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FM Area Foundation Makes First Ever Mission Related Investment

Lakes & Prairies Community Action Agency purchases new building to expand program offerings

Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership works with and for low-income children, families and seniors throughout the area. They help people take the journey from barely surviving to fully thriving in our community by connecting them to opportunities, providing information and offering programs like Head Start and Family and Community Services.

“Access to high quality early childhood education is simply unattainable for far too many families in our community. Long waiting lists and high costs prevent the most disadvantaged children from receiving a high-quality early childhood education,” said Lori Schwartz, Executive Director, Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership. “Given that the highest rate of return in early childhood education comes from investing in disadvantaged children ages birth to five, it’s time to invest in our future.”

With no room to expand in their main office, and yet, a growing need for the services they provide, Lakes & Prairies set out to purchase additional space for program operations, and located a commercial child care center at 861 Belsly Boulevard in Moorhead for sale. Around the same time they were looking to expand, Schwartz connected with FM Area Foundation Executive Director, Tim Beaton, who was exploring the potential of Mission Related Investments (MRI’s) in the F-M area. They soon discovered their projects could fit together.

“Our board has been discussing how to selectively invest a portion of the assets that support our endowment into our community. This is a concept that has been used successfully by other community foundations across the nation. The goal is to achieve even more positive good than we can achieve with grants alone,” said Beaton.

After meetings between the Foundation and Lakes & Prairies, discussion with the board and a formal request to the impact investing committee, the Foundation made its first MRI to Lakes & Prairies for $100,000 to help complete the down payment for the purchase of the building in south Moorhead.

“We greatly appreciate the partnership we have with the FM Area Foundation on this project,” said Schwartz. “This facility is a perfect fit for our needs to expand our early childhood services in the community. With the addition of this space, we will have the ability to convert our Head Start classrooms to provide full-day programming and pursue opportunities for growth and expansion.”

Beaton said the ultimate goal is to create an MRI revolving loan pool to use for projects similar to this one.

“Based on the experience and recommendations of other community foundations, we are moving into this new effort very cautiously. We want to be certain of the return of our investments as well as a return on our investments. Ultimately, we would like the community to help us create a fund that will allow donors’ gifts to be invested locally and recycled forever,” said Beaton.

If you are interested in learning more, call us at 701.234.0756 or email tim@areafoundation.org.