Nonprofit Resource Connection Newsletter
First Quarter 2011
Grantees Demonstrate Bremer’s Impact in Communities
Lois Schmidt, NRS, Willmar
"All kinds of people from all kinds of persuasions can make a difference in people’s lives." Tom Burton, development director of West Central Minnesota Youth for Christ, summarized his message with this statement to Bremer Bank employees in Willmar, Marshall and Redwood Falls. Bank staff was gathered for an annual January event to review challenges and successes of 2010, and set goals for 2011. Burton was part of a panel of nonprofit representatives, who shared their experiences in seeking and receiving a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation within the past two years.
Bremer Bank Willmar employees listen to grantees
In addition to discussing financial services goals and customer service best practices, the annual staff retreat tradition – which takes place on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday – brings together over 80 bank employees in these Bremer communities to reflect on the company’s broader role.
The Bremer Story states: When you bank with Bremer, we deliver profits to our owner, the Otto Bremer Foundation. The Otto Bremer Foundation uses those profits to make grants in your community. "It’s a 360 degree value proposition," says Bremer Charter President, Roger Madison. "The success we have as a bank, is also the success of the Otto Bremer Foundation, and is also the success of our communities through the services of these nonprofit organizations."
West Central Minnesota Youth for Christ
A $41,387 grant to Youth for Christ helped to underwrite the costs of expanding services to the Alexandria, Hutchinson and Benson areas. The organization focuses on young people in grades 7 – 12 by offering after- school programs and activities, and encourages them to live responsibly, and make a commitment to healthy social involvement. Burton says that his organization cares about and respects kids, and is there for them in what’s been identified as "the most dangerous hours" in their day; that is, the time from when school lets out until 6 or 7 p.m. when parents get home. Youth for Christ operates on contributions from businesses, grants, churches and individual gifts. His experience with the Otto Bremer Foundation in the grant process is that foundation staff also really cares about people and "they get it." Bank employees can add to that value, he suggested, by telling people in our communities about Youth for Christ and its services.
Other grantee panelists included Dawn Wambeke, executive director of Advance Opportunities in Marshall; Denise Kerkhoff, Redwood County Program Director for New Horizons Crisis Center; and Hussein Samatar, executive director of African Development Center of Minnesota.
Advance Opportunities grant award totaled $170,000 and is contributing to a package of support that is providing a 2,000 square foot addition to the agency’s main office location that will provide additional workspace, restrooms and a storage area to allow the agency to carry out its mission to advance the lives of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through creative community partnerships, vocational training and employment opportunities. "We’re about community integration," Wambeke said, "And Otto Bremer Foundation support has been critical to helping us advance our mission." Describing a theme shared by all panelists that emphasized the value of their Otto Bremer Foundation grant, Wambeke said that the funding puts them in a position to "do what we simply could not have afforded to do without the grant."
New Horizons Crisis Center
Denise Kerkhoff talked about the reality of providing services and delivering programs in rural Minnesota. "We’re all paying more to get fewer and fewer services, " she said, referring to local government aid and taxpayer-funded services. New Horizons Crisis Center provides support, advocacy and education for crime victims in a four-county area in southwest Minnesota. As an agency that also receives a portion of its base support from state and local governments in return for providing services to citizens, Kerkhoff noted that the current fiscal environment simply doesn’t have the dollars to enhance or expand needed supports and services for the crime victims who seek help from New Horizons.
"However," she said, "grants can help us do that." A grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation to the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department this past fall supported a multi-agency effort involving the sheriff’s office, New Horizons, plus the Redwood County Attorney’s Office and Redwood County Human Services to create a Child Advocacy Center. The center met a need that the four agencies identified and agreed was critical to changing and improving what had been for years an inadequate space and atmosphere for conducting interviews with sexually abused children. The $21,590 Child Advocacy Center grant helped the agencies arrange for and purchase furnishings for an improved waiting and interviewing area for families, as well as an observation room, video-oversight and phone systems and culturally and anatomically appropriate dolls used in the interview process with the child victims.
"The result is a stress-free, confidential environment that’s as safe as possible for the children and their family members who are in this difficult situation," Kerkhoff shared with Bremer employees. She encouraged Bremer staff to continue to learn all they can about New Horizons services and to use the skills and experiences of nonprofits such as hers as resources when we see people who need their services.
African Development Center of Minnesota
Receiving its first Otto Bremer Foundation grant six years ago, Hussein Samatar of the African Development Center of Minnesota observed that the Otto Bremer Foundation and The Bremer Story is one that his agency and its constituents in the African community aspire to. "We hope and believe that your story is our story," said Samatar. Samatar started the nonprofit in 2003 leaving a banking career with Wells Fargo in order to provide business development, lending, micro-lending, financial literacy and home buyer training predominately to the growing African community in Minnesota. The agency currently has eight staff members, a $1.1 million dollar operating budget and a $4 million dollar loan budget. Headquartered in Minneapolis, ADC also has an office in Mankato, and plans for additional offices in Greater Minnesota as well. "We are not a social services agency," Samatar emphasized. "We advise our clients and community members that becoming successful involves the world of work. Building wealth is connected to employment, jobs and business development."
L-R: Denise Kerkhoff, Hussein Sanatar, Tom Burton and Dawn Wambeke
Recently, ADC received a $75,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation for operations. He encouraged Bremer employees to seek out and connect to new immigrants in our communities, offering expertise to understand and meet their needs.
Each of the nonprofit representatives expressed appreciation for the responsive, respectful interaction they experienced with Foundation staff throughout the grant process. "An opportunity a few years ago to host the Foundation trustees in our building around a discussion with other nonprofits who serve people with disabilities helped me understand the potential for a connection we could have with them." Wambeke said.