Non-profit awards small communities money to build projects

(ABC 6 News) – A non-profit aimed at expanding and growing Southern MN communities has made its selection for the small town grant program.

The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) awarded $190,000 to communities across the region in order to help fund new, community projects.

One of the 22 grant award recipients was the Lions Club in Preston. The club is using their $4,500 grant in order to improve and expand their disc-golf course.

Many people around the town of Preston are excited about the new project.

“It’s nice to see it’s developing as a sport and more people are playing it and it’s getting more popular. You can just go out with your friends and have a good time throwing the disc,” said Trent O’Connor, a resident of the Preston area. “It’s always fun to have more places to play disc golf.”

The President of the Preston Lion’s Club, Andy Bisek, says he hopes new projects like this and others will help expand their community, and bring in new residents.

“Hopefully, it’ll bring people from the Tri-State area up to Preston,” explained Bisek. “I think when people find out how nice the Preston and Lanesboro, Southeastern Minnesota area is, then we might get a few of them that actually will want to stay and make this their home.”

Bisek says while the course is nine holes now, they are adding nine more in the fall. In the spring, he hopes to have nine more completed, making the new course 27 holes for all ranges of players.

Byron Public Schools also received a grant for $10,000. The district said it will use the money to create kitchen spaces inside a new community center. They hope to teach healthy and affordable eating habits to families in the area.

While 22 communities received funds, more than 50 applied. SMIF says, it came down to which projects would do the most good and be the most sustainable for a community.

“Our hope is that we can continue to provide more opportunities, to provide more prosperous communities across southern Minnesota. We have such a diverse landscape of businesses, of organizations and we just want to be able to contribute in ways that we can add value and support the kinds of things that are communities desire to grow,” said Pam Bishop, the vice president of economic development at SMIF.

A full list of grant recipients can be found here.