We’re sharing well wishes with Karen Grasmon as she leaves her role as Communications Director at Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF). Karen has accepted a position with the Minnesota Department of Health as a rural communications specialist where she will support public health efforts in Greater Minnesota.
Karen started at the foundation in 2007 and has been a dedicated advocate for rural communities and the region where she grew up. Her strengths in strategic leadership and collaboration have helped promote SWIF’s vision, mission and values through each new evolution of our work to meet regional needs and opportunities, whether connected to renewable energy, entrepreneurship, giving, kids and families, belonging or pandemic response and recovery.
In 2016, Karen played a key role in launching Grow Our Own, the regional strategy to help close the opportunity gap for our kids and their families in southwest Minnesota. She equipped staff, board and volunteers as well as coordinated 500+ participant regional summits and promoted a regional research project underpinning Grow Our Own.
“I am excited to cheer on Southwest Initiative Foundation as it continues working to make southwest Minnesota a place where all people thrive. This place—both this foundation and our region—is special. I feel lucky to have been a part of it,” Karen said.
In honor of her 16 years dedicated to our mission, the foundation will make a grant of $1,600 at Karen’s direction to the 2023 Renville County Walk in the Park hosted by The Pages of Our Community Foundation. The 25th annual Walk in the Park will take place this Friday, Aug. 4 in Olivia, to celebrate survivorship and raise money for cancer research and community support.
“This means so much to me, both to receive this opportunity as an employee and to support a cause close to my heart. I was part of the first walk and many since to remember and honor loved ones on their cancer journeys, including remembering my mom, Sonia. My family received incredible support from the community, and I’m happy to help pass that care along to others,” Karen said.
Last year, Renville County Walk in the Park delivered 70 Bags of Blessings to new survivors, reimbursed $84,863.24 to survivors for medical expenses, donated $40,000 for cancer research to the University of Minnesota and purchased $13,329 of retail goods from Renville County businesses for donation to the Ronald McDonald House & Hope Lodge in both Rochester and Minneapolis.
Walk in the Park is one of several focus areas for The Pages of Our Communities Foundation created in memory of Jim and Mary Page of Olivia to continue their legacy of giving back locally. Mary was a founding board member of Southwest Initiative Foundation in 1986 and a tireless advocate for rural Minnesota communities.
While we are sad to see Karen go, we are grateful for the 16 years she’s invested in our work as well as the ways she will continue to support all of Greater Minnesota through her new role. Her last day at the foundation will be Aug. 3, 2023.