Brekken says the support of many made for a successful summer

Posted by Mitch on August 20, 2018 11:01 AM in Uncategorized

Courtesy of Mike Christopherson (Crookston Daily Times)

Crookston Public Schools’ Eat United Summer Food Service Program wrapped up its season on Aug. 9, and Crookston School District Food Services Director Anna Brekken reports that 4,725 meals were served at two sites, with 4,580 of those being free meals served to youth from birth to age 18 and 145 meals served to paying adults.

“It was fun to see all the new and familiar faces come out to both Highland and Wildwood parks,” Brekken said.

The program ran for 32 days over eight weeks, with one day at Wildwood Park being cancelled due to severe weather.

Many made this summer’s program a success, Brekken said.

She elaborates: “We had a great group of volunteers that helped serve the students daily from varying organizations which include Cathedral School, Crookston Public Schools, Trinity Lutheran Church, Tri-Valley Foster Grandparent Program, Polk County Public Health, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, American Crystal Sugar, University of Minnesota Extension, Riverview Health, and the United Way of Crookston,” Brekken said. “It’s also important for me to recognize Scott Riopelle and the Parks and Recreation Department for allowing us to use their beautiful parks all summer to run this program. They did a wonderful job keeping the facilities clean and helped with any questions or concerns I had this summer. We could not have ran this program without the support of our volunteers and Crookston Parks and Recreation Department.”

An important component of the program is Tri-Valley Opportunity Council providing free transportation to and from the meal sites on T.H.E. Bus.

“This allowed students to participate in this program from neighborhoods outside of our service sites,” Brekken said.

A grant from the United Way of Crookston covered some of the labor costs this summer, she added.

The Summer Food Service Program is a nationally funded program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to Host Lunch & Learn at Tri-Valley on Tuesday, August 21

Posted by Mitch on August 14, 2018 10:08 AM in Uncategorized

Minnesota Council of Nonprofits will host a lunch and learn at Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. in Crookston (102 N. Broadway) on Tuesday, August 21 from 12 – 1:30 pm. There is no charge for this event and everyone is invited to attend.

This month’s topic is “Innovative Energy Efficiency Strategies and Tactics to use in the Nonprofit Sector” presented by Joel Anastasio from the Headwaters Regional Development Commission (HRDC). Information that will be discussed includes, tactics that nonprofits can use to reduce their energy use, material and products that are available on the market and grants and other opportunities.

If you have any questions about the lunch and learn, please contact Ashley Charwood, Northwest Minnesota regional coordinator, at or 218-407-5202.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) was founded in 1987 to meet the increasing information needs of nonprofits and to convene nonprofits to address issues facing the sector. It is the largest state association of nonprofits in the U.S. Through MCN, nonprofits join together across interest areas to work on issues of common concern to all.

Glencoe Center Holds a Mini Farmers Market for Children

Posted by Mitch on August 13, 2018 2:04 PM in Uncategorized

The Glencoe center held a mini Farmers Market for children on August 10 as part of the Farm to Early Care Initiative in celebration of National Farmer Market Week (August 5-11). Local produce was donated from the Farm of Minnesota located in Hutchinson, MN. The Farm of Minnesota is one of the local farms that will be supplying some of TVOC’s Head Start Centers with fresh, organic, and locally grown produce. Members of Glencoe’s fire department and police department came out to volunteer as well.  Tables were set up in the parking lot with samples of different fruits and vegetables. The children were able to walk around to each table and sample produce such as purple beans, peppers, squash, watermelon, raspberries, tomatoes and so much more.   Jami Lee, Child Nutrition Manager, also read stories about vegetables to the children after they finished with the Farmers Market.  All children were able to bring home a bag of corn on the cob and apples!

Boudreaux Receives Years of Service Recognition from MinnCAP

Posted by Mitch on August 10, 2018 10:25 AM in Uncategorized

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. staff attended the Minnesota Community Action Partnership (MinnCAP) Annual Training Conference held on July 31 – August 2 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud, Minn. Staff took part in legislative general sessions, listened to speakers on various topics, and took part in several educational breakout sessions.

In conjunction with the annual training conference, 25 Year Honorees were recognized for their dedicated service and commitment to Community Action. Tri-Valley’s Cindy Boudreaux (Health Services Manager) was honored for her 25 years of work with Tri-Valley in Crookston.

(A short bio on Cindy from the event): Cindy started her Head Start experience as a Head Start child where she was introduced to new and exciting things she had never seen before. For the past 25 years, Cindy has undeniably impacted countless children and families through her work.

Cindy has been instrumental in providing high quality, innovative health services and health education to children and parents. Her team provides CPR training, educates Pregnant Women and performs Child and Teen check-ups, which generates income for the program. Admirably, while doing this, Cindy is a strong advocate for families and staff, displaying empathy and compassion in everything she does.

(Photo L-R): Arnie Anderson (MinnCAP Executive Director), Cindy Boudreaux, and Francie Mathes (Office of Economic Opportunity)

Tri-Valley’s Hedden and Young Graduate from UCLA’s Head Start Management Fellows Program

Posted by Mitch on August 10, 2018 10:22 AM in Head Start, Migrant Head Start, Uncategorized

Melody Hedden, (Family and Community Services Manager) and Christine Young (Identification and Recruitment Manager) at Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. in Crookston recently completed training at University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Head Start Management Fellows Program. They were two of 38 graduates from UCLA’s intensive leadership program.

“The Head Start Management Fellows Program played a vital role in moving me from a “shouldn’t have been to a look at me now.” I was a Head Start child who transitioned into a Head Start parent and later a Head Start staff person,” states Hedden. “Head Start has been loyal in supporting and encouraging my professional development, which led to applying to the fellowship program. Through the classes at UCLA, I developed and sharpened skills that will be vital in supporting children and families,” Hedden adds.

Throughout the program, participants are taught how to lead effectively and deliver developmental services in changing environments, secure funding, implement programs and network with other Head Start executives across the nation. Since the program’s inception, 1,560 executives have graduated with enhanced management and leadership abilities.

Designed from a strategic planning perspective, the UCLA Head Start Management Fellows Program provides a unique opportunity for Head Start executives to participate in a 12-day, intensive leadership and management development training session at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Since 1991, the program has trained over 1,400 Head Start directors and managers who provide comprehensive services to nearly 1 million economically disadvantaged children and their families each day.

Photos L-R: Melody Hedden, Christine Young

The Le Center Community is Invited to Our Open House on August 10th

Posted by Mitch on August 6, 2018 11:55 AM in Uncategorized

(Le Center, Minn.)- One of Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc.’s Head Start, Child and Family Program’s Administrative Office is excited to now be located in the community of Le Center. For that reason, the Head Start office plans to hold an open house for the Le Center and surrounding communities on Friday, August 10th from 10 am – 7:30 pm. The office is located at 200 East Bowler Street and there will be cookies, refreshments and games.

Tri-Valley has been a part of the Le Center community since 2001. The Migrant and Seasonal Head Start serves Le Sueur County and was in Montgomery from 2001 to 2008 and moved to Elysian where it currently is since 2009. Tri-Valley Opportunity Council is contracted with the Minnesota Department of Education to identify and recruit students ages zero to under 22 that have not graduated and qualify for the Title I Part C Education of Migratory Children. The Head Start Program serves children 6 weeks to 5 years of age and pregnant women. Transportation, health services, education services, and family services are included in the Head Start Program that typically runs from May to November.

Migrant and Seasonal Head Start services are provided to 792 children, pregnant women, and families through center-based options in Minnesota and North Dakota.  The goal of the project is to provide comprehensive services to children and their families building upon successful operating practices already in place. Tri-Valley’s mission is to provide opportunities to improve the quality of life for people and communities.

Tri-Valley operates and manages a wide range of programs that fall under four divisions:

  • Community Services: programs include Child Care Resource & Referral, Community Assistance Programs (LIHEAP, SNAP, etc.).
  • Transportation Programs: provides public transportation services in eight counties in northwest Minnesota.
  • Senior Programs: programs include the Foster Grandparent Program and the Caring Companion Program.
  • Head Start, Child & Family Programs: programs the Region V Head Start and Early Head Start, Region XII Migrant and Seasonal Head Start and Early Head Start, Migrant Child Care Child Care, Title I Part C Recruitment and Identification, Title I Part C Health Services, and the Summer Food Service Program.

Local head start administrator graduates from UCLA management program

Posted by Mitch on July 23, 2018 2:30 PM in Head Start

Courtesy of the Le Center Leader.

Local Head Start executive Christine Young completed some training that will ultimately benefit children and their families from the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., in Le Center, MN.

Young is one of 38 graduates of the 2018 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Head Start Management Fellows Program. This program is an intensive 12-day leadership and management development program, conducted at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“Head Start creates the foundation for a wonderful future for children and their families,” said Yasmine Daniel-Vargas, director of the National Center on Program Management and Fiscal Operations.

The program was developed in 1991 to strengthen the management and leadership skills of Head Start administrators and is currently funded by the Head Start National Center on Program and Management and Fiscal Operations.

Throughout the program, participants are taught how to lead effectively and deliver developmental services in changing environments, secure funding, implement programs and network with other Head Start executives across the nation. Since the program’s inception, 1,560 executives have graduated with enhanced management and leadership abilities.

“Graduates of the UCLA Head Start Management Fellows Program have introduced successful community initiatives that make a lasting impact on the health, nutrition and school readiness of the children they serve,” Daniel-Vargas said. “The commitment of the UCLA Anderson School of Management to teaching excellence is a hallmark of the program’s enduring success.”

Head Start programs provide comprehensive developmental services to low-income preschool children and their families. Head Start also provides a range of medical, dental, mental health and nutrition care as well as parent involvement services.

Program directors supervise nearly 259,000 paid staff and more than one million volunteers nationwide. In 2016-17, Head Start programs served 1,070,000 children ages birth to five and pregnant moms, making a total of more than 35 million since its inception in 1965.


Child Care in Crookston – Finding new providers is slow going

Posted by Mitch on June 8, 2018 4:14 PM in Uncategorized

(Article by Mike Christopherson – Crookston Daily Times)

Maureen Hams, with Child Care Aware at Tri-Valley since 1989, says she’s never seen a shortage of licensed child care slots this severe in Crookston, and she acknowledges she thought a state grant to help tackle the problem would have had a much greater impact by now

Maureen Hams has been at this for a long time, since 1989, to be exact. She supervises several programs under the large Tri-Valley Opportunity Council umbrella, and one of them is Child Care Aware, which provides technical assistance, resources, and other forms of support to child care providers and parents, as well as communities who are looking to grow their licensed child care options.

In other words, Hams is an expert, an expert who’s never seen a child care shortage in Crookston as severe as the current one.

The thing is, when the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development last year awarded a $50,000 grant to Tri-Valley to work specifically on reducing the shortage, in partnership with the City of Crookston and other stakeholders, Hams figured all of the money would have been given out by now, in the form of mini-grants to new licensed child care providers.

But that’s far from the case. As of this week, only four mini-grants have been awarded, eating up only $8,000 of the $50,000 grant. The window to spend the grant money has already been extended once by the state, Hams said, but the Dec. 31, 2018 deadline to spend it all or give it back will be here in no time, meaning progress better ramp up significantly and in short order.

“My expectation was we’d get 10 new providers and it would be a piece of cake,” Hams said during a chat in the Tri-Valley conference room. “It has not happened, and I am surprised.”

City Administrator Shannon Stassen, who serves on the committee formed to address the shortage and has had many discussions with Hams, said he remains confident that “Crookston will see an increased number of child care slots” over the next year.

The committee on which Hams, City officials and other stakeholders serve has no choice but to keep plugging away, she said. “We just have to keep working and find the right fits, because this (career) isn’t just for anyone,” Hams said. “You need the right person who has the right passion for kids, and yet a business sensibility so you can run your business. Plus, your home has to meet certain requirements.”


How many home-based child care slots are there currently in Crookston? 180

How many center-based child care slots are there, such as at the U of M Crookston’s Children’s Center? 164

A “gap analysis” of the child care shortage in Crookston determined how many additional slots just for infants are needed? 121

The initial goal of the $50,000 grant from the state was to add how many licensed child care slots in Crookston? 130

Since the $50,000 grant from the state was awarded more than a year ago, how many mini-grants have been awarded in Crookston and how much of the grant has been spent? 4 mini-grants have been awarded, totaling $8,000 of the $50,000 total grant

With one extension already approved, what’s the deadline to spend the entire $50,000 grant, otherwise the unspent funds have to be returned to the state? Dec. 31, 2018

But on the other hand, child care providers get to be their own boss, they get to set their own hours, and they choose families and kids that are the best fit with them philosophically, Hams added. “Of course the family is interviewing you as well, but that’s what’s beautiful about this…finding the best fit both ways,” she said.

According to Hams’ latest data, Crookston is currently home to approximately 180 licensed home-based child care slots, and 164 child care center-based slots, such as the Children’s Center at the U of M Crookston or the Sunrise Center at the Cathedral Church. The initial goal of the grant was to add 130 licensed child care slots in Crookston, Hams said, and by far the greatest need right now is for infant slots. In an “initial gap analysis” for Crookston, it was indicated that the community needed 121 more spaces for infants alone.

Regulations over burdensome?

As more time has passed and the grant’s impact has lagged behind expectations, a storyline has emerged that new providers are hesitant to enter the licensed child care field because the myriad of rules and regulations are too strict. While Hams said she hears various complaints from time to time from experienced providers when the association of local providers gets together for meetings, she also thinks that new providers might be more willing to accept the regulations, even some of the newer ones that have been especially criticized, because they don’t know any better, and they might actually want as much guidance and direction as they can get.

“It’s the first time in the business so they don’t know how to do it. ‘I have to do pre-training? OK. I have to follow these requirements? OK, I can do that,’” Hams explained. “They don’t have another perspective; their only perspective is they’re caring for other people’s kids, so there should be rules.”

In her view, Hams said concerns about regulations pale in comparison to lack of health insurance for child care providers. “If you need health insurance, this is not the business for you,” she noted.

Hams agrees some regulations can be a bit much, like a new one that would require immediately family members of home child care providers to be photographed and finger-printed. But another new regulation, the requirement to formulate and post an “emergency plan” in the event of an emergency, are for the most part based on common sense. “If something happens, when you do evacuate? How do you evacuate? When do you shelter in place?” Hams said. “Those are things you’d want to know and have established, I would think.”

Center-based approach

Hams acknowledges that providing so many new licensed child care spaces in Crookston is going to be even more of an uphill battle if a few slots are simply added here and then via home-based child care operations. A “center-based solution” would obviously have a bigger impact, but she also knows that opening a child care center or two involves a much larger scope, likely more partners, and a lot more money.

“On the infants and toddlers solution alone, a center would be a really big step,” Hams said, adding that she thinks incorporating a center-based approach as stakeholders work to add child care spaces in Crookston is wise. “Yes, it’s expensive, yes, there are regulations, but for a community the size of Crookston, a center is a realistic option,” she said.

A sort of hybrid between a center and a home-based operation would be a central location where multiple providers have their own specific place for the kids in their care under one roof, but then they share a common outdoor space, restrooms and a kitchen area. There was some quiet chatter recently in Crookston about possibly having a similar operation in a potentially renovated Central Junior High School building downtown, but Hams, while liking the concept, said that wouldn’t be doable…yet. The state Department of Health and Human Services hasn’t yet decided if it will allow such an operation, so right now it would be a “no go.”

The poster child that is spurring growing interest in child care operations on a similar scope is found in Detroit Lakes, Hams said, where the operation revolves around Head Start. “The state is wondering if it’s a good idea to do it without the Head Start collaboration,” she said, adding that the debate might end up involving the legislature at some point.

Pressure created by shortage

When Hams attends gatherings of the local child care provider group, she hears constant chatter about the shortage, who’s getting the most calls from parents in search of child care, who has the longest waiting list, etc. She heard one provider recently had a waiting list 26 names long.

“Since I’ve been doing this, there have been constant ebbs and flows, but this is the worst I’ve seen it,” she said. “We’ve done recruitment projects over the past 25 years, and then we’ve actually had too many (available child care spaces). Now, I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Experienced providers are retiring, she said, and there’s no one to fill the void. Whether it’s local businesses not being able to attract workers or school district enrollment suffering, Hams said she agrees that at some point a child care shortage of the degree Crookston is currently experience does “start to stunt” community growth and progress.

“We seem to have viable locations but a shortage of providers may be the biggest challenge right now,” Stassen told the Times. “Like every profession, child care is experiencing a loss of quality workforce due to retirement. We are working hard to replace those valued providers.”

Hams said efforts to publicize the grant have run the gamut. Efforts have especially been made to target young families that might see the benefit of having a parent watch their own children for free at home while getting paid to take care of children from other families, Hams noted. Word of mouth is often an effective tool, too.

“There might be a provider working with a family and she says, ‘You know, you’d be good at this, too,’” she said. “And students at UMC, we’ve had good luck with a few of them that have gotten into the business.”

Students at UMC studying early childhood and early childhood education need to know, Hams noted, that they will have job security. “You’re not going to make a ton of money, but you are going to be employed,” she said. “And it’s especially a win-win if you have your own kids.”

The fact that the extreme child care shortage remains in Crookston and that investments courtesy of the grant have been painstakingly slow to transpire hasn’t dampened Hams’ enthusiasm. If nothing else, it’s shown how critically employment high-quality and high-quantity child care is to a community, and even a region.

“It’s exciting for the child care field, to be able to say we are a part of the infrastructure in a community,” she said. “How will we manage community growth without child care? It’s exciting to watch the change this growing need is having on our industry. People are taking these jobs extremely seriously, they see how important this rewarding work is to a community.”


Tri-Valley Kicks Off Summer Food Service Programs in June

Posted by Mitch on May 23, 2018 11:20 AM in Uncategorized

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to think about how children who receive free or reduced-priced lunch in school will eat healthy while school is out. Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. provides free meals to children during the summer.

Eleven of Tri-Valley’s centers throughout Minnesota and one in North Dakota will offer Summer Food Service Programs. Locations include, Breckenridge, Brooten, Crookston, Danube, East Grand Forks, Elysian, Glencoe, Grafton (ND), Owatonna, Sleepy Eye, and St. Cloud. Center locations and times of service can be found at Other questions can be directed toward Jami or Deb at 218-281-5832 or 1-800-584-7020.

Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP) are a federal child nutrition program funded by the USDA. SFSP is designed to provide healthy meals during the months of June, July, August, and September when school is out to kids and teens ages 18 and under and available to persons with disabilities, over 18, and who participate in school programs for people who are mentally or physically disabled.


Posted by Mitch on May 16, 2018 11:28 AM in Uncategorized

The Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority (CHEDA) brought the board, city council, Crookston Chamber of Commerce, and other interested parties on a tour of housing options in Crookston after their meeting on Tuesday morning.

One of the stops was at the Agassiz Townhomes on the north end of Crookston.  The tour was led by Jason Carlson, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council CEO, who showed off a two room and a three-room townhome.  Carlson said the townhomes are well built. “We are really proud of it.  We feel this will be a wonderful addition to the community, utilizing that brownfield site first and foremost is going to be a big deal and the quality of units we are bringing online is going to be a benefit to the community,” said Carlson. “We are held to some very high standards with the framing, insulating, and air sealing which demonstrate how well built these buildings will be when they are complete.”

Two of the townhome buildings are up with work being done on the inside while the framing of a third building is currently being worked on. “When the foundation is complete (on the third building), they will move to the south side of the property and build three more buildings which will generally be the same orientation with smaller buildings close to the middle of the property and a larger on the south end of the property line,” said Carlson.

There will be 18 three-bedroom units at 1,568 square feet and 12 two-bedroom units at 1,322 square feet with attached garages. “There will be at least a half-bath on the main floor of all the units, a full bath upstairs,” said Carlson. “All of the units will have heating and cooling and everything a family would need.”

The estimated rent for the two bed room townhomes is $680 per month with an estimated utilities cost of $110 per month.   The three-bed room rent will be $745 with estimated utilities at $131 per month.  “This absolutely was targeted to the lower income workforce, that is why there are so many three bedroom and two-bedroom units.  There isn’t a single bedroom or studio units,” said Carlson. “We are hoping families that work in town will choose this new development and have children for the school district and make their home in Crookston.”

They are hoping to start leasing units on the north-end of the property sometime in August or September and the rest of the units in October.  The project was made possible by the work of many entities working together. “It has been a wonderful partnership between the city and CHEDA and a lot of local employers that contributed and Tri-Valley and I am going to preach about that until the folks are tired of hearing from me,” said Carlson. “It is a community project and I was very happy to show off some tangible progress.  We all have different resources we can bring to the table and work to combine those resources, we can do a lot more together than we can individually.”  (Photos courtesy of KROX Radio)

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