The Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center (DAC) has been awarded two grants totaling $99,400 to better provide transportation for its clients.

According to a Sept. 25 press release from the Otto Bremer Trust, the DAC is one of 156 organizations receiving grants totaling $10.2 million in central and northern Minnesota and the Red River Region.

The Otto Bremer Trust (OBT) is a St. Paul-based bank holding company and private charitable trust that owns 92 percent of Bremer Bank. Co-CEO and Trustee Charlotte Johnson said the grant program is for “organizations providing fresh and innovative solutions to help communities across the region.”

The trust awarded the DAC $34,600 to assist elderly and disabled persons in Hubbard, Becker, Wadena and Cass counties access transportation to basic needs and employment services.

The DAC has also been awarded a 5310 bus grant for $64,800 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Executive Director Laura Johnson said. Section 5310 is MnDOT’s Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program.

“That grant gives us 80% towards buying a new bus,” said Johnson. “We currently have three buses, and two of them are very old and starting to cost us money.”

Johnson credited former assistant director Gail Leverson for successfully writing the OBT grant, of which $16,600 will cover the 20-percent match for the bus, while $18,000 will go toward purchasing a handicap-accessible minivan.

“Right now, the vans we have for the DAC and the Headwaters Adult Day Program are just regular minivans,” said Johnson. “This will give us a little more flexibility. Say, you’re doing an outing and you have one person in a wheelchair and a couple people that don’t need it. We’ll be able to use a van instead of the big bus, and we’ll be able to use the bus for just our big routes.”

Johnson noted that the DAC will need to raise another $8,000 in matching money for the minivan, and that the vehicles will likely be ordered after the first of the year.

“We will probably retire two of the existing buses and probably two to three vans,” she said, noting that the buses are used to transport clients to and from the DAC for the day while the vans route them to daily activities, such as jobs, school, exercise and other projects.

After the purchases and retirement of surplus vehicles, Johnson estimated that the DAC’s transportation program will operate two buses and 12 cars and vans.

Leverson separated from the DAC on Sept. 25 to work at a large engineering firm.

“She has done a great job for us and really helped us enter this grant world,” said Johnson. “It’s a complicated process, a combination of building relationships and finding the right fit.

“I had applied for an Otto Bremer grant previously, and didn’t get it. One of the reasons was, there’s no Bremer Bank here in town, and they try to support the areas (they serve). What Gail was able to do was compile the data to show that we’re serving clients from Becker County, in both our Adult Day Program and DAC, and she was able to put forth a compelling argument that they wanted to help us, which was amazing.”

Acknowledging that Leverson is great at grant writing, Johnson said, “We were lucky to have her for the two-and-a-half years that she was here.”