Region Five Development Commission (R5DC) is the recipient of a $387,000 two-year grant from the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF) to fund a program that advances goals of Welcoming Communities. This program seeks to share economic development tools to cultivate locally controlled, diversified, equitable economies, especially in low-wealth and rural communities.

This approach aligns with NWAF by assisting the region to be welcoming to diverse ideas, cultures and community members, attracting and retaining a qualified workforce and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, allowing for growth and a sustainable economy. Creation of equitable economic ecosystems provides low wealth and rural communities with resources, tools and actionable goals in seeking to address youth outmigration, access to broadband and childcare, affordable housing and other unique rural issues. Communities that create inclusive, welcoming environments for all are more successful in overcoming hurdles and are winning the race for the talent.

Over a two-year period, R5DC will facilitate six community-led advocacy groups of residents who seek to bridge cultural differences while building on the communities’ assets. Each group defines and leads a project with designated financial investments that showcase a welcoming nature and, through newly formed group relationships, offer system changes that improve livelihoods of residents long-term.

In addition to the community-led advocacy group projects, regional partners at Sprout and Happy Dancing Turtle will deliver a prescription community sustainable agriculture (RxCSA) program. The RxCSA program expands successful collaborations with community healthcare systems to augment traditional therapies with food as medicine and equips individuals managing mental health challenges or opioid recovery to make decisions that empower health, community and sense of self. This program offers cooking demonstrations and nutrition education in addition to the bi-weekly share of local organic produce and other food products. If you are interested in the RxCSA program, contact Arlene Jones at 612-695-2721 or Quinn Swanson at 218-587-2303. To get involved, or to learn more about the Welcoming Communities regional program, contact Dawn Espe at 218-894-3233 or via email at despe@regionfive.org.