Original article published in the Mower County Independent, Thursday, September 14, 2023.
Reprinted with permission and gratitude.
By Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) recently approved 23 grants totaling $206,000 to support small towns of 10,000 or less in SMIF’s 20-county region.
The Small Town Grant program was launched in 2017 to support smaller communities which can benefit from additional financial resources to help them grow and address challenges. The recent approval of 23 grants has pushed the total of Small Town Grants awarded beyond 100 for a total of 113 projects since the program began. Through this program, SMIF has invested a total of $972,490 in the small towns of our region.
The Small Town Grant program is supported, in part, by a generous donation in memory of Paul O. Johnson who wanted southern Minnesota’s smallest communities to thrive. Paul’s legacy is being continued by his family, Amy De Jong, Paula Rehder and Scott Johnson.
The 2023 Small Town Grant award recipients in this area are:
$7,500 to the City of Elkton to transition an unused football field into a useable park with disc golf and other amenities. Additionally, they will make their Community Center for inclusive by adding sound boards which will make it easier to hear.
$10,000 to the Fillmore County Historical Society for educational signage to better accommodate tourists that come in search of the sinkholes that are unique to the area.
$10,000 to Good Earth Village in Spring Valley to create interpretive signage and educational materials to help the community and visitors learn about the rare species that exist on the 477- acre property.
$6,854.25 to the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center to develop one cohesive brand for the community to be used by the Chamber and other city-wide organizations.
$10,000 to Preston Historical Society to create an implementation plan for the historic campus and riverfront area. The plan will include key design elements such as the depot/museum, riverfront amenities, history and story-book trails, playground and park spaces and historic signage, as well as land use and historical cultural designations.
“This grant gives our smallest towns the financial support they need to do things that can make a huge difference for the people living there,” said Tim Penny, president and CEO of SMIF. “We are once again grateful to Paul Johnson’s family for continuing his legacy and giving SMIF an opportunity to leverage additional funding for small town support. Without them, we would not have been able to reach this milestone so soon.”
“We are pleased and honored to be able to continue our father’s legacy by supporting small towns in the region of Minnesota where we were raised,” said Paula Rehder. “We are seeing the potential of his gift realized through the amazing projects that these small communities have proposed that will make a difference in the part of the country that was near and dear to our father’s heart,” said Amy De Jong.
For more information about the Small Town Grant Program, contact Andi Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org or 507-214-7029.
Courtesy of the Mower County Independent, 135 E Main St. LeRoy, MN 55951, (507)-324-5325