Getting past the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for persons with intellectual disabilities, who are more at risk from COVID and have been more isolated as a result.
That’s part of why the folks at Eden Prairie-based CHOICE, Inc., which provides jobs and enrichment programs for people with intellectual disabilities, are so grateful for a new grant from the Eden Prairie Community Foundation.
The funding will allow CHOICE clients to partner with memory-care residents of Presbyterian Homes’ Flagstone community to create art under the direction of instructors from the Eden Prairie Art Center.
“In stressful times, art has been very therapeutic,” said Dan Reed, director of innovative services at CHOICE.
Clients often have difficulty verbalizing their emotions, he added, so art has become a foundational part of enrichment programs at CHOICE. “Art is incredibly communicative – they can show their feelings and abilities through art,” Reed explained.
CHOICE has collaborated on art programs with both Flagstone and the Art Center in the past, starting with small projects. “It just mushroomed,” said Reed.
The 2023 project will culminate with an art exhibit and party where CHOICE clients and memory-care residents can bring their families, “and celebrate their artwork,” he said.
Record granting – and need
The grant to CHOICE is one of 22 that were recently awarded by the foundation. In all, the grants total $65,000.
“We believe it to be, according to our records, a new high – a new high in dollar amounts and in the number of organizations receiving funds,” said Greg Leeper, the foundation’s executive director. The grants were announced at the nonprofit’s annual gala, EP Gives, on April 15.
It was also a record number of foundation dollars requested by nonprofits serving Eden Prairie.
“That’s a trend that’s been ongoing. The need has increased,” said Leeper. “It continues to outpace what we’re able to afford, but we’re doing our best to keep up.”
The grants range from $1,250 to $7,500 per organization and cover the foundation’s four main areas of funding: social services, education and youth, recreation and environment, and arts and culture. Some of the grants also intersect with more recent foundation initiatives in the area of hardship, including food insecurity; affordable housing; and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Many of the organizations funded in 2023 have received foundation grants in past years. Some are first-timers, “and that’s really exciting,” Leeper said.
One of the nonprofit organizations new to foundation funding is Good in the ‘Hood. It addresses food insecurity at Hennepin Technical College (HTC), which has its South Campus in Eden Prairie.
Waalid Minnesota is another organization that’s new to the foundation’s orbit. It helps vulnerable East African seniors to overcome barriers such as transportation and translation. “We’re excited about helping them get a leg up,” said Leeper.
Maria’s Voice is also new to the list of organizations being funded. It started in a neighboring community but is expanding to Eden Prairie to address domestic violence with education and prevention initiatives, according to Leeper.
The grants were celebrated at the recent EP Gives event, but the foundation gathering also served as a fundraiser for next year’s grants.
“We were thrilled with this year’s EP Gives gala, thankful for the volunteers, grantees, and everyone who attended the event, who donated, who provided auction items,” Leeper said.
“It was a wonderful way to lift up the mission of the foundation. People had a really good time and contributed to a good cause.”
Granting in detail
Here’s the full list of the foundation’s 2023 grant recipients and their projects:
- CHOICE, Inc. – collaborative art project joining persons with disabilities served by CHOICE, Inc. with senior citizens from Presbyterian Homes memory care.
- Chrestomathy – courtyard furniture for the outdoor gathering space where clients, who have disabilities, gather.
- Eden Prairie Community Band – music folders and conductor’s podium for rehearsals and community performances.
- Eden Prairie Local News – funding to advance community awareness through a series of articles on youth, mental health, and public safety.
- Eden Prairie Art Center – free monthly art programs designed for the BIPOC population.
- Eden Prairie Schools Community Education – ongoing funding for a “Navigator Program” that uses neighborhood residents to build community awareness of helpful programs and services.
- Every Meal – support for a weekend meals program that addresses food insecurity among Eden Prairie schoolchildren.
- Good in the ‘Hood – food support for low-income students attending Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie.
- Hammer Residences – funding support for non-insured medical and dental needs, winter clothing, self-care items, and group outings for local group-home residents.
- Kaleidoscope Teens – speakers, classes, and other programs to address mental health issues among teens.
- Let’s Go Fishing Eden Prairie – funding for its effort to replace aged pontoons and motors used to provide Lake Riley boat excursions to teens, seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities.
- Maria’s Voice – support for local community awareness and engagement on the topic of domestic violence.
- Mission Animal Hospital – support for a full-time, licensed social worker on its staff of veterinarians and support workers who provide veterinary care to pets of low-income residents.
- Onward Eden Prairie – support for transitional housing and case management provided to young adults.
- PROP – funding for a Smart Snacks for Kids Program that tackles food insecurity among youth.
- Relate Counseling Center – support for Relate’s work to provide free, on-site mental health counseling in partnership with PROP.
- Senior Community Services – home maintenance and other services to local seniors who wish to continue residing in their longtime homes.
- Sojourner Project – emergency shelter, legal advocacy, and other support to victims of domestic violence.
- The PROP Shop – purchase of twin beds to meet a long waiting list of families in need of furniture.
- True Friends – therapeutic enrichment services at local Camp Eden Wood serve persons with developmental disabilities.
- Waalid MN – support of efforts to provide transportation, translation, and other services to vulnerable seniors who are East African immigrants.
- YMCA of the North – continued support of on-site youth programs and other services to low-income families of Briarhill Apartments in Eden Prairie.
Reporter Mark Weber is a former executive director for Eden Prairie Community Foundation.
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