FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bethany Wesley, Communications Director
November 7, 2023 (Bemidji, MN) – At its annual recognition event, the Northwest Minnesota Foundation celebrated six awardees from throughout the region whose work and energies are leading and supporting community in meaningful ways.
Awards were given in three categories. Each awardee was presented with a gift of pottery from Planet A Clay, created by Bemidji artist Butch Holden, and received a $1,000 grant to a nonprofit of their choice, with the exception of the philanthropy award which instead received $1,000 to the fund itself.
The Ruth Edevold Awards for Excellence, established in honor of NMF’s founding executive director, recognizes excellence in leadership and nonprofit organizational excellence.
- Laurie Buehler, of Bemidji Community Table, was the recipient of the Ruth Edevold Award for Excellence in Leadership in recognition of her work and leadership on behalf of the local soup kitchen, which is run fully by volunteers and serves meals four nights a week at two sites in Bemidji. All are welcome, there is no charge for the meal, and no questions are asked. Laurie and her husband have cooked and served almost every Monday and Tuesday night for years, which means that Laurie has cooked and served tens of thousands of meals. In 2022 alone, Bemidji Community Table served over 17,000 meals between the two sites. Laurie also serves as the president of the emidji Community Table board.
- Violence Intervention Project, Thief River Falls, was the recipient of the Ruth Edevold Award for Non-Profit Organizational Excellence. The Violence Intervention Project is a community-based victim service agency that provides free and confidential advocacy services to all people impacted by domestic, intimate partner or sexual violence in Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake and Roseau counties. For more than 30 years, VIP has served Northwest Minnesota by providing a 24/7 crisis line, emergency shelter, information, support, resources and referrals, assistance with civil protection orders, accompaniment to medical exams, court hearings, and law enforcement.
Community Compass Awards celebrate individuals, businesses, community leaders, nonprofits, and partners whose work and efforts are strengthening our communities to build tomorrow’s best future for all who live and work in Northwest Minnesota.
- Agassiz Environmental Learning Center: Located near Fertile, in the scenic Fertile Sand Hills, the AELC combines the best of nature study, conservation education, outdoor recreation, and environmental education. The AELC has provided a variety of natural resource conservation programs for more than 30 years to students of all ages, fulfilling its mission, “to foster a greater awareness of the interrelationships between humans and nature.” The AELC waived trail fees during the pandemic to encourage people to use the trails and amenities at the Fertile Sand Hills, using the healing power of nature for physical and mental well-being for all. Trail fees continue to be waived as the AELC is committed to providing residents of the region with outdoor education and recreation opportunities for all ages and abilities.
- Warren Area Living at Home Block Nurse Program: The Warren SOS – Supporting Our Seniors – program helps senior citizens stay in their own homes longer with a better quality of life. It carries out this very important work with a small staff and many volunteers who provide home visits, transportation, nutrition, wellness classes and other services for home-bound and senior citizens in the Warren, Alvarado and Oslo communities. They celebrated their 25th anniversary this summer. Now with two part-time staff, Warren SOS promotes evidence-based health exercises classes and offers free senior pool time. It also has established 15 tricycles located in convenient places in three communities. There also are monthly delivery of food boxes.
- Armory Arts & Events Center: Located in Park Rapids, the Armory Arts & Events Center enriches the lives of all residents and contributes to the quality of life and vitality of the entire community through the arts. The center is housed in the former Park Rapids Armory, which has been a passion project for many in the community to repurpose the building as a vibrant community center. In the last year alone, the Armory Arts & Events Center has hosted monthly open mic nights, concerts, a print-making workshop, an artist gallery, three weddings, performances through the Northern Lights Opera Company, and a variety of classes and events.
The Fertile-Beltrami Area Community Fund was recognized with the Community Philanthropy Award. The fund, among the NMF family of funds, has invested more than $150,000 in grants over its history. At its core, the community fund is an organization created with donations from generous people committed to local causes. For donors, the community fund serves as a philanthropic advisor. For the community, the fund serves as a grant-maker and a civic leader. Through the support of its donors and fundholders, the community fund has been able to address some of the community’s most pressing needs, including community improvement, educational opportunities and economic development.