Perham’s industry leaders are coming together to help out the rest of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KLN Family Brands is forming the Perham Area Starfish Fund to help those in the Perham area, according to a news release.

Already, $75,000 has been raised for the fund by KLN and its employees, along with the City of Perham, the Perham Economic Development Authority, Bremer Bank, Service Foods and several local businesses and individuals.

Charlie Nelson, the president of KLN Family Brands, suggested the name of the fund.

“The name came from the inspiring story about a young girl walking along the beach throwing starfish back into the ocean as the tide was going out," Nelson said in the release. "An older gentleman tells her there are so many you can’t possibly make a difference. After respectfully listening, the young girl bent down, picked up a starfish, threw it back into the ocean and replied ‘I made a difference to that one.’ That’s what we are trying to do here, make a difference one at a time."

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Kevin Keil, director of operations at KLN, said this is a great opportunity to help out some of the area businesses that might not make it through this trying time of temporary closures and quarantine. Keil said the idea came from members within the organization about how they could help out.

The first discussion, according to Keil, started with finding 100 people to give $5, and they could present $500 a day to area restaurants, as well as eating at several of the restaurants. However, because Gov. Tim Walz issued a stronger stay-at-home order for the state, the need would be bigger.

“We started thinking about how do we do something more and that’s what originated the larger concept of how do we get more dollars out there to help businesses that we can, which have been impacted by this,” Keil said in an interview with the Focus.

KLN will put in $25,000, and they have received $14,000 from the employees of KLN as well. Keil said several businesses have donated money, and the fund has even received a donation from a person in the Twin Cities.

Businesses in need of the financial help can apply with the City of Perham. Keil said they hope to have the application on the city’s website by Wednesday until April 9. Keil said the feedback they have received from the public has been mostly positive.

“We haven’t talked to a lot of the individual businesses that will probably need the funds, but the feedback from people interested in donating to it have been great,” Keil said. “It has really been a positive thing. We think there will be some need, we don’t know how much need there will be, but we are certainly hoping we can help those that do need it.”

Keil said KLN has been blessed with great employees and to be a part of the Perham community and said this was one of the ways they could give back to the community.

“We are interested in giving back and our employees are interested in giving back to the communities that have supported us over the years and now it’s our opportunity,” Keil said. “We have the ability to hopefully help them get through this.”

Keil said people interested in donating can mail or drop off a check with Perham Area Starfish Fund on the memo line to the City of Perham. The donations are tax deductible.

The funds will be made available to the affected businesses and it will be a grant with no repayment required. Keil said the City of Perham will manage the funds as they are awarded by the committee.

How to apply

The Starfish Emergency Grant is intended for businesses who were directly affected by the pandemic resulting in reduced revenue. Grant amounts will be determined based off the number of applicants, available funding and a scoring matrix, according to a news release.

The grant will be open from April 2 through 9.

Eligibility guidelines:

  • Applicant must be the business owner.
  • Businesses impacted from COVID-19, executive orders may apply.
  • W-9 form must be provided.
  • Funding is not transferrable and other restrictions may apply.
  • Applicant’s business must have a commercial address. Home-based businesses are not eligible.
  • Nonprofits are not eligible.

For more information, contact Kevin Keil at 218-346-8084 or

Completed Applications should be emailed to or mailed to City of Perham/Starfish Grant, Hope Williams, 125 Second Ave. NE, PO Box 130, Perham, MN 56573.