Community Foundation grants support student success and feeding veterans and area residents

The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation recently presented awards from their Annual Grant Cycle. In the past, the Community Foundation held a grant cycle similar to most foundations. A foundation announces the fund, criteria and the amount available and nonprofit organizations and groups try to write grants that match those criteria. “That process didn’t tell us what local organizations needed, it told us who could write a grant,” says Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Community Foundation.

The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation’s tagline is joining charitable intentions with community need. “By changing the way we conduct our Annual Grant Cycle, we now have a better understanding of community needs. Inviting everyone to participate in supporting these needs, we match or join those charitable intentions,” notes Copeland.

The Community Foundation is pleased to provide funding for District 317 Full-Service Community School model, Pike for Vets, Support Within Reach and the Community Café.

Partnering with families to meet basic needs and educate students

Deer River Schools have adopted the Full-Service Community School model. The model is both a place and a strategy. The district believes that by coordinating resources for students and families students will have greater academic success. School districts have guidelines for monetary expenditures, yet there are needs that come up daily at King School that can't be met with district dollars. Many organizations donate to the school but often these donations don't match the need.

There is a food pantry at King School and a Warrior Wardrobe at the High School, one of the needs is for feminine hygiene products. The school would like to stock products that students and families need to meet their basic needs. The grant will be used to purchase gift cards from Walmart/Target that will be kept with the school secretary and as needs are identified school staff will use the cards to purchase the items.

The needs of students and families are always changing. Having the ability to meet needs in a timely manner, rather than looking for resources to help meet the need will help the district build stronger relationships with families. The goal is for families to view the school as a partner in educating their children which involves coordinating resources to make sure student's basic needs are being met.

A grant from the Edgar and Hannah Hetteen Fund for $1,000 was awarded.

PHOTO: (L-R) Back Row: Brianna Spry, Program Administrator, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation; Grayson Spry Front Row: Addy Carstensen and Deanna Hron, Deer River Schools.

Longest running volunteer organization serving veterans

Pike for Vets is a volunteer organization in its 69th year of donating hundreds of pounds of fish to the Pike for Vets dinner each year. “Pike for Vets is the longest running volunteer organization serving veterans organizations,” says Joe Maurer of Grand Rapids Pike for Vets. “We collect and or purchase walleye fillets for Fort Snelling Medical Center and the Silver Bay Veterans Home and help various Veteran organizations with resources and or monetary help.”

Grand Rapids and surrounding communities have been asked each year to supply fish for the veteran’s dinner. Some years, nearly 800 pounds of fish were caught and donated, other years, not one fish was caught. “Some years, we need to buy the fish,” says Maurer. “Now, we always try to keep enough in the treasury to get at least 300 pounds of fish.”

Pike for Vets serves a fish dinner to veterans at the Silver Bay Veterans Home, in Silver Bay. However, federal regulations requiring the fish to be bought and labeled instead of caught and donated is putting a financial strain on Pike for Vets.

According to Pike for Vets, a book written by retired Grand Rapids Herald-Review Editor Ken Hickman, in 1950, the Eagles and Auxiliary, Rotary, Lions, American Legion and Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary, Business and Professional Women, Junior chamber of Commerce, Izaak Walton League, Independent Union of Paper Mill Workers, and the Chamber of Commerce were all involved in the Pike for Vets program.

Here is how Hickman described the Pike for Vets events in 1950: “Fishing season opened. A stock tank was placed outside the Chamber’s Welcome House at the intersection of Pokegama Avenue and Fourth Street. A fish-cleaning table was ready, and freezers were inside the little building. ‘Gone Fishing’ signs were supplied for businessmen who wished to close stores and join the fun.”

Although private fish donations are down, Pike for Vets creatively made a deal with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to help supply some fish for the veterans through tournaments.

“That’s been a godsend for us,” says Maurer. However, tournaments are changing, making it more difficult for Pike for Vets to obtain fish. Pike for Vets travels to all the local tournaments to get the foods, however, many tournaments are practicing catch and release, so Pike for Vets needs help now more than ever.

Despite the trouble in obtaining fish, Pike for Vets continues to deliver 300 pounds of fish to the VA hospital each year. “You won’t believe how grateful those veterans are, they look forward to the dinner every year,” says Maurer.

Donations to Pike for Vets can be dropped off at River Rat Bait located at 38480 US Highway 2, Cohasset or call Roy LaDoux in Grand Rapids at (218) 326-1374 to schedule a time to drop off their donation in Grand Rapids. “Just being able to supply 300 pounds of fillets,” says LaDoux. “It is really quite special.”

Pike for Vets received a total award of $1,500 ($1,400 from the Veterans Fund and an online donation for $100).

PHOTO: Joe Maurer, Jan Maurer and Roy LaDoux, Pike for Vets; Chris Fulton, Executive Director, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation.

Let's Chat

Let’s Chat: Getting Real About Sexual Violence prevention program is presented bi-annually in a classroom setting (never assembly style) to 7th-8th grade students. A smaller audience ensures individual students are getting the intended message. The sessions incorporate law enforcement, prosecution, probation, and Support Within Reach and each agency has an opportunity to present during a single session. The presentation focuses on what criminal sexual conduct is, the repercussions of criminal sexual conduct, and where victims can seek out help.

“We had great feedback on this project from middle school students,” says Julie Anne Larkin, Let’s Chat Program Director. “Students should reach a better understanding of what it means to be a victim and/or an offender.”

In addition to the individual expertise each presenter brings, there is a very real story of a young offender woven throughout the presentation. Students learn a great deal from the experts but hearing from someone that could be their peer, sharing about their experience, is at the core of this prevention program. A portion of each session also focuses on how to report or utilize relevant resources if needed.

Each participant completes an evaluation to make sure that the purpose of the program is being met. All students receive materials to take with them, so they can refer to it if needed or share it with others (friends and family). Due to the important content of this program, it is a priority to make certain that students receive the information at least once. However, the time commitment for other agency partners does not allow all Itasca County schools to be visited each year. Aside from specific prevention programming, Support Within Reach follows up on an as needed basis ensuring that all questions, concerns or additional needs are met.

The amount awarded was $1,561 with $1,061 from the Streufert Peace and Safety Fund and $500 from the TJ Maroney/ Barzen Donor Advised Fund.

PHOTO: (L-R) Julie Anne Larkin, Let’s Chat Program Director; Myrtle; Evelyn Fielding, Support Within Reach

Feeding Itasca County

Established in 2001, the Community Café, serves free meals every Tuesday and Thursday to everyone from children to elderly who otherwise may not have a nutritious meal. Each of the two kitchens are hosted by a coordinator who purchases food from Second Harvest Food Bank and local grocery stores to create home cooked wholesome meals. Located in the communities of Grand Rapids (at the Kiesler Wellness Center) and Deer River (at King Elementary School), the Café has natural partners which extend services to more people and enables a convenient location for all.

Other organizations who encourage the Community Café services to their patrons are, GRACE House, Deer River Boys and Girls Club, Deer River Schools and the Deer River Senior Center as well as many other service-oriented organizations in Grand Rapids. With no state or federal funding and no cost for meals, the Café heavily relies on grant funding, individual and business donations as well as fundraisers. The Blandin Foundation along with Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, Minnesota Power Foundation, Northland Foundation, and Lake Country Power are local funding sources which the Community Café has relied on in the past and present. Please consider a gift to the Community Café.

The Café was awarded a total of $15,300, with $14,800 from the Edgar and Hannah Hetteen fund and $500 from the TJ Maroney/Barzen Donor Advised Fund.

PHOTO: (Back row: L-R) Chris Fulton, Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation presents $15,300 in grants to John Weber, Executive Director of Community Café, and Community Café Volunteers at their Keisler Wellness Center location.

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