Initial Owatonna grants strengthen community engagement, resources and services

Initial Foundation grantmaking in Owatonna includes three lead grants that support initiatives to strengthen the community. Grants will address disparities in income, education and health; enhance the public library; and expand access to high-quality programming for preschoolers and middle-school youth.

Grant recipients include:

  • United Way of Steele County, $210,000, to engage a cross-section of community members in a collaborative initiative to identify and reduce disparities in income, education and health in Steele County. The initial phase of the work will collect information and ideas through focus groups, workplace surveys, interviews, a business roundtable and a town hall meeting. A second phase will build a broad coalition of individuals and organizations to implement activities that begin to reduce disparities.
  • Owatonna Public Library, $250,000, to renovate the library and enhance technology services. Capital improvements will focus on the reading room, teen room and public meeting space. Technology improvements will include additional tablet and laptop computers as well as upgrades in wireless and web services. This work will enable the library to better address the needs of patrons, who turn to the library not only to borrow books, movies and music, but also as a gathering space, for homework help and for assistance in job searches.
  • Owatonna Community Education, $250,000, to expand early learning opportunities for preschool children and increase access to out-of-school programs for middle-school youth. An expansion of school readiness programming will include children currently left on waiting lists and increase program hours for participants. The funds will also provide family development education, address transportation and scheduling barriers to enable more families to benefit, and support a community-wide literacy assessment of four-year-olds. For students in grades six through eight, grant funds will support the delivery of comprehensive out-of-school-time activities and provide scholarships and transportation to eliminate barriers to participation.

The lead grants are the result of an intensive series of conversations held over the summer months between Otto Bremer Foundation staff and Owatonna residents, including people from local government, higher education, businesses, schools, nonprofits and philanthropy. In addition to the lead grants, the Foundation has committed $433,900 in response to applications from the community.

With the recent opening of a Bremer Bank location in Owatonna, the Otto Bremer Foundation is now accepting applications for grants and program‐related investments from organizations whose beneficiaries are residents of the Owatonna area. Owatonna becomes one of close to 80 Bremer communities in Minnesota, North Dakota and western Wisconsin.