Grants focus on programs, distance learning, safety

$140,000 goes to 31 organizations, schools, child care providers working to support underserved youths affected by the pandemic.

A rolled newspaper
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service

LITTLE FALLS — The Initiative Foundation has issued its first round of grants for a total of $140,000 to support 31 regional child care providers, school districts and organizations supporting youth from birth to age 8 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grant funding is being offered in three phases and is the result of a $416,000 award the Initiative Foundation received in August from the Minnesota Department of Education and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund. The overarching goal is to support early childhood programming that benefits youths adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including illness, economic displacement and the interruption of educational and/or development support.

Included in the first round of grants are projects that support training for early childhood educators and child care providers, learning kits for preschool students, support for programming and technology materials for distance learning. At least one grant was awarded in each of the 14 counties within the Initiative Foundation’s service area.

The Initiative Foundation will host two additional grant-making rounds — one during early winter 2020 and another in spring 2021.

Rachel Christensen, who runs Precious in His Sight child care in Brainerd, plans to use the $2,500 grant she received to support staff training and to complete an indoor activity area.


“My hope is through this grant I will learn how to give the kids new experiences they would not be able to get elsewhere,” Christensen said in a news release. “I hope to provide enriched activities to help them develop strengths in areas they need it most.”

With support from a $1,000 grant, Pierz special education students will have access to an outdoor classroom.

“The funds will provide equipment that allows these children a wider variety of learning experiences and coping strategies,’ stated Tom Otte, principal at Pioneer Elementary in Pierz. “Over time, and with specialized teacher guidance, children in this program learn to improve a wide variety of skills and learn how to best cope with their own needs.”

Staff at Ogilvie Early Childhood will distribute developmentally appropriate learning kits for children who are not able to attend in-person class due to the pandemic. “We would like to thank Initiative Foundation for this wonderful opportunity and look forward to supporting our community with this $15,000 grant,” Ogilvie early childhood staff wrote on their Facebook page.

Watch for the next round opening in late autumn.

For more information, contact Don Hickman at . For background and eligibility details, go online to . .

Foundation awards went to facilities in area counties :



  • Lynette K Nichols Family Daycare & Preschool, Jenkins,

  • Little Feet Daycare, Heather Rader, Motley.

Crow Wing

  • Brainerd Family YMCA,

  • Ellen Thomes, Brainerd,

  • Precious in His Sight, Rachel Christensen, Brainerd.

Mille Lacs

  • Mille Lac Health System, Onamia.


  • Horizon Health, Pierz,

  • Karla Schuett Childcare, Little Falls,

  • Licensed Family Child Care Association of Morrison County, Little Falls,

  • LaaLaa's Daycare, Latasha Nelson, Little Falls.


  • Beth Marie Bundy, Long Prairie,

  • Michelle Reimer Daycare, Long Prairie.


  • Little Red Wagon Daycare, Cindy Ehrmantraut, Sebeka,

  • Verndale Family Life Church.

The foundation awarded 110 emergency child care grants to child care providers in central Minnesota, which were supported by local generosity, including $50,500 from the Initiative Foundation's Innovation Fund and $100,000 from the Minnesota Council on Foundations and its Disaster Recovery Fund for Coronavirus.

What To Read Next
Get Local