Grant Reports for Freeborn County Community Foundation

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The United Way of Freeborn County

Project: Expand and enhance programming

Report: United Way has traditionally relied on workplace campaigns and over the past three years we have seen a drastic decline in the funds we have been able to raise through workplaces. Many businesses are being sold to companies outside of the community which do not have the same philanthropic vision. Corporations are also adopting other giving practices, which do not focus on supporting local programs. It is challenging for any nonprofit or local organization to receive assistance for projects. United Ways across the nation are facing a similar situation and are adapting the best they can. There are also concerns, overall, for nonprofit and social sector funding as there are cuts across the board with other grant funds and traditional sources of support from the state and federal government.

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The Albert Lea United Way has adapted by using technology more effectively, so less staff time is being used on administrative tasks so they can focus on addressing local needs. This spring, the organization began to use a grant management program called CommunityForce, which allows organizations to apply for funding online. Volunteers review funding requests and make recommendations online, as well. This has streamlined our process and allows volunteers more time to provide other supports to programs.

In June, the Albert Lea United Way finalized a grant from the United State Department of Agriculture to put a system called MPOWR in place, which allows for online communication between different service providers, as well as individual goal setting. Fice local organizations were trained in late July and are starting to use the system to work with the individuals they serve. Our community is focusing on five major indicators: housing, transportation, financial health and basic needs. The system will also allow for direct referrals. The Unite Way is working to build capacity and get more organizations signed up to start in 2018. The system will streamline the local process and help individuals set and accomplish goals with a network of support.

The organization was recently awarded another year of funding through the Office for Refugee Resettlement — focusing on individuals who are choosing to work and live in Freeborn County. Karen Liaison Eh Wah assists with enrollment in health care plans, housing — rental and purchase of homes, transportation — use of public or attaining a driver’s license and enrollment in local programs such as WIC and the Adult Learning Center. Wah has served hundreds of individuals since his work began in 2015.

In 2017, the group helped transition the local Community Mental Health Committee to become a National Alliance on Mental Illness affiliate and is now NAMI Freeborn County. The decision was made to ensure sustainability of the effort and to utilize more resources through the state office. The partnership with NAMI helped create connections to provide suicide prevention training through Albert Lea Area Schools as well as other programming, including Get to Know NAMI, Mental Health in the Workplace and advocacy meetings. Addressing mental health is again the top priority identified through the local community health survey — with nearly 30 percent of responders noting they had a mental health concern over the past year. Depression and anxiety continue to be a significant issue in most local workplaces.

Flood relief efforts from the September 2016 flooding event are almost finalized as Denise Tipton has continued to work through a partnership with Lutheran Social Services to provide case management to victimes to ensure they received help to recover.

The group utilized over $5,000 from the Basic Needs Fund to help assist unmet needs in Freeborn County. The group gathered with community members to form the Freeborn County Disaster Recovery Committee to sustain a local network of support to address future issues. The committee is now chaired by Brigitte Fisher of Habitat for Humanity, Co-chairman is John Holt of First Lutheran Church and Ann Austin of United Way of Freeborn County serves as secretary.

These efforts help address gaps in the community and build up resources so the organization may better address future challenges.


Youth for Christ

Project: Programs and operational costs

Report: Due to the support of the foundation fund, Youth for Christ has been able to help the lives of many young people. To date, over 1,200 youth have attended a program either before or after school, where the organization rents rooms or at The Rock. Youth for Christ has 13 paid staff positions in the Albert Lea area and many volunteers. It takes over $30,000 every month in donations to meet the budget for the group’s location. South Central Youth for Christ is a 501c3 faith-based nonprofit and is part of the national and international organization of Youth for Christ.

The organization is governed by a board of directors of which there cannot be more than two from any one church.

The group does work to reach kids, change lives and develop leaders. A lot of the work with youth at The Rock is done in the context of the Youth for Christ City Life program, which focuses on six areas of a young person’s life.

It’s built on a relational context, is concerned about the health of their relationships, how many there are and who they are with. The areas relate to the following questions:

How are they doing in the spiritual part of their life and their moral choices?

How are they doing academically?

Are their basic needs being met?

Do they feel safe?

Are they learning how to work and handle money?

Are they learning how to give back to society?

The organization employees have found that many times kids are hungry. Staff have also found that once kids get to The Rock there is a need to feed them if they are planning to stay for a program because getting back and forth from home to The Rock and vice versa is difficult for them. During cold and bad weather, staff and volunteers have also found it important to provide rides from school and home after programs are over or they would not be able to attend.

The programs that take place before and after school at schools are called Campus Life Clubs. Campus Life ministry combines healthy relationships with creative programs to help young people make good choices, establish a solid foundation for life and positively impact their schools. Lifke every ministry of Youth for Christ, Campus Life seeks to engage these young people wherever they are found as lifelong followers of Jesus Christ. The breakfast clubs at the middle school and high school have been successful clubs.

Because of the foundation’s support:

160 kids went to camp and on trips.

$33,000 was given for scholarships that youth earned through service projects.

32 youth went to events out of town.

Over 1,600 meals were served last summer to kids.

2,500 meals were served last school year.

1,200 loaves of bread were given to youth.

12,000 sandwiches or snacks were served last year.

125 small groups took place.

150 club meetings took place last school year.

Rides were given to students who missed the bus.

Youth were provided with toothpaste/brushes and other personal hygiene items.

The group was able to assist area schools in improving grades and behavioral issues of youth.

The organization provided homework help.

Bibles were given to youth who needed them.

The organization helped with clothing needs.

Numerous one-on-one appointments took place with youth.

3,200 doughnuts were served at breakfast clubs.

6,000 muffins were served at breakfast clubs.

The organization worked with 36 youth doing community service with court services.

1,200 different youth attended a program somewhere during the year.

30 kids participated in an art program.

12 young people participated in the grade school reading program.

Seven youth took part in two cooking clubs, where they learned cooking and faith principles.

Leadership training was available to interns.

The organization’s mission is to reach young people everywhere working together with the local church and other like-minded partners to raise up lifelong followers of Jesus, who lead by their Godliness in lifestyle, devotion to the Word of God and prayer, passion for sharing the love of Christ and commitment to social involvement.


STARS/Community Mentor Connection

Project: Continue programs and fund special events

Report: Success Through Adults Reaching Students and Community Mentor Connection is dedicated to providing adult mentors to youth who are in need of guidance or support in order to empower them to make positive life choices and develop to their fullest potential.

The organization currently has 18 mentor/mentee relationships in Freeborn County. This funding will help with operational support to increase the number of children served and provide ongoing support to these existing mentoring relationships. Mentoring is a proven strategy for preventing youth from engaging in alcohol and drug use, skipping school and other at risk behaviors. Youth people participating in quality mentoring programs are more likely to do better in school and have aspirations for college and career that ultimately strengthens the community.

Group events are also sponsored through this funding. This past summer the mentoring program enjoyed having a picnic at Pioneer Park; meeting at the Community Education Boathouse to canoe, kayak and paddle board and visiting the Freeborn County Historical Museum  for a hot dog roast and hands-on experience with the historical village. This winter the organization will provide group activities, such as bowling at Holiday Lanes, a trip to the Family Y, and the annual Paint and Pastries canvas painting event led by an art teacher through the Albert Lea Art Center.

Mentoring is a proven cost-effective investment — for every $1 invested into mentoring, there is a $3 return to society.