Itasca Area Community Response Fund Awards $38,500 in Third Round of Funding

In December the Itasca Area Community Response Fund concluded its third round of grantmaking, allocating $38,500 in funds across six nonprofit and community organizations working in and around the Itasca area. 

The Itasca Area Community Response Fund was created last spring in anticipation of needs that would likely arise due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects. In previous grant rounds the Community Response Fund has distributed $155,500 in COVID-19 relief funds, which was made possible by the generosity of individuals and major givers. 

Response funds have been used to address a variety of needs across the Itasca area – some grants have supported the purchase of protective equipment for service providers, while several different healthcare organizations have used the funds to implement telehealth programs to reach isolated residents. A number of grants have been aimed at addressing the changing educational and developmental needs of area children, whose lives have been disrupted at a critical time by COVID-19. 

“The Community Response Fund assisted us so that we are able to serve the community in a larger capacity during hybrid and distance learning models,” says Lori Kangas-Olson, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids and Greenway, discussing how a response grant impacted the organization. “Students who are left alone, or are challenged by schooling at home have a place to eat breakfast and lunch, to get assistance logging onto their online classrooms and staying engaged, continue their behavioral health programs, and have a safe space to interact with  peers.” 

The response fund has supported out-of-school-time programs like the Boys and Girls Club, which give youth a safe place to learn and grow.

The Boys & Girls Club is one of many organizations acting in response to increased challenges posed by the health and economic crisis. Thanks to the generosity of community members and organizations, the Community Response Fund has been able to support the vital work of area nonprofits throughout the past several months. 

Round 3 Response Fund recipients include: 

The Community Cafe ($10,000): Funds will help The Community Cafe continue operating at an increased capacity as is necessary to meet the nutritional needs of community members, as well as support safe operations through curbside pickup and delivery options.

Deer River Healthcare Volunteers ($7,500): Funds will alleviate the effects of lost revenue from closures and cancellations, allowing the Healthcare Volunteers program to continue serving Deer River and the surrounding communities through their cancer care program, outreach, and more.

Forward Health Foundation ($8,000): Funds will support the purchase of a vehicle for use by a Community Care Paramedic in Deer River and the surrounding areas, allowing isolated community members to receive medical care safely in their own homes.

Grand Rapids Area Friends of the Library ($3,000): Funds will allow the library to encourage literacy amongst all ages by offering a winter reading program for children and adults, incentivizing community members to read and utilize their local library during a winter of isolation. 

ISD #318: East Rapids Elementary School ($5,000): Funds will support the purchase of equipment for the school’s Grow in Snow program, which will provide students with more opportunities for outdoor recreation in the winter months.

Support Within Reach ($5,000): Funds will offset the cost of equipment purchased to enable staff to work remotely, allowing the organization to continue addressing the increase in sexual violence that the health and economic crisis has brought on.

The Itasca Area Community Response Fund is a joint venture between the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, United Way of 1000 Lakes, and other area funders, leaders from which make up an advisory committee that makes funding decisions.  The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation and United Way of 1000 Lakes cover the costs of administering the fund, so that 100% of available funds are given to the community.

“The Fund was created with the goal of supporting our community where it’s needed most,” states Kim Brink Smith, United Way’s executive director. “Over time, we’ve seen funding requests become more focused on the long-term, with organizations needing funds to help adapt their method of service delivery. We expect that fund priorities will continue to shift as we move through the year with a focus on recovery.”

Applications for a fourth round of funding opened on January 1st and will be accepted through January 29th, 2021. Community organizations in the greater Itasca area that are delivering crisis relief services, engaged in long-term recovery efforts, or navigating newfound challenges are encouraged to apply online at

For those who wish to support the fund, tax-deductible donations are welcome through a variety of methods, including gifts of cash/check, credit cards, electronic fund transfers, and text-to-give options. Visit or to make an online donation. Check donations can be made to United Way of 1000 Lakes (Suite A) or Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation (Suite E) and mailed to 350 NW 1st Ave., Grand Rapids, MN 55744, and should include a reference of “Community Response Fund” in the memo line. Supporters can also make a donation by texting LAKES to 26989 and selecting “COVID-19 Response Fund” from the dropdown menu.

More information about the fund, including past grant allocations, application instructions, and eligibility requirements, can be found online at and

About United Way of 1000 Lakes

Since 1963, the United Way of 1000 Lakes has partnered with local nonprofits to identify critical issues, create partnerships, and raise funds to help people in the Itasca Area. Mobilizing the caring power of the communities it serves, the organization’s mission drives work to create a happier, healthier community. They accomplish this by inspiring collaboration, fundraising, and volunteerism. Learn more at

About Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation

The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation has been connecting donors’ charitable intentions to community needs for over 25 years to make our Greater Itasca Area a better place to live. We invite you to become part of the great work we do and include us in the conversation with your financial or estate planner to answer the question, “What good do you want your money to do?” For more information, visit our website at or schedule a visit by calling (218) 999-9100.