West Central Blogger

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Calling all city planners: The state planning conference needs you!

The Minnesota Chapter of the American Planning Association is pleased to announce its Call for Presenters for the state planning conference in Duluth, Sept. 22-24, 2008.

The theme, "Transitions in Planning," will approach many aspects of planning, including working with partner professions such as landscape architecture, engineering and economic development.

Learn more or fill out an online presenter request form at http://www.plannersconference.com/.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Family Economic Success Council's winning ways

When you're going to be honored for a successful collaboration, it's good to bring as many people as you can to the award ceremony.

Members of west central Minnesota's Family Economic Success (FES) Council hired a bus to head to St. Paul on Feb. 12 (with stops to pick up members in Fergus Falls, Elbow Lake and Alexandria) to be recognized by the Minnesota Community Action Partnership, the Minnesota Department of Human Services Office of Economic Opportunity and the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development at their annual "Best Practices & Promising Practices" awards.

The award recognized the collaboration among west central Minnesota Community Action agencies, social service and public agencies, low-income representatives and elected officials serving a nine-county area (including West Central Initiative), to create and implement a work plan focused on assets and self-sufficiency promotion in their region.

The practice's impact has been substantial:

  • increased EITC filings in region by 25 percent in one year.
  • an additional $165,000 leveraged to promote and implement asset programs like Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM), EITC/tax assistance and financial literacy classes.
  • the successful development of Northern Connections, a non-profit organization that offers remote phone support to low-income individuals entering or re-entering the workforce.
  • the establishment of a $5,000 interest-free emergency loan fund for those participating in the FAIM program.

The Family Economic Success Council includes:

  • Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership

  • Mahube Community Council, Inc.

  • Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Council

  • West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc

Home is where the heart is

Participants at Fergus Falls' "Plan for Our Future" forum enjoyed theme-appropriate cookies made by local 4-H'ers.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mural colors young kids' world

Families participating in Pope County's Early Childhood Family Education program are guaranteed to be greeted with smiles--even if there's no one in the ECFE room. A colorful mural covering one whole wall shows a diverse group of happy children holding an alphabet banner (see video). It is the work of local artist Katherine Chevalier. She donated more than 40 hours to complete the mural.

The ECFE program is a member of the Pope County Early Childhood Coalition.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What kind of state are we leaving future generations?

What are our hopes and dreams for Minnesota's future? What legacies are Minnesotans leaving their children and children's children?

The Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission is hosting a series of statewide forums to ask these questions and more. Called Plan for Our Future: Many Voices-One Minnesota, the community gatherings provide a snapshot of Minnesotans’ ideas for the future at the crossroads of the state's 150th year.

"[The Sesquicentennial]is an opportunity to take stock of where we are as a state and set goals for ourselves to prepare for a demanding future," said Sesquicentennial Executive Director Jane Leonard.

Several Plan for Our Future forums are scheduled throughout west central Minnesota. Forums have already been held in Moorhead and Elbow Lake.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Johanna Christianson, local hero

Heroes don't have to wear tights, save people from burning buildings or repel bullets with the flick of a hand.

Case in point: Johanna Christianson's super power is hospitality.

One of the 2007 recipients of The McKnight Foundation's Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service, Johanna is well known in her town of Pelican Rapids for her warm, giving personality. She is the board chair of the local food shelf. She volunteers at a nonprofit secondhand store and works as a high school youth mentor. She has participated in Campfire Girls, Global Volunteers and the Women's Civic Club. She's active in her church.

She has also served as the president of the city's Multicultural Committee for the past 12 years. In that capacity, Johanna has helped find ways to welcome and support Pelican Rapids' increasingly diverse population. She's helped establish the city's International Friendship Festival, organized clothing and goods drives and helped connect refugees to friends and social services.

Her work with the city's many ethnic groups is particularly important to her. She knows firsthand what it's like to move to a new country. She came to Pelican Rapids in 1976 as a bride from Amsterdam. "Once I was a stranger, and people welcomed me," she said. "I know in my heart it's my turn to do the same."