BCBS MN Foundation Awards 3.4 M to 21 Nonprofits

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation

(Minneapolis, MN) —  June 29, 2022 — The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation has awarded more than $3.4M in grants to 21 nonprofit organizations in Minnesota. Grant awards are for one or two years and range from $25,000 to $100,000 per year.

Sixteen grants are part of the Healthy Start program, which supports efforts to improve access to quality early childhood care and education throughout the state. This effort has been a focus of the Blue Cross Foundation for more than 20 years, due to the well-known connection between education and health.

“Research shows that quality early childhood care and education results in better health from childhood to the adult years,” said Bukata Hayes, chair of the Blue Cross Foundation board and vice president of racial and health equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Increasing access to early childhood care and education also means that families across the state – particularly families of color, Indigenous families and those with low incomes – receive critical support. These efforts all contribute to ongoing progress toward racial and health equity.”

“These grants address a critical need,” added Carolyn Link, president of the Foundation. “We are proud to partner with our grantees in prioritizing early care and education in the communities we serve – efforts that will benefit all Minnesota children and the broader health system.”

The following organizations were selected to receive Healthy Start grants:

Healthy Start

A grant of  to African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) will support efforts to increase and preserve high-quality, affordable and culturally relevant early childhood care and education services for lower income African families. AEDS will provide business development training, technical assistance, and loans to Minnesota African-owned child care centers. They will also identify systemic barriers preventing African Minnesotans from starting, growing, and sustaining businesses that provide these critical services and prepare children for school and future academic success. AEDS will also work with state and local licensing agencies to effectively engage and support these entrepreneurs and make needed policy changes to dismantle identified barriers.

A grant of $200,000 to All Nations Rise will support their work with the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and the Lower Sioux Indian Community to increase the supply of high quality, culturally relevant child care and early childhood education within the Indigenous community. Through collaboration with First Children’s Finance (FCF), All Nations Rise will engage tribal council, families, non-profits, businesses, health care, local school districts and counties to identify gaps and resources to create short-term and long-term solutions.

A grant of $200,000 to Children’s Defense Fund–MN (CDF) will support ongoing efforts to develop community-based leadership, build power and mobilize communities into action. CDF will convene diverse stakeholders and support movement building to advance early care and education policies that better reflect the holistic needs and solutions surfaced by Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color (BIPOC), as well as under-resourced families. This work will address systemic barriers, advance holistic solutions and promote health equity by addressing social and economic determinants of health that affect children.

A grant of $200,000 to Fond Du Lac Tribal College will support the ongoing development of Grandma’s House, Minnesota’s first Ojibwe immersion cooperative child care center for children 0 to 3 years, staffed by elders and parents. This development includes curriculum creation, elder and parent engagement, establishing a parent-elder cooperative model for systemic reform of child care in Ojibwe communities, and continued immersion learning for families.

A grant of $200,000 to La Red Latina de Educación Temprana will support La Red’s family, friends and neighbor (FFN) child care provider network through on-going communication and support to La Red members and access to early childhood resources for children with disabilities. La Red will also provide resources and trainings to La Red members and leadership, create a training to support FFN providers for in-home visits, and advocate for policy changes that most impact the Latina provider community.

A grant of $200,000 to Lakes & Prairies CAP will provide support to New American caregivers navigating any level of the child care system. Lakes & Prairies CAP will also expand their capacity to support the professional development and mental health needs of local New American caregivers, as well as build relationships with secondary and post-secondary schools to advance local students’ understanding of multicultural early education.

A grant of $97,550 to MN Zej Zog will support the organization’s partnership with the Hmong Early Childhood Coalition (HECC) in creating a culturally relevant, Hmong-centered pre-K curriculum for teachers and early childhood family education programs. This curriculum will focus on Hmong history, language, culture and social-emotional development that will be publicly available for all early childhood programs to use in their classrooms. In addition to creating a new curriculum, they will work with parents and caregivers to build advocacy skills to advocate for the needs of the children they work with and care for.

A grant of $120,000 to Northfield Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) will support HCI’s efforts to increase access to early childhood education and care for low-income Rice County families, primarily from Latine and Somali communities. Activities will include connecting children with high-quality early childhood programs; connecting households to childhood screenings; engagement with parents and providers to understand social determinants of health; and promoting local and statewide systems changes. HCI will also use this funding to continue delivering timely information and resources to local child care providers.

A grant of $200,000 to Northland Foundation will support efforts to ensure quality early childhood programs and services are available and accessible, especially for young children and families from historically underserved and under-resourced communities in Northeast Minnesota. With this grant, Northland Foundation will provide culturally responsive and trauma-informed trainings and mentoring to child care providers, test innovative child care workforce development strategies, expand the reach of Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) child care provider trainings, and strengthen partnerships to create and sustain early care and education systems change.

A grant of $200,000 to Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) will support NAZ’s ongoing efforts to improve early childhood education outcomes, specifically by supporting the implementation of high-quality learning programs for the youngest NAZ scholars. Funding will also support NAZ’s work to address racialized trauma and adverse childhood experiences by providing culturally specific, trauma-informed care practices.

A grant of $200,000 to Northwest Minnesota Foundation (NWMF) will support NWMF in providing tools to address prejudice, stereotyping and bias for early educators in 12 counties in Northwestern Minnesota and two Tribal Nations, with the goal of retaining providers and reducing or eliminating early childhood expulsions – a critical racial equity issue. The overarching goal of the program is to help the youngest citizens realize a world free of prejudice, stereotypes and exclusion. This project is part of a larger initiative that proposes a multi-pronged approach of diverse partners engaged together to try to make meaningful and systemic changes toward a more equitable, inclusive community.

A grant of $200,000 to SPARK will support SPARK’s efforts to continue the next phase of their innovative proposal to bring quality, affordable early childhood learning to all three and four-year-old children in Saint Paul. This phase will include raising public awareness and building a strong coalition of support across the city over the next two years.

A grant of $200,000 to United Community Action Partnership (UCAP) will support UCAP’s efforts to recruit and support multi-lingual providers in all settings: licensed programs, LNL (legally non-licensed) and FFN (Friend, Family, Neighbor), and address inequities in the early childhood system. UCAP will also hire an Early Childhood Equity and Engagement Specialist to lead UCAP’s intentional emphasis on community engagement, family engagement, building partnerships around equity issues, and the importance of quality early childhood education for lifelong health and success.

A grant of $187,000 to Voices for Racial Justice (VRJ) will support VRJ’s Early Childhood Parent Fellowship, a BIPOC-centered shared learning space that focuses on systems change to make early childhood education more accessible to Black, Indigenous and people of color in Minnesota. This cohort training model celebrates the voices, power, and knowledge of parents and caregivers, and prepares them to organize and advocate for their children and others like them.

A grant of $200,000 to Wildflower Foundation will support Wildflower’s efforts to uplift historically oppressed communities by creating liberatory schools that center the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). With this funding, the Wildflower Equity Initiative will foster a new cohort of entrepreneurial BIPOC educators to develop, open, and lead new independent microschools rooted in Montessori practices. These efforts will expand access to high-quality, culturally responsive, affordable Montessori education for children, diversify the education field, and contribute toward achieving health equity for Minnesota families.

A grant of $200,000 to YWCA Minneapolis will support YWCA’s efforts to deliver holistic, high-quality early childhood care and education programming for predominantly BIPOC children. YWCA will also utilize funding to provide early childhood workforce development programming that supports the diversification of the early childhood workforce, as well as supporting providers in gaining foundational employment skills and obtaining their Child Development Associate (CDA) credential from the Council for Professional Recognition.


Three organizations were also awarded grants as part of the Foundation’s Access to Coverage program, focused on increasing health care coverage across Minnesota:

Access to Coverage

A grant of $150,000 to Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance will provide support for the Navigator Coalition, a group of 34 organizations that advocate on behalf of navigators and consumers. Navigators assist Minnesotans in accessing health insurance and are essential to supporting Minnesotans with limited English proficiency, technology limitations, and other challenges. With this funding, the coalition will continue to support one another in connecting consumers with health care coverage and advancing issues with key leaders that will improve access to coverage.

A grant of $100,000 to Northwest Indian Community Development Center (NWICDC) will support NWICDC’s ongoing efforts to address health equity through health coverage outreach, application, and enrollment assistance for low-income individuals and families. NWICDC will also use community voice to examine larger-scale health equity systems analysis, partnership development, and planning that address all the social determinants of health to create sustainable and regenerative solutions to health equity.

A grant of $93,000 to United Community Action Partnership will support the continuation of the Community Connector Program, which works to increase economic stability, improve access to quality education and health care, support refugee, immigrant and migrant communities, and provide community members with the supports and services needed to improve the overall social determinants of health in their families and communities.

Capacity Builders

A grant of $50,000 to Nexus Community Partners will support Nexus’ ongoing efforts to engage communities of color and immigrant communities to achieve equitable, sustainable revitalization. Nexus achieves this using several strategies, including the Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI), which advances and strengthens communities through local and national equity-based community engagement. With this funding, Nexus will continue building the NCEI ecosystem through community learning sessions and leadership development, focusing on community engagement, support for health equity and dismantling white supremacy.

A grant of $50,000 to Voices for Racial Justice (VRJ) will support VRJ in building the capacity of nonprofit organizations across Minnesota to advance health equity. VRJ will focus on building power in BIPOC communities through shared learning opportunities on racial justice, community organizing, policy advocacy and democratic participation; advancing policy change in education, health, immigration and the criminal legal system; and fostering a strong sense of healing and restorative racial justice.

About the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation makes a healthy difference in communities by advancing health equity and improving conditions where people live, learn, work and play, awarding more than $75 million to over 600 nonprofits since it was established in 1986. For more information on Blue Cross’ grantmaking programs, visit bluecrossmnfoundation.org.



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