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Horizons receives unexpected gift

Horizons members, from left, Bill Warner, Todd Cameron, Victoria McWane-Creek, Julie Adams, and Lynn Kasma listen to a conference call with West Central Initiative announcing a grant of $5,000 to the Horizons Program of New York Mills.

Lynn Kasma

For the Herald

The Horizons board members met at the school on Tuesday, February 10 expecting a meeting as usual and instead were delighted to receive a conference call from West Central Initiative's Wendy Merrick to announce an outstanding achievement award of $5,000 for a job well done.

The money comes with no strings attached and has already been deposited into the Horizons fund, according to Todd Cameron, the Horizons Coordinator.

For those not familiar, Horizons is a community leadership program designed to reduce poverty in rural areas. It began in New York Mills in the fall of 2007 and involved an 18 month visioning process facilitated by the University of Minnesota Extension Service and funded by the Northwest Area Foundation. Many benchmarks needed to be met in order to obtain the $10,000 grant award, given upon completion, including team building, leadership training, community participation and the identification of assets. Once completed, three areas of needed development were identified including: Economic, Quality of Life and Youth Leadership. Future Squads were assembled to build on these key areas and as a result, a community garden, farmers market and youth council were formed.

West Central Initiative, headquartered in Fergus Falls, was so impressed with the group's achievements they decided to give Horizons an award to continue the good works. According to the WCI website, their main purpose has been to support families and strengthen the economy of west central Minnesota. Since 1992, WCI has supported the retraining of more than one-third of the manufacturing workforce in the region with programs like Workforce 2020 and the Quality Employment Initiative. They focus on three primary areas including: Business and Employment, Communities and the Region, and Workers and their Families.

New York Mills has received over $130,000 in grants from WCI to support the efforts of the Mills IMPACT Team and the Early Childhood Initiative over the past seven years. WCI funds have enabled them to introduce wellness programs in the school and community, extend the School Readiness program, provide summer fun for kids through enrichment classes and pool scholarships, and host the school open house, just to name a few.

WCI has been a beacon of light when needed most and the community has benefited greatly from their aid.