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These are remarkable times in health care. We have technologies our parents never could have dreamed possible. We have a deeper understanding of virtually every aspect of the human body and mind. As individuals, as a society, we have an all-but-unlimited opportunity to foster healthier, happier individuals and communities. Just imagine what the future holds in store.

At the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center on the Medical Campus in Crosby, we are excited and optimistic as we apply these new technologies, this deeper knowledge and, (perhaps most important of all), even more imagination to the effort to envision and build even healthier, happier futures for people and communities region-wide. And we remain dedicated to you. Every day.

For more information, call 218 -546 -7000. Or visit us online at www.cuyunamed.org.


SPRING 2006

CONTENTS FEATURES 10

Initiative Foundation Unlocked Keys to Twenty Years of People-Power

2 0 0 6 I n i t ia t i v e F o u nda t io n Aw a rd W i n ne r s

12

Outstanding Community

14

Outstanding Enterprise

16

18

Outstanding Environmental Initiative

20

Outstanding Nonprofit

Outstanding Volunteers

22

Outstanding Youth Volunteer

DEPARTMENTS 4 Beginnings Portraits

“Our mission is to unlock the potential of the people of central Minnesota to build and sustain healthy communities.”

Cass Lake Schley Bena

Wilkinson

24 KeyNotes The Foundation Newsletter

Federal Dam Leech Lake

Boy River

Tobique

Onigum Walker

Brevik

Remer

CASS

Ah-Gwah-Ching

Whipholt

INITIATIVE FOUNDATION FOCUS AREAS

Longville Inguadona Hackensack

Pontoria Backus Oshawa

Huntersville

32 Inner Journey Build on What You Have

Outing

Chickamaw Beach

Menahga

Fifty Lakes Emily

Swanburg

Manhattan Beach

Pine River

Crosslake Nimrod

Sebeka

Jenkins Pequot Lakes

WADENA

Breezy Point

Oylen

Blue Grass Leader

Nisswa Lake Shore

Leaf River

Trommald

Lake Hubert

Riverton

Wadena

Cuyuna

Crosby Ironton

Merrifield

Deerwood

Legionville

CROW WING

Verndale E Gull Lake

Aldrich

BAXTER Hewitt

Bay Lake Duquette Kerrick Ellson

Barrows

Willow River

Garrison

Bruno Rutledge

Lincoln

34 The Business of Benevolence Business Lending Sets Initiative Foundation Apart

Vineland

Cushing

Clarissa

TODD

Darling

Long Prairie

Gutches Grove

M O R R I Pierz SON

Hillman

Genola Sobieski

Gregory

Brennyville

Holdingford

St. Rosa

Opole

St. Anna

Freeport New Munich

Albany

Watab St. Wendel

Gilman

Roscoe

Cold Spring St. Nicholas

Watkins

CAMBRIDGE

Walbo

SHERBURNE

Clear Lake St. Augusta Luxemburg Clearwater

Orrock

Zimmerman

Spencer Brook

Oxlip

Stark

Spring Lake Bodum

Isanti

Rock Creek

Rush City

Rush Point

Edgewood Bradford

Blomford Weber

Harris

NORTH BRANCH

Kimball

Hasty

Almelund

Center

Lindstrom City Stacy

BIG LAKE

Enfield

Fair Haven

Silver Creek

ELK RIVER

MONTICELLO

South Haven

Annandale Albertville

Maple Lake

French West Lake Albion

W R I G H TBUFFALO

ST. MICHAEL

Albion Center Knapp

Cokato

Albright Highland

Waverly

Lake Rice Lake

Rockford Montrose

Stockholm Howard

Oster

Delano

Sunrise

CHISAGO

Crown

Becker Marty Maine Prairie

Eden Valley

ISANTI

Wyanett Pine Brook

West Point

Palmer

Cable

Richmond

Paynesville

Greeley

Braham Stanchfield Springvale Grandy

Dalbo Carmody Long Siding

Santiago

ST. CLOUD

Rockville Lake Henry

Coin Day

Pease

Estes Brook Glendorado

Princeton

WAITE PARK Jacobs Prairie

West Rock

Brunswick

Milaca

Foreston

Oak Park

Ronneby

Foley

Duelm

St. Joseph

Spring Hill Farming

Grasston

Bock

Jakeville

SAUK RAPIDS

Collegeville

STEARNS

Pine City

Rum River

BENTON Popple Creek

SARTELL

Avon

Greenwald

Cloverdale

Beroun

Ogilvie

Granit Ledge

Novak's Corner

Mayhew

St. Stephen

St. Anthony

Melrose Meire Grove

Silver Corners

Rice

St. Francis

Sauk Centre

Ramey

Morrill

North Prairie

Padua

Belgrade Georgeville

Little Rock

Royalton

Bowlus

Hinckley

Henriette

Mora Elmdale Upsala

Brook Park

Quamba

Buckman

Swanville Burtrum Grey Eagle

Ward Springs

Wyoming

Chisago City

Cloverton Duxbury

Friesland

Kroschel

MILLE LACS KANABEC

LITTLE FALLS Flensburg

Round Prairie Little Sauk

West Union

PINE

Sandstone Warman

Onamia

Lastrup

Freedham

Kingsdale

Askov

Groningen

Isle Wahkon

Cove

Harding

Camp Ripley Junction

St. Martin

INITIATIVE QUARTERLY

Finlayson

Bayview Randall Browerville

Elrosa

2

Opstead

Fort Ripley

Eagle Bend

Brooten

36 From the Heart The Grand Experiment

Pine Center Shephard

Clotho

Nickerson

Sturgeon Lake Denham

BRAINERD

Pillager

Motley Philbrook

Bertha

Palmdale

Taylors Falls Shafer Franconia

Markville

• Strengthen Children, Youth, and Families • Promote Economic Stability • Preserve Space, Place, and Natural Resources • Build Capacity of Nonprofit Organizations • Embrace Diversity & Reduce Prejudice • Increase Utilization of Technology


BEGINNINGS

Portraits Dear Friends, Five silent faces watched Melanie pass by our stairwell. They spoke to her from behind wooden picture frames, generations of women who she would resemble more as she grew up. Our daughter never met three of them, but that never stopped her from gazing up in wonderment or catching her reflection in the glass. When she was young, the stairwell was a favorite place to play dress-up with one of my forgotten flowery gowns. I often wondered why she chose that outfit and that spot, until years later when she admitted to imitating the picture of me in the same dress. Today, Melanie’s portrait completes a six-generation set of priceless photos in our home. They remind me of where we’ve been and where we’re going. As the Initiative Foundation celebrates its 20th Anniversary, we look back upon our history, achievements and exceptionality, and we look forward to honoring the six truly outstanding award winners revealed in this magazine. On April 7th at the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud, we will host our Roaring 20s-themed Awards for Outstanding Community Initiative, recognizing exceptional community service and volunteerism in central Minnesota. Please make plans to join us. Melanie was just a toddler when the foundation began in 1986. Twenty years later, there isn’t a stairwell big enough to display the portraits of all who have chosen to leave their legacies within our organization and region. You’ll find six of them right here. Enjoy the magazine!

Kathy

4

INITIATIVE QUARTERLY


> VOLUME 4, SPRING 2006 Executive Editor & Director of Communications, Initiative Foundation / MATT KILIAN PUBLISHERS Evergreen Press / CHIP & JEAN BORKENHAGEN EDITORIAL Editorial Director / JODI SCHWEN Assistant Editor / TENLEE LUND ART Art Director / ANDREA BAUMANN Senior Graphic Designer / BOB WALLENIUS Graphic Designer / BRAD RAYMOND Production Manager / BRYAN PETERSEN Lead Photographer / JIM ALTOBELL ADVERTISING / SUBSCRIPTIONS Business & Advertising Director / BRIAN LEHMAN Advertiser Services / MARY SAVAGE Subscriber Services / MARYANN LINDELL Advertising Manager / KRISTIN ROTHSTEIN Advertising Manager / LOIS HEAD IQ EDITORIAL BOARD Initiative Foundation President / KATHY GAALSWYK Board of Trustees / GLORIA EDIN Glenn Metalcraft / GINGER GLENN HatlingFlint / BILL HATLING V.P. for Donor Services / CURT HANSON V.P. for Economic Development / JOHN KALISZEWSKI Board of Trustees / JANET MORAN V.P. for Community Initiatives / KARL SAMP United Way of Central MN / BETTY SCHNETTLER Board of Trustees / GEORGE WALLIN Initiative Foundation 405 First Street SE Little Falls, MN 56345 320.632.9255 www.ifound.org IQ is published by the Initiative Foundation in partnership with Evergreen Press of Brainerd, Minnesota. 218.828.6424, www.evergreenpress.net For advertising opportunities, contact: Brian Lehman 218.828.6424 ext. 25, brian@evergreenpress.net Kristin Rothstein 320.251.5875, kristin@cpionline.com Lois Head 320.252.7348, lmhead@stcloudstate.edu

SPRING 2006

5


A Dazzling Display of Inspirational Splendor! Join the Initiative Foundation for a grand evening of class, culture and congratulations. Come and celebrate 20 years of fabulous foundation feats, and become inspired by the noble undertakings of six outstanding award winners. Featuring the hotsy-totsy harmonies of the Big Band Era, it’s sure to be the cat’s pajamas!

HOLIDAY INN HOTEL & SUITES, ST. CLOUD

Friday, April 7th, 2006

5:00 SOCIAL  6:00 BANQUET  7:00 AWARDS PROGRAM $40 includes surf & turf dinner!

Register by March 31: (877) 632-9255


Esteemed Award Sponsors OUTSTANDING ENTERPRISE Two Rivers Enterprises, Holdingford (see p.14)

OUTSTANDING ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVE Leech Lake Association (see p.16)

OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY Sebeka (see p.12)

OUTSTANDING NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minn., St. Cloud (see p.18)

OUTSTANDING VOLUNTEER Myrt Bollenbacher & Bonnie Christenson, Deerwood (see p. 20)

OUTSTANDING YOUTH VOLUNTEER Reiko Koyama (see p. 22)

Platinum Circle Table Sponsors

Business Machines Plus

Central Region Sustainable Development Partnership


years ago, rural Minnesota experienced TGreatwenty an economic crisis not seen since the Depression. Families suffered as

take action. Long known for its philanthropic heart and strategic investments in the wellbeing of Minnesota families, McKnight organized meetings across the state to present citizens with opportunities to brainstorm solutions. Out of these meetings arose the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations—each charged with a geographic region and entrusted to the care of the people who knew best—local citizens. “I don’t think we anticipated the degree to which the MIFs have become so central to the growth and development of their region,” says Louis Hohlfeld, senior program officer at The McKnight Foundation and MIF liaison.

As greater

companies and mines laid off hundreds of employees. Between 1985 and 1987, employment at Virginia’s Butler taconite mine dropped from 5,539 to 4,875. Family farms went into a decline, along with the business climate in formerly bustling rural downtowns. Youth swarmed to the Twin Cities—a Promised Land of higher wages, endless opportunities, and the chance to escape the financial pain they’d seen their parents endure. As greater Minnesota struggled to survive, The McKnight Foundation decided it was time to

MINNESOTA

struggled to survive, The McKnight Foundation decided it was time to take ACTION.

BY BRITTA REQUE-DRAGICEVIC ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS MCALLISTER

>continued on page 30

SPRING 2006

11


Trail

BLAZERS BY JULIE SAFFRIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM ALTOBELL

Debbie Carlson, Kevin Huhta (top), and Jim Rife know that Healthy Communities leadership training works.


2 0 0 6 O U T S TA N D I N G C O M M U N I T Y SEBEKA

T

hree years ago, when Debbie Carlson was mayor of Sebeka, she learned about the Initiative Foundation’s Healthy Communities leadership training program. “I thought, ‘This is something Sebeka can accomplish,’” says Carlson. “Especially when I read that it came with a $10,000 grant.” Because of her enthusiasm and leadership, residents created a one-and-a-half-mile trail along the city’s Red Eye River, garnering Sebeka the Initiative Foundation’s 2006 Outstanding Community Award. “Debbie’s the kind of person every community needs,” says Larry Wannebo, a field consultant for the foundation assigned to oversee Sebeka’s progress. “She’s the sparkplug that makes things happen.” The Healthy Communities Partnership program provides training to citizens of centralMinnesota cities to engage in and plan for their city’s future. Meeting in all-day sessions, Carlson, along with ten others from Sebeka— including high school students, a county commissioner, a banker, business owners, and employees of the telephone company and the newspaper—were part of the training. The group named themselves Partners in Planning (PIP) and learned tools and strategies to enhance their community, alongside three other cities involved in the two-year program. Upon returning to Sebeka, PIP drew input from their community by hosting a citywide “visioning” session in June 2003. More than 120 residents attended and voiced their desires for Sebeka. “The session is for people to dream about seeing a difference in their community,” says Wannebo. In September, PIP met again, wondering where to begin implementing the list of ideas generated at the visioning session. Enter Jim Rife, who owns land along the Red Eye River. At a prayer breakfast in January 2004, Rife mentioned to PIP that he had a vision of creating a meditative walking trail along the river and wanted to donate a portion of his land to the city. Rife granted Sebeka a land easement and work began on Tim’s Trail, named in honor of Rife’s brother who died five years ago. “The

pieces came together,” says Wannebo. “It was almost magical. They literally hacked this trail out of the woods.” Community members worked with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Wadena Soil and Water department. The city engineer rented a brush hog and blazed a trail that had been marked by volunteers. Residents and business owners volunteered, including Boy Scouts, the Minnesota National Guard, Todd/Wadena Electric, and dozens of students. More than six hundred volunteer hours were donated to the project.

“Now people are saying, ‘We can make a difference.’” West Central Telephone employees were allowed time during their workday to volunteer on the trail. “We contribute to the Initiative Foundation every five years,” said Geri Salmela of West Central Telephone, who worked on the trail and was part of the initial training program. The telephone co-op donated a park bench and for the second year, Tim’s Trail is featured on the cover of West Central’s directory. Dick Oehlenschlager, collections manager for biology and assistant curator of the Science Museum in St. Paul, walked the trail to help the city make it an interpretive hiking trail. Oehlenschlager discovered wild garlic, hops, balm of Gilead, and hawthorn along the path. Another local resident, who is a member of the national guard, built a multi-purpose amphitheater. The structure has served as an outdoor chapel on Sunday mornings and staged a living nativity at Christmas as well as serving for training maneuvers for the national guard.

To advertise the trail and hold interpretive trail brochures, a volunteer built kiosks at the head of the trail and in town. Grant money from Central Regional Partners enabled Sebeka volunteers to build a dock on the riverbank. Since its completion in 2005, Tim’s Trail has laid the groundwork for optimism in Sebeka. “The economic development component is really taking off,” says Wannebo. “Now people are saying, ‘We can make a difference. We don’t have to sit and let things happen to us. We can make things happen.’” Another future project includes building a senior housing complex in the downtown area. In addition to Tim’s Trail, PIP worked with Sebeka’s school board to help facilitate needed updates. The asbestos floor in the gym/cafeteria, which serves three hundred students daily, was replaced with a rubber floor. The area also received new basketball hoops. The group assisted in the passage of a twice-failed referendum, which paid for changes such as remodeling the kitchen and purchasing a boiler system. In the summer of 2004, High Schoolers In Progress (HIP), an offshoot of PIP, gave downtown Sebeka a facelift. The students, working with the Wadena County board, put in a request for renovation funds. They received grant money from the Initiative Foundation for downtown improvements. Ten students spent the summer painting fire hydrants and garbage cans along Main Street. They gave the Caring Hands home health services building a fresh coat of yellow paint and added a mural. In addition, a vacant building on Main Street had its six soaped windows replaced with the students’ free-style paintings. “Sebeka was struggling,” says Wannebo. “It had its share of empty buildings, but completing Tim’s Trail strengthened the residents and has given them another shot in the arm.” He believes the community has learned the source of resources in their city. “The real value is the human component. It’s not the money, it’s the people. Sebeka is proof of that.” IQ

SPRING 2006

13


Bob Warzecha: The Initiative Foundation has “been behind us 100 percent.”

Steel

BY CANDYCE HEGSTROM PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM ALTOBELL

HEARTED


2 0 0 6 O U T S TA N D I N G E N T E R P R I S E TWO RIVERS ENTERPRISES, HOLDINGFORD

Next to the Wobegon bike trail and the Wobegon Café, lies a business that owes its success, in part, to the community in which it resides.

T

wo Rivers Enterprises, a custom manufacturer of stainless steel restaurant and food processing equipment opened in the small community of Holdingford in 2001. When it began, the company had a staff of three: the two owners, Bob and Dan Warzecha, and one other employee. Since then, the company has grown to forty-five employees, creating good-paying job opportunities for members of this small, rural community, which is located eighteen miles northwest of St. Cloud. They have also earned the Initiative Foundation’s 2006 Outstanding Enterprise Award. “Everybody is supportive,” says Bob Warzecha, when asked how the community responded to the Warzechas’ plan to locate the new business in Holdingford, their hometown. “At first, we met challenges because no one wants to give up land for development, especially farmers. But the residents and the city council stood up for us. The Meyers, a local family, sold us land to put up a building.” The Initiative Foundation supplied the gap financing that provided working capital and helped cover construction costs of Two Rivers’ facility in Holdingford. In July 2005, the foundation provided additional financing for a ten thousand-square-foot expansion the company needed to support increasing sales. “Our goal is to create living-wage job opportunities in central Minnesota and diversify the local economic base,” says John Kaliszewski, vice president for economic development for the Initiative Foundation. “We went with Two Rivers because of its success and the impact it has on a small community. Twenty employees in a community of one thousand is a big impact.” The admiration is mutual. “They bend over backwards for you,” says Bob Warzecha, about the Initiative Foundation. “They’ve been behind us 100 percent.” The Warzechas took a chance by locating their business in Holdingford, but they have been rewarded with a dedicated workforce. A believer in fair pay and benefits for people who work hard, Bob pushed for an employee retirement plan, vacation pay, and hospitalization insurance. “If employees work hard and put in a good day’s work,” says Bob, “they should get paid a fair, equitable wage. They should get benefits.” The company recently added employer-paid, long-term disability insurance to its roster of benefits.

“Bob and Dan have made a commitment,” adds Ron Denning, general manager of Two Rivers Enterprises. “As the company grows, they want the employees to grow with it.” The commitment is evidenced by the company’s current efforts to hire and train employees who initially lack precision welding skills. Denning points out that it’s a long-term commitment, typically taking six months or more of training. Providing jobs isn’t the only way that Two Rivers Enterprises supports the community. “We’re suckers for kid support,” says Denning. “There are only so many businesses in this community to support school programs. So we’re always happy to help.” The company owners are also very involved in Holdingford. They give their time and talents in many ways, including participating in the Initiative Foundation’s Healthy Communities Partnership program. “This is a small community,” says Bob. “You know everybody, talk to everybody. It’s good for business for them to know you believe in them and believe in the community.” Bob and other business leaders have met with the town’s mayor and are exploring ideas for building a stronger community. Creating a Holdingford Chamber of Commerce or expanding the existing Community Club are two of the ideas Bob mentions. Denning says they’ve also volunteered in-kind services to the city, such as administrative support. As the company grows, it’s expected that the community of Holdingford will need to grow as well. According to Bob, one of the challenges is finding housing for new employees. The rural community does not have any housing developments. Engineers and other highly skilled labor that must be hired from outside the area have a difficult time finding a place to live in Holdingford. In fact, says Bob, one of their recent hires will have to rent an apartment for a while. With Bob and Dan Warzecha’s enthusiasm for the community of Holdingford, there is no doubt that the Warzechas and Two Rivers Enterprises will continue to have a positive effect on the quality of life for the people living there. And with an established customer base of organizations such as Jennie-O Turkey Stores, Huisken Meats, and several school districts, the business will continue to grow and contribute even more to the community. IQ SPRING 2006

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“It’s easy for volunteer associations to lose focus— they never did.” From left: Jim Lohr and Gerald McCauley wrote the plan.

T

he crisp September air glistened off the silken water as the paddle sliced through the silent evening. The canoe, laden with a full day’s wild rice harvest, headed back to camp. Children gathered around the firepit to warm their cold hands. As the sun set over Leech Lake, families relaxed in the evening’s glow. The time was the late 1800s. The families were native to northern Minnesota and the lake was the center of their lives. In 2006, families of diverse ethnic groups still gather around Leech Lake. They enjoy a heritage of water, land, and spirit, shared graciously by the Ojibwe over the generations with those who have come to fish, hunt, and relax. Until recently, the lake had no community-wide assurance that this heritage would be protected. Not until the summer of 2002, when the Initiative Foundation partnered with the

16

INITIATIVE QUARTERLY

Leech Lake Association to develop a lakemanagement plan. For the association’s remarkable effort of combining diverse voices and interests into a working, lakemanagement plan, the Initiative Foundation awarded the 2006 Environmental Initiative Award to the Leech Lake Association. It began in the summer of 2002, when the Initiative Foundation invited the Leech Lake Association to participate in its Healthy Lakes and Rivers Partnership program. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) volunteered to fund and implement a survey of Leech Lake property owners, to determine what the community considered to be the key issues for the lake. The association summarized the results and presented them at four town hall meetings in communities around the lake. Based on these visioning sessions, the association

focused on protecting ecological and environmental features in shoreline development, while addressing the demands of increased usage; completing a vegetation census; assuring that the water quality remains positive; and improving the quality of sport fishing. “The association asked me if I would write the plan,” says Gerald McCauley. Soon after, he was elected the chairman of the Leech Lake Association’s Healthy Lakes Committee. McCauley, a retired marketing director for Medtronic, partnered with Jim Lohr, who had chaired DuPont’s planning board, to research and write the plan. It was finished in the summer of 2004. The association faced the task of addressing and incorporating the concerns of numerous entities. Leech Lake covers 112,000 acres, has two hundred miles of shoreline, and lies


2 0 0 6 O U T S TA N D I N G E N V I R O N M E N TA L I N I T I AT I V E LEECH LAKE ASSOCIATION

BY BRITTA REQUE-DRAGICEVIC PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM ALTOBELL

Waves

of the

FUTURE

within Cass, Hubbard, and Beltrami counties. It is the third largest lake in Minnesota, made so in 1884 by the construction of a federal dam, which was created to control the level of the Mississippi. A treaty in 1855 with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe placed the majority of the lake within the tribe’s reservation. The treaty grants tribal members aboriginal rights to fish, hunt, and gather, free from state regulations within the reservation. The lake is also part of the Chippewa National Forest with much of its northern forests and shoreline preserved by federal ownership. The demand for lakeshore ownership has driven up property values. With limited shoreline available for development, the lake’s activity has increased. These factors prompted the association to take action, but they also posed challenges. “Their courage stood out to me,” says

Don Hickman of the Initiative Foundation, responsible for nominating the association for the award. “They have continually sought the concerns and goals of various stakeholders, but ultimately, have chosen the course that they feel is necessary to preserve the resource.” John Ringle, of the Leech Lake Tribal Division of Fish and Wildlife, agrees. “We provided input, reviewed and added tribal interests into the plan, and overall it was a smooth process,” he says. Some of the tribal interests were wild rice protection, maintaining a shared fishery, and the environmental protection of undeveloped shoreline. The tribal council endorsed the plan. The association worked closely with Cass County Environmental Services and helped the county gain support for intra-lake zoning. One controversy was the lake’s cormorants—

an endangered bird that consumes an average of one-and-one-half pounds of fish per bird per day off the lake. In the end, and with the support of the plan, the Leech Lake Tribal Department of Resource Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the DNR were charged with reducing the bird population by lethal methods. In less than one year, most of the plan’s calls for action have been completed. “It was a team effort,” says McCauley, “A lake association by itself can’t do much. You have to have good cooperation with governing bodies and citizens.” “They did a very nice job, worked diligently, and did very thorough research,” says Ed Feiler, who at the time worked with DNR lake planning. “It’s easy for volunteer associations over time and with challenges to lose focus—they never did.” IQ SPRING 2006

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2 0 0 6 O U T S TA N D I N G N O N P R O F I T BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF CENTRAL MINNESOTA

“No kid should have to wait to have a friend in his life...” J

ody was a very busy single mom. She was working two jobs and raising two children. Her three-and-a-half-year-old son, Aaron, required a lot of attention. She also had a seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Rachael. Jody realized she didn’t have enough time in the day to give her young daughter the undivided attention she desperately needed. Rachael Johnson was almost eight years old when she met Paula Eckerman—her new friend from BBBS. And their lives were changed forever. Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) is the largest and oldest youth-mentoring program in the United States. It was founded in 1904 and serves more than 225,000 youths ages five through eighteen in five thousand communities across the country, through a network of 470 different agencies. BBBS of Central Minnesota has been making a difference and mixing magical friendships—matching “Littles” with “Bigs” for many years. Troy Fritz is the executive director for the St. Cloud area agency. He says in 2001, their agency successfully served two hundred kids. In 2005, that number grew to eleven hundred kids.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” says Rachael, recalling her first introduction to Paula. “But I liked her right away.” They have been friends for nine years. “They are so much a part of each other’s lives,” says Jody. “It has been a good match. Rachael was involved in Paula’s wedding. I foresee Paula being a part of Rachael’s.” According to Fritz, there are currently fiftyfive kids on a waiting list to have a Big. “No kid should have to wait to have a friend in his life,” says Fritz. His primary goal over the next five years is to completely eliminate the waiting list. Fritz says the BBBS program has evolved tremendously in the past few years, due in great part to their involvement with the Initiative Foundation’s Healthy Organizations Partnership (HOP) program. HOP is a two-year program that offers leadership training and grant support for executives and board members of nonprofit organizations. BBBS began in September 2001. “It is clear they are having an impact in the community,” says Hartle, program manager for organizational development. She notes BBBS uses creative ways to involve the community at large as well as other youth programs. This creativity has brought significant growth to BBBS.

They have an effective and engaging board of directors that is constantly looking outside the box for innovative ways to serve more children and recruit more volunteers. The central Minnesota agency is providing matches at a cost of half the national average within the organization. For every child the average agency serves, the central Minnesota agency serves two—serving more kids with fewer dollars. Fritz says it is important to give children who may not connect well with other adults the opportunity to help them feel comfortable and cared about. Having adult role models and friends in their lives can help give them the best chance to become successful caring individuals in our communities. “All any kid wants is someone in his or her life who will make them feel important,” says Fritz. That is what the program did for Rachael. According to Jody, before her daughter’s match with Paula, Rachael was shy and introverted with low confidence and self-esteem. With Paula’s encouragement, Rachael has written and published two poems. She also plays the clarinet in the high school marching band. Jody says she can’t imagine Rachael having done these things without Paula’s support.

From left: Tyler Benners, Cassie Kirchner, Troy Fritz.

Sibling

18

BY VIVIAN CLARK PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM ALTOBELL

REVELRY INITIATIVE QUARTERLY


Rachael says Paula is the one person who she can always count on “to just be there” when things get rough. Rachael’s father passed away when she was ten. “She and her father had a special relationship. She was Daddy’s little girl,” says Jody. “It was hard because I was dealing with grief as well, but in a different way than Rachael. She needed Paula. She was there.” Paula says being a Big has helped her to grow personally. She says their relationship is

unique. Rachael is like a blood sister to Paula. “It is so cool, because we are more than friends,” says Paula. “I am not her mom, and yet we are family.” The agency is very supportive of all their Bigs, according to Paula. “Just like any family, there will no doubt be problems. But with BBBS, the staff is there to help you out and guide you to help your Little.” It is hard to remember what life was like before Paula came to be a part of it, Rachael

says. She can’t imagine what it would be like without her. Rachael will be sixteen years old soon. The program officially ends when the Little becomes eighteen, but Rachael says she and Paula have already decided they will always be a part of each other’s lives. And Rachael is already planning on becoming a Big herself. “I know what it did for my life, to have a Big,” says Rachael. “I want to be one, too—to help another kid, like Paula helped me.” IQ SPRING 2006

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“It’s almost like a miracle... When we need something, it’s there.” From left: Myrt Bollenbacher and Bonnie Christenson.

Common

THREADS

BY CYNTHIA MOE PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM ALTOBELL


2 0 0 6 O U T S TA N D I N G V O L U N T E E R S BONNIE CHRISTENSON & MYRT BOLLENBACHER, DEERWOOD

M

eeting people’s needs is not always a matter of simply giving money. Sometimes a redistribution of items can solve problems—for both those who give and those who receive. But between generosity and need, there must be a means for turning donations into good, usable items, and a platform for distributing them. At Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood, the Initiative Foundation’s 2006 Outstanding Volunteers Bonnie Christenson and Myrt Bollenbacher have become catalysts for gathering, preparing, and redistributing used gifts through the Salem WEST program. Salem Lutheran’s WEST program, which stands for “Welcome, Equip, Send, Toolbox,” began in 1993 as a social ministry. Christenson and Bollenbacher, who have been friends for years, were involved from the earliest days of the outreach. At that time, the two ladies, who have three grandchildren in common—Christenson’s son is married to Bollenbacher’s daughter—focused on making layettes for babies. They recycled material to make blankets and crib sheets by hand, added sleepers, outfits, undershirts, socks, and even a baby toy or two, and made the layettes available to area doctors, social workers, and public health nurses. As word spread of the ministry’s focus on providing practical items such as clothing and household items for those in need, donations began to arrive at the church. Bags, boxes, and used furniture filled Salem’s Sunday school classrooms. Christenson and Bollenbacher gathered bags of clothing and took them to Christenson’s house for laundering, repairing, and sorting. “Bonnie basically gave up use of many parts of her house,” says Greg Meyer, Salem Lutheran’s associate in ministry and the one who nominated Christenson and Bollenbacher for the award. “There were clothes everywhere.” Late in 2002, Salem Lutheran was given a wonderful Christmas gift—a building directly across from the church was donated to the social ministry program. The building needed a great deal of work, and Christenson and Bollenbacher helped by scraping, painting, scrubbing, and providing food for the other workers. New siding, windows, a furnace, and an air conditioner were donated and installed by various companies. Soon the building was ready, and two sets of donated washers and dryers were moved from Christenson’s home to the store. When the social ministry was new, fundraising attempts involved holding spaghetti dinners in a private home. Those early fundraisers were success-

ful and helped Salem WEST get off the ground, but eventually the demand for services grew beyond the ministry’s simple budget. The Initiative Foundation became involved with Salem WEST in 2002 and has provided a number of grants to advance the work, including $10,000 in 2005. That grant provided a VISTA volunteer to help identify the strongest areas of need in the community and help keep the resource store open full time. “The Salem WEST program truly represents the essence of grassroots community development and service,” says Linda Kaufmann, the Initiative Foundations program manager for early childhood and grants development. “It was developed and is run entirely by generous volunteers giving of their time, talents, and resources.” Salem WEST primarily serves Crow Wing and Aitkin counties, but as the ministry spreads its wings, needs are being felt in surrounding counties as well. It is becoming more and more common for requests for items to come from other areas. But with each step in the program’s growth, resources appear to keep meeting the needs. “It’s almost like a miracle,” says Christenson. “When we need something, it’s there.” Salem WEST has developed a network of volunteers to pick up, repair, clean, and deliver items where they are needed. Now the ministry can furnish an entire household when called upon to do so, including beds, tables and chairs, household goods, and clothing. Christenson and Bollenbacher work long days, sometimes twelve hours or more, in order to keep the ministry growing—a remarkable feat for women who have each celebrated more than eighty birthdays. Their energy and enthusiasm are contagious. “Both Bonnie and Myrt would never ask anyone to do something they would not do themselves,” says Meyer. “I often hear people say, ‘How can I say no to them, knowing how hard they are working?’” But volunteers in the program need not make huge time commitments in order to help. “We have people who come in for a few hours, whenever they have time,” says Bollenbacher. The pair agree that though being recognized by the award is wonderful, the real awards come when people’s needs are met in the most basic ways. “We gave one little boy a brand-new pillow, and he said, ‘You mean that pillow is for me? I’ve never had one!’” says Christenson. “It makes you think beyond yourself and your own needs.” Bollenbacher agrees. “It does your heart good.” IQ

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2 0 0 6 O U T S TA N D I N G Y O U T H V O L U N T E E R REIKO KOYAMA, ST. CLOUD

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eiko Koyama is a perfect example of how one voice can multiply into many voices. She has a knack for opening people’s minds and initiating dialogue about powerful topics, such as discrimination and other social injustices. Forums she has initiated require people to debate, think, explore, reason, and problemsolve. Oh, yes—Koyama is seventeen years old. The recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award, Koyama was nominated by Jessica Horning, manager of partnerships and services at the United Way of Central Minnesota. Koyama is being recognized for the work she has done with Horning and Youth as Resources (YAR)—an organization supported by the Initiative Foundation that empowers youth to bring about positive change in communities. Koyama likes to make changes for the better and she doesn’t just take on small, day-to-day issues. She seeks to make a difference in things that matter globally. Her father, Steve Koyama, was of Japanese-American descent and was a professor at St. Cloud State University. He died when Reiko was only eight months old. Koyama’s mother, Sudie Hofmann, also a professor, is the most important influence in her daughter’s life. Hofmann says she has always encouraged her daughter to speak up for issues she believes in. “Reiko has always asked a lot of questions,” says Hofmann. “She always wants an explanation if she sees some injustice, if someone is being treated unfairly, or different from everyone else. From early on, she was concerned about things, such as racism and sexism. She is one who always looks out for the underdog.” Chris Fastner, program manager for youth development & VISTA at the Initiative Foundation says, “What struck us was the

nature of the things she’s been involved in. Her passion for inclusiveness.” Her body of work and volunteerism speaks for itself. “She has tremendous insight, maturity, and enthusiasm,” agrees Horning. Koyama is now on the YAR board of directors and Horning says her presence will bring about exciting things. “She has such good energy and brings a lot of new ideas to the table. She acts on her heart and her values. When others may not feel comfortable or know how to reach out to someone, she will do that. It’s impressive that at her age she’s this aware of what is going on around her. I don’t know if she fully realizes all the ways that she impacts our community.” Koyama is on the student-planning committee for the Center for Service-Learning and Social Change. Last year, she organized a Youth Forum on Racism in conjunction with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She wrote the grant proposal and secured the funds from YAR for the event. She also promoted and led portions of the forum, which encouraged discussions on racial issues and how everyone is affected by them. Kevin LaNave, director of the Center for Service-Learning and Social Change, says the forum brought together twenty youth from the area with various backgrounds (AfricanAmerican, Caucasian, Asian, West African, and Somali) and gave them an important opportunity to share their experiences with one another. “Even though her convictions are strong about something,” says LaNave, “and she feels things deeply, she doesn’t let that keep her from exploring other viewpoints and having an open mind.” “Most of the things I do are to help people who don’t have a voice themselves,” says Koyama. “If I can help change something and it

will make life better for someone, why not? I definitely inherited that from my mom. Sticking up for the little guy.” She knows that sometimes making important changes begins in politics—a place few teenagers dare to tread. Koyama spends election years volunteering and assisting at campaign headquarters, lobbying for candidates she thinks can make a difference in her community. She calls herself a radical-conservative. “I feel the political side is a main factor in determining if important issues get heard.” When she isn’t busy working on boards and committees, Reiko is a typical teenager. She is a junior at St. Cloud Tech High School where she participates in soccer, track, National Honor Society, Spanish Club, speech, and organizations including Future Problem Solvers, and Cultural Awareness and Racial Equity (CARE). She also works hard to make sure everyone fits in. “I know if she sees someone alone, she will seek them out and make sure they feel welcome,” says Horning. “That’s a really powerful thing in high school.” The causes that she already feels so strongly about may just be the tip of the iceberg for Koyama. This summer she plans to attend Peace Jam in Denver and is currently working on a new endeavor. She is doing research and taking personal measures to save the environment. “Even little things make a difference,” she says, “like taking staggered showers (running the water only when it’s needed), drinking free-trade coffee, using public transportation, and not driving, if you can walk.” Yes, little things can certainly make a difference. But when it comes to Reiko Koyama, expect big things. IQ

“Most of the things I do are to help people who don’t have a voice themselves.” 22

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Mountain of

BY SHEILA PETERSON HELMBERGER PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIM ALTOBELL

YOUTH SPRING 2006

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> DONOR SERVICES

LARGER THAN LIFE

BY JIM CZAJKOWSKI, NORTHWESTERN MUTUAL FINANCIAL NETWORK

Gifts of Life Insurance are Meaningful and Doable

W

hen the subject of charitable giving comes up, many of my clients are motivated by the thought of doing something, “meaningful but doable.” Their reasons for dedication to any given charity are highly personal. They often stem from heartfelt concern for an organization’s financial well-being and a belief that supporting a charity can achieve a lasting impact in our communities. Some people hesitate to act because they assume the amount they can afford might not make much of a difference. That is, until I tell them about gifts of life insurance. Suddenly, expecting a modest gift to make a dramatic impact may actually have some merit! If you are interested in leaving your legacy through a trusted, effective charity like the Initiative Foundation, gifts of life insurance might be the right choice for you, too. The gift of life insurance is a practical and affordable way to achieve philanthropic goals. Best of all, donors need not be wealthy to make a meaningful gift. There are a number of ways to accomplish this with life insurance. Typically, a donor applies for a permanent life insurance policy and names the charity as both the owner and beneficiary of the policy. Since the charity is the owner, the donor’s annual premium qualifies as a charitable gift and may be taxdeductible. Upon the donor’s death, no complex probate procedures will be required to settle

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INITIATIVE QUARTERLY

LIFETIME BENEFIT TO CHARITY $50 Monthly Cash Gift vs. $50 Monthly Life Insurance Gift (Sample Donor: Male, Age 45, Life Expectancy of 39 Years)

50,000

$50,000 40,000

30,000 Gift of Cash Gift of Insurance

20,000

$23,400

10,000

0

a life insurance claim, and the donor’s estate will not be subject to gift or estate taxes on the amount of the death benefit. For those who may wish to access a policy’s cash value during their lifetimes, donors may retain ownership of the policy and simply name a charity as the beneficiary. In this case, the downside is that the premiums do not qualify as a tax-deductible contribution, since the charity does not own the policy. The insurance proceeds will also be included in their estate, but may qualify for an estate tax charitable deduction. If the charity is the beneficiary of the policy, it will receive the pro-

ceeds on a tax-free basis upon the donor’s death. If the charity is also given ownership of the policy, it will have access to the cash value throughout the donor’s lifetime. If the donor ever chooses to discontinue premium payments, the charity may have the option of making the policy “self-supporting.” The accumulated policy value may provide a valuable resource to the charity as an emergency fund or as collateral for a loan. If you are like many of my clients, planned giving through life insurance may prove to be very rewarding for you, your family and certainly for those who benefit from charities like the

Initiative Foundation. By replacing modest annual contributions with life insurance premiums, we all possess the ability to make a meaningful difference and leave a lasting legacy. IQ

Jim Czajkowski is a financial representative with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network with offices in St. Cloud. Contact Jim at (320) 251-6711 or james.czajkowsi@nmfn.com.


> E A R LY C H I L D H O O D U P DAT E

EARLY ADDITIONS Major Communities Selected to Early Childhood Initiative

N

oreen Dunnells knows that there are thousands of parents who want their preschoolers to be better prepared to enter kindergarten. As United Way of Central Minnesota’s chief professional officer, she led the effort to enroll 6,500 children in the Success by Six early childhood program in less than one year. Now, joining forces with the Initiative Foundation’s Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative (MECI), Brainerd, Sartell and St. Cloud will reach more young children and their

families than ever before. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, fewer than half of all children entering kindergarten are fully prepared to succeed. “We want to give our youngest citizens a voice and the resources necessary to become healthy, productive adults,” says Dunnells. “The Early Childhood Initiative is a wonderful partner for us.” Building on the success of thirty-six other MECI communities, the Initiative Foundation

will provide training, staff assistance and a total of $75,000 in grants to help form citizen-led coalitions to make young children a top priority. The foundation will also help to transform action plans into projects with future grants. “We’ve been doing this for three years, and we’ve learned what works well,” says Linda Kaufmann, the Initiative Foundation’s program manager for youth and grants development. “We’re in a good position now to reach out to larger communities.” IQ

Contact Linda Kaufmann at lkaufmann@ifound.org.

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leading at the Pace of

> H E A LT H Y L A K E S & R I V E R S

chan ge 13th Annual Nonprofit and Foundation Conference MAY 17, 2006 Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, Plymouth, Minnesota

HEADS ABOVE WATER Foundation, Isanti Lakes Share Clear-Thinking

W

For more information contact Joan Gatzmeyer at 1-888-529-2648 or psg@larsonallen.com. Or, visit us at www.larsonallen.com/publicservice.

hen the ear of Tami Crea’s daughter began to bleed after swimming in Isanti County’s Long Lake, the single mother and lake association volunteer considered it a call to action. “We needed a plan, some way to combat this growing problem,” says Crea. “I mean, some days the lake is like pea soup.”

“We needed a plan, some way to combat this growing problem.” Long Lake is like thousands of Minnesota waters that face pressure from increasing shoreline development, destructive exotic species and human interaction. Since 1999, the Initiative Foundation’s Healthy Lakes & Rivers Partnership (HLRP) has helped shoreline

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PROBLEM PARTS?

associations understand these pressures and enact citizen-led plans to preserve Minnesota’s greatest natural resources. Passionate volunteers such as Tami propelled the Initiative Foundation’s first HLRP effort in Isanti County. With training, staff assistance and a grant of $20,000, the foundation invested in eight neighboring lakes. Each lake association will be eligible for another $5,000 after plans are completed. “What excites me the most is their level of volunteer leadership,” says Don Hickman, foundation program manager for planning and preservation. “That gives me confidence that their momentum will produce tangible results.” Long Lake’s plan will include strategies for eliminating curlyleaf pondweed, an exotic underwater plant, and for educating property owners about water-friendly landscaping practices. Sustained efforts learned through HLRP should gradually improve the water quality. “Everyone is willing to work hard,” says Crea. “There are a lot of devoted people who really care about our lakes.” IQ Contact Don Hickman at dhickman@ifound.org.

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SPRING 2006

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> M E T H A M P H E TA M I N E

METH FORCES RALLY Foundation Helps to Mobilize Nine Counties

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ount Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Stearns, Todd and Wadena Counties among the places that methamphetamine is no longer welcome. Partnering with law enforcement, schools, healthcare, business and government, the Initiative Foundation has helped form citizen taskforces in all of them.

“This has proven to 103 Years of Great Careers!

be a problem that law enforcement can’t handle alone.” The foundation’s anti-meth initiative, dubbed Minnesota ICE (Intervention, Care and Education—a twist off the most common street name

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for meth), was launched last November with a statewide conference that brought in 2,400 concerned leaders, citizens and students from across the state. Since then, it has earned $500,000 in support from The McKnight Foundation and Bush Foundation. “Our goal is to forge partnerships between the professionals on the front lines and the citizens in the community,” says Ed Minnema, program manager for methamphetamine. “This has proven to be a problem that law enforcement can’t handle alone.” Minnesota counties have bore the brunt of more than $130 million in meth-related costs in 2005. Recent surveys conducted by the National Association of Counties revealed a fiveyear escalation of meth-related emergency visits and a growing need for addiction treatment programs. In central Minnesota, meth lab busts have declined in Morrison and Stearns Counties. “As more of us become aware of the dangers and take active roles in our communities, we will continue to see more positive signs,” Minnema says. IQ Contact Ed Minnema at eminnema@ifound.org.

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>INITIATIVE FOUNDATION UNLOCKED continued from page 11

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“They were first started to create jobs, to alleviate pain and suffering, to create longterm endowments for their regions, and to create a leadership base to face future challenges. It started out as a regular charitable model. But over time, it has evolved so that the MIFs are almost an essential structure in their regions. That’s amazing.” Kathy Gaalswyk, the president of the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation, agrees that the unique partnership works. “McKnight opened the discussion out of concern for rural Minnesota,” says Gaalswyk. “Rural people responded with ideas, willingness to work, and long-term commitment.” The purpose was to increase rural grantmaking, find ways to strengthen communities, diversify the economies, and give youth opportunities so they wouldn’t have to leave to get jobs. But unlike many organizations that come into communities and dictate how they will benefit the area, the MIFs had a different philosophy: Let the local people decide how the foundations will work. “Our approach has been that local people know best,” says Gaalswyk. “That’s why each foundation has different goals and priorities— based on its regional needs.” “Their success has been that they understand how communities work, they listen well, reflect what they hear, and engage the community,” says Bill King, president of the Minnesota Council on Foundations. “They are able to create partnerships within a community that bring resources together.” The foundations took on an unprecedented role by distributing not only grants, but by making business loans that had the potential to create “living wage” jobs, those that pay between $13 and $19 per hour plus benefits. Foundation funding often fills the gap between what traditional lenders can provide and what a developing business needs. It was a revolutionary concept—one that proved that when local people are respected for their creativity, passion, and faith, miracles happen. The Initiative Foundation in Little Falls is living proof. Since 1986, the Initiative Foundation has created nearly eight thousand jobs in its


fourteen-county service area. It has awarded more than two thousand grants totaling $15.4 million and more than seven hundred loans totaling $23.8 million. “The Initiative Foundation provides leadership training and gives a community the opportunity to use its own skills and resources to work toward what they want,” says Pat Spence, the chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees. “It’s a very unique concept—the Minnesota Initiative Foundations are the only ones like this in the nation. We started as a small, unknown entity and have grown into a recognized fixture in Minnesota.” While McKnight continues to provide key funding, the foundations were soon challenged to raise funds from other sources. The Initiative Foundation worked at raising endowments—originally a goal of $5 million. Today it has a total endowment of $25.9 million with assets totaling $38.5 million.

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“We’ve been at this for TWENTY YEARS.

And it’s working B E A U T I F U L LY. ” “The Initiative Foundation is able to leverage more resources than most foundations would,” says King. “Its greatest strength is that it can bring regional players together to strengthen communities and provide funding that would not be available elsewhere.” As it celebrates its twentieth anniversary, the Initiative Foundation’s future looks bright. “McKnight has been unusual in our role in that we made a very long-term commitment to support the MIFs,” says Hohlfeld. “The longest foundation commitment that I have heard of is five years. We’ve been at this for twenty. And it’s working beautifully.” The increasing strength and cohesiveness of greater Minnesota communities can attest to that. IQ

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Initiative Foundation’s Philosophy: Build on What You Have, Don’t Dwell on What You Lack

B

eing “inside-out� is good when it applies to the Initiative Foundation’s community development programs. The foundation utilizes an inside-out approach, which empowers local citizens to change their communities for the better. The direction and impetus toward community improvement come from the inside—the people who live and work there—and move outward. “The Initiative Foundation does not come in and tell you what to do. They teach you how to develop your own plan and do it yourselves,� explains Pat O’Regan, mayor of Motley and a field consultant for the foundation. “Citizens come together and everybody has input as to what they feel is important. They develop a shared vision in the community, then work at accomplishing it.� The Initiative Foundation encourages residents to focus on what is good about their communities—their assets. Those assets include the skills of their residents, the power of their associations, their public, private, and nonprofit institutions, and their physical and economic resources. Dan Frank, program manager for community development, says the foundation’s goal is getting community members involved and helping them achieve a common vision, get organized, have some success, and then keep the process going. To accomplish this, the Initiative Foundation implements a four-pronged approach, which includes providing training, funding, ongoing technical assistance, and referrals to other resources. This process can take up to two years—and it yields incredible results. The city of Motley serves as a successful example. Mayor O’Regan says the city’s partici-


BY TENLEE LUND

Pat O’Regan: “The Initiative Foundation teaches you how to do it yourself.”

pation in HCP led to several projects, including creation of a comprehensive plan, adoption of state building codes, and local ordinances for land use and zoning. The Initiative Foundation provided the training and technical assistance Motley needed to accomplish these goals. “We’re really attempting to do two main things,” says Karl Samp, vice-president of community initiatives. “We think that if we build people’s capacities—teach them how to be leaders, how to do community organizing, how to focus on assets, and how to carry out projects—and we help them build relationships within their communities, those things will have lasting effects.” “There are a lot of other projects throughout the community that have come out of it,” adds O’Regan. “The Initiative Foundation is there long-term for the communities, providing help, guidance, and a variety of assistance. They can help find sources for funding and assist with applying for it.” Most importantly, the Initiative Foundation works to ensure that everyone who wants to be included in the process has a chance to be heard. Everyone has a voice—an integral part of the asset-based, inside-out approach. IQ

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ECONOMICS

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The Business of Benevolence Business Lending Sets Initiative Foundation Apart

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lthough established twenty-five years ago, Pine River’s east side industrial park had been occupied solely by a baseball diamond. Now, thanks to the Initiative Foundation, a fifteen-thousand-square-foot building will house a truss-manufacturing plant that will provide fifteen new jobs. “I began working on starting Trussworthy Components two years ago,” says owner Craig Anderson. “I wanted to locate in Pine River because it’s my hometown.” The city of Pine River wanted the jobs. Impeding this opportunity was the financing to make it happen. “The foundation filled a critical role to help me secure equipment and inventory,” he says. By offering gap funding to supplement owner equity and taking a position as a subordinate lender, the Initiative Foundation’s participation allowed Pine River State Bank to stay within its collateral requirements and still offer the necessary funds. “Most of our leads come from a bank or an economic development agency,” explains David Gruenes, Initiative Foundation board member. “Over the course of this program, there have been literally thousands of jobs created, several hundred businesses that have been financed.” To be considered for one of the four available funds—Technology Capital, Microenterprise Loan Guarantee, Seed Capital, or Direct Business Loan—businesses must first work with their local economic development specialist or financial institution. Then, according to John Kaliszewski, vice-president for economic development, the Initiative Foundation conducts its own evaluation, weighing the strength of the ownership/management team, business plan viability, and the benefits to the community.


BY TENLEE LUND & ASHLEY VARGO

John Kaliszewski: “We’re trying to create livingwage jobs, diversify the local economic base, and create opportunities for young adults.”

“Our interests go beyond business financing,” says Kaliszewski, explaining that the foundation doesn’t compete with lending institutions nor strive to make money. “We’re trying to create living-wage jobs, diversify the local economic base, and create opportunities for young adults. We want the business to be successful and have a positive impact on the community.” To meet these goals, the Initiative Foundation provides ongoing support throughout the life of the loan. “We actually set up periodic site visits to meet with the management and see firsthand what’s going on,” says Kaliszewski. “We know that if we can identify problems early enough, we can resolve them.” But the unique characteristic of the foundation’s business financing is its flexibility. The foundation can lend money in situations where there is inherent risk, aiding start-up ventures, or technology-based companies that lack sufficient brick-and-mortar collateral. Loan terms can also be restructured—helping businesses through growth phases or slow-downs. “I would encourage anyone starting a new business to tap into the Initiative Foundation as an important resource,” says Anderson. He exemplifies the talent lying dormant in our communities: a homegrown entrepreneur waiting for the right time and right combination of resources to take the ultimate risk and start a business. IQ

SPRING 2006

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sFROM

THE HEART

BY ERIKA L. BINGER, THE MCKNIGHT FOUNDATION BOARD CHAIR

> GUEST OPINION COLUMN

The Grand Experiment Chemistry between McKnight, Local People Yield the Initiative Foundations

O

ver the past twenty years, the Minnesota Initiative Foundations—originally known as the Minnesota Initiative Funds—have become powerful and valuable regional institutions. By adapting local support to each of their own communities, the foundations foster growth and vitality in their regions while bolstering the economic health of our entire state. As successful as the Initiative Foundations are today, it’s interesting to note that they started out, to some extent, as a grand experiment. By the mid-1980s, rapidly declining demands for farming, mining, and lumber had led to the disappearance of entire economic markets in Greater Minnesota. The McKnight Foundation had previously funded limited programs to support families and communities statewide, but McKnight’s board of directors was becoming increasingly aware that citizens in rural Minnesota were facing unprecedented challenges. McKnight’s board visited small towns and confirmed that the people of rural Minnesota held the capacity and resilience to address their own economic and community challenges, given appropriate resources. The board considered using McKnight’s resources to establish a mechanism through which local people could decide and act upon local issues. It would need to be sturdy enough to stabilize economies and communities, but flexible and strategic enough to build capacity and infrastructure to address challenges and opportunities. McKnight invited sixty rural leaders from around Minnesota to consider structures and strategies to minimize effects of the economic downturn and prepare for the future. The result was the Minnesota Initiative Funds. Each of the six funds was to be independent, with its own geographic scope, board of directors, and identity. Initially, the funds set out to help individuals and families cope with poverty. Each fund surveyed its own community to identify pressing social needs and strategies for solutions. And the funds didn’t stop at simply addressing current challenges. The funds’ boards advocated establishing and nurturing new

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INITIATIVE QUARTERLY

businesses to help protect against economic collapse. The funds created six business development and loan programs—customized to its own region. Now called the Initiative Foundations, they continue to strengthen local communities through work in human services, employment support, leadership development, and community capacity-building. McKnight didn’t intend to remain in partnership for more than two decades. But year after year the Initiative Foundations have increased their impact, addressing emergent issues and seizing opportunities; for McKnight, continuing to invest in the Initiative Foundations has made great sense. Since 1986, McKnight has granted around $200 million to the foundations. They have translated those dollars into 2,800 business loans totaling more than $130 million, and made a combined 12,000 grants totaling $91 million. Together, the foundations’ endowments now total more than $160 million, with revolving loan assets of nearly $60 million. The foundations’ current assets roughly equal McKnight’s long-term investment. In strategic local outcomes, however, their increased value is incalculable. At McKnight, we are extremely proud of our early involvement in the development of the Minnesota Initiative Foundations, as well as our ongoing relationships. The thoughtful leaders and community partners of each region deserve full credit—and McKnight’s gratitude—for more than twenty successful and productive years. IQ Erika L. Binger was elected chair of The McKnight Foundation board of directors in August 2004. Binger, thirty-two and a member of the board for the past ten years, is the fourth board chair since it was established in 1953. She is the great-granddaughter of William L. and Maude L. McKnight, creators of the Foundation. A graduate of Pepperdine University in California, Binger earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Bethel College in Arden Hills.


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IQ Magazine - Spring 2006  

Published by the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls, Minnesota, IQ Magazine boils down regional leadership issues to their very essence....