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2012 Annual Letter

Mardag Foundation Board of Directors8/31/13

Dear Friends:

Despite reports of economic recovery, the effects of the Great Recession continued in 2012 for many Minnesotans. At the Mardag Foundation, we saw evidence of the slow recovery in a higher demand for grants.

We remained focused on our traditional funding priorities, especially our commitment to helping at-risk children, families and youth. On the following pages you will find examples of our 2012 grantmaking.

Last year also was a time of departures and arrivals at the Foundation. Board member Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright left the board when she was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in August 2012. Even though we were sorry to lose her leadership, we are very proud to see her use her talents to serve the entire state in an even more public way.

In November, we welcomed two new board members, Sam Eberhart and Bob Davidson, who are great-grandsons of Agnes Ober. They will carry on the family tradition of steering the Foundation’s philanthropy, and we look forward to tapping their insights in coming years.

During the board’s annual retreat, we renewed Mardag’s commitment to making a difference with our grantmaking, and we established two new committees — community engagement and grants — to inform our decision-making. The board also articulated two grantmaking approaches that will help guide our work:

• Amplify the effect of our grants by finding ways to partner with other foundations on important initiatives, and
• Balance specific, ongoing priorities with efforts to be more open and responsive to a broad range of needs, with the understanding that smaller grants often make a big difference.

The board remains acutely aware of the achievement gap in education for low-income students and students of color. In 2013, we will focus Foundation resources on this issue to ensure that all Minnesota children succeed academically.

On behalf of the Foundation, I would like to thank our board and staff for their service and acknowledge the remarkable work of nonprofit organizations across the state. This collective understanding of the issues and a shared commitment to finding solutions is what helps the Mardag Foundation serve the diverse people of our state. Together, we share a common goal of making Minnesota a great place for all residents to live.


Timothy M. Ober
President, Board of Directors


Grant Highlights

In 2012, the Mardag Foundation made $2.3 million in grants across Minnesota in its four priority areas. These priority areas, formalized nearly a decade ago, reflect the original wishes of the Foundation’s founder, Agnes Ober. Following is a snapshot of our 2012 grantmaking in those areas:

Improving the lives of at-risk children, families and young adults

• A $20,000 grant to Leech Lake Tribal College for its library and learning center capital campaign. The Tribal College’s library, now housed in a 900-square-foot room, will be replaced by an 8,100-square-foot library and learning center by fall 2014. The project will triple the library’s stack space and increase student study areas, giving the school’s many long-distance commuters a much-needed place to study. The new facility also will improve access to interactive online resources, including a smart technology classroom to increase the college’s capacity for distance learning.
• A $75,000 grant to help finance the budget of the new East Side Family Clinic. The clinic opened its new 34,000-square-foot building on May 14, 2013, increasing its capacity to provide health care to underserved East Metro residents. Of its clients, 75 percent are women and children, 80 percent are from communities of color and 96 percent live below the poverty line. The clinic now has the capacity to serve 1,400 more patients and accept 12,000 dental, mental health and medical visits each year from medically vulnerable clients.

Supporting seniors to live independently

• A $15,000 grant to the Red Lake Band of Chippewa to relocate and upgrade the Elderly Nutrition Program facility. With a fully accessible building that meets all health and safety standards, the Nutrition Program will be able to serve more tribal elders. Each year, on average, the program serves 25,160 meals on-site and another 44,728 meals to homebound elders. The program promotes socialization, creates access to disease prevention services and relieves food insecurity, which allows many elders to remain in their homes and live independently.
• A $15,000 grant to Lao Family Community of Minnesota for its Out and About for Hmong Elders program. By providing essential services, including home-delivered meals, transportation, translation services and social group activities, the program allays the effects of isolation for Hmong elders and improves the feeling of community for them. Out and About’s goals are to have 45 percent of its clients participate in at least one group activity each month and, with support, to have 90 percent of its participants continue to live independently.

Building the capacity of arts and humanities organizations to benefit their communities

• A $30,000 grant to Bedlam Theatre to create programming for Bedlam Theatre St. Paul Social. The new Lowertown venue will focus on projects that blend the work of professional and community artists through collaboration and experimentation. Located near the Central Corridor light rail line, Bedlam anticipates working with 700 artists, including 200 youth artists, during its first year in this new venue with a goal of engaging more than 30,000 audience members with no-cost or low-cost public programming and art-participation events.
• A $20,000 grant to Duluth Children’s Museum for its Third Thursday initiative to provide free access to exhibits, special programming, activities and a light meal for low-income families living in neighborhoods near the Children’s Museum. The initiative is designed to make art accessible to a wider community and to generate a lifelong connection to art for previously underserved families and children. The museum anticipates awakening a love of art in 200-250 children and adults at each Third Thursday event.

Supporting community development throughout Saint Paul

• A $50,000 grant to The Trust for Public Land for property acquisition and technical assistance to develop Frogtown Park and Farm. In this East Metro neighborhood, where 42 percent of residents live below the poverty line, many have long envisioned a greener, healthier neighborhood. Turning this 12.7-acre inner-city parcel into a green space that is part traditional park, part nature sanctuary and part demonstration farm will help the neighborhood realize that dream. The project will foster development of a new community organization, Frogtown Gardens, to operate the six-acre demonstration farm and engage residents with programs on gardening and healthy living, and to give them a voice in the use of this new urban green space.

Collaborative work with other MN Partners affiliates

The Mardag Foundation has long embraced opportunities that align with our four grantmaking priorities and also leverage the resources of multiple organizations and foundations. We believe these opportunities help us make the most of our giving across the state. In 2012, we had several opportunities to team with other affiliates of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners to amplify our work. Following are two examples of our collaborative grantmaking:

• In June 2012, flash flooding caused extensive damage in the Duluth area, including serious water damage and loss of supplies at several nonprofits working with the area’s most disadvantaged residents. Our $10,000 grant to the Northern Minnesota Flood Relief Response Fund, made in conjunction with grants from The Saint Paul Foundation and F. R. Bigelow Foundation, sent immediate support to inundated Duluth-area nonprofits to help them clean up, restock and get back to supporting community members in need.
• Demand for services at Saint Paul Public Libraries reached an all-time high in 2010, with more than 2.6 million individual visits. To meet increasing needs, the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library launched a capital campaign to enhance three anchor libraries (Central, Highland Park and Sun Ray) with multifunctional community rooms, dynamic teen environments, technology for the future and after-hours access to library resources. The campaign also supports updating Internet speed and capacity, online classes and specialized programming for all branch libraries. Mardag made a $225,000 grant in conjunction with major contributions from The Saint Paul Foundation and F. R. Bigelow Foundation to support this effort to keep Saint Paul Public Libraries serving the community’s changing needs.