As 2010 comes to a close, the Pine City Horizons’ volunteers look back at their activities in the previous year and goals for 2011.
In 2007, the University of Minnesota Extension announced the creation of a program, in partnership with the North West Area Foundation; to assist rural communities in Minnesota fight poverty. Communities that met certain criteria were identified and invited to participate. Upon learning of this program, Lezlie Sauter of Lakes and Pines, brought the concept to other Pine City residents and to the attention of Nathan Johnson, the City Planner of Pine City. “Right away, we understood the potential of this program to help us understand, and then fight, the ways that poverty affects us in Pine City,” said Johnson. From there the Pine City Horizons Team was born and set about the business of recruiting volunteers and surveying the community about what they felt were the top symptoms and causes of poverty here. “We were surprised with the results and motivated by all the different manifestations of poverty that residents contributed to the survey…but most of all we were impressed with all of the people in Pine City that said they wanted to volunteer to help our efforts, “ said Sauter. The Horizons volunteers then developed a work plan and divided into teams to begin working on solutions. Over the next two years, Horizons volunteers completed training and organizational goals to complete their participation with Horizons.
Some of the first projects that were identified were the need to supplement the assistance that residents had when it came to feeding their families. Horizons members talked with the Pine County Food Shelf and Rubys Pantry about what needs they saw and what solutions could be implemented. The result was the creation of the Pine City Community Garden and Angel Food Ministries. The Community Garden allows participants to start and maintain a garden plot and utilize assistance from University of Minnesota Master Gardeners. Throughout the growing season, Master Gardeners work with local youth to teach them about gardening and at harvest time, donations from the Community Garden go to the local Food Shelf. In 2010, the Community Garden donated over 300 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce. The second program, Angel Food Ministries, allows participants to order grocery store quality food at highly discounted prices so that families can really stretch their food dollars. Angel Food Ministries typically serves between 30-50 individuals a month and is coordinated between Horizons, the Pregnancy Resource Center and Evergreen Church. “The success of Angel Food Ministries and the Community Garden made real for us the power of partnerships in helping to eliminate poverty,” said Jan Nettleton, a Horizons volunteer and former Director of the Pregnancy Resource Center.
The Horizons members also coordinated a partnership with Rural American Bank to provide a financial education course called “More $, More Sense” in January 2010. This course helped participants gain insight into their finances and better plan to meet their financial goals. While Horizons volunteers were helping their community gain financial strengths, the Pine City Horizons group was also addressing their need for a financial host or “fiscal agent” to help them meet their organizational financial goals. Volunteer members of Horizons learned how non-profit organizations work, how they are funded and how to operate successfully through trainings from the University of Minnesota, the Initiative Foundation and others. In February of 2010, Cyndy Cohen from the University of Minnesota Horizons program provided information to the Pine City Horizons volunteers about further benefiting from partnerships by applying for an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer position to help with their local programs. AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers could be used locally by Horizons through partnerships from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Initiative Foundation and the City of Pine City.
In March, as the group continued to try to find a fiscal agent and to pursue AmeriCorps, Lezlie Sauter brought additional poverty education training to the Horizons group through their “Learning About” section of monthly Board meetings. Discussions included the potential “triggers” of poverty including accidents, deaths, divorces and loss of employment. The volunteers also learned about recovering from poverty with positive choices by emphasizing the ownership of choices. During this month, Pine City Horizons also hosted a “Homelessness Task Force” meeting that gathered community members together to discuss how this severe symptom of poverty looks in our community and how they can work toward solutions.
April 2010 saw the arrival of a fiscal agent for Pine City Horizons. The Pregnancy Resource Center graciously provided these services to Horizons and allowed them to complete their goals with the University of Minnesota’s Horizons program. On April 24th, members of Pine City Horizons received honors from Beverly Durgan, the Dean of the University of Minnesota Extension, at an award dinner with other Horizons communities for successfully completing this comprehensive, 18-month program. The Pine City members also participated in LeadershipPlenty and updated the Pine City Community Profile to reflect up to date information.
During Horizons trainings, volunteers learned that one of the steps to eliminating poverty is to increase communication. Toward this end, Horizons members began blogging about their activities as well as other community information on their blog, which can be found at http://pinecity.communityblogs.us. In June of 2010, they received their 20,000th hit. Throughout the summer, Horizons volunteers continued to pursue an AmeriCorps VISTA position, planning the efforts of their work teams and planning a school supply drive. The school supply drive was then hosted and served 53 families and 122 children. In June, their efforts with AmeriCorps were rewarded and, in partnership with the City of Pine City, were awarded an AmeriCorps VISTA position to serve as a full time staff member to the Pine City Horizons board. This partnership created a revolutionary approach to eliminating poverty by incorporating anti-poverty initiatives into the City’s comprehensive planning process. In August, Pine City Horizons and the City of Pine City were proud to announce the hiring of Sean Stevens to fill this role. Sean brings with him experience in small business, community and economic development, as well as 6 years of experience as a planning commissioner for the City of Isanti and also for Isanti County where he has helped both entities craft their comprehensive plans. “I am honored to join with such great partners to help them accomplish their goals. The collection of dedication and commitment toward this project is impressive and I am really looking forward to meeting and collaborating with all the members of Horizons and city staff as well as other partners we form along the way,” said Sean Stevens.
In September, Pine City Horizons again partnered with the University of MN Extension Horizons to host a Regional Training Workshop at the Fur Post in Pine City. The topic of this workshop was twofold. The first half of the workshop was devoted to leadership and civic engagement with a curriculum called “Preserve, Change & Create” and the second half included a detailed look at the Pine City Market Area Profile, which highlighted economic data from the Pine City area. Both of these training topics provided insights into our community and served as valuable discussions. Information gathered at this workshop was then used by the Horizons volunteers to make contributions to Pine City’s comprehensive planning open house, which allowed a variety of community groups the opportunity to discuss a vision for the Pine City of the next 30 years. Late September activities also included coordinating a video shoot for Pine City Horizons which highlighted our efforts and impact as well as planning for Operation Community Connect which Horizons hosted in October.
Despite the nasty weather on October 26, Pine City Horizons hosted the Pine County Operation Community Connect in partnership with the Lighthouse Evangelical Free church. This event provided food, clothing and resource information to families in need. 24 different local and regional support agencies were on hand to give advice to attendees. Operation Community Connect served 193 individuals with food, clothing and information and also provided Horizons with much needed information about the needs in our community through exit surveys performed there. Horizons members also contributed to the comprehensive plan open house in October and began conversations with other local groups that supported our communities youth to see what help Horizons could be in there efforts. Horizons also began a partnership with Pine Technical College’s Entrepreneurs Club and agreed to help these student entrepreneurs plan their own small business dreams by participating together with these students to build a business plan for a local Trade, Barter & Buy coop.
Into November the Horizons volunteers continue to work on some of their long-term goals. The Everything Pine City work group partnered with the Pine City Pioneer newspaper to add valuable social service information to their 2011 Information Guide. This guide provides great information to residents and visitors about businesses, organizations, churches and events in Pine City. We look forward to contributing even more information to next years Information Guide and also using this information to create a completely comprehensive resource guide for and by the service agencies that service the Pine City area. November activity also included planning for new partnerships with Kettle Kinship and the Early Childhood Coalition.
As 2010 was coming to a close, Horizons members were excited about some of the upcoming events on their calendars. The Homelessness Forum, which Horizons hosted in March was revisited with new energy and leadership from Mary Kay Sloan and Deacon Gene Biever. This group expanded its conversations about the homelessness problem in and around Pine City and is currently assessing the best paths to proceed with help from County Commissioners, churches, non-profits, homelessness experts and many other active residents. Additionally, Horizons members worked on initiatives to support youth mentorship in our community and to provide after school activities in our community.
In January of 2011, Horizons is proud to announce our “Strike A Match” campaign in partnership with Kettle Kinship. Kettle Kinship provides matches with qualified adult mentors to children aged 5-19 who desire to have another positive adult role model in their lives. Horizons and Kettle Kinship will host a dinner on January 10th to share information and stories about the value of mentoring for the community, the mentored youth and the adult mentor. At this event, Horizons will announce its “Strike A March” donation to Kettle Kinship for every new adult mentor that is identified during National Mentoring Month, which is in January. Additionally, Horizons is equally proud to announce a contribution to the Read and Run program which has provided after school activities for kids and parents for the past 2 years. This program gives kids the time and space to do physical activities indoors during the peak of winter as well as having reading time. While the kids are having fun, parents congregate next door at Cabin Coffee’s for facilitated discussions of parenting topics like Activities for Kids, Dads Do Make a Difference, Grandparents Raising Kids and more. This valuable program was in danger of being cut due to funding and Horizons is proud to partner with them to allow for its continuation this year.
As 2011 continues we at Horizons continue to work on our goal of eliminating poverty in Pine City. We look forward to being able to continue our mission well into the future by seeking our own 501c3 status as well as by partnering with existing community organizations. In 2011, our goal is to continue the programming detailed here as well as providing asset building tools like resume workshops, car repair assistance, financial education, emergency micro loans, yard clean up programs, energy assistance and efficiency advice and much more. In order to do these things we do need your help. Please support our endeavors with your time, dollars and enthusiasm. We are actively looking for new volunteers in 2011 to give our efforts even more reach. Those interested in volunteering with Horizons can call (320) 629-2575 ext 115 or visit our office at 315 Main St South (Old Courthouse Bldg), Pine City, MN.