October 2018
A couple of years ago we went through a rebranding exercise at Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) and settled on the tagline, “collaborating for regional vitality,” as a simple way to represent our work. This phrase gets to the heart of everything that we do, whether in early childhood, economic development or community vitality, and it really comes alive for me during our fall events as we gather with many partners and leverage relationships to strengthen the fabric of our region.

This theme of collaboration and relationships came up time and again throughout the fourth annual Entrepreneurial Bridge which we recently held in Austin. In addition to hearing from inspirational speakers who emphasized the importance of relationships in the business world, attendees spent the day learning from each other and identifying symbiotic relationships that will help their businesses grow. 

At our Annual Luncheon in October we heard from partners across the region who are moving the needle on important issues like school readiness, rural philanthropy and economic prosperity for immigrants and refugees. This is an important opportunity to reflect on the year and strengthen relationships with partners in the region, while meeting new people to collaborate with in the future. 

“Collaborating for regional vitality” is a short sentence but it is packed with meaning. We are proud to be a partner in many efforts across the region that will result in a better future for southern Minnesotans.
Moving the Needle on School Readiness
On any given day at the Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Elementary School, you will find kids crawling on the floor, walking on a balance beam, and spinning around. What might look like play time is actually a highly structured program called S.M.A.R.T. (Stimulating Maturity through Accelerated Readiness Training).

Young children’s brains are typically not prepared to learn once they enter school. They often struggle to sit still in their seats, or can’t move their eyes back and forth across a page. S.M.A.R.T. is a series of movements that focus on the stimulation of the brain stem to prepare their brains and bodies for academic success. 

A Chance to Grow (ACTG) started training teachers on S.M.A.R.T. movements in the 1980s. In 2013 ACTG received a grant from SMIF to hold workshops across our region and to directly implement S.M.A.R.T. in nine schools. ACTG has received a total of $105,000 in grants from SMIF to hold workshops nearly every year, and to launch a mentorship program. S.M.A.R.T. is now becoming embedded as part of the educational structure in the region.
Read more about how we are moving the needle on issues in southern Minnes ota in our 2018 Annual Report
The Power of a Gift
By most metrics, Donald J. Wilken lived an ordinary life. Morning would find him at the Granger Co-op, enjoying coffee, camaraderie, and complaints about the weather with the other regulars. He was a bachelor farmer who devoted his career to his 160-acre family farm after first serving in the Army during World War II. He shopped locally, took on leadership roles in his church, and enjoyed the simple offerings of the surrounding small-town communities he considered home.
He was proud of those communities, especially Harmony, and according to close friend, nothing made him prouder than planning to leave a legacy gift to support the communities and organizations that came to constitute his family. 

When Wilken passed away in early 2017, he left a thoughtfully selected list of 23 local non-profit groups, organizations, and local cities to which he bequeathed the majority his estate, gifts ranging from $1,000 to an impressive $626,872 bequeathed to the Harmony Area Community Foundation (HACF). HACF was founded in 2012 to serve the Harmony area and is one of 28 community foundations administered by SMIF.

The gift from Wilken will provide a major boost to the annual earning potential of the endowment fund, and consequently, the ability of the foundation to support community growth and development well into the future. 

“The Wilken gift is significant to a community of our size, as it secures the long-term endowment fund goal offering long term security for years to come,” states HACF President, Roxanne Johnson. "Donations to the HACF directly benefit the Harmony community, as dollars stay local." 

This story was first published in the HACF Newsletter
First Quarter Loans l  See Our Business Resources
Antonia Navarro,* Faribault l Poultry farm
Giddie Skin, Mankato l  Medical spa
Little Thistle Brewing Co., Rochester l Craft brewery and taproom
Thaddeus Medical Systems,** Rochester l Packaging technology for temperature-sensitive medical products
Trio Coffee, Wine & Ale House, Waseca l Café, unique wines and craft beers

*Grow a Farmer Fund
**SEED Fund Investment
First Quarter Grants
Small Town Grants : $73,400 to eight organizations
Upcoming Grant Deadlines
Early Childhood Grants : due November 13
Upcoming Events
FREE 2-hour DEVELOP-approved training for family child care providers.

Nov 8, Winthrop

Nov 19, Owatonna

Nov 29, Lake City
Nov 30 - Dec 1

Local food vendors will be in Rochester showing off their amazing products! The festival is open for the public to enjoy on December 1.
Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation | 507-455-3215 | www.smifoundation.org