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.

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Awards BookStart Grants

Posted by Mitch on June 25, 2015 11:56 AM in Head Start

Article and Photo courtesy of the Mankato Times

OWATONNA, MINN. — Representatives from early childhood organizations gathered at the office of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) in Owatonna today to celebrate 13 years of the BookStart program and 28 new BookStart awardees.

This year, SMIF awarded 10,000 books with a total value of $163,421 in partnership with Capstone,a leading publisher of children’s books and digital products and services. Together, the organizations have placed approximately 80,000 books into the homes of children across southern Minnesota. The goal is that every child has a book of his or her own at home to read or be read to by family members, which promotes a life-long love for reading.

Studies consistently show that reading at a young age drastically improves a child’s educational trajectory. Not only does reading aloud help children acquire early language skills, it fosters curiosity and memory and helps children develop positive associations with reading.

“Reading should be fun, accessible and engaging, for both children and their caregivers. Capstone has been a great long-time partner with our BookStart program towards this goal,” said SMIF’s President and CEO, Tim Penny. “We believe investing in our young children is a long-term strategy that will pay big dividends for our communities and businesses.”

The following organizations received BookStart grants because they provide outstanding early literacy opportunities for young children and their families. The organizations will incorporate the books into their programs and events where young children will receive one of the books to take home and keep.

  • Albert Lea Area Schools
  • Austin Public Schools
  • Chatfield Public Schools
  • Fairmont Area Schools
  • Freeborn County Public Health-Healthy Families
  • Freeborn County Thrive Initiative
  • Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Schools
  • Help Me Grow, Waseca County
  • Kasson-Mantorville Community Education
  • Kingsland Public Schools, Spring Valley
  • New Prague Area Schools
  • New Ulm Public Schools
  • Owatonna Public Schools
  • Rochester Public Library
  • Rochester Public Schools
  • Saint John’s Grandkids, Springfield
  • Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Fairmont
  • Semcac Head Start, Rushford
  • Southern MN Education Consortium, Adams
  • Stewartville Public Schools
  • The Center Clinic, Dodge Center
  • Three Rivers Community Action Incorporated, Northfield
  • Tri-City United ECFE- Early Childhood Screening, Montgomery
  • Tri-City United Public Schools, Montgomery
  • Triton Public Schools, Dodge Center
  • Tri-Valley Opportunity Council Incorporated, Rochester
  • Wabasha Kellogg Public Schools
  • Watonwan County Public Health

As part of its strategy to invest in economic growth here in southern Minnesota, SMIF has supported early childhood efforts to make certain all children enter school fully encouraged, prepared, and supported for learning success. Over the past ten years, SMIF has invested $1.6 million annually for early childhood development initiatives. SMIF has also established 21 community coalitions as part of the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative. Each coalition is developing their collective early childhood vision and implementing local projects to strengthen early care and education for young children and their families.

About Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation

Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), a donor-supported foundation, invests for economic growth in 20 Minnesota counties. The Foundation has provided more than $50 million in grants and loans within the region during the past 29 years. SMIF’s key interests include early childhood and economic development. To learn more about our work and mission, visit

About Capstone
Capstone is a leading publisher of children’s books, digital solutions and services, literacy programs, and K-12 professional development resources. Capstone creates content in a variety of print, digital and media formats for school libraries, classrooms, and at home reading. Capstone’s business units include Capstone Library, Capstone Classroom, Capstone Young Readers, myON, and Capstone International. For more information, visit

New Intercity Bus Service to Thief River Falls, Minnesota

Posted by Mitch on May 26, 2015 2:17 PM in Transportation

SOURCE: Jefferson Lines

Jefferson Lines

THIEF RIVER FALLS, MN–(Marketwired – May 21, 2015) – Jefferson Lines is pleased to announce a new partnership with Tri-Valley Transit to offer extended transportation options from Thief River Falls to Crookston, MN, and Thief River Falls to Grand Forks, ND. “This new service offered by our transportation partner at Tri-Valley brings Thief River Falls into the greater intercity bus network, connecting the city with regularly scheduled bus transportation to thousands of destinations around the country,” says Kevin Pursey, Director of Marketing for Jefferson Lines.

As part of this partnership, customers can now purchase one ticket that covers their ride on both Tri-Valley Transit and Jefferson Lines, making the passenger experience more convenient and comfortable. Passengers can plan their trip online at, in person in Crookston at Tri-Valley Transit located at 1345 Fairfax Avenue, or via the phone at 1-800-201-3432.

Tri-Valley Transit operates this new service four days a week with a total of eight round trips. Passengers can travel for as low as $5 one way between Thief River Falls and Crookston, or as low as $6 between Thief River Falls and Grand Forks. “We are very excited to offer this intercity bus extended service from Thief River Falls, MN. This will provide residents north of the Highway 2 Corridor better access to interstate bus lines,” says Cynthia Pic, Transportation Programs Director for Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, Inc.

About Jefferson Lines:
Founded in 1919, Jefferson Lines provides cross-state transportation throughout America’s Heartland. Our area of service expands over 13 states from Wisconsin to Montana and Minnesota to Texas, serving over 160 communities nationwide. Jefferson Lines provides direct connections to thousands of destinations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

About Tri-Valley Transit:
Tri-Valley Opportunity Council’s Transportation Programs have been in operation since the early 1970’s. Tri-Valley Transportation Programs cover 9 counties in northwest Minnesota, including: Clearwater, Kittson, Norman, Marshall, Mahnomen, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake and Roseau. The Transportation Programs include: public transportation, the Rural Transportation Collaborative (RTC), a volunteer driver program, and a Maintenance Program.

Former Tri-Valley CEO Dennis P. DeMers Honored with NMF Excellence in Leadership Award

Posted by Mitch on May 20, 2015 3:21 PM in Uncategorized

Media Contact: Ashley Johnson, Communications Specialist

201 3rd St. NW ~ Bemidji, MN 56601

Phone: 218-759-2057 ~ FAX: 218-759-2328 ~ e-mail:

Pictured Left to Right: Denny DeMers, Leah Pigatti, NMF Board Member

Bemidji, MN – May 15, 2015 – Since 1993, the Foundation has recognized the contributions of individuals and organizations in northwest Minnesota. Sixty-nine excellence awards have been given, which includes an unrestricted grant from the Foundation to the nonprofit of the recipients’ choice. This represents $69,000 in grant-making to our partners to develop assets in our communities and improve the quality of places throughout the region.

This year’s award luncheon was held in Bagley, Minnesota to honor four award recipients and to remember the contributions of Ruth Edevold, the first and founding Executive Director for the Northwest Minnesota Foundation.

Since its inception in 1986 as the Northwest Minnesota Initiative Fund to its evolution into a diverse community foundation, Edevold worked toward achieving its mission to improve the quality of life for the people of northwest Minnesota. She helped build a rural experiment in leadership and development into a major regional force.

The Ruth Edevold Excellence Awards recognize posthumously the work she did for our region. The Excellence in Leadership Award is given to individuals who have participated in the Foundation’s training or leadership programs and then returned to their job, their volunteer activities and their community actively using the skills they learned. 

Denny DeMers was this year’s recipient. DeMers is now retired but worked for the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council for more than 40 years. Tri-Valley is a nonprofit action agency headquartered in Crookston that provides services in Minnesota and Northeast North Dakota.

Northern Dental Access Center is the recipient of the Ruth Edevold Organizational Excellence Award. This recognition is given to nonprofit organizations that have staff or board members who attended a Northwest Minnesota Foundation-sponsored training program or received a grant from the Foundation.

The Northern Dental Access Center in Bemidji was founded in 2006 as the Mississippi Headwaters Area Dental Health Center. They have a mission to “provide a dental home for those in need.” Patients drive up to 150 miles for services.

The Quality of Place Award recognizes Northwest Minnesota Foundation partners, grantees, training participants and loan clients who have helped to develop community assets in a manner that enhances the quality of the places in the region through specific activities supported by NMF.

Tamera and Craig Anderson of rural Trail, Minnesota became the owners of the Schoolhouse Grocery Store in July 2014.  The Schoolhouse Grocery Store is the only grocery store in a 10-mile radius. A grocery store serving a rural region is a critical service that binds a community. Gonvick, the next closest town, lost its only grocery store to a fire and was not re-built.  This loss heightened the importance of maintaining a grocery store in Gully for the greater community’s needs.

Paul Bunyan Communications (PBC) is also a recipient of the Quality of Place Award. PBC is a true community partner, who has been working in the Bemidji area since the 1950s. The CEO and General Manager Gary Johnson was one of the founding members of IMPACT 20/20 and its Broadband Taskforce, which has worked to support installation of high-speed internet access throughout the region and encourages local businesses to adopt a more robust telepresence.

With PBC’s announcement in 2014 to create the Giga-Zone – one of the largest all-fiber optic Gigabit networks in the United States – economic development and expansion will position the PBC territory to be a contender in attracting new businesses to the region.

Each award recipient chose to pay it forward by awarding their $1,000 grant to a nonprofit of their choice. Those organizations are Hope House, The Nameless Coalition for the Homeless, Clearbrook-Gonvick Summer Recreation Program, the City of Gully for their playground, and Tri-Valley Opportunity Council.

The Northwest Minnesota Foundation is a public, charitable foundation serving 12 counties of Northwest Minnesota by investing resources, facilitating collaboration and promoting philanthropy.




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