• June 18, 2014 Blandin Foundation announced they will make their largest grant commitment ever, extending by another 10 years and $21 million this decade-long investment in early childhood programming for at-risk children and their families through the Invest Early initiative.


  • September 2012 Invest Early adds three new sites (Cohasset, Forest Lake and ICC {Itasca Community College}), making for a total of 11 sites and 25 classrooms. Other sites include King Elementary and Goodall Resource Center in Deer River, Grand Rapids Administration Building, Bigfork, Taconite, Marble, Nashwauk and Keewatin with five Infant/Toddler and 20 Preschool classrooms.


  • September 2011 Invest Early adds one new sites (Bigfork), making for a total of 8 sites and 22 classrooms. Other sites include King Elementary and Goodall Resource Center in Deer River, Grand Rapids Administration Building, Taconite, Marble, Nashwauk and Keewatin with five Infant/Toddler and 17 Preschool classrooms.


  • A second grant is approved from Blandin Foundation to continue the Invest Early Initiative.


  • January through June of 2005 – Coordinator of Invest Early is hired and development of collaborative and early childhood programming plan begins to take shape.
  • July through September of 2005 – Hiring of staff takes place and classroom preparation is arranged. Licensing is finalized for October.
  • October 18, 2005 – the doors open for 16 early childhood classrooms!


  • A van load of interested early childhood professionals drive to the Twin Cities to meet with Harriet Meyer, president of the Ounce of Prevention, and two of her colleagues.
  • Details of the collaborative behind the Chicago Educare Center are discussed in detail – the dream becomes a little more realistic.
  • The Itasca Area Early Childhood Initiative is launched (Northland Foundation Staff facilitate) – the business community is finally engaged.
  • At the March Board Meeting of the Blandin Foundation Board of Directors, Mary Kosak and Kathryn Jansen present a concept paper – for approval to move forward with plans to help develop and fund a local, community-based effort to provide high quality early childhood development services for children and their families in Itasca County.
  • The following components would be a necessary part of any proposal:
    • Quality
    • Intensity
    • Accountability
    • System that works for children and families
  • The first proposal submitted in June 2004 is tabled – more work is required.
  • Numerous meetings take place, several experts are called upon, most notably:
    • Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald
    • Joe Nathan
    • Sharon Lynn Kagan
  • Collaboration workshops are held with Karen Ray, collaboration expert from the Twin Cities.
  • In December 2004 the proposal is accepted by the Board with a $1.5 million award to provide services for 100 children and their families at four sites throughout Itasca County.


  • Extensive research is conducted to support the development of a quality early care and education program.
  • IDC/JOBS 2020 hosts an educational forum and Art Rolnick is the Keynote Speaker.

November 2002

  • Mary Kosak visits the Ounce of Prevention office in Chicago, meets with the president Harriet Meyer.
  • Mary tours the Educare Center on the south side of Chicago and brings back to the Task Force brochures detailing the center and the similarities of the partnership.

1999 – 2002

  • Several Action Teams devote time in developing programs, events and activities to meet goals established at November conference:
    • Children’s Fair
    • Family Celebrations
    • Baby Steps Boutique
    • L.A.M.B. (Labor And My Baby prenatal program)
    • Child Care Awareness and Appreciation banquets
    • Infant Care at the YMCA
    • Child Care Scholarships (working with the Kiwanis)
    • Month-Long Celebration of the Young Child (April)
  • The awareness and importance of early childhood education is heightened.
  • Sue Mattson calls together a task force to address those missing early childhood opportunities.

Early 1998

  • ISD #318 hosts an early childhood workshop.

November 1998

  • The Blandin Foundation hosts a conference for Children First! – the vision is set by large number in attendance (approximately 240 people from all over the county).
  • Mary Jo Jess and Mary Kosak are hired as consultants to work with the Action Teams determined at the conference.


  • The Grand Rapids Area Community Partnership facilitators (community advisory group to the Blandin Foundation) makes a recommendation to the Board of Directors of the Blandin Foundation to invest more of their resources in education – strive to create a “Learning Community”.