West Central Blogger

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Planning grant puts regional economic development and growth FIRST

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has announced another round of Framework for Integrated Regional Strategies (FIRST) grants to help regions plan growth and economic development.

DEED will accept applications through Aug. 27 for four grants of up to $50,000 each. The awards will be announced Sept. 12.

DEED created the FIRST grants after a series of listening sessions around the state last year showed that many regions lacked a coordinated strategy for long-term growth. FIRST grant funding will help public officials, educators, business executives and other community leaders work together to create an economic blueprint to guide future growth.

Learn more about FIRST grants.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Northern Connections opens doors to a better life for those struggling to make ends meet

David wanted to work. The single dad from Waubun had been pounding the pavement for a long time looking for steady employment. But the doors weren't opening. Then he got a letter from Northern Connections in Perham. They wanted to help him any way they could to find and retain a good job. David couldn't believe it. He called right away. Now, David is in a six-week program to become a machinist--something he's wanted to do since high school. "I like to work with my hands," he said. Upon successful completion of the training, he'll get help finding employment. David is on a career path.

David recently told his story to the attendees of Northern Connections' annual meeting. Now two years old, Northern Connections is becoming an Upper Midwest model for providing free, voluntary one-on-one assistance to low income individuals, most of whom are just getting off some form of state assistance. Northern Connections helps its clients overcome barriers to employment and job retention. It provides tools and resources for asset accumulation and career advancement. Staff do a lot of hand holding, and walk clients through a lot of situations, like getting a credit report, writing a resume, buying a car, opening a checking account and enrolling in school. The amazing thing about Northern Connections is interaction is entirely by phone.

David summed up what Northern Connections does. "It helps people who want to get out of the rut they're in." Then he added: "I want it better for my children."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Having a blast at the Baseball Bash

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

What's the best way to celebrate the region and the people, communities, businesses and organizations WCI works with that help make west central Minnesota so great? Have a party at a fun regional event, of course!

WCI rented out the Tastefully Simple Terrace at Knute Nelson Memorial Stadium in Alexandria (home of the Alexandria Beetles) on July 19 and invited folks from the nine-county area to enjoy ballpark fare and an evening of camaraderie and baseball (see photos above. Or go to our Flickr site to see larger photos).

The Pope County Men's Chorus--which includes former WCI Board Chair Ralph Lang--sang the National Anthem. Five-year-old Connor Wood from Brandon, whose family is involved in the Brandon Early Childhood Initiative, threw out the first pitch.

Throughout the evening the guests swapped WCI trading cards in order to enter a drawing for one of five $100 grant awards to the regional nonprofit of their choice. And kids designed their own signs to cheer on the Beetles, who won 7-5 over the Green Bay Bullfrogs. Go, Beetles!

Most guests stayed until the very end, some asking as they left: "Where are you holding the party next year?" Anyone have any suggestions? Let one of the WCI staff members know!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nature puts on a show

The WCI offices are located at the prairie's edge, just where it meets the gently rolling hills of lake country. Our location gives us a front row seat to summer storms as they move in from the Dakotas. We gather at our office windows and watch Nature's drama unfold as black, ominous clouds in swirling, otherworldly shapes roil their way across the sky, and the daytime turns suddenly dark as night.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

(Paper) hats off to kid ingenuity!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Pete Morsch, communications and mentorlink coordinator for Metro Youth Partnership, sent WCI the best thank you recently, accompanied by some great photos of a recent event. Here's what Pete said about RiverArts:

The Metro Youth Partnership (note the name change--you might remember us as the Moorhead Healthy Community Initiative) and our Early Childhood Alliance have benefitted from the support of the West Central Initiative for years now, working toward sound social and emotional development for all young kids in our area.

Last week, we provided activities for young kids (and grown-ups too) at RiverArts, a monthly arts and entertainment gathering put together by Moorhead Parks and Recreation. As you can see by the photos, the kids ate up our simple newspaper hat recipe. Watching the creativity and ingenuity at work is a real trip, and of course we got the parents in on the fun as well.
Prairie Public television brought in Maya and Miguel characters to life (with the help of our VISTA volunteer and friends), and the kids just flocked to our booth.

Thanks, WCI, for putting kids first, and supporting the ongoing work of non-profits like Metro Youth and the Moorhead Early Childhood Alliance.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Resources to help families make ends meet

Rising grocery prices. Pain at the gas pump. Home foreclosures. These days the economic news isn't good for families.

Families are having to make adjustments in many areas of their budget. Sometimes economic stress can result in short tempers and lack of communication. The University of Minnesota Extension has resources that can help families not only with strategies to help manage family resources but also to improve communication--especially with children--in tough economic times.

Just some of the topics include:
  • Adjusting to Suddenly Reduced Income

  • How Kids Can Help Mom or Dad
  • Staying Resilient in Times of Change

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Be proud of what you did on your summer vacation

Are you wondering what to do on your summer vacation? Would you like to do something different, something that would make a real difference in people's lives? Consider helping out at this summer's Group Workcamp, a unique community service event, locally sponsored by West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc.

During the week of July 21-25, 2008, more than 400 church group kids from across the country will make Wheaton High School their headquarters as they paint and repair approximately 50 homes in Traverse County during the week.
The workcamp is encouraging church groups, service organizations, local businesses, individuals and families to take part. There are several volunteer opportunities, from community coordinators to painters to kitchen help. In addition, individuals are needed the week before to help set up for the volunteers. Visit the workcamp's Web site to learn more.