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Grants awarded to Superior nonprofits aim to help vulnerable people

The Superior City Council approved ARPA-funded grants Tuesday that will support food pantries; community gardens; and provide respite care for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Lake Superior Community Health Center new location
Lake Superior Community Health Center, 2222 E. Fifth St. in Superior, was among the nonprofits awarded one-time grants from the city's American Rescue Plan Act funds. The health care provider plans to equip and stock a pantry with necessities for its patients.
Maria Lockwood / 2022 file / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The Tuesday Food Pantry at 1531 Hughitt Ave. expects to provide emergency food assistance to about 5,000 Douglas County residents this year.

The Lake Superior Community Health Center is planning to equip and stock a pantry where patients can get fresh and nonperishable food, toiletries, household items and seasonal clothing.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) in Douglas County is working to provide respite care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

All three organizations will be able to move ahead with their objectives after the Superior City Council awarded grants Tuesday, Dec. 20, in varying amounts for the nonprofit organizations. Funding for the grants comes from $1.25 million set aside from money received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

Tuesday Food Pantry will receive $8,000 to offset increased delivery costs for free food received from Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank to serve vulnerable Douglas County residents over the next two years.

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Mayor Jim Paine said the one-time funding allows the organization to adapt to changes in the delivery costs and gives them time to adapt their fundraising.

The $15,000 in funding for Lake Superior Health Clinic will pay for equipment and provide two years of funding to stock a new patient pantry to provide necessities for vulnerable patients.

NAMI Douglas County was allocated $200,000 to establish a home to provide crisis respite.

Councilor Nicholas Ledin questioned whether NAMI would be able to continue to provide crisis respite care once the one-time, two-year grant ends.

“I would hate to have to see this go away after two years,” Ledin said.

Paine said the money would be used for site acquisition and set up.

Councilor Lindsey Graskey, who helped evaluate the grant applications, said the grant funding includes wages, but the grant puts NAMI in a position to be able to sustain the program.

Superior police officer Bradley Jago, who serves on the NAMI-Douglas County board, said “It’s almost like a drop-in center of some sort, but with a call-ahead function. You couldn’t just show up.”

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The facility would be staffed and provide up to three beds for respite care. For people experiencing a mental health crisis, Jago said it would provide an alternative to hospitalization or staying home. A typical stay would be between one night and seven days.

“Typically, by then, people are stabilized enough to seek other help or return home,” Jago said.

Care for the individuals in crisis is provided by people with lived experience rather than medical professionals. He said in addition to going there, people could call to receive help as well.

The largest portion of nonprofit funding would still likely be used to establish a new house for Harbor House Crisis Shelters, Paine said, a project that could assist NAMI-Douglas County in its efforts to offer crisis respite care.

Other grants awarded Tuesday included $2,500 for the YMCA to establish a community garden on Hill Avenue north of its facility and $7,000 to establish a water line for Superior Community Garden’s site in the vicinity of Oakes Avenue and North 24th Street.

“Community gardens, in and of themselves, do not serve a vulnerable population,” Paine said. “That was what we were primarily looking at. However, both of these organizations specifically orient themselves to serving vulnerable populations.”

The council took no action on a recommendation to award $45,000 to Senior Connections to reimburse costs for purchasing a new van. Councilor Jenny Van Sickle said Senior Connections has other funding sources and revenue streams to support the cost of the purchase.

Annually, the Douglas County Board authorizes Senior Connections to apply for transportation services grants through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation; the county provides the local match. The most recent grant application authorized by the county is for $131,612, which will cost the county about $26,322.

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The council took no action on grant applications that were not recommended for approval by the ad hoc committee of city staff and elected officials who reviewed and ranked the applications.

Funding for equipment purchases by the Douglas County Historical Society and a film festival by Northern Film Alliance didn’t fit the spirit of the city's funding initiative, which sought to support projects that serve vulnerable populations. Paine said other city grants could potentially assist with both.

A new nonprofit, Green Door, did not receive $400,000 for operational expenses for a 24/7 shelter.

“We simply didn’t know if they would be able to continue beyond that,” Paine said.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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