SMIF Receives Grant to Continue AmeriCorps Program

OWATONNA - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation’s (SMIF) AmeriCorps LEAP (Learning Early Achieves Potential) Initiative was selected to receive continued funding to host 20 FTE AmeriCorps positions focused on school readiness in the nationally competitive 3-year grant round. SMIF's program is one of 13 in ServeMinnesota's portfolio of programs.

Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, stated that there are 75,000 AmeriCorps members serving annually across 60,000 locations in the US. “Minnesota is a true volunteer state,” said Spencer. “The Twin Cities rank first in the nation for volunteer engagement and Minnesota is third in the nation for engaging AmeriCorps members.”

Senator Al Franken, a strong advocate of the AmeriCorps program, also spoke at the awards announcements. “AmeriCorps members develop important skills for a lifetime. They also prove to be better workers and citizens in society,” said Senator Franken. He highlighted that for every dollar spent on AmeriCorps members, there is a return of $3.95 back into our communities.

Since the program's founding in 1994, 900,000 individuals have served in AmeriCorps across the US while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve. Over the past 20 years, 25,000 Minnesota residents have served 38 million hours through AmeriCorps. The state was awarded $33.6 million for the program this year, which will be matched with $26.8 million at the local level. SMIF has served as legal host for AmeriCorps since the inception of the program.

“Twenty years ago I had the honor to help create the AmeriCorps program while serving in congress. It’s made a big difference in Minnesota,” said SMIF President and CEO, Tim Penny. “Our slots are dedicated to early learning support to get preschoolers ready for Kindergarten. ServeMinnesota has been a great partner and we continue to explore how we can further align our efforts on behalf of early childhood families and partners in our region.”

To learn more about SMIF’s AmeriCorps LEAP Initiative, contact Barbara Gunderson at or 507-455-3215, or visit our website at

About AmeriCorps LEAP Initiative (Learn Early Achieves Potential)
The LEAP Initiative is an AmeriCorps program made possible through the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation-Early Childhood Development partnership with ServeMinnesota, and the Corporation for National and Community Service. We are committed to recruiting and engaging individuals without regard to disability, gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. Reasonable accommodations provided upon request.

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