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LISC funds increased with $210,000 McKnight Foundation grant

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Duluth recently received a $210,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation to be used for LISC's Duluth Fund for Neighborhood Development program (DFND).

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Duluth recently received a $210,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation to be used for LISC's Duluth Fund for Neighborhood Development program (DFND).
"It's (the grant) not huge, but it's big news for us," said Pam Kramer, LISC's program director. "It's very good news because the DFND program has become a really important resource for us," she said.
LISC is a national nonprofit organization with 39 offices around the country that provides services and funds to nonprofit community programs. A few local organizations, or Community Development Corporations, that LISC supports include Northern Communities Land Trust, Women's Transitional Housing Coalition and Life House, to name a few.
"We're pretty much a full-scale community development intermediary," Kramer said.
When LISC was brought to Duluth in 1997, the McKnight Foundation gave the organization $125,000 as a start-up grant. In 1998, LISC created the DFND program, which McKnight helped fund for three years at $50,000 a year, Kramer said.
"It's (DFND) really geared toward assisting nonprofits in meeting their goals of creating housing, childcare and commercial and neighborhood revitalization," Kramer said.
Most of the grant money will cover staff training, salaries, support for a new intern program and a real estate development coach who will provide training assistance for six different nonprofits groups and the projects they're working on.
One of LISC's largest investments -- $3.7 million -- was Washington Studios on Fourth Street, which provided affordable living and working space for artists.
LISC also gave $55,000 to Life House up front to help acquire a building and pay for architectural expenses, legal fees and holding costs, along with a $350,000 construction loan. All that money was loaned at 0 percent interest.
"It was a $1.3 million project that we were able to pretty much put short-term money in to get it done," Kramer said.
The list of Duluth LISC's accomplishments since its formation is extensive. Building effective partnerships with Duluth's nonprofits is key to its success.
"I think we've added a real infusion of funding and technical assistance and support that they didn't have in the past," Kramer said.
A major LISC fund-raising campaign is underway. The goal is to raise $1.5 million by 2004. The recent McKnight grant helped launch LISC a quarter of the way into that goal.
"It's a big grant for us," Kramer said. "It's a sign that we're making progress toward our fund-raising goal."

Sandi Dahl is a news reporter for the Budgeteer News. To reach her, call 723-1207 or send e-mail to sandi.dahl@duluth.com .

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