Tri-Valley Caring Companion Program To Receive Promising Practice Award

Posted by Mitch on March 11, 2016 2:00 PM in Senior Programs

St. Paul, MN – Eight community initiatives with proven results in moving families toward self-sufficiency will receive Best Practices Awards at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 23rd. Minnesota Community Action Partnership, Minnesota Department of Human Services Office of Economic Opportunity, and the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development have partnered for the past 11 years to evaluate and to recognize initiatives that aim to end poverty across Minnesota.

The awards go to local Community Action programs that have achieved outstanding and measurable impacts in helping low-income households achieve greater economic self-sufficiency and building partnerships across social service, government and business sectors to better meet the needs of local communities.

Awardees include:

  • Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin County: Community Action Legal Services
  • Community Action Duluth: Free Tax Assistance Sites and Circles of Security
  • West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc.: Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (FAIM)
  • Tri-Valley Opportunity Council: Caring Companion Program
  • Tri-County Action Program: Save It, Fix It, Spend It
  • Western Community Action: Wellness Initiatives for SNAP-Eligible Populations
  • Minnesota Valley Action Council: Head Start’s Approach to Two-Generational Father Engagement

Minnesota Community Action Partnership is an association of Community Action agencies that offer the last local line of defense for families in need. Cumulatively, Community Action agencies annually serve more than 200,000 low-income Minnesota families with programs such as Head Start, Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance Programs, Weatherization, Jobs & Employment programs, affordable housing development and support, child care, transportation, food support, and senior services.

Tri-Valley Senior Volunteers Make a Difference

Posted by Mitch on January 21, 2016 1:02 PM in Senior Programs

Now that the holidays are over and the winter doldrums are starting to give way to more pleasant weather, are you looking to get more active or find something meaningful to do? If you answered yes, look into volunteering with Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc.’s Senior Programs. Tri-Valley’s Senior Programs consists of the Caring Companion Program and the Foster Grandparent Program.

The Caring Companion Program consists of companions who are 50 years or older. They help other seniors by visiting with them, taking them to appointments, helping with errands and groceries, playing cards or games, having coffee with them and being a friend to them.  Caring Companions can make a difference in the quality of life for a lonely senior.

The Foster Grandparent Program consists of volunteers who are 55 years or older. They volunteer in schools, Head Starts, Developmental Achievement Centers, non-profit day cares and juvenile centers under the supervision of a teacher or childcare professional. They assist children with activities in which they need assistance and mentor children and youth.

Have you considered the benefits of volunteering?  Here are a few of many:

  1. Volunteering is good for your mind and body.  Your role as a volunteer can give you a sense of pride and identity.  And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
  2. Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy and it is especially beneficial in older adults.  Mortality rate is lower among volunteers and volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.
  3. Volunteering can make you happy.  Helping others kindles happiness.   Research has shown that the good feelings you experience when helping others may be just as important to your health as exercise and a healthy diet.  But it’s the smile from a child or thankful person that shows you’re really making a difference in someone’s life.  And that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

Tri-Valley has Caring Companion and Foster Grandparent opportunities throughout Northwest Minnesota. For more information on how to become a Foster Grandparent, Caring Companion or how to receive Caring Companion Services call Heidi, Jeanette, Jean, Jessica, or Marley at 1-800-584-7020.


Posted by Mitch on January 21, 2016 10:04 AM in MNsure

Local MNsure-certified specialists available for free, in-person enrollment assistance

Crookston, Minn. — The deadline to sign up for health insurance coverage for 2016 is rapidly approaching. Here in Polk, Norman and Marshall counties, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. is offering free, in-person assistance.

Minnesotans looking to enroll in private health insurance coverage, or change their plan, have until Sunday, January 31, 2016, to enroll in health insurance coverage. Minnesotans eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare can enroll year round.

MNsure is the only place to qualify for financial assistance to help make premiums more affordable. If assistance is needed in completing the enrollment process, help is available through MNsure-certified assisters – navigators and brokers located in communities around the state.

If Minnesotans who don’t qualify for an exemption go without insurance coverage in 2016, they will be subject to a tax penalty of 2.5% of taxable income or $695 per adult ($347.50 per child), whichever is greater.

To schedule an appointment for assistance with MNsure please call 1-800-584-7020 and ask for Nancy Ramon or Mitch Bakken.

Minnesotans interested in enrolling should bring the following materials to their appointment:

  • Social Security Number for each person applying
  • Date of birth for everyone in household (not just those applying)
  • Driver’s license, Tribal ID or other ID
  • For non-citizens, Green Card or other immigration documents
  • Last year’s tax forms (1040EZ or page 1 of 1040)
  • Most recent pay stubs
  • Documents for other income sources (social security, unemployment, self-employment, etc.)
  • W2 form or Employer Tax ID Number
  • Employer’s address and contact information
  • Information about any employer-provided health insurance available to each person applying (request this from the employer)

The 2016 open enrollment period began on November 1, 2015, and ends on January 31, 2016. Minnesotans eligible for Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare can enroll year round. As of May 2014, 95 percent of Minnesotans have health coverage—the highest percentage in state history.

Veterans Recognized for Service in Senior Corps

Posted by Mitch on November 10, 2015 1:54 PM in Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Programs

Local Foster Grandparent In-service training puts spotlight on veterans serving through Senior Corps

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc’s. Foster Grandparent Program of NW MN, in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), recognized veterans who have continued their service to America as Senior Corps volunteers.

The event, held in Crookston on November 6, recognized these dedicated individuals as members of National Veteran Corps, which is part of a larger effort to raise awareness of the value veterans bring to communities.  The event is one of nearly 200 ceremonies featuring National Veteran Corps pin presentation taking place across the country throughout the month of November.

“Our commitment to veterans and their families is deep and it’s twofold:  We serve them and we ask them to serve with us.  National service gives our heroes a new mission on the Homefront, a pathway to opportunity, and a better transition to civilian life,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.  “The National Veterans Corps recognizes the family of Senior Corps volunteers carrying out the spirit of our shared values of devotion, honor, and service to our great nation.  This month is an opportunity to salute those who are serving our country again, while bringing attention to the critical work being done by veterans-focused national service programs.”

Gabe, Ron and Dave who are veterans were presented with a special pin, joining thousands of national service members across the country in the National Veterans Corps.  They are a part of the Foster Grandparent Program of NW MN.  Gabe, Ron and Dave have provided countless hours to children throughout our service area states Heidi Simmons, director of Senior Programs.  These three Veterans have been a part of the program for 12, 9, and 7 years respectively, making an impact in over 350 + children’s lives.

To be a part of the Foster Grandparent program and add your impact to a child’s life, please contact the Foster Grandparent Program at 1-800-584-7020 or 218-281-5832.

Photo Caption- (L-R) Gabe Amon, Twilia Evans (accepting for her husband Ron), Dave Vanderhoff

Tri-Valley Foster Grandparent and Caring Companion Programs Hold Recognition Luncheon

Posted by Mitch on October 8, 2015 10:53 AM in Senior Programs

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc. Foster Grandparent and Caring Companion Programs held their annual recognition luncheon at the Crookston Eagles Club on Wednesday, October 7. Heidi Simmons, Senior Programs Director began the event by welcoming the 77 volunteers and guests to the banquet. Jason Carlson, Tri-Valley’s CEO then thanked all of the volunteers for the difference they are making in the lives of others in our communities.

Following the welcome, the Starfish Award was given to individuals who have been nominated by teachers or others the volunteer works with. This year there were three recipients of this award from the Foster Grandparent Program. The award is based off the story of an old man who walked up a shore littered with thousands of starfish.  It goes:  A young man was picking the starfish up and flinging them back into the ocean. “Why do you bother?” the old man scoffed. “You’re not saving enough to make a difference. The young man picked up another starfish and sent it spinning back into the water. “Made a difference to that one,” he said.

Recipients of the Starfish Award were Grandma Emojean Anderson who volunteers at Tri-County School in Karlstad and has been a volunteer since 2003, Grandma Bonnie Strand who volunteers at the Win-E-Mac school in Erskine and has been a volunteer since 2009, and Grandma Selma (Sam) Larson who volunteers at Norman County West School in Hendrum and has been a volunteer since 2001. Presenting the awards were Jean Halvorson (Foster Grandparent Coordinator), Jessica Luckow (Senior Programs Coordinator), and Jeanette Larson (Senior Programs Manager).

Prior to the meal, the group was entertained by well-known local author Eric Bergeson from Fertile.  He spoke on “How to Live to be One Hundred and Three.”   Eric spoke of his experiences in dealing with eldercare and his Aunt Olive who he cared for until she passed away recently at 103.   Eric also had his most recent book A Treasury of Old Souls: Tending, Befriending and Defending the Elderly displayed.

For more information on how to become a Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion or how to receive Caring Companion Services call Heidi, Jeanette, Jean, Jessica, or Marley at 218-281-5832.

Mary Johnson – Champion of Child Safety

Posted by Mitch on October 6, 2015 2:58 PM in Head Start

Mary Johnson, Head Start Assistant Program Design Manager, was presented with the 2015 Champion of Child Safety award on September 24th, 2015 in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota during the seventh annual Minnesota Childhood Injury Summit.  Mary was acknowledged for her many accomplishments and long-term dedication in helping protect children from unintentional injuries, with a particular focus on child passenger safety. Mary leads Head Start’s transportation committee, provides CPR, First Aid, and CARS training to our staff and parents, all in order to ensure our TVOC Head Start services are top-notch!

Congratulations on this well-deserved honor! Many thanks for your continued leadership in helping to keep children and staff safe in our Head Start programs!

Tri-Valley Head Start, Child & Family Programs Takes a Tour

Posted by Mitch on September 15, 2015 1:48 PM in Head Start, Migrant Head Start

Tri-Valley Head Start, Child & Family Programs took a tour to the Owatonna Head Start center, two Migrant camps in Owatonna, and the Elysian Head Start center. The members meet at the Apple Valley Administrative office on Thursday, August 27, 2015 and spent the day learning about our Migrant Head Start families. Members that joined the Tri-Valley staff were Hue Nguyen, Jeanne Dickhausen, Julie Chi, Avisia Whiteman, and Noemi Treviño from Minnesota Department of Education; Dave Snyder and Meghan Holmquist from Minnesota Asset Building Coalition; Haregewoin Tsegaye from Minnesota Department of Human Services; and the President Teresa Luque and Vice President Diana Escamilla from the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start/Early Head Start Policy Council.

Tri Valley marks 50 years

Posted by Mitch on August 20, 2015 3:31 PM in Head Start

Courtesy of Jason Sorensen – Sentinel Staff Writer, Fairmont Sentinel

The Tri Valley Opportunity Council Inc., along with Head Start, incorporated in 1965, is celebrating 50 years of operation.

Originally founded in Crookston for the purpose of fighting the causes and effects of poverty, the organization has since initiated more than 100 different programs. In order to celebrate the day, an open house was held in the Winnebago Center on Wednesday.

According to Nicolee Mensing, program area manager for Tri Valley, the council is a community-action agency, similar to Minnesota Valley Action Council.

Young children enjoy a meal as the Tri Valley Opportunity Council celebrated its 50-year anniversary on Wednesday in Winnebago.

Originally, the service area for the council consisted of Polk, Norman and Marshall Counties near Crookston. When the agency began, the need for programs such as Head Start and Migrant Head Start became apparent, and the council soon expanded.

The Winnebago site is one of 15 centers in the area, located in the education building at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. It hosts Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, an early childhood education program with the goal of preparing children for kindergarten nationwide. The program primarily helps families whose parents work at Seneca Foods in Blue Earth, but is open to other eligible families as well.

The center primarily operates June through October, tied to the seasonal agricultural needs of the Seneca plant, when migrant families are working their hardest.

According to Mensing, the centers provide comprehensive services, including transportation; full day services from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; nutrition services, including breakfast, lunch, and snacks; and qualified teaching staff. The Winnebago site includes an infant, toddler and preschool rooms, each with a bilingual staff person to help children communicate and understand what is happening.

“The main goal of all Head Start Programs is school readiness,” Mensing said. “We also want to prepare families to have their kids in school, and to help them be able to make that transition. While most people may think that school readiness is a bit early for infants and toddlers, we believe it is important to start at an early age.”

Owatonna native crowned Miss Minnesota Latina 2015, aims to better community

Posted by Mitch on July 30, 2015 3:18 PM in Head Start

Article and Photo by ASHLEY STEWART (Owatonna People’s Press)

OWATONNA — Shaylma Salinas of Owatonna always saw herself working behind the scenes.

“I thought I’d be successful, but I’d be helping someone else bring something to light because I was always scared,” she said.

And Salinas admits she still is.

“I’m a little scared yet, but I feel like I can use this experience to help others,” she said.

But something changed this spring.

In addition to graduating from Hamline University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and biology in May, Salinas was also crowned Miss Minnesota Latina 2015.

“I was just in shock,” she said.

Salinas, who has considered herself shy since high school, said she decided to compete in her first pageant this spring after watching Miss Universe 2014.

“I was like, ‘Wow, these women aren’t only beautiful on the exterior, they’re beautiful on the interior and they’re doing great things in their own communities,’” she said.

So, in February she applied to compete in the May 23 pageant in St. Paul.

“I really, really liked it,” Salinas said. “It really challenged me to get out of my comfort zone.”

And with her new-found confidence, she’s aiming high.

Since being crowned Miss Minnesota Latina, Salinas has returned to Owatonna and is working as a toddler head-start teacher at Tri-Valley Head Start, studying for law school, and hoping to start a chain of Operation: Move for School in the community.

Operation: Move for School, which was started by a former Miss Minnesota Latina, is a non-profit organization working to improve nutrition and physical fitness for youth and adults in underdeveloped communities in Minneapolis.

The organization also offers an eight-week fellowship program where high school seniors and juniors can learn about the disparities and controversies surrounding sexual, physical, nutritional, mental and economical health in urban areas.

“Through discussion and activities, they will make connections about how it resonates to their own communities,” Salinas said. “Students will then create their own plan to improve their neighborhood and by the end of the summer, implement it.”

Salinas wants to bring that program to Owatonna.

“I think it’s important to have a program like this located in southern Minnesota,” she said. “It’s a great way for students to learn how they can give back to their community and at the same time learn leadership skills.”

Salinas said the program would be geared toward people between the ages of 10 and 21.

“It’s not set in stone, but I hope to have something before the end of the summer,” she said.

Salinas said she knew she wanted to do a service project in Owatonna after a 10-day mission trip in April with her church, Iglesia Linaje Escogido, to El Salvador.

“It was probably the best decision I ever made,” she said. “One of the things I set myself to do, before the pageant, was to do a service project to help youth in my own community.

“After I got back, I said, ‘Once summer starts, I’m going to flesh out some ideas.’ Then, I won the crown, and it gave me a chance to reach out to more people and organizations.”

Salinas said she’d like to believe she would’ve wanted to start the organization here before winning the crown, but she said she doesn’t know if she would’ve had the confidence to do something big.

“I know I would’ve done service projects here and there, but I don’t think I would’ve thought bigger,” she said.

Salinas will compete in the 2015 Miss U.S. Latina Pageant from Aug. 30 to Sept. 6 in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

“I’m nervous, of course,” she said.

But Salinas said, if she doesn’t win, she doesn’t think she will continue to pursue pageantry.

“It just happened to come my way, and I wanted to try it,” she said. “It was something personal I wanted to do to get outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself.”

Salinas said her dream is to attend law school to create change surrounding medical policy and legal issues within the health care system.

“I really want everyone to have accessible health care and quality care,” she said.

She said she doesn’t know exactly what that will entail, but she’s ready.

“I am only 22, so I still have a lot of growing up to do, but I feel like I’ve done so much and I feel like I have the potential do something more,” Salinas said. “I’m always aiming high.”

UMC senior Hegge and Professor Dingmann visit Head Start to teach kids about bugs

Posted by Mitch on July 27, 2015 8:21 AM in Head Start

By Times Report (Photo courtesy of the Crookston Daily Times)

University of Minnesota Crookston senior Lydia Hegge, who is majoring in Health Sciences and working in the organic chemistry lab this summer, along with Associate Professor Brian Dingmann of the Math, Science and Technology Departments visit with preschoolers at Tri-Valley’s Head Start to teach them about the ABC’s of bugs Thursday.

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