Tri-Valley Transportation Programs Asks, Are You Ready to “Try It”?

Posted by Mitch on April 5, 2017 1:33 PM in Transportation

Try It Commuter Challenge (media)Tri-Valley Transportation Programs in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Transportation is beginning a commuter challenge called “Try It!” In conjunction with the commuter challenge, Tri-Valley Transportation Programs plans to develop a new commuter route service for the area. The service will connect the cities of Crookston and Grand Forks and will begin May 1, 2017. The “Try It!” Commuter Challenge invites those who can benefit from the new commuter route to call Tri-Valley Transportation with any questions and then get out and “Try It!”

The commuter route will pick up at the East Grand Forks Shopko at 6:15 AM and will drop riders off at Crookston employers at 7:00 AM. In the afternoon, Tri-Valley will pick riders up at their place of work at 4:00 PM and drop them off at the East Grand Forks Shopko at 5:00 PM.

This commuter route has been requested several times by residents of both Crookston wanting a commuter route to Grand Forks and Grand Forks/East Grand Forks residents who travel to Crookston for employment and/or educational purposes. Employers are interested in seeing this route once again offered to increase their hiring pools and options.

For more information on the “Try It!” Commuter Challenge, call Tri-Valley Transportation Programs at 1-800-201-3432.

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council to Hold Community Forums in Crookston, Warren, and Ada

Posted by Mitch on March 24, 2017 8:54 AM in Uncategorized

AllSiteForumFlyer(Crookston, Minn.)- Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. will hold three community forums in the month of April. Two of the forums will be held on Wednesday, April 12. The Polk County community forum will be held in Crookston at the Crookston Family Service Center (1407 Erskine St.) and will run from 9-10 am. The Marshall County community forum on April 12 will be held in Warren at the Marshall County Courthouse (old courtroom) from 2-3 pm. On Thursday, April 13 the Norman County community forum will be held in Ada at the Norman County Courthouse Annex (conference room next to Sheriff’s office) from 11 am – 12 pm. These forums are free and the public is encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be provided.
We Value Your Opinion!

Tri-Valley’s Community Forums focus on the needs of the service area, community needs, community strengths, and existing and potential services offered by Tri-Valley.

For more information on, or directions to Tri-Valley’s Community Forums, please contact Mitch Bakken at 1-800-584-7020 or

Agassiz Townhomes in Crookston – Carlson – Different path might jumpstart project

Posted by Mitch on March 23, 2017 3:41 PM in Uncategorized

Working with Wells Fargo could accelerate groundbreaking, Tri-Valley CEO says

By Mike Christopherson (Crookston Times)

In order to get dirt moving sooner rather than later, Crookston’s Agassiz Townhomes project might turn to the private financing sector, specifically, Wells Fargo Bank, while the tax credit investment market remains on hold due to the unanticipated election of Donald Trump and uncertainty over how much his administration will seek to change the nation’s tax code.

Word came earlier this year that the 30-unit townhome project to be built on the west side of North Broadway near the intersection of Fisher Avenue – as well as numerous other projects like it – was on hold at least until the summer as tax credit investors could get a feel for the Trump administration’s intentions regarding the tax code. Agassiz Townhomes is still ideally situated and ready to roll, and is on a “when” and not “if” status after Minnesota Housing in the fall of 2016 approved a financing package for the project that includes widespread local investment and several million dollars worth of tax credits.

But Jason Carlson, CEO of Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, which would take on ownership of the project – as it did previously with the successful Crookston Townhomes project – says that rather than wait for several more months to see if the tax credit marking “gets moving again,” Tri-Valley is instead working with Wells Fargo to keep Agassiz Townhomes progressing toward construction.

“We’re working on a project with them that has good pricing, considering where we think the market will be once it opens up again,” Carlson explained.

But, he added, the switch in strategy doesn’t come entirely without a downside.

“We will have to accept some terms we didn’t think we’d have to back in October,” Carlson said. “But we need to get the project going.”

With a letter of intent from Wells Fargo in hand, Carlson spoke with Minnesota Housing on Wednesday about what Tri-Valley was looking to do to jumpstart Agassiz Townhomes. Other, similar projects are facing similar dilemmas, he added, but he figures Agassiz Townhomes is one of the few with a letter of intent from a bank willing to purchase the tax credits.

“If you recall, we had one of the best projects ever in October with no (financing) gap, and we were on track for a fast closing because (Minnesota Housing) had no money in the project. Now, it’s almost a sure thing that they will, which is not uncommon.

“The election changed our project,” Carlson added. “Such is life.”

He said Wells Fargo approached Tri-Valley about working together on Agassiz Townhomes. If Minnesota Housing looks favorably on the shift in strategy, he said the package could close very quickly. The design work for the townhomes is complete and the building is very close to being shovel-ready. “We’re in as good a position as any project in the state right now,” Carlson stressed, reiterating the Agassiz Townhomes was the only project in greater Minnesota to be awarded tax credits in the 2016 funding cycle, and Minnesota Housing wants to see it completed.

But going with Wells Fargo alters terms of the financing package, including increasing the financial risk in a couple areas. Still, Carlson said, Tri-Valley recognizes the importance of the project and is “willing to forge ahead.”

He added that Tri-Valley tried to find a bank locally to work with, but on the underwriting side, there are things a bank like Wells Fargo is capable of that the local banks simply aren’t. “If you want the king’s shilling, you do the king’s bidding,” Carlson said. “Wells Fargo is in a good situation right now; there’s not a lot of money moving, so they can sort of call the shots. (Minnesota Housing) will have a hard time bending, but they want to get the project moving, too.”


New center is here to alleviate shortage of local childcare options

Posted by Mitch on March 10, 2017 10:11 AM in Head Start, Migrant Head Start

The Learning Tree — a childcare center to meet the needs of all families.

By Deb Moldaschel, Editor (The Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch)

Kurk Kramer, Sleepy Eye EDA Coordinator, said the shortage of childcare options for Sleepy Eye families has been on his radar for several years. “Through my visits with local business people, and discussions with EDA Board members and parents in the community, it was clear that we needed more childcare options here,” he said.

The EDA began to study the issue, including asking for input from local home-based childcare providers. “The providers say we need it,” said Kramer. “They have waiting lists of families needing childcare.”

Why does the EDA care? A shortage of childcare becomes an issue of importance to the local economy, explained Kramer. Businesses need their employees to have childcare services available.

“It’s been a topic of conservation at the economic development workshops and meetings I go to for some time,” said Kramer. “It’s a problem across the state.”

Kramer approached Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, the community action agency that operates the seasonal migrant Head Start program in Sleepy Eye. He found that the Tri-Valley facility (located just south of the public school) had space available to add a childcare program. After many months of meetings and paperwork, a community childcare center opened in the building in January.

The mission of Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. is to provide opportunities to improve the quality of life for people and communities with a focus on child and family programs.

Tara Morrison, Tri-Valley Program Area Manager, said the childcare center is not connected to the Head Start program in the building. “Childcare is another program we offer in Sleepy Eye—to meet a community need,” she explained. “The programs share a facility, but are operated separately.”

Center Manager, Patty Fernandez, said they have openings for children in all age groups: infant, six weeks to 15 months; toddler, 16 to 25 months; and preschool, three years to entry in kindergarten. Each group has a classroom and there is a playground in the backyard.

The center operates somewhat like a preschool. The care providers are all teachers (qualified under the Department of Human Services) and use the Creative Curriculum, with programming tailored for each age group.

“We are a Four Star Parent Aware rated program that prepares children for school,” said Fernandez. “We are here for everyone in the community.”

The childcare center offers two, three, and five day per week agreements. Open all weekdays, from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the only days the center is closed are federal holidays and Christmas week. “We always have staff here: there are no vacation-type closures,” said Fernandez.

Cost for care is the standard rate that the county pays for their clients in other center-based childcare programs.

Both women agreed that the center needs a real name, not just plain “childcare center,” but just hadn’t thought of one. A last minute phone call from Fernandez brought good news. “We have a name,” she said. “The Learning Tree.”

For more information on The Learning Tree, contact Fernandez at 794-7911.


Child Care in Crookston – Tri-Valley gets $51K from state

Posted by Mitch on March 2, 2017 1:55 PM in Uncategorized

By Mike Christopherson (Crookston Daily Times)

Momentum toward easing a shortage of licensed child care slots in Crookston continues to build, with word that Tri-Valley Opportunity Council receiving a $51,500 child care grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) coming on the heels of last week’s news that a daycare center is being sought in the former Church of Christ building at the corner of Fisher Avenue and North Front Street.

In all, DEED awarded $500,000 to eight agencies that will use the money in increase the number of child care providers in their communities.

City Administrator Shannon Stassen in late 2016 indicated in late 2016 that Tri-Valley was pursuing the grant, and the Crookston City Council agreed to come up with the necessary local match. Tri-Valley President/CEO Jason Carlson said the agency sought $59,000. “So we did pretty well,” considering that only $500,000 was available statewide, he added.

But, since he’s still trying to determine what portion of Tri-Valley’s request was not funded, Carlson said he hasn’t wanted to provide many details as to what specific next steps will be taken. The next steps in Crookston will be to form an advisory committee that will include representatives from the City, Child Care Aware, Head Start, and the Crookston Early Childhood Initiative.

“That group will help decide how to distribute the mini-grants and any help for a center-based operation,” Carlson explained. “We are excited to help expand access to quality child care in Crookston.”

More Video: The Crookston High School junior high and senior high bands perform together on stage at Monday’s “All Bands on Deck” concert.

The project description included in the executive summary of Tri-Valley’s grant application states:

“The Crookston project seeks to add 140 child care spaces in the community, growing the child care slots by 40 percent. The project will engage quality caregiving practices through training, technical assistance, and resources. TVOC and its partners believe that increasing the number of spaces is important, but ensuring that these spaces are providing quality services is equally important. In order to accomplish this hefty goal, funds are needed for startup and expansion of family child care providers and child care centers. This project would offer mini grants for new and existing providers who would like to add or increase the number of infant and/or toddler spaces available. Providers could use this mini grant funding for facility modifications to meet licensing, toys, equipment, egress, fencing, safety items, curriculum, or other needs approved by Child Care Aware. Project dollars would also be used for training caregivers to meet start up requirements.”

Carlson added that news of a new day care center being planned in the former church is more good news on the child care front. “A new center is absolutely something this grant will support, assuming their plans include the quality we are striving for in the community,” he said.

The city council approved a conditional use permit request for the day care center in February. Building Official Matt Johnson told the Times at the time that the building could potentially accommodate around 30 children.

Carlson noted that Tracey Sundeen from Head Start and Maureen Hams from Child Care Aware put the grant proposal together, along with their staffs. They collected input fro the City and Crookston ECI in putting it together, he said. “So it really was a collaborative effort,” Carlson said.


Community Members Invited to Learn More About Rewriting the Rural Narrative

Posted by Mitch on January 19, 2017 3:19 PM in Uncategorized

Rewriting-the-Rural-Narrative-Flyer-011117-mediaThe Northwest Minnesota Council of Collaboratives and Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., are excited to sponsor a free-of-charge community event, coming to Thief River Falls and Crookston in February.

Rewriting the Rural Narrative: the “Brain Gain” of Rural America is a presentation featuring Ben Winchester (University of Minnesota Extension Research Fellow) and Christopher Ingraham (Washington Post).

People often lament a brain drain in rural Minnesota—the loss of 18-25 year-olds who leave their small home towns after high school. But there is also an in-migration to these towns of 30-49 year-old adults and their young children. In many cases, those moving into rural communities offset, or surpass, the numbers of those moving away. This, says Extension research fellow Ben Winchester, is a brain gain. This is hopeful news for rural Minnesota. But the trend must be sustained.

Two opportunities to take part in the presentation are available. Thief River Falls will host the event on Tuesday, February 7 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Ralph Engelstad Arena (Imperial Room). Crookston will host the event on Wednesday, February 8 from 10 am – 12 pm at the Crookston Inn (Conference Room).The presentation is open to the public and is free of charge.

To learn more about the research presented, please visit or

Making a difference together in the life of a child

Posted by Mitch on January 13, 2017 3:18 PM in Senior Programs

Bev Holm (left) and Barb Holum (right) are Foster Grandparent volunteers at the Badger school. Sponsored by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Crookston, the Grandparent program “provides opportunities for volunteers to work with one of our most valuable resources- today’s children and youth”. (submitted photo)

Bev Holm (left) and Barb Holum (right) are Foster Grandparent volunteers at the Badger school. Sponsored by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Crookston, the Grandparent program “provides opportunities for volunteers to work with one of our most valuable resources- today’s children and youth”. (submitted photo)

(Article courtesy of The Tribune) – The Badger school currently has two local ladies involved in the Foster Grandparent program.  Founded in 1965, it is one of several programs sponsored by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc., a non-profit community action agency.

Barb Holum of Badger, Minn.,  became involved with the Foster Grandparent program at the Badger School in January 2015.

What sparked Barb’s interest  in becoming involved in the foster grandparent program?

“I wanted to help the school make a difference in the kids’ lives,” she commented.  “The staff is awesome and very concerned for their students but with the curriculum that has to be taught these days they are stressed for time. I hoped to help take a little stress off them and give their students some one on-one-time.” more »

Help is Available for Home Heating Costs

Posted by Mitch on December 15, 2016 3:17 PM in Uncategorized

Keep-Well-Keep-WarmApplications for the 2017 Energy Assistance Program are currently being taken by Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc.

If you feel you may be eligible, either write to Tri-Valley Energy Assistance Programs at 1407 Erskine Street, Crookston, MN 56716 or call 218-281-9080 or 1-866-264-3729 and an application will be mailed to you. You may also access the energy assistance application online at Households may apply only once during the program year of Oct. 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017.

Energy Assistance eligibility is based upon household income and household size. Assets are no longer counted for this program. Both homeowners and renters may be eligible. Households who live in subsidized housing but pay either heat or electric costs may also qualify. Subsidized housing residents who have both heat and electric costs included in their rent do not qualify for energy assistance. more »

‘Saved by the Belt’ given after bus crash

Posted by Mitch on December 13, 2016 3:16 PM in Head Start, Migrant Head Start

Children that were on a school bus during a July, 2015 head-on collision on Hwy. 212 were presented with the ‘Saved by the Belt’ awards on November 9, 2016 to honor how they were kept safe by their seatbelts.

Children that were on a school bus during a July, 2015 head-on collision on Hwy. 212 were presented with the ‘Saved by the Belt’ awards on November 9, 2016 to honor how they were kept safe by their seatbelts.

By Caitlyn Mahlum (News Editor, Advocate Tribune)

Thanks to a simple device located in all modern day vehicles, a group of local children were able to walk away from a frightful crash with minimal injuries.

On July 13, 2015 a Tri-Valley Opportunity Council school bus was traveling eastbound on Highway 212 when another vehicle struck the bus. Anthony Blue, 33, of Granite Falls, was driving the 2014 Kia westbound on U.S. 212 around 7 a.m. near the scenic lookout wayside stop when he crossed the centerline and struck the eastbound, 2010 IC school bus driven by Michelle Groen, 52, of Danube. The school bus was operated by the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, which operates a Migrant Head Start school in Danube. more »

Tri-Valley Foster Grandparents Celebrate a Year of Volunteering

Posted by Mitch on December 8, 2016 3:15 PM in Senior Programs

Our-Saviors-Children-Singing-mediaThe Tri-Valley Foster Grandparents celebrated a year of volunteering at their Christmas Party on Friday, December 2. The event was held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Crookston.

The event was kicked off with a game called “What’s Your Elf Name”. That was followed by entertainment from the kindergarten through 4th graders from Our Savior Lutheran School. The children got everyone in the holiday spirit by singing Christmas songs. Prior to brunch, bingo was played which is always a big hit.

The Foster Grandparents enjoyed a brunch of egg bake and muffins. Following brunch, the group joined together and sang some of their favorite Christmas carols.

The event was enjoyed by all of the Foster Grandparents!

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