City acknowledges the service of AmeriCorps VISTA member Lauren Ellmers

Lauren Ellmers has been a member of the Initiative Foundation’s Central Minnesota VISTA project since August 2011 and completed her service with the Pine City EDA and Pine City Horizons earlier this month.  During her time with Pine City, she has used her valuable skills and experience to leave behind a strong legacy.

The Upstate New York transplant’s work helped the City in its economic development efforts, to issue loans to expanding business, and in creating an EDA strategic plan.  She helped get a tax-forfeited property back on the tax rolls, working with Habitat for Humanity.  She also helped build capacity for “A Place for You”, a regional homeless shelter that will open its doors this fall in the community.

In addition to those roles, Ellmers was a blog editor for this blog, the “Pine Poker”.  She will continue to leave her imprint on the world next year continuing on with AmeriCorps as a VISTA volunteer leader in Maine.

“We would like to thank Lauren for her commendable service, and wish her the best of luck in the future,” said Nathan Johnson, city planner for Pine City, and her supervisor while here.

For more than 40 years, VISTA – often called the “domestic Peace Corps” – has been helping bring communities and individuals out of poverty.  Today, nearly 7,000 AmeriCorps VISTA members serve each year in nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the country.

To enable Ellmers to serve full-time for one year, the Corporation for National Community Service provides AmeriCorps members with a modest living allowance along with health insurance, training and relocation expenses.  Upon completion of her service, Ellmers was able to choose between a $1,500 cash stipend or an education award of $5,550 to help pay for further schooling, vocational training or qualified student loans.

In Central Minnesota, 20 VISTA projects, coordinated by the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls, have been fighting poverty through activities such as financial literacy training, youth development and job skills development will helping people in poverty access basic necessities for living and means for getting ahead.  Through its 12-year partnership with AmeriCorps VISTA, Initiative Foundation VISTA members have helped their organizations coordinate over 31,000 volunteers, who have served over 283,000 hours, and raise over $2 million in grants and contributions and another 1.2 million dollars in donated goods and services.

Now more than ever, with unemployment, home foreclosures and general economic distress at record highs, Initiative Foundation members are “fighting poverty with passion” and having a strong impact on central Minnesota communities.

New auditorium anticipated to boost arts scene in Pine City

A new 23,800-square-foot auditorium at Pine City High School will soon be a reality because on Aug. 14 voters approved a school bond referendum that provides up to $5.715 million for construction.

The 730-seat fine arts auditorium will begin in the spring of 2013 and is expected to be completed by November 2013.

Empasized by the new school superintendent, Wayne Gillman, on the auditorium’s facebook group, “We are a fine arts community.  Our students have three years of national recognition for the music program.  WE DON’T HAVE A HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM!  Our students deserve to have an auditorium at the high school just like any other high school in Minnesota.”

Now they will, and there is much speculation about how this will help bolster the arts in Pine City.  Will we see neighborhood reinvestment and gentrification?  Will Pine City be on the radar of more tourists and artists? Just what will this do for the arts in the community?  What are your thoughts?   Please comment.