2017 Annual Letter

Four Native American children plant seedlings

July 2018

Dear Friends:

Every year brings new opportunities to build on the legacy left by our founder, Agnes Ober. Agnes understood that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable populations and that everyone, rich or poor, young or old, has an important role to play to ensure the continued vitality of Minnesota. Her compassion and care for those in need were evident in her lifetime, and live through our efforts today.

In 2017, Mardag Foundation made 107 grants totaling $2.3 million to communities throughout Minnesota. In the following pages, we share a snapshot of our grantmaking that reaffirms our dedication to our mission and our belief that by serving those most at-risk, we can make the greatest impact.

To build a strong future, we support our young people. Through our grantmaking in the area of at-risk families, children, youth and young adults, we supported childhood literacy in the East Metro and the social and emotional well-being of youth in Saint Cloud.

To honor the wisdom of others, we care for our aging community members. Our efforts to help seniors live independently took us from affordable housing in Saint Paul to a mobile food shelf in Wright County.

To build stronger communities, we build strong organizations to serve them. Our grantmaking to build the capacity of arts and humanities organizations spanned a love of music from Northern Minnesota to Selby Avenue in Saint Paul.

To maintain a strong capital city, we invest in the residents of Saint Paul. Our efforts in community development ensured residents have everything from an active role in city planning to healthy, fresh food.

2017 marked another year of creating positive change for Minnesotans from all walks of life. But it is only through partnership and dedication that we are able to accomplish these great things.

In that spirit, we wish to acknowledge those that make our work possible. We are deeply grateful for the contributions of our Board of Directors, with a special thanks to Jan Angell whose board term ended in 2017 after 12 years of service. We are also pleased to welcome to Kimberly Faust to our board and look forward to her leadership in 2018 and beyond. Lastly, we wish to thank the staff of The Saint Paul & Minnesota Community Foundations for their thoughtful partnership and dedication to our mission.


Timothy M. Ober

President, Board of Directors


Grant Highlights

In 2017, Mardag Foundation made 107 grants totaling $2.3 million across Minnesota in our four priority areas. The following is a snapshot of grants made in each area in 2017. View the full 2017 grant list.

Improving the lives of at-risk families, children, youth and young adults:

A $15,000 grant to Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities supported a partnership with Groves Academy to bring a year-round literacy program to 72 first, second and third grade students in the East Metro. Students, grouped by reading ability, partake in 35-minute sessions four times each week with a second daily session added during an eight-week summer program. The innovative curriculum uses multi-sensory methods to engage visual, aural and kinesthetic learners.

A $8,000 grant to Yes Network funded a new program – I Have A Dream – at two affordable housing sites in Saint Cloud. The I Have A Dream program serves families with children in first through third grades. Families learn the lasting effects of adverse childhood experiences on a child’s learning and behavior and also learn to manage trauma and develop stable home environments. The program also engages children to increase their health, self-care and social, emotional and academic skills to create a holistic approach to building strong families.

Supporting seniors to live independently:

A $25,000 grant to Presbyterian Homes Foundation supported the third phase of renovations for Central Towers, a 197-unit, low-income senior housing community in downtown Saint Paul. Previous renovations were made to replace water systems, elevators and essential upgrades to apartments. This third phase remodeled multi-purpose community and dining spaces, a commercial kitchen and other areas accessed by residents to ensure continued quality of life at Central Towers.

A $14,603 grant to Wright County Action assisted with the launch of the Mobile Food Shelf pilot project. The Mobile Food Shelf uses volunteer drivers to deliver fresh and nonperishable food items to seniors living independently but who may have little or no access to transportation needed to get to a food shelf themselves.

Building the capacity of arts and humanities organizations to benefit their communities:

A $30,000 grant to the Lakes Area Music Festival supported continued organizational growth. Their primary program is a three-week classical music festival that features 125 artists from across the country. The organization also presents a yearly concert series as well as a Music Mentors Project that hosts professional musicians in Northern Minnesota’s public schools to perform for and instruct thousands of youth. Funding from Mardag Foundation supported a development director position to ensure the future financial stability of the organization.

A $9,000 grant supported Selby Ave JazzFest, an organization that operates an annual festival each September at the corner of Selby and Milton in Saint Paul. The festival brings local and national jazz artists to the community and attracts nearly 15,000 participants. In 2016, Selby Ave JazzFest received their 501(c)3 status. Funding from Mardag Foundation supported the organizations shift from volunteer to paid staff and helped the organization recruit a board of directions and accounting resources.

Supporting community development throughout Saint Paul:

A $15,000 grant went to West Side Citizens Organization, a neighborhood organization that provides residents access and opportunity to get involved in city planning. Mardag Foundation funding supported the West Side Rising program. The program focuses on commercial corridors along Cesar Chavez Street, Robert Street, Smith Avenue and Stryker Avenue. The organization will host listening sessions for local business owners, residents and artists to develop a shared identity for each commercial corridor and host a community action day for corridor clean up.

A $20,000 grant to Frogtown Gardens supported the continued growth of Frogtown Farm – one of the largest urban farms in the country. Frogtown Farm leverages the diverse farming traditions of Frogtown residents to connect people across racial, cultural and economic differences. Funding from Mardag Foundation allowed Frogtown Farm to develop programming to better meet the needs of the community, supported ongoing soil fertility efforts and expand its shared food-based projects within the Frogtown neighborhood.