Itasca Area Community Response Fund Awards $37,500 in Fourth Round of Funding

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, the Itasca Area Community Response Fund has been helping the greater Itasca area navigate the crisis by providing grants to local nonprofits. 

The Response Fund, a collaborative effort between the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation and United Way of 1000 Lakes is just one of several COVID-19 response efforts undertaken by the two founding organizations. United Way, among other activities, also instituted a summer meals program in underserved communities in summer 2020 and launched a volunteer recruitment initiative. The Community Foundation has enhanced its crisis funding for individuals, the Sharing Fund, by expanding the parameters of the program to address pandemic-specific needs. This includes funding for telehealth and other expenses caused by pandemic-related circumstances. The response fund has been perhaps the most wide-reaching initiative, having distributed $193,000 in grant funds to nonprofit organizations throughout the greater Itasca area.

For some organizations, response fund grants are a lifeline, allowing them to keep their staff employed and continue serving the ever-changing needs of the community. Other grants delivered virtual engagement opportunities for children and older adults, provided protective equipment to staff, volunteers, and clients, and in some cases, seeded new initiatives.

“As the pandemic unfolded, we saw basic needs such as access to medical care and transportation continue to grow. While we’ve been working on solutions for these issues, the current crisis has highlighted the need to act now to address them,” said Leah Oslin, Executive Director of the Forward Health Foundation, a previous Response Fund recipient. “The grant will allow us to help us fund the launch of the Essentia Health Community Care Paramedic Program in the Deer River Area, bringing medical and mental health care right to our patients, no matter how remote.”  

Round 4 Response Fund recipients include: 

Angel Fund ($3,000): Funds will allow the Angel Fund to continue providing assistance and support to cancer patients in and around Itasca County.

Itasca County Family YMCA ($10,000): Funds will allow the YMCA to continue serving the health and educational needs of people of all ages during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legal Aid of Northeastern Minnesota ($4,000): Funds will help the organization increase its capacity to provide legal help to low-income clients in the face of an anticipated wave of post-moratorium evictions. 

Moose Lodge 2023 ($5,000): Funds will help cover operating costs in the wake of shutdowns and cancellations.

Northern Community Radio ($4,000): Funds will help cover the cost of equipment needed for staff to effectively work remotely and connect with the communities they serve.  

Project Care ($1,500): Funds will help cover the cost of cleaning supplies and protective equipment, allowing Project Care to keep staff, clients, and volunteers safe as the clinic provides in-person care to patients.

The Reif Center ($4,500): Funds will help the Reif Center provide accessible programming to combat social isolation in older adults, including low-cost digital performances and free virtual BINGO games. 

Support Within Reach ($5,500): Funds will help Support Within Reach build capacity as they continue the work of providing sexual violence advocacy and building awareness.

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. In partnership with representatives from other area funders, they make up an advisory board that makes allocation decisions. 

Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation and United Way staff present Forward Health Foundation Executive Director Leah Oslin with emergency response funds.

The Community Response Fund was created in April of 2020 just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to reach Itasca County, and since then, has provided crisis assistance grants to 30 nonprofit agencies that serve Itasca County and surrounding communities. Gifts from individual and major donors supported the Fund, which was designed to expand local capacity to address immediate and emerging needs as efficiently and effectively as possible. To learn more about the Response Fund, including a more extensive review of the Fund’s history and a complete list of grant recipients, visit

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.