Tricounty News

The McKnight Foundation Grant

The McKnight Foundation announced a grant award of $3 million over three years to expand the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative. With the new funds, the Initiative Foundation and the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations will establish 12 more coalitions to involve local residents in improving early childhood care and education in their communities. Two central Minnesota communities will be selected in July to begin the program in the fall of 2008. The two selected will be graduates of the Healthy Communities Partnership program serving low-income children and families. The Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative was launched in 2003 in response to a Minnesota Department of Education report that only half of the state's children entered kindergarten fully prepared for success. Since then, 66 grassroots coalitions have created ways to improve early childhood awareness and services in their communities. More than 400 projects and programs have already been implemented as an outgrowth of coalition work throughout the state. Projects have strived to educate expectant parents, increase access to dental care, improve the quality of local childcare and get thousands of new books in the hands of children and their parents. In central Minnesota, early childhood coalitions have taken root in Brainerd, Breezy Point, Cambridge, Crosslake, Hackensack, Isanti, Kimball, Little Falls, Melrose, North Branch, Onamia, Onigum, Pequot Lakes, Pine City, Princeton, Sartell, St. Cloud, St. Stephen and Walker. Local volunteers include such unconventional participants as business owners, law enforcement and government officials as well as parents and childcare providers. "The first five years in a child's development can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of successes," says Kate Wolford, McKnight Foundation president. "Every day, we learn more about the crucial impact that early experiences have on future well-being. In partnership with the Minnesota Initiative Foundations, McKnight is pleased to continue our support for the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative, to help communities create positive local environments for early childhood development."  Based in Little Falls and serving central Minnesota's 14 counties, the Initiative Foundation offers grants, business loans and a variety of leadership programs that enable citizens to build stronger communities. To learn more, visit www.ifound.org.