The Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region is the recipient of the 2023 North Dakota Association of Nonprofit Organizations’ (NDANO) Partnership Building Award. The Partnership Building Award is given to an organization that has demonstrated community leadership and built partnerships within the North Dakota nonprofit sector.
“It is an honor to present this award to an organization whose work has reached across so many charitable sectors,” says Dana Hager, NDANO Executive Director.
The Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Region is a nonprofit, community foundation created by and for the people of the region to encourage a spirit of philanthropy. Working in partnership with hundreds of individuals, families, businesses, and trusted advisers, the Community Foundation manages over 145 charitable funds and provides grants to a variety of nonprofits, schools, libraries, civic agencies, and other charitable causes.
“We are committed to transforming collective generosity into the greater good for the region,” said Becca Baumbach, Community Foundation Executive Director. “From strengthening local nonprofits and helping students reach their educational goals, to empowering women leaders and investing in new opportunities for area children, we plan and collaborate to ensure that regional philanthropy has a real impact.”
Over the past 25 years, the Community Foundation has deployed over $12 million to improve the quality of life of the region’s residents and enhance the vibrancy of communities. This past year was one of the most impactful years in the Community’s Foundation’s history. In all, the Community Foundation received 462 gifts from donors and distributed a record $1.35 million to improve health and education, aid community and human services, amplify creativity and culture, and support economic development across Grand Forks, Walsh, and Polk Counties.
The Arts Regrant Program, for example, has been an invaluable opportunity for many. With funds provided by the City of Grand Forks and the National Endowment for the Arts, the program supports the growth and success of arts and culture organizations and secures their vital role in the community. In 2022, the Foundation distributed the Arts Regrant pot of nearly $260,000 among 14 nonprofits. These funds have proven more impactful than ever as many award recipients continue to recover from the financial and logistical crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among last year’s recipients was Arts for Vets, a young organization facilitating the creative expression of military veterans. “We started at my kitchen table in late 2015,” said Kim Wilson, Founder and Executive Director. By 2019, Wilson and other artists had secured a lease for a location large enough to house their quickly growing “nomadic tribe” of members.
Wilson didn’t let the pandemic, which hit the U.S. in early 2020, ruin her vision. “We did art and grocery drops, bought iPads and phones for shut-ins, and paid for wireless and internet services for some members so people could stay connected.” By late 2021, the organization launched two substantial art shows. With the help of the Arts Regrant funding, they would go on to do much more.
Arts for Vets upped its number of participants last year and more than doubled their audience attendance. “In 2021 we had 51 participants in our classes, and shows reaching an audience of 4,495 people,” said Wilson. “In 2022 those numbers jumped immensely: our participants increased to 219, with shows reaching an audience of 12,601!” The welcomed growth resulted in a need for more space. Thanks to their 2022 award, Arts for Vets now has two locations for year-round shows and exhibits. “We expanded our gallery at 215 N 3rd from 1,000 to 4,000 square feet to accommodate the increased demand for our shows, classes, community space, and studios. In 2022, we had several highly praised exhibits, and we also secured a permanent gallery at the University of North Dakota. Through generous collaboration with UND, our Veteran Artists have a permanent rotating show called Creative Forces located in UND’s old medical school.”
The Arts Regrant funding was applied to more than expanding their grounds. “The award assisted us in meeting every aspect of our mission to provide quality classes, production, and mentoring for people that would either not be able to afford those things or not feel comfortable in a less supportive and less personalized environment.” Wilson went on, “I like to say, ‘This group can knit a sweater out of lint if we have to.’ But we had a very limited income last year, and the grant funding helped us to keep going.”
Art has long been known to offer therapeutic effects to creators and their audiences. With its resident Air Force base, Grand Forks is a prime location for an organization hoping to help veterans express themselves. “We do not edit people’s expressions to serve any purpose but their own, and even though some of the topics for veterans and participants can be tough, they say they feel completely supported in exploring their thoughts and experiences freely,” Wilson provided. Arts for Vets offers multiple classes, including: Native American Beading, Writing and Poetry, Paint Pour, Art as Small Business, Individual Mentoring for Artists and Musicians, Water Media, Card Making and Collage, Family Art Makers, Frame Shop, Woodworking, Stained Glass, Writing A Great Song, and Spoken Word Presentation. Wilson expects class participation to further increase from 219 to 250 people.
“I have the privilege of witnessing artists evolve on their journeys,” Wilson said. “Arts for Vets is honored to hold that space for them, to uplift them and help them be seen.” Wilson, who herself has always found healing through creative expression, believes Arts for Vets to be an integral part of not just an artist’s life, but the community at large. “We provide an interface between the business community and at-risk populations that elevates, equalizes, and celebrates artists and community offerings in a safe, respectful, and fun atmosphere. The Community Foundation’s support contributes to the stability and consistency of these most-needed collaborations.”
Recently, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that the Community Foundation was the recipient of a $50,000 grant to assist local arts organizations with their projects in 2024. This funding will bolster support offered through the Arts Regrant Program, increasing the program’s reach next year.
Also among last year’s grant recipients was Golden Link Senior Center, which was awarded through the Community Opportunity Grant Program. This particular program focuses on improving the quality of life in our region. Located in Crookston, MN, the Center itself is a pillar of support in the community. “It’s the only place in Crookston for seniors to gather,” said Tamara Parkin, Grant Chair and Secretary of the Board. “We also open our facility to all nonprofit and service groups to hold meetings and events.” Currently, 16 organizations utilize the Center’s building, making it an even more valuable asset to the community.
In 2022, Golden Link applied specifically for funds to help with their Educational Programming Series, an eight-week course on medical and legal subjects. “It’s essential to keep current on issues we face as we age,” Parkin said. Some of the programming’s covered topics included general nutrition, stroke and heart attack prevention, and medication management. The funding contributed to the acquisition of course materials and the overall success of the series.
As with Arts for Vets, Golden Link saw an increase in patrons last year, as well as a record number of programs. Parkin is excited for this growth to continue into 2023. “You are never too old to learn and to play. We already offer so much variety in our programming, from exercise to movies. We have card playing, music and arts programming, patron trips, and coffee time. We have something for everyone.” But, with a growth-centered mission, the Center wants to do even more. The 2022 Community Opportunity grant award paves the way for greater initiatives, such as bringing in medical specialists to directly discuss health issues older adults often face.
Besides serving as a philanthropic partner to donors and nonprofits, the Community Foundation also strives to enhance community engagement through unique, shared opportunities. On September 14, the Community Foundation will once again join with several local organizations to hold the third Longest Table, an international award-winning event that welcomes 1,000 residents to sit down for a free meal in a welcoming environment with people they may not know to foster stronger connections, exchange ideas, and promote community engagement around a central topic. Stay tuned for more information about the Longest Table at longesttablegf.com.