Taking the long view: West Central Initiative bolsters school-centered philanthropy in Minnesota

July 12, 2017 |

"Caylin's Dream Catcher, a new space for rural students to explore and play, was supported in part by a charitable fund established by the local school district."

Our grants in place partner, West Central Initiative, recognizes that the strength of small towns depends on the quality of their public schools. WCI supports and manages numerous school foundations and charitable funds in their region, making them a model for how school-centered philanthropy can invigorate rural communities.

According to Wendy Merrick, WCI program director, west central Minnesota is served by 36 school districts. Fifteen of these school districts have established their own charitable fund with WCI, or are supported by a portion of a WCI "component fund." Quite a few other schools in the area have established their own school foundations as well.

The Lake Park Audubon Legacy Foundation is one of these forward-thinking, school-centered component funds. In cooperation with the Lake Park Audubon School and the local PTO, the LPA Legacy Foundation helps provide funds for projects and items that often don’t make it on this small school's budget. One grant helped purchase a new digital piano for the elementary school music department, replacing a nearly 15 year-old instrument.

Another grant helped the LPA preschool teachers add a puppet theater and science table to their classroom (see photo at left). These additions allowed young minds in Lake Park to explore and grow through play.

Most recently, the LPA Legacy Foundation became the fundraising arm for the purchase and installation of new playground equipment in memory of Caylin Donovan, a local student who died tragically at the age of 10. On dedication day, Caylin's classmates were there to honor her, and were the first to try out “Caylin’s Dream Catcher," below.

Component funds like the LPA Legacy Foundation granted out over four million dollars across west-central Minnesota in 2016. WCI and its partners work to make this rural region a great place to live by ensuring that communities and organizations have the financial means to meet certain needs that help them thrive.

We invite you to learn more about the West Central Initiative and the work they do to improve the rural communities of western Minnesota on their website.

We are also thrilled that West Central Initiative has partnered with Rural Schools Collaborative on our Grants in Place program, pledging to support hands-on, community centered projects for teachers throughout their region.

A special thank you to Sheri Booms Holm, director of communications at WCI, for contributing to this piece.

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