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Evergreen gets federal grant back

BEMIDJI – Evergreen Youth & Family Services has re-secured a federal grant for more than $100,000 in annual funding for three years.

The nonprofit, which operates a youth crisis shelter, had received the grant each year since 1977, but lost the funding for 2012; Evergreen had been one of 10 proposed to receive funding, but money only was available for eight.

Becky Schueller, executive director of Evergreen, has announced the grant was approved at $120,000 a year for three years.

“We didn’t know if (the funding) was likely or not because it was the same competitive grant process,” Schueller said.

She thanked the Bemidji community, which not only donated to the organization in the wake of its lost funding last year, but also campaigned on Evergreen’s behalf for funding this year. Letters were written in support by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Beltrami County Commissioner Joe Vene, area American Indian tribes and state agencies.

The federal grant began funding the nonprofit again Oct. 1, but Evergreen still is dealing with the loss of about $110,000 a year due to state cuts, Schueller noted.

“It didn’t solve all of our problems,” Schueller said of the federal grant announcement, “but it’s a tremendous relief. It allows us to cope with other funding losses without crippling our capacity.”

In an effort to bring in additional dollars, Evergreen, which has six double bedrooms in its shelter, is constructing a new single bedroom.

Occasionally, a particular child comes from a situation where he needs a room to himself. If that happens, and the nonprofit is asked by a county or tribe to take on an additional child, Evergreen has to say no, resulting in a missed opportunity.

The new bedroom would allow such a child a room of his own and keep beds available, Schueller said.

“This bedroom gives us more capacity,” she said.

The new bedroom is being installed at a relatively low cost, thanks to the support from the community, Schueller noted. The Northwoods Habitat for Humanity is providing the manpower and also the expertise with approving plans, an electrician donated his work pro bono, and a “significant” cash donation was made for the specialty door required.

“It’s just incredible,” Schueller said of the community support from the last 12 months. “We’ve had just exceptional support.”

She pointed to local developer Bob Whelan as an example: Whelan took on all of the financial risks in constructing a new facility for Evergreen, which will result in similar operating costs for the nonprofit despite a move to new construction.

Evergreen’s offices and drop-in center, now located at 15th Street and Bemidji Avenue, next month will relocate to 610 Patriot Ave., north of Anne Street. Six furnished apartments are planned for Evergreen on a second floor above the office space.

More than 350 youth and150 families each year are served by Evergreen as they seek shelter, care and family support.

Parents, teachers, counselors and other youth-service providers can contact Evergreen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if they have concerns about a child aged 9-17 who is couch-hopping, afraid to go home, or experiencing any type of personal, school or family crisis.