The Initiative Foundation and its partner funds announced 67 grants totaling $300,599 were awarded during the first quarter of 2018.

The grants support organizations and projects primarily in the 14-county region of central Minnesota.

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"We are proud to invest in these great community partners, all helping to advance our mission of empowering people to build thriving communities and a vibrant region across central Minnesota," Initiative Foundation President Matt Varilek stated in a news release. "So far in 2018 we've supported projects helping our youngest citizens get off to a great start, paving the way for a strong workforce and providing healthy meals for senior citizens, to name a few."

Among the local organizations receiving grants are:

• National Joint Powers Alliance-sponsorship grant for 2018 Student Recognition Banquet: $1,000 to provide sponsorship for event honoring scholarships for outstanding students in the NJPA service area of Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties.

• Cass County Economic Development Corporation-Pine River housing study: $1,500 to support an evaluation of affordable housing in Pine River with a goal of creating access to quality, affordable options as a strategy to attract and retain young, skilled workers.

• Lakewood Health System-regional health and wellness center: $2,500 to support an analysis to assess whether the populations around Lakewood Health and Staples/Motley can financially sustain a regional health center.

• Hilltop Regional Kitchen-community outreach: $2,500 to support communications and community outreach to support a 10 percent increase in the number of home-delivered and/or bundled meals delivered to seniors and homebound people in Todd and Morrison counties.

• Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota-emergency child care to support vulnerable parents in the workforce: $5,000 to reduce the incidence of maltreatment of young children and provide relief to parents in crisis by offering emergency child care within a network of licensed child care providers.

• Region Five Development Commission-downtown Brainerd revitalization: $5,000 for events, activities and marketing to support businesses and downtown vitality during the reconstruction scheduled along Brainerd's South Sixth Street.

• New Pathways Inc.-"Path to Home" fund development strategies in east-central and north-central Minnesota: $5,000 to support efforts to reach new donors who will contribute to provide emergency shelter and secure, stable housing for families experiencing homelessness.

• Brainerd School District-Love and Logic parenting classes: $8,000 to support the expansion of Love and Logic parenting classes in the Essentia Health service area, designed to offer ideas for raising responsible and respectful children.

• Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District-aquatic invasive species bait bucket water refill: $3,000 to work with 20 bait shops and resorts to create incentives for anglers to use local bait water as a strategy to prevent the spread of invasive species. This grant is supported in part by funding recommended by Minnesota's Outdoor Legacy Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

• Citizen's League-piloting civic governance as an AIS best management practice: $5,000 to support a collaboration with the Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Alliance to prevent the spread of AIS by providing coaching, work plan development and project coordination between state and local governments, local stakeholder groups (sportsmen, lake associations, property owners, tourism and/or fishing professionals) in Ramsey and Cass counties to model pathways for local engagement for maximum impact. This project is funded by the Minnesota's Outdoor Legacy Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

• Wadena Development Authority-Buxton project: $2,500 to perform detailed analytics to identify gaps and opportunities for additional key business growth in Wadena.

The Initiative Foundation hosts a variety of partner funds for families, businesses, nonprofit organizations and volunteer-led groups. The following organizations were among those receiving grant funding during the months of January, February and March:

Cuyuna Lakes Education Foundation

• Crosby-Ironton Public Schools Foundation, dba Cuyuna Lakes Education Foundation-Operating Support: $4,000.

Pinckney Fund

• Little Falls School District-Supporting Young Musicians: $2,180.

Mark Wood Foundation

• Little Falls School District-Mentorship Program: $5,400.

Wadena Regional Wellness Center Fund

• City of Wadena-Wadena Regional Wellness Center: $3,546.

• City of Wadena-Wadena Regional Wellness Center: $29,649.

NJPA Innovative Schools Fund

• Wadena-Deer Creek School District-Innovative Classroom Grant Project: $5,000.