SMIF seeking grant applicants

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, in partnership with publishing companies Capstone and ABDO, is accepting applications for the early literacy grant program, according to a press release. The grant is designed to support early literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to age 5 by providing children with books. Organizations working with  children in SMIF’s 20-county region are encouraged to apply for books to be given to families to keep and read to their children.

In 2002, Capstone helped launch the BookStart program, working with SMIF to distribute thousands of books to children in the region over a period of 15 years. In 2018, the early literacy grant was formed as a new collaborative effort between SMIF and the two Mankato-based publishing companies to put even more books into the hands of children birth to age 5. SMIF has previously partnered with both companies on collectively distributing more than one hundred thousand books across the region through grants and programming.

“Reading with young children is critical for their development and future success,” said Rae Jean Hansen, vice president of early childhood at SMIF. “We are grateful to Capstone and ABDO for their continued partnership in this program to provide parents and children in the region with the support they need to prepare for school.”

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“We are honored to continue our 18-year partnership with Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation to empower children through literacy,” said Christie Skilbred, Capstone Corporate Giving and Literacy Center manager. “We at Capstone believe in giving children the building blocks for lifelong success and that starts with access to books. SMIF is doing amazing work to positively affect the children in our region and we’re proud to partner with them.”

“We are excited to be donating books through the Early Literacy Grant program again this year,” said DeMar Borth, director of marketing for ABDO. “This partnership supports our mission of getting more books into the hands of young readers.”

Award recipients will choose from a selection of more than 10,000 books donated by the publishing companies, including bilingual and early childhood appropriate books. Applications are due to SMIF by April 6.

For more information or to apply, visit or contact Heidi Coulter at 507-214-7016 or