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Bemidji's Healthy Community Healthy Kids ceases to exist

Healthy Community Healthy Kids has dissolved.

The Bemidji nonprofit organization that focused on primary prevention dissolved effective Dec. 31 due to lack of funding.

Beth DeKrey, a member of the HCHK board of directors and the organization's management team, said the board's priority is to continue the services HCHK offered by finding new homes for its programs.

At the time it dissolved, HCHK included the Suicide Prevention Program, Kinship North and the Bemidji Youth Advisory Commission. A fourth program - the Youth Asset Building Program - ended last summer due to lack of funding.

"It's a really sad thing that we would have to do this," said Gail Skare, a member of the HCHK board and management team.

Evergreen House, another Bemidji nonprofit organization, has taken the Suicide Prevention Program under its wing.

After learning that HCHK was considering dissolving, a number of people approached Evergreen House with the hope it would take over the program, said Becky Schueller, executive director of Evergreen House.

"We've made the decision to do that," Schueller said.

She said currently all funders of the program have agreed to transfer the suicide prevention funding to Evergreen House.

Suicide Prevention Coordinator Stephanie Downy and the program moved from HCHK to Evergreen Shelter in Bemidji effective Jan. 1. Schueller said housing the program at the youth crisis shelter is a good fit.

She also said Evergreen House is "very interested in Kinship North."

At the time HCHK dissolved, the mentoring program had 25 matches with about five children on the waiting list.

Schueller said Evergreen House is now working on securing bridge funding to allow the Suicide Prevention Program and Kinship North to move to Evergreen House and adequate time to develop new resources to make sure the programs can continue.

The Evergreen House Board of Directors also decided to take over the fiscal agent role for the Bemidji Skate and Bike Association. Evergreen House had served as the fiscal agent for the association until March. HCHK then assumed the role.

The BYAC needs a new home. The commission's activities include advising the Bemidji City Council on youth issues and organizing several youth events during the year.

"You have kids really involved, working hard and seeing results," DeKrey said.

Funding faded

A group of concerned citizens established HCHK in October 1994. The organization started with money from the Blandin Foundation and had been supported by grants ever since.

However, funding all but ran out. While HCHK still had money for the Suicide Prevention Program, it was not enough to maintain the HCHK office.

HCHK had a total of three employees. All three received termination letters from the organization.

"This is an example of what's happening with nonprofits," Schueller said.

Moving programs to Evergreen House, she said, is an example of the collaboration that many people predict is going to become part of the nonprofit landscape in light of the current economic situation.

Success shared

HCHK's work was based on research by Search Institute of Minneapolis that outlines a youth development model, which describes 40 building blocks (assets) that all youth need to grow to be healthy, productive citizens, according to the organization's Web site.

Throughout the years, Skare said, HCHK has impacted the community in many ways.

HCHK was the charter organization for the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area.

"It was born here," said Barry Yocom, a member of the HCHK board and management team.

HCHK also wrote the first implementation grant for what is now the Beltrami Area Service Collaborative.

Additionally, HCHK assisted more than 2,000 children through its Youth Asset Building Program. The program awarded scholarships to youth to help them pay fees to participate in activities.

With the cooperation of local schools, HCHK administered the Search Institute's Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors survey every four years. DeKrey said local nonprofits use data generated by the surveys for grant writing.

Yocom said HCHK is grateful for the businesses, foundations, individuals and organizations that have helped make the organization successful.