Community Investment Grants

Investing in the Sherburne County Area

Community Investment Grants

Community Impact Grants are one way Sherburne County Area United Way invests donations back into our communities. United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Programs awarded funding work to improve the lives of local people in Big Lake, Elk River, Nowthen, Otsego, Princeton, Santiago, and Zimmerman. 

In 2023, we transitioned to a two year grant cycle. Applications were accepted through March 2023. In April, at our Community Investment Day, trained community volunteers worked together to score submitted grant proposals, and conduct on site interviews of applicants. 

2023-2025 Funded Partners

Aeon works to provide accessible, inclusive housing for low-income households. They are working to develop Goldenrod Glen in Big Lake, which will be a new affordable housing community for older adults in Sherburne County. Goldenrod Glen will offer 74 affordable apartment homes in a community specially designed to respond to older adults’ needs and preferences for aging in place.
Goldenrod Glen will not only offer a home for residents, but also a community. With multiple community spaces for socializing, a coffee bar, fitness center, and opportunities for activities.
Since this project is breaking ground later this year, we were able to visit another existing community, Parkview Villa in Columbia Heights, where we met the on site staff and residents as they were preparing for an evening full of activities for National Night Out. We heard about the resident hosted coffee hour that happens daily and experienced the amazing sense of community existing in the building.
You can find out more about Aeon and the work they’re doing here:


Big Lake Community Education brings people together outside of school hours to promote lifelong learning. They have been finding more and more that some families, especially during the summer, do not have the transportation means to get to the school campus.
They applied for a Community Impact Grant to help with their plan to purchase a trailer. The trailer will be used to travel around the community for various events and programs, such as ECFE in the park, they plan to start using the trailer next summer to bring even more programming into the community!
Find programs here:

Big Lake Community Food Shelf works to fight hunger in the area through their food shelf and other services. They have a choice model food shelf with online ordering and mobile delivery available, they also have a pop up pantry every Tuesday, and a Freebie Friday program. They offer cooking classes and other programming to help those in need in the area.  Find out more via their website:

Interview with Executive Director Sandy McClurg on the Community United Podcast:



CAER has been working to fight hunger in the area for more than 40 years. The Kid Weekend CAER Package focuses on providing healthy food every weekend for school-age youth when they don’t have access to school meals or other resources. The total number of youth (18 and under) seeking food shelf assistance increased 55.3 percent in 2022. Sherburne County experienced a 242.1 percent increase in overall food shelf usage – the fifth highest percent growth in the state. One in 11 kids don’t have access to the nutrition needed to thrive. The Kids Weekend CAER Package program is addressing food insecurity experienced by youth in the Sherburne County and Wright County communities.

Find out more on their website:

Great River Faith in Action supports the needs of the elderly and families/individuals in need throughout Sherburne County, and parts of Wright & Mille Lacs County’s in Minnesota.
They help elderly & disabled folks live independently in their homes for as long as it is safe and reasonable for them to do so, reducing the need for them to move into a nursing home. This is done through a volunteer network which performs basic services including: transportation, housekeeping, yard work, home repairs, friendly visits and more.
In addition, they provide furniture and household items to struggling families/individuals through our Furniture for Families Program.
You can find out more about them on their website:


Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines provides Sherburne County area girls the chance to receive support and development opportunities from local, caring adult volunteers. The Girl Scout program is based on Girl Scout’s Leadership Experience, which highlights building successful girl leaders in our communities.

Programming is based on leadership development, self-esteem building, reducing risky behaviors, advocating for themselves and others, learning new skills, and acquiring knowledge. Girl Scout activities enhance education by providing a curriculum that complements state and federal academic standards. Young women who take part in Girl Scouts develop positive attitudes like self-confidence, learn how to foster beneficial connections, and acquire problem-solving skills.


Healing Heartbeats thru Hoofbeats provides equine assisted coaching in Big Lake. Equine assisted coaching is the interaction with horses to assist with mental and physical well-being, personal development, and confidence. Horses communicate clearly through their bodies and their energy. They do not judge. They are a true partner in helping people overcome personal or professional obstacles. The goal of HHtH is help more and more people get the services they need but can’t afford. 

Find their website here:

Magnus Veterans Foundation works to promote healing and restoration for veterans and their families. They provide the resources they need to bridge the gap between service and home at their beautiful Wellness Campus in Dayton. The campus is a welcoming community of members, health specialists, and volunteers working together to provide a comprehensive approach to veteran well-being. Through their Five Performance Pillars model, we aim to understand and address the concerns of those who have served, to help restore the warrior spirit, and to ensure veterans and their families remain healthy, complete, and connected.

Find out more:

Interview with Shawn Alderman on the Community United Podcast:



Rivers of Hope is a domestic violence center working to end family violence. Located in Monticello, they serve Wright and Sherburne counties.

Rivers of Hope is working to address the critical needs of domestic violence survivors in Sherburne County by providing continued advocacy services and increasing domestic violence education. The organization has seen a significant increase in the number of people accessing domestic violence advocacy services, with over 1,000 victims and survivors served in the past year alone. With an increase in awareness of Rivers of Hope’s services in the community, the organization anticipates that the number of survivors accessing their services will continue to rise.

Interview with Hannah-Ruth Patterson, Executive Director, on the Community United Podcast:

The mission of The Wave is to be a safe and welcoming place that meets the needs of the body, mind, and spirit of the youth in the community. Serving middle and high school students from Sherburne County and surrounding areas, their services are free to remove financial barriers. Many of the students face marginalization due to factors such as race, gender identity, sexuality, or economic background. They serve many underprivileged youth, those not involved in extracurricular activities, and those at risk of dropping out of school.
The Wave has three main programs, a Mentoring Program, a Good Neighbor & Community Stewardship Program, and Mental Health & Well-Being program.
To learn more about The Wave’s programs, visit their website
Interview with Molly Schroeder, Executive Director, on the Community United Podcast

The mission of Spark 2 Hope is to provide a secure setting that is inclusive to children and adolescents of varying special needs. We provide sensory integrations needs, behavioral supports, and assist children to engage with peers and find a better sense of self. This allows them to engage and grow socially, emotionally, physically and make lifelong connections.

They are working with a large and open outdoor fenced in classroom area, to utilize this space for “More Green Time Instead Of Screen time.” They are working to have adaptive and creative ways to bring learning and growing together for the children they serve. Introducing an outdoor classroom would greatly enrich their time spent at the center.

Interview with Lana Lambrecht, Executive Director on the Community United Podcast:

Thumbs Up works to bring awareness to mental health and provide support and resources to all. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a rapid increase in the number of people suffering from mental health problems. With a healthcare system already overburdened and seemingly unable to deal with the rise in mental health issues, America is facing what is being called a mental health crisis. Therefore, a significant area of focus for Thumbs Up continues to be one-on-one interaction, building community, and offering alternatives to mental health care through daily interactions and positive mindset strategies and interactions.

The No One Sits Solo™ Program addresses one of the common social isolation concerns inside middle and high school lunchrooms across America. Students did not have a friend or companion to sit in the lunch room. Through a video, worksheets, and promotional materials, they are working to boost morale inside of schools and lessen the amount of social isolation in the lunchroom and other areas of the school.

Timber Bay’s primary focus is reaching out to vulnerable youth. They offer four primary services to students and families and emerging young adults, including weekly groups, weekend camp opportunities, mentoring, and an alumni group. They enable families and individuals by providing transportation, mentorship, groups, and events available to all.

Weekly group meetings for middle and high school students filled with healthy food, simple fun, practical faith and life skill lessons, and friendship opportunities in a safe environment with peers and caring adult mentor/leaders.

Find out more:


The mission of Main Street Family Services is to equip individuals and families with solutions, resources, and practical strategies needed to thrive. Our vision is that all family members will feel nurtured, valued, joyful, hopeful, empowered, and connected.

They are aiming to further their mission and vision by supporting individuals, children, and families to rebuild their lives, restore relationships, find connection and belonging in their homes and community, and provide resources to support resiliency so everyone can have bright futures and become all they were created to be. 

Interview with Julie Schultz, Executive Director, on the Community United Podcast:

Open Doors for Youth is a drop-in resource center in Elk River, MN, serving youth (16 – 24) who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. They provide a safe and welcoming place where young people can get assistance with immediate needs. Open Doors helps them make connections to service providers in the community who help them with goals in the areas of employment, education, housing, and well-being. Their services are easily accessible to all youth that are in need of help. Young people can access help by visiting the drop-in center, connecting with case managers and a therapist through virtual connections, or through outreach at high schools in Elk River and surrounding communities.

Tri-CAP is the federally designated community action program for the 3 county area of Benton, Sherburne, and Stearns counties. They provide a multitude of services to help thousands of low and moderate-income residents achieve and maintain social and economic self-sufficiency.
Find out more about their work:
Interview with Laurie Schultz, Executive Director Tri-CAP on the Community United podcast.

Information coming soon


Math Corps was designed to fill a gap in evidence-based, supplemental tutoring to boost more students to math proficiency and confidence before high school, without disrupting the school schedule. Our key partners are the schools that each year provide space for interventions to take place and to dedicate staff time to coaching the tutor; tutoring is provided to students for free.

Serve MN operates 4th-8th Grade Math Corps in Sherburne County, with 80 students expected to receive services during the 2023-24 school year in Big Lake, Elk River, Zimmerman, and other area schools.

Find out more:


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