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Park Rapids Area Community Fund awards $12,000 in grants

The Park Rapids Area Community Fund announced the recipients of this year's grant award round. From left, Nicole Lalum of the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce; Jennifer Therkilsen, Kinship of Park Rapids; Barb Thomason, Liz Smith amd Ruth Ann Campton, Parks Board; Dawn Penning and Sara Kovach, Century Elementary PEACE Project; Paul Dove, Arts and Cultural Advisory Commission; Ryan Mathisrud, City of Park Rapids. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

Six local community initiatives will receive grants to help fund programs.

Nicole Lalum of the Park Rapids Area Community Fund (PRACF), along with Lisa Peterson of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, announced this week the recipients of the 2016 grant award round totaling $12,000. This is the second award cycle from the fund as a revitalization and utilization of the endowment have been made a priority within the community.

According to information released by Lalum, the Park Rapids Area Community Fund is open to a broad variety of programs, initiatives and areas of action. It has identified five priority areas: education and youth, community character, recreation and cultural opportunities and health care.

Recipients of this year's grant award include the following:

Community Careers Coordinator - A project through the Park Rapids School District and a collaborative effort with businesses to help facilitate further interaction between students and the business community. This position at the school helps get local businesses from the community into the schools, as well as teachers and students out into the community businesses.

Downtown restrooms - A project of the city's Parks Board to provide public restrooms in Pioneer Park on Main Avenue in downtown Park Rapids. Ruth Ann Campton, Liz Smith and Barb Thomason of the Park Rapids Parks Board said through grants and the "Dump Your Change" collection program fundraising for the project is on its way. The Parks Board is selling personalized bricks for a pathway in the park as a way to raise additional funds. The bricks are being sold for $100 and Smith suggests this is a good Christmas gift opportunity. Those interested in purchasing a brick to help support the downtown bathroom project may contact City Hall.

The PEACE Project - Parents Encouraging Each Other at Century Elementary addresses education and skill-building in the realm of parenting for families and youth. Dawn Penning and Sara Kovach represent the PEACE Project at the school and said the grant funds will go to help support this growing program. PEACE reaches out to needy families in the area to provide education and bridge the gap for families to be successful in the community and their homes.

PEACE meets monthly during the school year and regularly brings in educational speakers for presentations. The project provides day care and meals for families during these programs.

PEACE started four years ago and has expanded to 30 adults and 50-60 children involved this year. Penning said this program is a good opportunity for these parents and families involved to connect with other people.

Armory Square Startup - Funding to secure an administrative consultant to assist with operations until an executive director can be procured. This consultant will help establish policies and form partnerships on behalf of Armory Square.

Kinship Reading Buddies - To engage first grade students in learning the critical life skill of reading. Kinship Executive Director Jennifer Therkilsen described the Reading Buddies program for Park Rapids and Nevis students as a way for first graders to receive a little extra encouragement and attention. Community members are recruited to become Reading Buddies. Therkilsen said the students get a new friend who comes to see them at the school. The ultimate goal of the program is to encourage the love of reading with the young students.

Arts and Culture Roadmap - Establishing a comprehensive plan for the Arts & Culture commission of the city to advance the part that these amenities and programming can play in enhancing the quality of place for residents and the greater community. Paul Dove described this commission as looking to identify an arts and culture road map for Park Rapids. The grant will help fund the road map to identify projects the city can put in its Capital Improvement Plan.

The Park Rapids Area Community Fund is a component of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation and was established to stimulate projects that improve the quality of life in the community and help to achieve Park Rapids' vision for its future. These projects all described partnerships and collaboration within the Park Rapids area. The advisory council also considers sustainability, feasibility and community impact when making award selections. Matching funds, both in-kind and cash, were also identified on these projects.

Organizations with projects that align with the priorities of the Community Fund are encouraged to make contact regarding the next grant cycle. More information is available through the Northwest Minnesota Foundation and the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

Contributions to the Park Rapids Area Community Fund are encouraged as a way to insure that more projects like these are supported in our community. For additional information and to contribute, visit the Northwest Minnesota Foundation website at " target="_blank">www.nwmf.org/fund/park-rapids-area-community-fund/.

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