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2013 Annual Letter

Mardag Foundation Board of Directors8/11/14

August 2014

Dear Friends:

Last summer, I shared in the 2012 annual letter that the Mardag Board had decided to enhance the Foundation’s impact by making two adjustments to our grantmaking strategy, while also remaining committed to what has historically worked well for us.

Specifically, the board wanted to work in partnership with other foundations on important issues ― whenever possible ― to create the broadest positive outcomes. While doing this, we decided to maintain our longtime responsive grantmaking on a wide range of needs in our funding priority areas, with the understanding that small grants can make a big difference.

Today, I am happy to report that those adjustments challenged and invigorated the board as we evaluated grant requests last year. We are pleased with the results for people across the state.

In 2013, we made two of the largest program grants in the Foundation’s history ― totaling $661,000 ― to two regional foundations to increase access to and the quality of early childhood education. The grants to support Parent Aware training, through the Northland Foundation in Duluth and the West Central Initiative in Fergus Falls, align with our priority of helping at-risk children, families and youth.

The benefits of these grants will be felt in long-term economic impact in Minnesota. Studies show that at least 70 percent of all jobs in the state will soon require training after high school. Our grants will help prepare today’s 3- and 4-year-olds for the jobs they will hold as adults.

We also made dozens of small, strategic grants to nonprofits across the state to support projects ranging from teaching high school students about civic engagement, to modernizing a community kitchen that provides daily meals to homebound senior citizens, to providing a dollar-for-dollar match to build local support for a rural arts project.

On the following pages you will find a few examples of last year’s grantmaking and our financial report. I think you will agree that by adjusting our focus, we enhanced the Foundation’s ability to respond to emerging needs, aligned our work with other organizations and made a difference across Minnesota while honoring our longtime funding priorities.   

On behalf of the Foundation, I would like to thank our board and staff for their dedication and work. Together we are honoring my grandmother’s wishes and her legacy by helping to improve the quality of life for people in need and to help make Minnesota a great place to live for all of its residents. 


Timothy M. Ober
President, Board of Directors

Grant Highlights

In 2013, the Mardag Foundation made $2.36 million in grants across Minnesota in its four longtime priority funding areas and in accordance with our new grantmaking approaches. Following is a snapshot of our 2013 grantmaking:

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

A $375,000 grant over three years to the Northland Foundation to finance the budget of the Parent Aware Pathways Initiative, an effort to help nearly 200 early childhood educators and child care providers in St. Louis County earn a Parent Aware rating. Parent Aware is a free rating system that helps parents in Minnesota find child care providers and early childhood educators who are skilled in best practices and proven strategies to prepare children to succeed when they reach kindergarten. Children enrolled in Parent Aware-rated programs are eligible for up to $5,000 in state preschool scholarships. The Mardag grant will help 163 providers become Parent Aware rated within three years in a county that currently only has 34 rated providers.

A $286,000 grant to West Central Initiative to improve early care and education in Clay County by offering Parent Aware training to child care providers and educators. The effort will focus on Moorhead, where 52 percent of children are not prepared for kindergarten. When this grant was made, there were only two Parent Aware-rated providers in Clay County. Over three years, the grant will help more than 100 providers gain the knowledge and teaching practices to effectively prepare low-income children for kindergarten and allow their families to access state preschool scholarships.

 A $10,000 grant to Amaze for its Families All Matter book project that uses 40 quality, age-appropriate books to help K-6 students develop an appreciation of and empathy for diverse family experiences. The grant helped 25 trainers improve their skills to work with in-home child care providers and child care center staff across Greater Minnesota and 11 Minnesota reservation communities that work with at least 3,000 children.

An $18,000 grant to the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative to improve the literacy skills of 200 children with individualized take-home activities. The grant funded training for Head Start teachers to help them teach parents how to effectively use the materials to meet their children’s learning needs. Within a year, at least 140 of the children will be on target for age-appropriate oral language development and 160 will attain age-appropriate development for letter sound fluency.

Supporting seniors to live independently:

A $20,000 grant to the city of Karlstad to renovate and update the Senior Activity Center’s kitchen to bring it into compliance with the USDA’s Food Code, including improved dishwashing, electrical system and refrigeration. The Center’s nutrition program serves 40 meals daily to area seniors through congregate dining and delivery to homebound area residents, which allows the seniors to continue to live independently. Renovations to the Senior Center kitchen will enhance its use as a gathering place for other community groups and events.  

A $18,000 grant to the ElderCircle: Good Neighbor Program in Grand Rapids that helps low-income seniors remain in their own homes by providing non-medical, in-home services, such as social visits, errands and help with paperwork. This grant supports the development of new programming for at-risk older adults including an oral history project developed in collaboration with the community college, the production of a local radio program dealing with issues of violence and a creative arts program for community elders. The goal is to reach 75 community elders and help them to remain in their homes with a combination of services and outreach.

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

A $15,000 grant to finance the budget of Forecast Public Artworks to facilitate a student-driven community art project at Gordon Parks High School in Saint Paul that builds students’ civic engagement skills. The project will connect with about 200 students in various phases of creating a public artwork. Activities are designed to increase the students’ understanding of government processes and build their abilities and confidence to successfully participate in civic activities and creative endeavors.

A $25,000 grant to Lanesboro Arts Center as a dollar-for-dollar match to generate local support for the renovation of the St. Mane Theatre, which is part of a planned community Arts Campus. By early July this year, local residents had matched our grant with $30,843 in contributions. The Arts Center is well on its way to its $1.1 million goal with a total of $775,000 raised to renovate the historic theater. The project is a cornerstone of a community effort to use the arts to draw more visitors, residents and businesses to Lanesboro.

Supporting community development throughout Saint Paul:

A $20,000 grant to Model Cities of St. Paul to support its Sustainable Spaces project, an effort to build a shared sense of place along the Central Corridor in Saint Paul by incorporating African American-centric artwork in small parks, a rooftop garden and  the Reading Room at the BROWNstone building on the corner of University and Victoria. Model Cities is working with the Minnesota Historical Society and University of Minnesota to research and create a video about the roles of African American men in U.S. railroad history that will be included in a Reading Room exhibit. The educational exhibit, which will also include artifacts, pamphlets and historical photos, will be open to school groups and the general public.