The best way to address community health comes directly from our communities. This has fueled the concept of the Idea Fund, which was designed to bring people together to build new relationships and offer a different way to be involved in community work.
The goal of the Idea Fund is to support ideas that help build a healthier Willmar for all, and create a community that has the same opportunity for health across cultural, racial, generational and ethnic groups. The Healthy Together Willmar initiative, with support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, will be providing funding for 21 of the ideas that were submitted through the second round of the Idea Fund.
These projects will contribute to the mission of Healthy Together Willmar, which is to help create a future where all members of the Willmar community have access to the resources and opportunities needed to achieve their best possible health.
Below are the new projects receiving funding.
Aging Wisely is a local effort that focuses on providing support to seniors in the community. Through this funding, they plan to host several get-togethers with local seniors focused on embracing and celebrating life. This work will help address the social isolation experienced by many seniors in the area, and to help them identify ways to be healthy.
Art Express will create opportunities for all community members to express themselves through art while creating greater community understanding, with an intentional focus on seniors, recent arrivals to the community, youth, the disability community and community members who are LGBTQ. Idea Fund funding will be used for art materials, instructors, local transportation and healthy food at the gatherings.
Be Well @ WPL is a local health initiative through the Willmar Public Library. The focus of this project is to provide in-person programs to community members such as bilingual story time, healthy cooking classes for teens and English conversation classes for adults. It will also include kits that community members can check out focused on these and other topics.
The Cardinal Pack Food Program is an initiative that addresses hunger gaps in local elementary schools by ensuring children who are food-insecure have access to regular and well-balanced meals over the weekend and school breaks. Cardinal Pack will use Idea Fund funding to continue sending healthy, well-balanced meals home with elementary-aged children when they are away from school.
Carris Health and Advocacy & Inclusion Matter (AIM) will focus its Idea Fund project on enhancing the quality of life for those living with disabilities. They plan to use the funds to host classes and events related to mindfulness, social connections, stress management, yoga, strength training, knowledge sharing and other wellness-related topics.
Community Integration Center is a local nonprofit providing transition support to new immigrants. This funding will support their English / Somali conversation classes, along with community cultural events that will deepen understanding and connections in Willmar.
Facilitation and Supports for Autism will work with Somali and other families who care for family members with autism and other disabilities. The overall goal of the project is to provide support and overcome the stigma associated with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Support will include assistance filling out forms, providing transportation to appointments, offering educational classes and implementing early childhood intervention strategies.
Highland Apartments is a housing development in Willmar that is home to many disabled, elderly and low-income community members. Its initiative will focus on addressing health and wellness holistically, concentrating on physical, mental and social wellness needs.
Interfaith is a group of local churches from varied denominations coming together to collaborate and learn from one another. With this funding, they will host numerous events open to all community members in an effort to break down barriers and create a more connected community.
Kandiyohi County Breastfeeding Coalition will use Idea Fund funding to improve the existing Rock and Rest Mother’s Building at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds. The changes – including repainting the space, improving the sinks and plumbing and offering improved handwashing supplies – will better enable all families to feed their babies in a clean, private space.
Kandiyohi County Traffic and Education Safety Team is an initiative designed to create multicultural awareness and prevention of traffic crashes. Traffic incidents are one of the primary causes of death and serious injury, particularly among youth ages 1-24. This initiative will focus on reducing distracted driving, excessive speeds, impaired and sleepy driving, as well as increasing seat belt and booster seat usage.
Karen Oral Health is a partnership between Grace Baptist Church, Rice Regional Dental Clinic and the Karen community. The project will focus on creating access to dental care for those most in need. Idea Fund funding will help offset fees related to dental work, provide a Karen interpreter and informational materials about the program, as well as facilitating get-togethers to share cultural learnings.
MnYou is a group of young leaders from the Willmar community whose focus is on community health and local food. Through this funding, MnYou seeks to expand their efforts to partner with the Willmar school districts, Highland Apartments, and The Fortress to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to children receiving free and reduced lunch, people with disabilities, and people with unstable housing.
Movies in the Park seeks to encourage ongoing community connections by creating fun, free family outings at Robbins Island and Civic Arena. They plan to host several outdoor movie screenings in the spring and summer of 2019 that will also incorporate physical activity and healthy refreshments.
Multi-Cultural Women’s Fitness and Nutrition Center seeks to create an inclusive space that allows all women in the community to be physically active in spaces that are culturally and religiously appropriate, free of language and physical barriers. The Idea Fund funding will be used to provide fitness and security equipment.
MyCity Academy empowers new Americans to understand and participate in Willmar’s and Kandiyohi County’s government, empowering civic leadership throughout the community. Through this program, participants will meet with government leaders and tour government facilities, gaining a better understanding of the inner workings of government and learning how to resolve issues and obtain information.
Nolan’s Place is an autism behavior therapy center that offers effective behavioral treatment to young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. They provide a place of support, love, encouragement and opportunity for children and their families. With this funding, they will expand their initiative to bring more services and education to those in the community who are underserved.
Partners in Care, through the United Community Action Project, will use funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation to expand its work in addressing the shortage of culturally based childcare in the Willmar community. It will help new providers navigate the many complex steps and trainings that are required to become a child care provider while offering support and education related to creating healthy environments for children.
We All Do Better is a local nonprofit organization working to increase participation of currently underrepresented community groups in public leadership and to create systemic change based on representation of the full community. With this funding, they will create small leadership cohorts that will work on leadership development, workshops and trainings.
The Willmar Police Department will use Idea Fund funding to grow a new community engagement program called CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) with a multi-cultural lens. The goals of the program are to educate community members on disaster and hazard preparedness, to help themselves and their community during a crisis and, as needed, assist first responder agencies in providing some emergency services to the public in the event of a disaster.
Wings of Hope is a local nonprofit whose mission is to build hope, love and strength in the community and to advocate for mental health awareness, suicide prevention and grief recovery. With this funding, Wings of Hope will provide mental health first aid training programs and mental health education. They also plan to open a community mental health resource office and promote support groups that create connections in the community.
These new projects are in addition to existing projects that kicked off in March of 2018.
Below are the projects currently receiving funding in 2018.
Aging Wisely is a new local coalition that will focus on providing support to seniors in the community. Through this funding, they plan to host several get-togethers where seniors of different cultures can discuss health and wellbeing. The goal is to address the social isolation experienced by many seniors in the area, and to help seniors identify ways to be as healthy as possible. LEARN MORE
offers many options for senior care in the community including nursing care, short-stay therapy centers, independent and assisted living and adult day services. Idea Fund funding will provide resources to enhance the intergenerational playroom space at Bethesda residential facilities, allowing seniors and kids to interact during visits to family members. LEARN MORE
Cinco de Mayo is a local committee dedicated to the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration in Willmar, which is focused on embracing the history and rich traditions of the Hispanic and Latino cultures. Through the Idea Fund funding, the committee will add more multicultural components to the 2018 event, while also providing scholarships to young Willmar community members to support their education.
Community Integration Center
is a new, local nonprofit providing transition support to new immigrants. This funding will support their English / Somali conversation classes, along with a week-long event in July that deepens understanding and community connections during both Somali and U.S. independence days. LEARN MORE
is a local coffee house committed to being a good neighbor to Downtown Willmar and the larger community. Through this funding, The Goodness will host bimonthly community dinners featuring foods from different local cultural vendors, with a focus on building community and creating space for English conversation practice. LEARN MORE
, a local Somali non-profit, provides youth in the community with after-school homework help, monthly cross-cultural gatherings and intergenerational activities that bring together Somali youth and seniors. This funding will support these and other activities, encouraging ongoing community connection. LEARN MORE
Jefferson Adult Basic Education
offers community members resources to achieve their goals, including learning English, work skills and computer skills, while also providing citizenship materials. Idea Fund funding will support the creation of a multipurpose gathering space where students from diverse backgrounds can connect and practice their English. LEARN MORE
, in partnership with the Willmar Downtown Development, is a local group that runs an entrepreneurial youth farm to market program, focused on empowering diverse Willmar youth (ages 15-24) by providing education and work experience. Its Youth Garden project was established to create opportunities for youth to develop skills while also breaking down barriers to employment including language, work history and transportation. Idea Fund funding will provide support for these ongoing efforts and the establishment of a Community Supported Agriculture program. LEARN MORE
Partners in Care/United Community Action Partnership
* is a joint effort to bring together area resources to effectively and efficiently address the growing needs of local communities in Minnesota, including Willmar. This funding will support the convening of childcare providers from diverse backgrounds, to provide support and education related to creating healthy environments for children, while also helping providers understand licensure requirements as needed. LEARN MORE
Rice Memorial Intergenerational Daycare
is an innovative daycare program that combines child and senior care in the Willmar community. This approach allows these two age groups to interact, develop relationships, enhance children’s social development and decrease seniors’ feelings of isolation and loneliness. This funding will provide transportation resources for seniors and youth. LEARN MORE
is an initiative focused on engaging students around prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use. Through the Idea Fund funding, SWAT will create a photovoice project featuring young, diverse community members showcasing their surroundings and how those surroundings impact their ability to be healthy, with an emphasis on the role of drug use in the community. LEARN MORE
Talking is Teaching
**, in partnership with the Willmar Public Schools, will launch a literacy program focused on supporting healthy relationships between parents and children, grounded in the belief that talking and reading with children enhances brain development and social, emotional skills through trusted relationship experiences. LEARN MORE
Vela Strategy will support a new cohort of local leaders committed to building their intercultural competence and working together to make changes in their institutions.
The Village Children’s Museum
, a multicultural children’s museum and community gathering space, is a newly created non-profit organization with the mission to bring a cultural, academic, and physical form of activity to children. Funding through the Idea Fund will support exhibit development designed to encourage community connection. LEARN MORE
*Funding will be jointly provided by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation
**Funding will be provided by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation