OWATONNA, MN, September 7, 2021 – Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently approved 25 grants totaling $200,075 to support small towns of 10,000 or less in SMIF’s 20-county region.
The Small Town Grant program was launched in 2017 to support smaller communities which can benefit from additional financial resources to help them grow and address challenges. Since then, SMIF has supported 69 projects through the Small Town Grant program. In 2021, SMIF received a generous donation to this program from Paul Johnson, allowing for more projects in small towns to be funded.
The 2021 Small Town Grant award recipients are:
•$10,000 to Blue Earth Area Schools to update the playground and basketball court at the elementary school.
•$2,500 to Blue Earth Rural Entrepreneurial Ventures for a community inclusion initiative to create a sense of belonging in Blue Earth, through welcoming baskets for new residents, two fall events to foster community outreach and the formation of a community organization focused on rural inclusion and diversity initiatives.
•$10,000 to Byron Public Schools to identify and design spaces in a local building that will be available to community members and serve as a community center.
•$6,450 to Choose Arlington to support the development of a new dog park.
•$10,000 to City of Dover to construct a kitchen for community residents to use for private and public events.
•$10,000 to City of Eagle Lake to create a long-term vision for the city through a strategic planning process with broad community input.
•$1,625 to City of Elgin to support a strategic plan for the revitalization of the downtown.
•$4,000 to City of Stewartville for “Community Coffee Breaks,” an informal, monthly opportunity for residents to discuss important topics with city officials at a local coffee shop which will contribute to a long-term strategic vision for the city.
•$10,000 to City of Wabasha for an assessment and financial analysis of their rural ambulance program to develop community-led solutions to ensure the sustainability of this service.
•$10,000 to Fairmont Opera House for monthly educational minicamps for children and teens focused on various creative skills, and three week-long theater camps for children K-10.
•$10,000 to Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in Spring Grove to host cultural presentations from international ambassadors and corresponding food, drinks and exhibits. Spring Grove students will participate in related craft and history programming to contribute to the collaborative exhibit.
•$7,500 to Henderson Area Chamber to support the city’s comprehensive plan and vision for the future through community conversations around transportation corridors, housing and business succession planning.
•$10,000 to Houston County Economic Development Authority to purchase equipment for a co-working space in La Crescent, and to contract with businesses that can provide technical support for entrepreneurs in the space.
•$10,000 to Kasson-Mantorville Schools to expand their Wellness Committee to become a more diverse entity that focuses community wellness, in addition to student and staff wellness, through hosting new events and programs that support the community.
•$3,000 to Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools Community Education for a mentoring program that will match at-risk middle school students with adult mentors, focusing on social emotional skills.
•$10,000 to La Crescent-Hokah Public Schools to create programming that will connect students with local businesses and encourage them to stay in town for employment post-graduation.
•$9,500 to Lanesboro Economic Development Authority to create and promote resources for entrepreneurs who want to start a new business, and resources for people interested in moving to Lanesboro.
•$10,000 to Madelia Public Schools to implement the Reading Partners program which matches community volunteers with students to read together and enhance students’ literacy, language, vocabulary and social emotional skills.
•$6,000 to Mapleton Area Foundation for two events: The Fall Festival which includes live music and fall-themed activities, and Songs on the Lawn which is eight nights of live music and food vendors May through September.
•$10,000 to MN River Area Agency on Aging to identify and implement a project in Janesville that supports social engagement and the well-being of community members of all ages through a community assessment process.
•$10,000 to Montgomery Community Foundation to organize and implement a farmers’ market in the city park which will include local entertainment and food vendors.
•$10,000 to Preston Historical Society to develop plans to elevate the trailhead historic campus into a year-round regional attraction and local activity center.
•$10,000 to Rotary Club of New Prague to develop a community Peace Garden where volunteers can grow food to donate to the local food shelf. The garden will also provide Praha Village senior residents a place for recreational gardening.
•$5,500 to Spring Grove Economic Development Authority to transform a defunct city alley in the heart of downtown Spring Grove into a safer pedestrian thoroughfare that will simultaneously serve as an artful gathering place for downtown business patrons and a venue for outdoor events.
•$4,000 to United South Central Public Schools in Wells for a series of events that will help students explore careers and encourage students to return to the area for employment post-graduation.
“We are pleased to be awarding a record number of grants in the fifth year of this program,” said SMIF President and CEO Tim Penny. “Small towns are the fabric of our region. We are honored to play a part in supporting their community vitality efforts with help from a generous gift from Paul Johnson, who wants southern Minnesota’s smallest communities to thrive.”
For more information on SMIF’s grantmaking, contact Jennifer Heien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (507) 214-7040.
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 $136 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.