2018 Annual Letter

July 2019

Dear Friends,

We are grateful for another extraordinary year of progress and the opportunity to build on the legacy left by our founder, Agnes Ober. 2019 marks 50 years of Agnes’ legacy. To celebrate this special occasion, we have put together an anniversary booklet highlighting this work. Agnes understood the value of community and the roles we all play in ensuring Minnesota is equitable for all, specifically those who are often disenfranchised and overlooked.

In 2018, Mardag Foundation made 114 grants totaling $3,258,200 to communities throughout Minnesota. Below, we share a snapshot of our grantmaking; each grant reaffirms our dedication to seniors, children, the arts and education and our belief that by serving those most at-risk, we can make the greatest impact.

For our focus on at-risk children and families, we invest in opportunities that help young people succeed earlier in life. In 2018, we supported organizations that provide teen career, life and leadership training in the East Metro and that direct services to the growing number of Hispanic families in Goodhue County.

We are stronger when all residents experience high quality of life and so we support efforts that allow seniors to continue to live healthy and independent lives. Through our grants we have helped to provide a gathering place for seniors in the southwestern region of Minnesota and opportunities for intergenerational learning in the north.

We value creative expression and the various ways the arts strengthen our communities. We’ve supported organizations that explore art in all its forms, from rural community theater to those deeply rooted in Native American history and culture.

Our investment in community development in Saint Paul continues to support the livelihood of our residents and communities, be it through affordable real estate or access to fair housing.

We would like to thank all our grantees. Your partnership and dedication allow the Mardag Foundation to accomplish great things. Without you, our work would not be possible.

We would like to extend a thank you to our Board of Directors for their contributions, with a special thanks to departing board members, Phillis Rawls Goff and Cornelia Eberhart, for their dedication and years of service. We also welcomed two new members, Nathaniel Ober and Marcus Pope. Finally, we would like to thank the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations for their hard work, dedication and thoughtful partnership to our mission.

Lastly, we are sad to share that we recently lost one of our founding board members, James “Jed” Davidson. Jed was a grandson of Agnes Ober and played a large role in guiding the foundation that was established half a century ago. We are grateful for Jed’s years of leadership and vision. May we continue to uphold and live out Agnes’ legacy today and for the next 50 years.


Timothy M. Ober
President, Board of Directors


Grant Highlights

In 2018, Mardag Foundation made 114 grants totaling $3.2 million across Minnesota in our four priority areas. The following is a snapshot of grants made in each area in 2018.

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

A $50,000 grant was given to Cookie Cart to open a new bakery and retail facility in Saint Paul. The new location will serve as a center for organization’s Cookie Cart Saint Paul Youth Career, Life and Leadership Skill Building Program. Cookie Cart engages teens from low-income communities of color in a “earn as you learn” program that gives them the opportunity to build the tools and assets to overcome the barriers to success in education and careers.

A $25,000 grant went to Hispanic Outreach Program of Goodhue County to expand staffing for the Capacity for a Second Decade of Success! program. This organization is unique in being that it focuses entirely on bringing services, resources and information to the growing Hispanic community in Goodhue County. Its need for additional capacity building and staffing is based on the increase in demand for services, specifically direct services.

Supporting seniors to live independently:

The Lower Sioux Indian Community received a $100,000 grant to support its Cansa’yapi Kan Program – Reinstating Our Elders’ Traditional Roles. The Cansa’yapi Kan Program provides Dakota tribe elders in southwestern Minnesota with an informal gathering space and programs within Lower Sioux Indian Community Center’s intergenerational learning center. Funds were also used to purchase equipment for the space in addition to program expenses.

A $200,000 grant went to the Northland Foundation to assist in the expansion of its AGE to age program at two new sites: Barnum and the Mesabi East School District communities of Aurora, Hoyt Lakes and Biwabik. AGE to age pairs older adults from each of these communities with youth to serve as caring adults during non-school hours. The goal is to create intergenerational dialogue in an effort to establish peer and intergenerational learning opportunities.

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

A $40,000 grant was given to the Lanesboro Arts Center to support new Team Leadership at Lanesboro Arts Capacity for Community. This organization is a multidisciplinary arts organization, which activates the people and places of rural Minnesota by empowering and creating opportunities for artists. It offers accessible programs, including visual art galleries, performing arts at the St. Mane Theatre, an annual fine arts fair, artist residencies, public art projects, and educational outreach.

The New Native Theater received a $40,000 grant to help redefine the organization’s business plan and staffing, in an effort to build its stability and capacity to focus on mission centered work. New Native Theater is the only professional non-profit Native American theater company in the Upper Midwest. It provides pathways into the performing arts as a career for Native American artists and community members.

Supporting community development throughout Saint Paul:

A $30,000 grant went to Creative Enterprise Zone’s (CEZ) Organizational Capacity Building for Equitable Real Estate Development initiative. Through this initiative, Creative Enterprise Zone piloted a new commercial real estate development model, in an effort to keep real estate affordable and build community wealth. CEZ’s mission is to “promote and connect individuals and organizations in Raymond-University and Westgate station areas of St. Paul to advance creative, economic and cultural development.”

A $20,000 grant was given to the Housing Justice Center (HJC) to support the organization’s project dedicated to providing access to the rental housing supply in the East Metro. In an effort to remove unfair and discriminatory rental housing barriers, HJC’s project opened up doors to housing opportunities for families and households who’ve performed successfully as tenants, but have been barred from doing so by arbitrary and inaccurate screening standards. HJC employs legal and advocacy strategies to preserve and expand the supply of affordable housing in Minnesota and across the country.

View nonprofits we fund

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