After funding library benches, park upgrades and other community projects, a community foundation in Faribault County is helping collect toys and food and is raising funds for day care scholarships.
The Our Town USA Community Foundation began to form two years ago to support the six communities within the United South Central School District.
Before it begins taking applications for a second round of grants, the organization is hosting a food and toy drive.
The pandemic has increased demand at the Wells Area Food Shelf, said foundation chair Marrily Burns. It also closed many of the businesses where the Wells Lions Club usually places collection bins for its annual holiday drive for unwrapped toys, winter apparel and other gifts for area families in need. So the Community Foundation’s leaders decided to help with a collection event on GivingTuesday.
Plans for a visit from Santa Claus had to be canceled due to the governor’s order limiting gatherings, Burns said. But a drive-thru collection will go on 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday outside the Wells Marketplace.
They chose Tuesday because it is GivingTuesday — a day started a few years ago to promote giving back through donations or volunteerism. The foundation is distributing flyers encouraging people to also give back to other area organizations and to shop local.
The foundation completed its first round of grant giving earlier this month with $1,000 for a new sign for the town of Walters.
Each of the six towns received $1,000 for a project proposed by the city or a community organization. Bricelyn and Walters both opted for new signs welcoming people into their communities.
The grants also helped fund park upgrades — a new baseball field in Easton and improved wheelchair accessibility in Freeborn.
Kiester and Wells both used a portion of their grants for a bench outside their libraries where patrons can access Wi-Fi even when the libraries are closed. The remainder of the funds went to the food shelf in Wells to help secure a matching grant from another organization and helped purchase materials for a building addition at Farming of Yesteryear outside of Kiester.
The foundation already has raised the $6,000 needed to distribute another round of grants next year.
It is now focusing fundraising efforts on expanding a new child care and preschool scholarship program. Child care affordability is a challenge for many families in the communities they serve, Burns said. Dollars raised go to nonprofit care centers to provide scholarships. This year they gave $3,600 to St. Casimir School in Wells to help two families.
To donate or for more information, go to www.facebook.com/OurTownUSACommunityFoundation or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.