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Grants to make a difference in arts, housing

Jessica Boyer, director of the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties, was asked to talk about the Difference Maker grant the organization received from the Alexandria Area Community Foundation. Foundation board member Dave Vagle gave her the microphone. The awards were announced at the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum last Thursday. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)1 / 2
Ben Klipfel, director of the Alexandria Area Arts Association, said the AAAA was humbled and excited to be the recipient of a $60,000 Difference Maker grant from the Alexandria Area Community Foundation. The awards were announced at the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum Thursday. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)2 / 2

Here's good news for those who appreciate local arts and for those struggling to find a place they can call home.

The Alexandria Area Community Foundation just awarded $80,000 in "Difference Maker" grants that will help both those causes.

The Alexandria Area Arts Association will receive $60,000 for the first phase in a project to renovate its downtown building, the old Andria Theater. Some parts of the theater, such as parts of the basement, haven't been touched since the AAAA purchased it in the 1990s, according to AAAA Director Ben Klipfel. The grant will be used for asbestos abatement and to create more classroom and studio space for arts students.

The AAAA also plans to make the building more handicap-accessible, renovate the basement bathroom and provide space for lectures, educational workshops and non-profit meetings.

"We are so humbled and so excited about this partnership," said Klipfel during the grant announcement program at the Maritime Lakes Museum last Thursday. "The theater needs a lot of tender love and care."

The United Way of Pope and Douglas County was awarded the other $20,000 grant for its new "House Keys" program. The goal is to provide safe and sustainable housing for families and individuals in Douglas County who are experiencing homelessness.

Jessica Boyer, United Way director, said that research has shown that on any given day, between 30 and 60 children in Douglas County are homeless. A point-in-time count taken in Douglas County on January 26, 2011 found 43 adults and 61 children without secure housing and 14 individuals living in their vehicles, Boyer noted.

BIG NEED FOR GRANTS

The Community Foundation's decision on awarding the grants was difficult, noted board member Dave Vagle. For the most recent round of grants, it received nearly $1.3 million in requests for 22 programs.

A committee evaluates all the requests, conducts site visits and recommends the recipients based on community need and which ones will make the biggest impact in the community. The full board of directors then reviews and approves the committee's recommendations.

The foundation started in 1992 and now oversees more than $1 million in total assets, up from $650,000 three years ago. It has more than $800,000 in its endowment fund.

The foundation started the Difference Maker program last year to support charitable organizations and programs that will have a significant impact in the community.

HOW TO HELP

Residents and businesses can support the Community Foundation's endowment fund for generations to come by making a donation in 2013 that will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $50,000. Donate online at AlexandriaFoundation.org. People may also co-invest in the community with the foundation by making a gift directly to one of this year's Difference Maker recipients.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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