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‘Love Where You Live’

OWATONNA

In January, I wrote about the importance of having an endowment so that at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation we can continue to address the emerging needs of our 20-county region through thick and thin. Little did I know at the time how critical this would be for our organization within just a mere two months.

At SMIF, we are still able to deliver on the programming that we have promised our region, even during this challenging time. We owe this stability to our donors and the endowment that they have helped us build over the years. Earnings from our invested endowment are a key part of our foundation’s annual budget.

Thanks to our endowment, we have been able to continue to operate and provide important services to this region in our focus areas of early childhood, economic development and community vitality. As part of this continuity, we are currently seeking applications for two open grants.

The Early Literacy Grant is designed to support literacy efforts that enhance school readiness for children birth to age 5 by providing children with books donated by Mankato-based publishers Capstone and ABDO. Annually, approximately 40 organizations — from libraries to community education programs to civic groups — receive these books. Applications for this program are due May 6.

We are also seeking applications for our Paint the Town Grant. In partnership with various Ace Hardware stores in the region, we will distribute paint to up to 10 communities with populations under 10,000. The paint can be used for new community murals, community welcome signs or historic structures. Applications for this program are due June 17.

Information for both programs can be found on our website at smifoundation.org

Not only have our endowment funds allowed us to maintain operations, the endowment has allowed SMIF to be responsive to the current health and economic crisis. Within just a few weeks, SMIF was able to award 491 family child care providers and 34 centers in our region with emergency funds. We are also working to support strategy and business planning for child care providers during this difficult time.

Our lending staff is currently reviewing more than 500 applications for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Small Business Emergency loan program.

SMIF also has been able to provide matching grants to our community foundations to support them as they provide their own emergency funding to local organizations.

All of this has been made possible thanks to the generosity of our donors and the strength of our partners who, like SMIF, are dedicated to this region.

This is why it is especially important that we continue to build the size of our endowment and that is what SMIF’s Love Where You Live campaign is focused on. When we launched this campaign over a year ago, we chose this theme because we believe that it gets to the heart of everything we do. Growing our endowment allows us to enhance support for entrepreneurs, invest more in early childhood efforts and increase financial investments in our region’s communities.

To use a metaphor: A storm may have come, but our ship is steady and we are able to continue steering safely to shore. Like you, I love where I live and I know that southern Minnesota will emerge stronger for having worked through this challenging time together.

To support our Love Where You Live campaign and continue to grow this critical fund for our region, visit smifoundation.org/lovewhereyoulive.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or (507) 455-3215.

Tim Penny is president and CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, a donor-supported foundation that invests for economic growth in the 20 counties of south-central and southeastern Minnesota.

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