educate parents about programs, services and referrals that promote healthy families and prepare children to do their best as they start school.

“We encourage all parents and caregivers with young children to access social, medical, dental and educational services that support their family’s health and well-being,” says Trudy Hasbargen, Executive Director, Baby Steps. “When parents access these services, they receive coupons that function as currency to purchase items in our boutique.” Baby Steps coupons are offered for attending events, activities, or utilizing services, such as well-baby doctor visits, that support family health and well-being. Parents and caregivers come to the Baby Steps store to redeem their coupons (no cash allowed) for basic items such as diapers, wipes, formula, car seats and much more, with diapers being the number one requested item by parents. Over the past 16 years, close relationships and partnerships have been established with over 50 different social, medical, dental, and educational services that serve families.

Baby Steps is not income based, and welcomes all expectant parents, parents and caregivers in Itasca County and the Remer/Longville area with children 0-5 years of age. Baby Steps offers a way for parents and caregivers to be active participants rather than passive recipients by pointing the way to find support and education to provide a healthy, strong environment for their family. Baby Steps is located in Old Central School and open to the public. Stop by or call (218) 326-2300 to check out the boutique.

Funding is provided by the Endowed Sharing Fund.

CASE shines spotlight on sexual exploitation of youth in the Itasca County area The Community Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) committee has been awarded grant funding to bring an expert Internet safety speaker on electronic safety and sexual exploitation awareness presentations to children and adults. Most kids are coerced into sexual exploitation through the internet – Facebook, email, and dating websites. The presentation is age appropriate, and educates families and children with information tailored to fit each specific audience.

CASE raises awareness about sexual exploitation of youth in the Itasca County area. The committee has been meeting monthly for over two years, providing presentations, training materials, and public awareness. The committee hosted a community forum at ICC, trained health care providers, presented to the area pastors group, and funded training for the Itasca County Sheriff and Grand Rapids Police Departments, and area churches. Presentations to school superintendents, principals, and school counselors from seven area school districts have also been given.

“We know that with sexual exploitation, women and girls are the primary victims, however, victims and survivors come from every background, race, gender, sexual orientation and economic status,” says CASE Committee Chair, Marsha Miller. “One in three youth are exploited on the internet through social media and currently Minnesota is the 13th largest center for human trafficking, ranked No. 2 in the country by the FBI in online solicitation of children.”

Community involvement on the CASE task force is broad and inclusive with key partners collaborating to reduce sexual exploitation of youth in Itasca County. The committee plans to leverage additional funding sources to expand their impact and voice across all sectors of the community. “CASE would like to focus on the schools and the importance of internet safety (all electronic devices) since we have identified this as a significant risk among youth in Itasca County. We plan to use this opportunity to spotlight this issue across our communities though speakers, promotions, media coverage, and follow-up with the students,” concludes Miller.

CASE works to address the serious and hard-to-discuss topic of sexual exploitation. “Sadly, our community can no longer put our heads in the sand. Regardless of how uncomfortable the subject may be, we cannot protect our children if we are in denial,” remarks Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Community Foundation. “We must empower all our community to be proactive about personal safety and the well-being of girls and young women.”

For more information visit the CASE website: and a Facebook page. You can donate to CASE by visiting

Grants are provided from, the Fund for Women, Kosak Family Fund, Peace and Progress Donor Advised Fund, and the Streufert Peace and Safety 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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