OWATONNA — Local organizations that set to out to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Steele County residents are about to get a little help themselves.
The Otto Bremer Trust has announced that six Steele County non-profits are among the 156 grant recipients that total $10.2 million. The six locally awarded grants total $280,000.
“We are proud to invest in these programs and organizations that are providing fresh and innovative solutions to help communities across the region,” said Charlotte Johnson, the co-CEO and trustee for Otto Bremer Trust.
“There’s a lot of need out there and a lot of worthy causes. We just feel very fortunate to have the Otto Bremer Trust,” said Maureen Schlobohm, the director of the Steele County Clothesline.
The Clothesline was among the local recipients of funding, receiving $40,000 for general operations to provide clothes and household items to low-income area residents. Schlobohm said that funding from sources like the Otto Bremer Trust are crucial to non-profits as they are one of the few funders that award grants for things like general operating funds.
“General operations is kind of just what it says,” Schlobohm said. “It covers insurance, rent, utilities, technology, and everything that really goes with running a nonprofit. That’s where Otto Bremer is so fabulous. They’ve been very good to the Clothesline.”
Schlobohm said that in the last year and half, the Clothesline has become exceptionally busy. Aside from providing free clothes and household items to residents in need or at risk, the organizations also offers career help, manages the Boots to Work program, and provides both a laundry facility and laundry money among many other areas they lend a helping hand.
“We’re very busy. In 2018 we served over 4,110 individuals,” Schlobohm stated. “We also are a thrift store which has been a positive change allowing people who qualify to shop here to purchase anything additional that they like or need and making us open to the public.”
The thrift store part of the Clothesline began operating more than a year ago and Schlobohm said they have received a lot of positive feedback from the clients and the public. For clients, she said they enjoy the opportunity to give back to the store financially and help support a program that has benefited them in the past. As for the public, it has provided another opportunity to support the Clothesline aside from just donating clothes and household items or making private donations.
“We rely quite a bit on our funders,” Schlobohm added. “Whether it’s Otto Bremer, the United Way, our community business partners, or individual donations — they all help us keep our doors open.”
Another organization that is a recent recipient of an Otto Bremer Trust grant also relies on outside funding. The Owatonna Healthy Seniors Program was awarded $45,000 to help with their general operations to provide volunteer support services for seniors — 65 and older — in Steele County and to keep them living well at home.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is help seniors that do not have a support system stay in their home,” saidd Edna Ringhofer, the executive director for Healthy Seniors. “In a nutshell that is what this funding is for.”
Going based on who they are currently serving and trends they have seen in the senior community, Ringhofer said that Healthy Seniors expects to serve 1,496 seniors in 2019. She added that through trained staff and volunteers, Healthy Seniors works to divert nursing home admissions by providing support to help seniors life safely in their own home.
“We have a lot of seniors that their family do not live here, and when your kids aren’t here or you don’t have kids, you don’t have that help you need,” Ringhofer said. “What we’re trying to do is develop that support system.”
Ringhofer said that grants from funders like the Otto Bremer Trust are paramount in allowing them to meet the demands and requests that they receive – largely from the medical community. The general operations helps Healthy Seniors staff the right people to deal with certain situations, such as a client with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as well as continue to grow their volunteer base.
“We hear it all the time that they couldn’t do with without the help and support of our volunteers and staff,” Ringhofer said. “The funding is critical because we do not apply for federal funding. We try to care to the needs of Steele County and by doing so we are really grateful that we have funders like the Otto Bremer trust to help us help these seniors.”
“Thank you to Otto Bremer for being so diverse in the direction that you use your funds,” added Schlobohm.
The other local recipients include the Exchange Club Center for Family Unity in the amount of $20,000 for general operations to provide parent mentoring programs for families at risk of violence in Steele, Rice, Dodge, Freeborn, and Waseca Counties; the Owatonna Soccer Association in the amount of $40,000 to increase the number of soccer fields in Owatonna in response to a growing community involvement in soccer among diverse populations; the Steele County Food Shelf in the amount of $35,000 for general operations to address food insecurity for families in Steele County; and the United Way of Steele County in the amount of $100,000 for technology upgrades and to increase organizational capacity to enhance fund development.
The Otto Bremer Trust is a bank holding company and a private charitable trust based in St. Paul that works at the intersection of finance and philanthropy. The Trust is the 92% owner of Bremer Bank, a regional financial services company, and also manages a diversified investment portfolio. Since its founding, Otto Bremer Trust has invested more than $700 million in people, places, and opportunities in the Upper Midwest.