The Blandin Foundation in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, has announced a ten-year, $21 million investment in support of early childhood programming for at-risk children and their families in rural communities in the state.
The largest grant commitment in the foundation's history will be used to extend its Invest Early initiative, which the foundation launched in 2005 to provide early childhood education coupled with wrap-around services such as transportation, family development programs, extended-day services, and mental health support. Administered by the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative, with advice from a local family-services collaborative, the initiative today serves more than five hundred children in four school districts. In 2012, 58 percent of the children enrolled in the program were ready for kindergarten — more than double the percentage in 2006, a year after the program was launched — although the number still lags the 69 percent of children from higher-income families who are ready for kindergarten.
"Real possibilities for Minnesota's workforce live in the ability and willingness [of] leaders at every level to bring together systems, to braid support, to collaborate so that every child has the best shot at success — just like Invest Early," said Blandin Foundation president and CEO Kathleen Annette. "As they considered what our commitment might be beyond the initial ten years, our trustees agreed that Invest Early is one of the best investments we have ever made. They could see a direct link between what Invest Early is able to accomplish and the economic vitality of this region."