Grant to help fund Reading Ranch Buddies program

Photo by Robert Williams
Firefly Fields Youth Ranch, located in rural Vergas, was one of 57 recipients of endowed legacy funding through West Central Initiative.

Firefly Fields Youth Ranch Inc., of Vergas, was awarded one of 57 endowment grants distributed by West Central Initiative totaling almost $115,000 to organizations serving the Fergus Falls, Perham, and Dent communities from three personally endowed legacy funds.

“The Deloris Barnack Kenner, Floyd and Harriet Miller, and Inga M. Johnson Funds were established to create lasting impacts by generously supporting the namesake’s favorite causes and organizations in our region,” said Rebecca Lynn Petersen, West Central Initiative’s Director of Development. “The philanthropists determined how West Central Initiative directs the funds by identifying certain giving criteria. West Central Initiative then seeks and grants to causes that fit those criteria annually, creating a lasting legacy.”

Firefly Fields Youth Ranch received funding for Reading Ranch Buddies, a summer literacy program that allows students to interact with animals while building reading skills.

Deloris Barnack Kenner Fund: Kenner grew up and went to school in the Perham area. She continued her education and enjoyed a 50-year career as a nurse. Her funds benefit Perham-Dent area teachers or education-related projects in the communities. Grantees are:  

• Best Buddies Perham Chapters for summer programming that continues relationship-building activities between students with and without disabilities in grades 5-12. 

• BIO Girls for the 2024 Perham Beautiful Inside Out program that offers confidence-building and preventative mental health programming for girls in grades 2-6.  

• BIO Girls Teens for tuition costs for girls in need to help launch the BIO Girls Teens program in Perham. 

• Boys & Girls Clubs of the Perham Area for the Fit for Life program designed to positively impact the choices and lifestyles of middle school youth during the summer. 

• Firefly Fields Youth Ranch Inc. for Reading Ranch Buddies, a summer literacy program that allows students to interact with animals while building reading skills. 

• Perham-Dent Schools/Heart of the Lakes Elementary for educational materials and activities on Indigenous Peoples and cultures. 

• Perham-Dent Schools/Hearth of the Lakes Elementary for kindergarten hands-on math and literacy learning materials and take-home reading bags. 

• Lakes Area Adult Education of Detroit Lakes, Perham-Dent Site for curriculum and technology to support instruction for the U.S. citizenship test for Perham-Dent immigrant population. 

• Perham Area Community Center for new summer camps for ages 3-7 that include motor activities, crafts, music and movement, and nature exploration experiences. 

• Perham Center for the Arts for Art for All Summer Workshops to provide free or discounted art classes to the community while introducing high school art students to the field of art education. 

• Perham-Dent Schools/Heart of the Lakes Elementary for robot and accessories kits to build programming and coding skills at the upper elementary age levels. 

• United Way of Otter Tail & Wadena Counties for the Stuff the Bus initiative to provide essential school supplies to families in need within the Perham-Dent School District.

Floyd and Harriet Miller Fund: Reverend Floyd and Harriet Miller wished to leave a lasting impact in the Fergus Falls community for all the kindness they received during their lifetimes. Funds benefit nonprofit organizations in the Fergus Falls area along with the St. James Episcopal Church. Grantees are: 

• Action Ministries Inc. for the Blessing Closet, a community ministry that collects and distributes clothes, toys, and household items for free in the Fergus Falls area. 

• Fergus Falls Area Habitat for Humanity for construction expenses for a home located at East St. Charles Street. 

• Fergus Falls Community Food Shelf for a new walk-in freezer. 

• Fergus Falls Public Library for Extra Reading at the Library (ERL), a free summer reading tutoring program for grades 1-6 with online sessions to accommodate more students. 

• Fergus Falls Skating Club for the Take a Friend to Skate event to introduce people of all ages to ice skating. 

• Friends of the West Otter Tail County Fair for county fair demonstrations, food contests, and art projects, benefiting approximately 400 4-H members in West Otter Tail County, their families, and fairgoers. 

• Hillcrest Lutheran Academy for the Comet Kids Summer Enrichment Program to help pre-K-grade 6 students to bridge the learning gap during the summer. 

• I94 BMX Inc. for a new sound system at the Delagoon City Park location. 

• Kaddatz Galleries, Ltd. for ArtREACH, a program providing free professional artist-led classes to underserved and at-risk populations. 

• Lakeland Mental Health Center for the Hope Project to provide adults with essential needs and supplies to help build mental health stability. 

• Our Lady of Victory School for the annual spring play to foster student creativity, self-expression, and confidence building. 

• SAGA Youth for SAGA Youth Community Prom 2024 to promote inclusivity, support emotional well-being, promote emotional well-being, and empower LGBTQ+ youth in the area. 

• The Connection/OTC Foster Closet for the Foster Closet program to supply car seats, cribs, and essential items to foster families. 

• United States Blind Golf Association for the 2024 Land of 10,000 Lakes Regional Blind and Visually Impaired Golf Tournament at Pebble Lake Golf Course. 

• Veterans Home R & R for Veterans Home motorcycle fun run and events. 

• Vets R Us, Inc. for the Fishing with Veterans summer event, connecting local veterans, active duty military, and first responders. 

• Welcome House for an activity fund for classes, conferences, education, and social activities for women in recovery.

Inga M. Johnson Fund: Johnson was actively involved with her community and was philanthropic throughout her lifetime. It was Inga’s wish that this fund be used to improve the quality of life in and around Fergus Falls with donations that invest in the community’s educational, scientific, literary, and religious needs. Grantees are:  

• A Place to Belong for community connections and activities for individuals navigating their mental health and recovery journey. 

• BIO Girls for the 2024 Fergus Falls Beautiful Inside Out program that offers confidence-building and preventative mental health programming for girls in grades 2-6. 

• City of Fergus Falls Parks & Recreation for financial support for summer youth recreation programs. 

• Fergus Area College Foundation for screen printing equipment to enhance accessibility for differently abled artists in printmaking. 

• Fergus Falls Center for the Arts, Inc. for scholarships for youth participating in the summer Arts Youth Theatre. 

• Fergus Falls Citizens’ Climate Lobby for student-focused Earth Day climate education and civic engagement activities. 

• Fergus Falls Kennedy School – OtterBots Robotics Team for the OtterBots competitive robotics program, fostering STEM appreciation and skill development in high school students. 

• Fergus Falls Police Department for the annual Public Safety Event providing safety education and connecting preK-grade 3 students with law enforcement and first responders. 

• Fergus Falls Public Schools for sensory materials for students who have needs related to self-regulation and sensory processing. 

• Fergus Falls Area Family YMCA for Summer Day Camp field trip experiences, offering opportunities for new learning and exploration. 

• Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center for greenhouse tools and supplies needed to support volunteer efforts. 

• Hillcrest Lutheran Academy for technology to access Accelerated Reader tools, encouraging students to grow their reading skills. 

• Humane Society of Otter Tail County for employee animal education to enhance services and expand outreach capabilities in the newly expanded shelter. 

• J.A.I.L. Inc. for the chaplain program to help meet the spiritual needs of inmates at the Otter Tail County Jail. 

• Kaddatz Galleries, Ltd. for ArtREACH, a program providing free professional artist-led classes to at-risk youth. 

• Matthew House for activity funds that enable residents transitioning from treatment, incarceration, or homelessness to engage in community activities. 

• Move for America for the Busses Between program, an urban/rural intercultural exchange between community college students from Fergus Falls and the Twin Cities in fall 2024. 

• Oak Grove Cemetery of Fergus Falls for trees and landscape improvements. 

• Otter Cove Children’s Museum for a free family concert in Fergus Falls featuring The Jolly Pops, a children’s museum and entertainment group. 

• Otter Tail County Historical Society for technology to protect and preserve valuable historical data. 

• Otter Tail Nordic Ski Association for beginner adult Nordic ski equipment and free lessons for the 2024-2025 ski season to foster the growth of Nordic skiing in the Fergus Falls area. 

• Our Lady of Victory School for the summer tutoring program to help maintain educational continuity and academic growth beyond the traditional school year. 

• PartnerSHIP 4 Health for the Fergus Falls Bike Rodeo, a bike safety education event for students in K-grade 8. 

• SAGA Youth for summer art activities, gatherings, and a camping trip for youth in the Fergus Falls area struggling socially due to bullying. 

• Someplace Safe Fergus Falls Parenting Time Center for laptop computers for Someplace Safe staff to better equip them to provide services in the Fergus Falls location. 

• The Connection/OTC Foster Closet for foster care backpacks filled with items needed during the first 24 hours of placement. 

• United Way of Otter Tail & Wadena Counties for the Prescription for Reading program that champions early literacy and school readiness by integrating books and early literacy practices into pediatric primary care. 

• Welcome House for a healing garden at Barbara’s House, a safe, supportive environment for women in recovery. 

Interested in creating a personally endowed legacy fund? 

With personally endowed legacy funds, grants can be awarded in two ways: West Central Initiative can use identified giving criteria to distribute the funds or an individual can directly choose which causes to fund. Both ways of giving have tax benefits and lasting impacts in our region. 

For more information about the benefits of creating a personally endowed legacy fund, contact Rebecca Petersen at 800-735-2239 or email