OWATONNA, MN, January 7, 2021 – Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), recently approved 18 grants through its Early Care and Education Wrap Around Grant program totaling $180,000. This special grant program helps fund early care and education wrap around services for children birth to age eight from underserved populations in SMIF’s 20-county region impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
SMIF received funding from MDE on behalf of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund for this program. The GEER Fund provides emergency assistance for education agencies and services that have been impacted by the pandemic. Wrap around services, a system of care management which supports children in all aspects of life, are one of many education services that the GEER Fund supports. As a leader for more than three decades in the early childhood field, SMIF was awarded this funding in order to disperse grants to organizations in the SMIF region.
The Early Care and Education Wrap Around Grant award recipients are:
• $10,000 to A Child’s Delight Too, Inc (Faribault) to provide a stable environment for children to come to after school, during the summer and all day with school closures. Staff will be trained to support social-emotional health.
• $10,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the 7 Rivers Region (Winona) to match children ages five to eight with an adult to establish and support long-term one-on-one mentoring. Past successful matches have been shown to have a positive impact on children struggling with trauma, poverty and Adverse Childhood Experiences.
• $10,000 to Boys & Girls Club of Rochester to support the Distance Learning Support Center which offers all day care, distance learning support, social-emotional learning, mental and behavioral health supports and nutritious meals for children.
• $10,000 to Clover Kids Child Care (Green Isle) to expand outreach and partnerships with local transportation organizations that can transport children safely to and from child care. The grant will also support the establishment of an early childhood English as a Second Language (ESL) option for Spanish-speaking bilingual children, with interpreter services for families.
• $10,000 Dover-Eyota Public Schools to expand the Village Resource Library from STEM resources into STREAM resources (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, the Arts and Math). This initiative will give schools and families access to high quality, diverse and inclusive reading materials. This is a region-wide initiative and a partnership between the school system and Winona State University, Southeast Service Cooperative, Rochester Public Schools and Rochester Public Library.
• $10,000 to Families First of Minnesota (Olmsted County) to purchase technology which will allow staff to serve clients remotely, and to train staff in offering the most effective support for clients in remote or hybrid working and learning situations. This will allow communication with families to remain consistent, no matter what the school year brings.
• $10,000 to Growing Up Healthy (Rice County) to support the Parents and Policy: Voices Influencing a Better Education System (VIBES) initiative. Rice County Latinx and immigrant parents/caregivers will participate in workshops and engagement activities grounded in their personal stories to compel education system and policy change.
• $10,000 to Kasson-Mantorville Schools to help meet the needs of families who have children who are too old for toddler care but too young for preschool care by creating a three-year-old room within the Community Education building.
• $10,000 to Lake Crystal Area Recreation Center to support the Fit Kids After School Program which provides daily activities which promote individual growth, grow social skills and teach underserved children to make healthy lifestyle choices.
• $10,000 to Little Kids Connection (New Ulm) to purchase technology that will provide children with new educational activities and play opportunities while developing social-emotional skills. This will support the increase in child care needs that they are currently fulfilling.
• $10,000 to Northfield Public Schools to support the development of high-quality early learning activities and ongoing teacher and family connections at the Hand in Hand Preschool in order to remain connected to students and families when learning models must be adapted.
• $10,000 to Rice County ParentChild+ to support this free home-visiting program for families which promotes creative ways to learn through play, enhances parenting skills and helps children prepare for school. Trained bilingual early learning specialists visit with children weekly with educational books or toys, and help families to access important services in the community (food, housing, energy assistance, etc.)
• $10,000 to Rochester YMCA to provide intensive distance learning support that bolsters academic learning and fosters physical and social-emotional health for children who attend their full day, school-age care distance learning program. An education professional will provide dedicated supervision, tutorial support and supplemental activities to enrich the school day for early elementary students.
• $10,000 to Saint Charles Public Schools to provide free, increased after-school programming for students, in order to eliminate the extra child care expenses that many families cannot afford at this time. A variety of creative enrichment opportunities will be offered.
• $10,000 to Saint Peter Public Library to purchase STEM kits and books for programming and distribution to families with a focus on undeserved populations and families that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. The library will also be working with Saints Overtime to provide care for children ages 6-8 on distance learning days.
• $10,000 to Somali American Cultural Society of Owatonna to support K-3 Somali American children’s success in school through providing computer access, homework supplies, one-on-one reading and math help and homework support services. Classes will be offered for families to further their education, skills and stability so that parents learn to become advocates for their children’s learning.
• $10,000 to Stewartville Public Schools Community Education to purchase equipment to provide more motor exercises for children, including S.M.A.R.T. exercises to help children learn and move simultaneously.
• $10,000 to Winona State University Children’s Center to update technology in classrooms which will facilitate remote contact with families of children in the center’s care. The improved technology will also allow teachers to have video conferences with parents, therapists and specialists.
“It has always been SMIF’s mission to respond to early childhood needs in the region,” said Rae Jean Hansen, Vice President of Early Childhood at SMIF. “The pandemic has put new strains on the programs and people who care for young children. We are honored to partner with MDE and the GEER Fund to support children who rely on these organizations for their overall well-being.”
In addition to the grants, hundreds of early learning books were distributed to many of these organizations, thanks to a partnership with ABDO Publishing.
SMIF has been providing direct support to entrepreneurs, early childhood professionals and communities through the crisis, nearing $11 million in impact with the support of many partners. For more information, visit smifoundation.org/covid-19.
About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south central and southeastern Minnesota. The Foundation has provided more than $121 million in grants, loans and programming within the region during the past 35 years. SMIF’s key interests include early childhood, community and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit www.smifoundation.org.