COMMUNITY GRANT RECIPIENTS 2019
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation is an organization that works to aid and assist the poor, sick and needy in the East Metro. For more than a century, Wilder has partnered with individuals, neighborhoods, corporations, civic leaders and other non-profits to provide direct services to support families and strengthen the overall community.
Grant funding from the Affinity Plus Foundation will support Wilder’s Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI). YLI serves youth of color in St. Paul who live at or near the poverty line, providing a safe and welcoming space for high school teens across the city to be their authentic selves, connect with others, and build their leadership capacity. YLI offers retreats facilitated by youth mentors; educational sessions that focus on cultural complexities and differences; and action teams that identify and support various community issues.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota
The Boys & Girls Clubs across the country strive to help young people reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. They provide a fun, safe and constructive environment for kids and teens during out-of-school hours. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota operates three Club facilities and 15 KIDSTOP sites in four area school districts, dedicated to helping youth of all backgrounds develop the qualities needed to become responsible citizens and leaders.
Grant dollars from the Affinity Plus Foundation will support the organization’s “Money Matters” financial education program, which teaches money management skills, budgeting, saving, investing, planning for college and more. The Money Matters program is a five-unit, 11-session program teaching real-world financial literacy skills. Funding will support three full-time Academic Success Coordinators to run Money Matters each fall, winter and spring. Through the program, BGCCM hopes to arm teens with the tools they need to become financially-savvy adults.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities
The Boys & Girls Clubs across the country strive to help young people reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. They provide a fun, safe and constructive environment for kids and teens during out-of-school hours. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities operates eight metro-area locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis where the need is greatest.
Grant dollars from the Affinity Plus Foundation will support the organization’s “Money Matters” financial education program, which teaches money management skills, budgeting, saving, investing, planning for college and more. The Money Matters program is a five-unit, 11-session program teaching real-world financial literacy skills, offered to 200+ teens (ages 13-18) at all eight club locations.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud is the largest non-profit social services agency in Central Minnesota, offering 30+ programs in 16 counties. Catholic Charities has served this area for more than 120 years, focused on building communities and enhancing human dignity by through quality services that meet the physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of individuals and families of all faiths and beliefs.
Grant funding from the Affinity Plus Foundation will support Catholic Charities’ Financial & Housing Counseling program, which assists individuals and families in taking control of their finances and planning for a secure financial future. The program works closely with clients in a safe, non-judgmental environment to discuss finances. In the past year, Catholic Charities helped more than 800 individuals through its Financial & Housing Counseling program.
Cookie Cart is a non-profit that provides entry-level, experiential-learning employment opportunities for youth in low-income neighborhoods on East Side of Saint Paul and in North Minneapolis. Cookie Cart operates urban bakeries which give teens and young adults the job readiness skills necessary for long-term success in both education and career – life skills to help them escape the cycle of poverty.
Through grant funding provided by the Affinity Plus Foundation, Cookie Cart will engage 300 teens who will complete 45,000 hours of hands-on work and classroom experience in 2019. Participants will gain employment experience, professional skills training, financial education, fundamentals in leadership and critical thinking, and preparation for future career opportunities.
The Eagan Foundation has been in existence for 30 years, formed to create community connections through grant and scholarship programs. It has given more than $2 million to the Eagan community since its inception, with programs and funding directed by residents.
Affinity Plus Foundation grant funds will support the Eagan Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Initiative, which educates youth on community issues and provides training on a range of analysis and decision-making tools. This initiative engages youth to determine grant recipients, with future goals to expand the grant pool and deepen the program’s educational and training components.
Exodus Lending is a non-profit dedicated solely to providing Minnesotan borrowers a pathway out of payday loan debt and toward financial stability. Many Minnesotans have small-dollar, short-term payday loans with triple-digit interest rates which they cannot repay, resulting in a spiral of debt that is difficult to escape. Nearly 49,000 Minnesotans borrowed an average of eight loans each in 2017, which shows that payday loans exacerbate indebtedness. Exodus Lending works to reverse this cycle through interest-free refinancing, focusing on those who have been stuck in the debt trap for at least 30 days, have a steady source of income, and have a bank account. Participants work to pay off predatory debt and receive additional support through financial counselors.
The Affinity Plus Foundation grant will help expand Exodus Lending’s interest-free payday loan refinancing program statewide. Outreach efforts will specifically focus on St. Cloud and Mankato. In addition, Exodus Lending is developing a process to report to credit bureaus, as a new member of the Credit Builders Alliance. This will allow participants in this program to build or bolster their credit history, thus improving access to affordable mainstream financing options.
Genesys Works Twin Cities
Genesys Works Twin Cities serves high school and college students from underprivileged communities in the Twin Cities by providing pathways to educational and career success. It utilizes STEM skills training, meaningful work experiences, and impactful relationships to help students receive the knowledge and skills to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Genesys Works collaborates with 40 Twin Cities-area high schools, more than 50 leading corporations, and post-secondary institutions throughout the state to leverage resources and maximize its impact in the community.
The Affinity Plus Foundation’s grant will support the Genesys Works “College & Career Connections” (CCC) program which focuses on high school seniors interested in pursuing STEM careers. The CCC program facilitates academic persistence and continued professional growth by providing students with training and education opportunities; an online social media community; transition interviews; financial aid application support; and parent resources. The CCC program also delivers a summer-bridge curriculum to increase post-secondary attendance after graduation and twice-monthly college counseling sessions.
Hearts & Hammers
Hearts & Hammers is an organization that provides free exterior home-improvement assistance for low-income seniors, disabled and veteran homeowners so that they may continue living independently in their own homes. A typical Hearts & Hammers home is “rehabbed” in just one day to restore the character, weatherproofing, security and accessibility. Materials and labor are donated from corporations, groups, professional associations and volunteers from across the Twin Cities.
The Affinity Plus Foundation grant will support the efforts of Hearts & Hammers to paint and caulk, and to repair or replace siding, windows, doors and retaining walls to ensure homes remain safe and livable. It also will construct stairs, walkways and accessibility ramps, depending on need. By fall 2019, Hearts & Hammers will recruit and assess exterior home maintenance needs for 60 homeowners to plan work for the upcoming season. It will also recruit and organize volunteer teams to support these projects.
Isanti County Triad and Minnesota Triad
Triad is a partnership of three organizations – law enforcement, senior citizens and community groups – organized for the sole purpose to promote senior safety and reduce the fear of crime that seniors often experience. A non-profit under the Minnesota Sheriff's Association, Triad facilitates 34 individual groups coordinated out of law enforcement agencies across the state. Through partnerships, this program educates seniors on topics relevant to them such as frauds and scams, veterans, slips trips and falls, funeral planning, severe weather awareness and more. For more than 30 years, Triad has relied on ongoing information exchanges and volunteer support to achieve its goals.
The Affinity Plus Foundation grant will support various initiatives underway with the Isanti County Triad. “File of Life” packets help seniors to be best prepared in the event of an emergency, ensuring complete contact information for families and doctors is available to first responders. Isanti County Triad will also host the Minnesota State Triad Conference in September, allowing representatives from Triad groups from across the state to learn from each other and strengthen their individual programs.
The Link is a Twin Cities organization, led by youth and adults, that works with individuals and families to overcome the impacts of poverty and social injustice. It offers 20 programs that focus on housing and homelessness; case management and academic support for juvenile students; and shelter and transitional support for individuals who are victims of trafficking.
Affinity Plus Foundation grant funding will support The Link’s programs focused on housing, supportive services, and outreach to youth experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Dakota County. Its Suburban Housing programs provide housing for youth experiencing homelessness in the suburban metro and support, with the goal of expanding from 35 units to 52 in 2019. Funds will also support The Link’s C.O.R.E Drop-In Center in Apple Valley, which provides basic needs (overnight shelter, food, clothes, shower, laundry, etc.) and connections to case management resources. In 2018, C.O.R.E served 144 youth and young families and conducted 619 case management sessions and 121 assessments in Dakota County alone.
Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers
MCCD is an association of 46 community development non-profits engaged in affordable housing, commercial corridor revitalization, and small business development in the Twin Cities area. It works to build strong, stable communities by leveraging resources for the development of people and places.
Through this grant, MCCD will make enhancements to its Credit Building Loan (CBL) program, which provides participants with very small no-interest loans (< $300) to be repaid over a 12-month period, allowing them to increase or establish credit scores. This program targets residents in the seven-county metro area who have significant credit deficiencies or lower incomes that prevent them from accessing traditional products to build their credit.
The Open Door
The Open Door is an organization supporting Dakota County working to end local hunger through access to healthy food. It provides fresh, nutritious food to 6,000 low-income residents each month.
The grant from the Affinity Plus Foundation will support The Open Door’s Eagan Pantry program, which – in addition to offering food to individuals and families in need – meets with food shelf clients to connect them with other social service and resource organizations. More than 60% of food options are fresh, perishable items. In 2018, the Eagan Pantry provided more than 886,000 pounds of food to more than 44,000 individuals in 14,000 households in Eagan and beyond throughout Dakota County.
Prepare + Prosper
Prepare + Prosper is a non-profit organization that works to build financial health and provide access to quality tax and financial services. It works with low- to moderate-income people to build financial well-being through free tax preparation, financial coaching, providing access to financial products, and by changing systems to create economic opportunity. Each year, P+P provides free tax preparation services to more than 12,300 low- and moderate-income individuals in the Twin Cities metro area, returning more than $24 million in tax refunds to the households who need them the most. P+P then integrates financial services – such as savings accounts, credit reports, and referrals to financial counseling – into the free tax preparation process to help customers maximize the positive impacts of their tax refunds. In 2018, P+P helped 1,300+ customers to put $1.9 million of their refunds into savings.
Grant funding from the Affinity Plus Foundation would support P+P’s financial coaching program, Money Mentors. Money Mentors participants work one-on-one with financial coaches and alongside a group of their peers to set personalized financial goals, such as decreasing student loan debt or saving for a house. P+P tracks five key financial areas for its participants over the course of the program, including debt, savings, credit score, the CFPB’s Financial Well-Being Score and monthly income. It also tracks changes in participants’ stress levels related to finances over the course of the program and their confidence in navigating the financial marketplace.
The Yes Network
The Yes Network is an organization in St. Cloud focused on child health and wellness that has provided summer meals in the St. Cloud area for kids in low-income apartment complexes, public housing units, and mobile home parks. It focuses on resilience in adversity and the importance of neighborhoods in the development of healthy children, loving families, and social well-being. Established in 2011, The Yes Network has grown from an all-volunteer group of faith community members who made 4,000 sandwiches during that first year to serving over 87,000 hot meals for 23 neighborhoods and providing 14 education programs – placing it among the top five Minnesota non-profits in the number of summer meals served.
Through this grant from the Affinity Plus Foundation, The Yes Network will expand its youth leadership development program. In 2019 it will hire 45 high school students as youth assistants within the 14 largest neighborhoods. Through training, mentoring and evaluation, participants will gain leadership and work readiness skills as they help to serve meals and organize activities.