Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation approves grants to improve the health and well-being of famil

The Community Foundation Annual Grant Cycle recently awarded $112,391 (63 grants) to 32 local organizations for 2018. Among these organizations were the YMCA, Loon Country Quilters and Baby Steps for programs serving families, youth and veterans.

It takes a lot of people working behind the scenes to administer Annual Grants. An entire wall at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation is covered with a giant spreadsheet that notes every grant request and the donors and funds that may be able to provide support. Once the spreadsheet is placed on the wall, it looks impressive, but the work it takes to get the monstrosity together goes far beyond the tedious cutting, taping and other arts and crafts magic devised by Deziree Davis, Community Foundation Intern.

“I make Sarah do the actual computer work to put that thing together,” says Brianna Spry, Program Administrator at the Community Foundation. “As long as Brianna is willing to act like Vanna White at the ‘big board’ on Wheel of Fortune, dashing around with markers and Post-It notes, I’m happy to build out a spreadsheet,” remarks Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Community Foundation. Copeland reiterates time and again the importance of staff working together. “We could not provide this type of open grant cycle without staff working together to make it happen.”

PHOTO: (L-R) Sarah Copeland and Brianna Spry roll out the “Giant Spreadsheet” for the Annual Grant Cycle.

YMCA 2nd Grade Learn to Swim Program saves lives

The Learn to Swim Program is designed to reach children at risk of drowning, teaching them water safety and swimming skills to reduce their risk of drowning. According to the CDC, “About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.” Participants learn and practice new swimming skills and feel a sense of achievement from mastering something new that they can enjoy the rest of their lives.

While participating in fun water sports and games, children also increase their physical activity levels. Participants connect to others in the class, make new friends and recognize new role models. They are more comfortable and secure around water, as they learn water safety and improve their swim skills. Learn to swim programs not only help to keep our youth safe, they also help to keep our youth active. A critical part of YMCA of USA’s commitment to improving health and well-being is ensuring people learn the skills they need to make swimming a lifelong pursuit for staying healthy. The Learn to Swim program is a collaborative effort with local school systems and provided at no cost to students.

The Itasca County Family YMCA is committed to reducing risk factors in and around the water for the youth in the community they service. All second graders in the ISD 318 School District will be provided a voucher to participate in YMCA swim lessons free of charge April through May 2019. Not all children learn to swim during their first set of lessons, depending on the fear a child brings to swim lessons and the pace of their learning. All of the children, however, will learn to be safer in and around the water.

The YMCA was awarded $750 from the Edgar and Hannah Hetteen Fund and $500 from the TJ Maroney/Barzen Donor Advised Fund.

PHOTO: Cathy Sayward, Community Foundation Administrative Assistant; Kris Bolin, Itasca County Family YMCA; Nick Hanson, Executive Director, Itasca County Family YMCA; Brianna Spry, Community Foundation Program Administrator and Kelly Kirwin, Community Foundation Board Chair

Providing comfort to children, families and veterans one quilt at a time

Loon Country Quilters create quilts that comfort many people in our community. Members sew items for several different projects.

  • Quilts for Vets - a thank you for a Veteran’s service and sacrifice

  • Linus Quilts - for hospitalized children

  • Hospice Feely Hearts – small, soft comforting hearts for patients and their family, given by hospice nurses

  • Hug a Bear - to comfort a child in distress (often handed out by law enforcement)

Quilts are also distributed by health and human services, social services when removing a child from a home, home health nurses on new baby visits, and law enforcement to give to an upset child. Community connect quilts are given to adults in need of special services.

The Quilts for Vets are special quilts that have been pieced together and quilted especially for local veterans. Each quilt has a tag that thanks the Veteran for his or her service and has the name of the person who made the quilt. If you know of a veteran who would appreciate a quilt, please contact the Loon Country Quilters.

If you are interested in learning more about the Loon Country Quilters and the work they do, or if you would like something you have pieced together quilted, stop in their shop, located behind Minuteman Press on Pokegama Avenue.

Loon Country Quilters were awarded $500 from the Gibbons Family Fund and $500 from the Veterans Fund to purchase fabric, batting, thread and supplies.

PHOTO 1: (L-R) Mary Burt; Brianna Spry, Community Foundation Program Administrator; Edna Trunt; Tabbitha Sisco; Carol Hessebeck; Mary Jo Gibbons, Community Foundation Community Impact Committee; and Susie Merrill.

Baby Steps supports families and helps prepare children for school

Baby Steps works to improve the health and well-being of families with children ages 0-5, pregnant women and young children by motivating individuals to use services benefitting 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.

Baby Steps looks and operates like a retail store, but no cash is exchanged for items. “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, Baby Steps Executive Director. “When they access these services, they receive coupons that they can use as currency to purchase items in our boutique.”

Baby Steps coupons are offered for attending events, activities, or utilizing services 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. On average, Baby Steps will purchase 275 boxes and 125 packs of diapers a year. Over the past several 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. “We are able to point parents to finding education and support by encouraging them to be active participants rather than passive recipients through earning Baby Steps coupons,” says Hasbargen.

With many parents in the Remer/Longville area earning coupons but unable to travel to Grand Rapids on a regular basis, Baby Steps collaborates with the Northland Area Family Center to offer a smaller version of Baby Steps within the Family Center.

As part of the Community Education Program at Independent School District 318, Baby Steps works with the school district and other service providers to offer educational support through Parent Connection Groups and Mom's Night Out events in Grand Rapids and now in Deer River. This is an opportunity for parents/caregivers to bring their baby, connect with others and learn something new pertaining to their child's development. The events are free, and participants earn a Baby Steps coupon upon completion of the class.

In July 2018 Baby Steps opened Step Ahead Clothing Co., a retail store that is located next to Baby Steps on the first level of Old Central School. The store offers gently used children's clothing, newborn through children's size 16 and maternity wear for moms. Step Ahead Clothing Co. revenue will help fund the Baby Steps initiative.

Baby Steps was awarded $5000 from the Community Foundation.

PHOTO: (L-R) Mary Kosak; Brianna Spry, Community Foundation; Jenny Bodin, Baby Steps; Trudy Hasbargen, Baby Steps Executive Director.

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

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