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Grant merges race relations initiatives

Members of two Bemidji organizations with similar missions for improving race relations recently received a grant to merge their projects. Seated from left are Jim Steenerson, NMF program officer-grants, and Carolyn Jacobs, Shared Vision co-chair. Standing from left are Judy Roy, NMF Board member, and Don Day, BARRC board chairman. Submitted Photo

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation recently awarded a $25,000 grant to the Bemidji Area Race Relations Council to support the purpose and initiatives of BARRC and the Shared Vision project.

BARRC was formed in the mid-80s for the purpose of addressing racial discrimination issues in the community. Since then, several other entities have emerged to take on some of BARRC's roles. The Shared Vision project has a similar mission -- to be a catalyst that encourages community members to work together to expand social, economic, educational and leadership opportunities for people of all races.

Members of both BARRC and Shared Vision expressed the desire to explore coming together to merge or develop an alliance to assure that a strong entity continues to exist to further their similar missions.

According to BARRC board chair Don Day, the BARRC members realized that there is still much work to be done to address racial bias and racial disparity in the area.

"The Shared Vision group has helped the community understand the present racial climate," Day said in a press release, "and has developed a bold community agenda to improve race relations and decrease racial disparity. Combining forces will strengthen the effort to address these issues."

The NMF Community Connections grant will help to guide the merging process with funds for strategic planning consultation and development of a sustainable business model for future operations together.

Along with the NMF grant, the Blandin Foundation is providing an additional $15,000 grant for the project.