MRI to Lakes & Prairies Helps Provide Additional Services to Low-Income Families

“Access to high quality early childhood education is simply unattainable for far too many families in our community. Long waiting lists and high costs prevent the most disadvantaged children from receiving a high-quality early childhood education. Given that the highest rate of return in early childhood education comes from investing in disadvantaged children ages birth to five, it's time to invest in our future. With the help of the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation, Lakes & Prairies is working toward the goal of expanding our early childhood programs by opening a new center in south Moorhead,” said Lori Schwartz, Executive Director Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership.

Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership works with and for low-income children, families and seniors throughout the area. Lakes & Prairies helps people take the journey from barely surviving to fully thriving in our community by connecting them to opportunities for work, education, health care, housing, food, child care, financial education and asset development. Lakes & Prairies works in partnership with the broader community to provide a hand up not a hand out to those in need. 

Lakes and Prairies’ main office is located in the Family Service Center of Clay County. With no room to expand, and yet, a growing need for the services they provide, such as Head Start, supportive housing programs and child care assistance, Lakes and Prairies set out to purchase additional space for program operations. Last year, they located a space previously used as a commercial child care center at 861 Belsly Boulevard in Moorhead.

“This facility is a perfect fit for our needs to expand our early childhood services in the community.  With the addition of this space we will have the ability to convert our Head Start classrooms to provide full-day programming and pursue opportunities for growth and expansion,” said Schwartz.

It was serendipitous that they connected with FM Area Foundation Executive Director, Tim Beaton, who was at the same time exploring the potential of Mission Related Investments (MRI’s). MRI’s are investments that have both a financial and social return. The idea is to make an impact in the community by taking a portion of assets typically invested in Wall Street and invest into projects that are making a meaningful difference in the community. This is where the idea of Wall Street to Main Street comes in.

“Our board has been discussing how to selectively invest a portion of the assets that support our endowment directly into our community. This is a concept that has been used successfully by other community foundations across the nation. The goal is to achieve even more positive good than we can achieve with grants alone,” said Beaton.

After meetings between the Foundation and Lakes and Prairies, discussion with the Board and a formal request to the Impact Investing committee, the Foundation chose to make its first-ever MRI to Lakes and Prairies. Based on the need in the community, the moderate risk and great rewards, the FM Area Foundation made a $100,000 loan to help complete their down payment for the purchase of the building in south Moorhead. The space will be used for a variety of programs, acting as an extension to their existing services. With Lakes and Prairies’ 53-year history of serving Clay County, it was evident this was a great opportunity and partnership to initiate the FM Area Foundation’s first MRI.

“The Mission Related Investment from the Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation provided us with the remainder of the down-payment we needed to secure the purchase of this facility. We greatly appreciate the partnership we have with the FM Area Foundation on this project,” said Schwartz.

The FM Area Foundation’s ultimate goal is to create an MRI revolving loan pool to use for projects like this one to continue to make a more meaningful difference in our communities.

“The MRI’s will not replace the Foundation’s grant making efforts, but instead, add to the ways we impact the community,” said Beaton. “Ultimately, we would like the community to help us create a fund that will allow donors’ gifts to be invested locally and recycled forever.”