West Central Blogger

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nonprofits invited to apply for summer '08 internship grants

The Partnership Internship Program (PIP), coordinated by the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA), provides internship grants to 20 nonprofit agencies in Minnesota, North Dakota, and northwestern Wisconsin. Each recipient organization hires an undergraduate student who manages a project designed by the agency. With this grant, interns are paid to work full time for 400 hours or 10 weeks during the summer. Twenty nonprofit organizations will be awarded PIP grants for summer 2008; applications are due Nov. 27. For more information, including an application guide, go to www.hecua.org/pip.php.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Congratulations Nancy Vyskocil!

The board of directors from one of WCI's sister foundations, Northwest Minnesota Foundation (NMF), has named Nancy Vyskocil as NMF's next president. She was selected from a national pool of candidates through a five-month review process. She will begin serving as president in January 2008.

Nancy has served since 2001 as the chief financial officer and vice president of the Lake Region Electric Cooperative in Pelican Rapids. In this position she has been an active member of the WCI-sponsored Labor Force Development Council and is currently its chair. She has also worked on other special projects with WCI.

"I am excited about the opportunities that lay ahead with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation," Nancy said of her new position. "I look forward to being part of the team finding positive solutions for the [northwest Minnesota] region."

The WCI staff extend congratulations and best wishes to Nancy and look forward to working with her as a colleague of the Minnesota Initiative Foundations.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Will state's capital move to west central Minnesota?

Minnesota communities will vie for the honorary title of "Capital for a Day" in May 2008 as part of Minnesota's 150th celebration.

Residents will nominate and vote via the Sesquicentennial Web site for the five cities that will represent Minnesota's five geographical areas. West central Minnesota is in the prairie grasslands and deciduous forest zones of the state.

To vote for your favorite west central Minnesota town, county, region, reservation or township, visit http://www.mn150years.org/.

No such thing as a bad kid

Sometimes it's easy to label certain folk--kids and adults--as bad eggs. But nationally known speaker and youth care specialist Charlie Appelstein, MSW, is adamant that there's no such thing as a bad kid and is spreading the news that misbehavior is a cry for help and can be changed.

On Nov. 14, Appelstein will present " 'No Such Thing as a Bad Kid' The Power of a Strength-based Approach in Reshaping the Lives of Troubled Children & Youth" at the Lakeside Ballroom. Cost is $15 and includes lunch. Clock hours are available.

The event is sponsored by HELP (Helping Everyone Live In Peace) Council and the Pope County Early Childhood/THRIVE Initiative.

Sunrise session in Pope County

If it's Wednesday, it must be a community breakfast.

For the third week in a row, WCI staff headed out in the wee hours to host a town meeting. This time about 25 folks from all around Pope County met at the Village Inn in Glenwood to talk about their communities.

The lack of a county jail and the recent breakdown in talks with Stevens County about a joint jail/law enforcement center were hot topics, as was concern about the area's infrastructure--water, sewer and cell phone and/or Internet access.

Employers talked about the barriers to getting positions filled: lack of housing and daycare in the area, and few skilled workers. Local industries are tackling this. "We just want people who want to work, and we'll train them," one employer said. This was true for manufacturers, healthcare facilities and other businesses represented around the table. WCI has helped several area employers with their training programs through its Workforce 2020 grants. Businesses are also working with local high schools to get students exposed to and interested in the kinds of work available in the area.

Child care is a growing issue.

"If you don't have quality child care, it's tough for workers to come in and do quality work," said Jeannie Pederson, Pope County Early Childhood and Thrive coordinator.

"(Lack of) day care can cost us 10 percent of worker hours," an employer added.

Pederson discussed the work that Thrive was accomplishing. She invited those gathered to attend a Nov. 14 presentation in Glenwood by Charlie Appelstein on "No Such Thing as a Bad Kid."

Some talked about the opportunities that this area has to offer--a beautiful location, available jobs, newer schools, the early childhood coalition--and challenged the area's communities to think of doing more together, like a joint chamber of commerce between Starbuck and Glenwood, and combining forces to tackle infrastructure issues.

WCI holds several of these community meetings throughout west central Minnesota each year. Want to know when we'll be in your area? Contact Kim Embretson to find out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's Manufacturers' Week, Oct. 22-26

Ever see that commercial where all plastic products suddenly start to disappear? The gist of the ad is to get people to realize how many things in our day-to-day life are made out of plastic. Have everything made by manufacturers disappear and you might be left with the lopsided mug your kid made in art class and an apple on your desk. Oh, wait. There wouldn't be a desk.

So, it's appropriate to take a week and say thanks to the manufacturers who not only make the things we need, but rank second in jobs in our region, about 14 percent of total regional employment. And they pay better than most other industries as well. Several towns are hosting manufacturer appreciation events throughout west central Minnesota. See if you can catch one.

Monday, October 22, 2007

We're number 11!

West Central Initiative (WCI) is ranked 11th on the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ newly released list of the state’s top community and public foundations.

“West Central Initiative works hard to provide resources that help create a better tomorrow for those living and working in west central Minnesota,” said WCI President Nancy Straw. “This ranking demonstrates our commitment to the region.”

The Minnesota Council on Foundations compiles the list each year. It ranks community and public foundations by grants and program-related investments paid in 2006.

"West Central Initiative partners with businesses, cities, counties, schools, human service agencies, individual donors and others to make a substantial investment in the communities and people of west central Minnesota," Straw continued. "We're all looking for ways to make this region a great place to live, work and raise a family. We're pleased this ranking shows at least the financial efforts of these partnerships."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fundraising hits home (photos) for Ashby Education Foundation

The Ashby/Dalton Post is running a series of fun ads from the Ashby Education Foundation. Recognize anyone, Ashby School alums?

Contact WCI for information about how to contribute to the fund.

My favorite (west central) Minnesota

Explore Minnesota has redesigned its Web site. It includes a section called "My Favorite Minnesota" where people like you and me can list our favorite places and share photos and even videos. Sure, the Mall of America and the North Shore are listed by plenty of people, but as you read the lists, there are several west central Minnesota surprises, too. Here are a few:

What are some of your favorite west central Minnesota spots and activities? Add your faves to My Favorite Minnesota's lists and help make our region shine!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The early bird gets a pretty good breakfast in Barnesville

WCI staff members are hitting the road early these days, as they host community meetings throughout the region. This morning a big breakfast and good conversation enticed about 30 people to head over to the Eagle Cafe in downtown Barnesville.

Barnesville is about 26 miles from Fargo-Moorhead, and an attractive place for people who work in the F-M area to live and raise their families. Good schools, easy access to stores, services and healthcare, strong youth programs, a low crime rate, and well-attended community events--like the popular Potato Days--are just some of the reasons people choose to live in Barnesville.

Many of the town's issues revolve around being a bedroom community:

Child care is a constant need, especially for infant care.
Keeping the city clean and attractive is a priority. New ordinances, plus grants to help rehabilitate downtown buildings and older homes are a couple ways that Barnesville works to look good for the community, visitors and potential homebuyers.

Volunteers are what really make so many of the events and projects succeed, but volunteer burn-out is a real concern. The town is being proactive about this through its Leadership Barnesville program, which provides training for the town's up-and-coming leaders.

WCI holds several of these community meetings throughout west central Minnesota each year. Want to know when we'll be in your area? Contact Kim Embretson to find out.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Early care and education are our future's most important investments

It's written all over her face: Louise Stoney believes that exemplary care and education of our youngest children are the biggest investments we can make in our country's future. She presented at the Mary McEvoy Lecture Series, Monday, Oct. 15 at Fergus Falls to a group of 120 area educators, early childhood professionals, care providers, government officials and more. Stoney is a nationally known child care and early childhood education policy specialist who co-runs the Alliance on Early Childhood Finance.

Check back for Stoney's PowerPoint presentation. She suggests you read the notes section for more in-depth information.

More photos from School Success event

MSCTC president honored for professional achievement

Dr. Ann Valentine, president of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, received the Professional Achievement Award as an alumna of Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The award is presented to alumni who have made significant contributions or achievements in their field. Dr. Valentine has been MSCTC president since July, 2005. She serves on the Commission on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity for the American Association of Community Colleges.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Children thrive when communities make early care and education a priority, report says

It really does take a village to raise a child. A new report released by the Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs)—including West Central Initiative—shows that when communities come together around early childhood issues, it can have a tremendous impact on making sure all children thrive.

Building Nurturing Communities of Thriving Children” was produced by Wilder Research on behalf of the MIFs to determine the success of The Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative (ECI). The ECI is made up of individuals and organizations from around the state that have formed 64 early childhood coalitions. These groups work with 165 greater Minnesota communities and have implemented more than 400 projects, programs and activities to improve the well-being of young children.

“This report shows how these diverse coalition projects are contributing in measurable ways to the healthy development and school readiness of young children, and it connects these efforts to research and evidence-based practices,” said Nancy Jost, West Central Initiative’s Early Childhood Initiative coordinator. “Often, school readiness is simply measured by whether or not a child knows the ABCs and 123s, but it’s so much more than that.”

The report highlights some of ECI’s success stories, including west central Minnesota’s Early Childhood Dental Network, which is improving oral health awareness, education and dental access throughout the region.

To learn more about the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative or to receive a copy of the report, “Building Nurturing Communities of Thriving Children,” please call West Central Initiative at (800) 735-2239; or view the report online.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Breakfast in Breckenridge

In Breakfast at Tiffany's, whenever heroine Holly Golightly wanted to feel good, she would head over to the famous jewelers. In Breckenridge, breakfast at the Northern Grille was the feel-good thing to do on Oct. 10, when about 20 residents gathered with WCI staff to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns about the community.

It was clear fairly quickly that this assembly of city officials, businesspeople, civic leaders and concerned citizens loved their town, and expressed pride in what is being accomplished.

They talked about how the town draws people from miles around to take advantage of facilities like the Family Aquatic Center, the 4-H horse arena and the Bois De Sioux Golf Course. They raised up initiatives that have brought folks together to work hard to better their community, like the new Family Community Center, Project Breckenridge--whose work includes installing new playgrounds and park benches, planting flowers, and other beautification projects--and the current school referendum. They praised their healthcare, their early childhood and family education, their civic organizations and their schools.

They also identifed needs. Like more volunteers for Kinship, the area's youth mentoring program, more housing--especially for people over 55--and help for families struggling with mental illness, chemical dependency and other issues that are affecting their young children's abilities to learn and thrive.

All this and more was discussed--and the breakfast buffet was pretty darn good, too.

WCI holds several of these community meetings throughout west central Minnesota each year. Want to know when we'll be in your area? Contact Kim Embretson to find out.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

How a town spends: New York Mills gets a retail analysis

Quick, how much do you think the average person in your town annually spends on footwear? How about cable television? Prescription drugs? Vehicle insurance?

You may not know the answers, but the residents of New York Mills do. They recently heard a report of its spending habits from Ryan Pesch, regional extension educator in community economics for the U of M Extension Service. The presentation was part of the Horizons community leadership program aimed at reducing poverty in rural and reservation communities with populations of 5,000 or fewer and with histories of economic decline and significant population change.

The community learned not only how much the town spends on goods and services, but how much "leakage" or "surplus" there is of buying and selling in and out of the area. For example, when people go out of town to shop, that’s a leakage of spending to another community. And when a town draws people from other communities to shop, that’s a surplus.

New York Mills can now use this data to inform and enhance the economic development in the area.

Curious about New York Mills' spending habits? Take a look at the numbers here.

Ryan Pesch is available to present a similar retail analysis to your community. Contact him at 888-241-0843 or pesch@umn.edu.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Library system web site "provides local access to the world"

The Viking Library System just launched its new Web site. It's colorful and easy to navigate. Here are a couple of highlights:
  • Click on "Services" and you'll see that the library system provides outreach services to 65 daycares and Head Start groups on a monthly basis.

  • The "Online Reference Resources" page is a great place to start on just about any research topic.

  • If you're looking for something to read, try the "Bestsellers and Reading Lists" for suggestions on every type of book genre.
The Viking Library System extends through a large part of west central Minnesota, from New York Mills all the way to Browns Valley.