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The Free Press

Schools, community programs, library systems and a work source for people with disabilities are area recipients of recent Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation grants to support towns of 10,000 or fewer in its 20-county region.

Grants approved for Small Town Grant: COVID-19 Response program’s current round total $192,500 and were distributed to 22 recipients.

The program was launched in 2017 to support smaller communities that often lack sufficient financial resources to help them grow and address challenges. This year the grant program was entirely focused on responding to the needs that have emerged or increased as a result of the pandemic.

Area grant recipients:

• Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District was awarded $10,000 to purchase personal protective equipment and to fund a part-time health aide to assist with COVID-related concerns, a “backpack” program to provide weekend meals for students and a snack cart for students whose lunch times are affected by accommodations for physical distancing.

• Madelia Public Schools was awarded $10,000 to purchase essential technology for use by students during distance learning.

• Uniting Cultures/Uniendo Culturas in St. James was awarded $10,000. The money will be used to provide support equipment for the St. James Public Schools food service program to accommodate physical distancing, to purchase essential technology for students during distance learning, and to supply individual school supply boxes for students in the School Age Child Care program.

The grant also will be used to provide personal care products and folding grocery carts for use by patrons of the Watonwan County Food Shelf and to print informational posters about COVID-19 in Spanish for posting in area businesses.

• Mapleton Area Foundation was awarded $10,000 to support Maple River Loaves and Fishes Food Shelf through a gift card program and to fund a grant program to support businesses experiencing financial hardship.

• Montgomery Community Foundation was awarded $10,000 to use for a gift certificate program that supports residents and businesses experiencing financial hardship.

• Sibley County Library System was awarded $10,000 to purchase technology such as internet hotspots for patrons who need access to virtual programs but do not have internet in their homes.

• Waseca-Le Sueur Regional Library also was awarded $10,000 to purchase technology such as internet hotspots.

• The city of Winnebago was given $5,000 for technology including internet hotspots for Muir Library patrons.

• Jobs Plus Inc. in Waseca County was awarded $5,000 to purchase personal protective equipment and cleaning equipment to ensure the health and safety of individuals with disabilities who use the agency’s day and employment support services.

The grants are made possible with support from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Fund at the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation.

In addition to this program, SMIF has been providing direct support to entrepreneurs, early childhood professionals and communities through the crisis, nearing $11 million in impact with the support of many partners.

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