Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Captain Linda Faye Jones

Otto Bremer Trust fuels programs across Minn.

Added on Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Written by Craig Dirkes, Salvation Army Northern Division writer/photographer

People are hurting in communities across Minnesota.

The Salvation Army and the Otto Bremer Trust are working together to heal the pain.

In 2016, the Trust dispersed more than $360,000 worth of grants to Salvation Army locations in eight Minnesota cities, from International Falls on down to Rochester. The grant dollars have fueled innovative Salvation Army programs tailor-made to fit each community.

In St. Cloud, for example, the partnership is impacting youth homelessness. Through a $100,000 grant from the Trust, the St. Cloud Salvation Army is using arts, recreation and tutoring to empower dozens of kids experiencing homelessness.

In Willmar, the partnership is lifting families out of poverty. Through a $15,000 grant from the Trust, the Willmar Salvation Army is walking beside families and teaching them how to be self-sufficient.

“We couldn’t help these people without the support of the Otto Bremer Trust,” affirmed Captain Linda Faye Jones (pictured above), Willmar Salvation Army administrator.

Here’s a closer look at how Otto Bremer Trust grants are allowing The Salvation Army to change lives in Willmar, St. Cloud and elsewhere.


The St. Cloud Salvation Army includes an emergency shelter where – on average – one out of every four beds is occupied by a child under the age of 18.

The St. Cloud Salvation Army’s new SMART Kids program, launched in June 2016, is designed to help these kids cope with the uncertainty, sadness and confusion of homelessness.

Every weekday, between 15 and 20 children and teens enjoy games, food, field trips, reading, one-on-one tutoring, and a listening ear.

Chad Johnson leads SMART Kids“We give them a safe place to feel like they can be a kid,” said program director Chad Johnson (pictured), whose position is funded by the Bremer grant. The grant also pays for staff members who are enrolled as students majoring in Social Work, Early Childhood Education, and other disciplines at St. Cloud State, St. John’s and St. Benedict universities.

SMART Kids – which stands for Support and Mentor through Arts, Recreation and Tutoring – is offered after school, and all day during summer months. In addition to serving children living at the Salvation Army shelter, Johnson and his crew also bring in kids living at another local shelter, nearby hotels, and elsewhere.

The kids particularly enjoy the field trips. They go to parks, bowling alleys – even Minnesota Twins games during summer.

“Wherever Chad takes us, it’s always good,” said Isaiah, 8, who likes to play video games on one of several computers funded by the Otto Bremer Trust grant.

A child plays video games at SMART KidsThe program is having a positive impact on children experiencing homelessness. Johnson cited the example of a child who always used to show up wearing a plastic harmonica around his neck.

“His mom said he blew on it whenever he felt high levels of stress,” Johnson said. “One day, he wasn’t wearing the harmonica. I asked where it was. He said he just didn’t need it anymore.”

As of September 2016, SMART Kids has served nearly 40 children.

Pathway of Hope

Through Otto Bremer Trust funding, the Willmar Salvation Army has expanded a program that provides outreach to families seeking to break free from poverty.

Captain Linda Faye Jones“Word is spreading about this program, and now we have a waiting list,” Jones said.

Called Pathway of Hope, the program targets families with children in an effort to impact generational poverty. The parents meet with a Salvation Army caseworker once a week for about a year to track progress and set goals such as obtaining full-time employment, permanent housing, or a driver’s license.

In 2016, the Willmar Salvation Army has helped a single mom diagnosed with a terminal illness, a family whose mother is trying desperately to obtain her GED to land a better job, and ten other families dealing with unique challenges.

“On any given night, there are 32 homeless people in Willmar, and some of them are families,” Jones said. “Giving them a blank check won’t help them. We want to steer them toward being self-sufficient and move them toward success.”

Tyler and NaraOne Pathway of Hope family includes Tyler, Nara (both pictured) and their five kids. The couple had spent their entire 17-year marriage living without a plan, moving across the country from one city to the next. Their nomadic lifestyle ended when they enrolled in Pathway of Hope at the Willmar Salvation Army.

“We never used to set goals or budget – we lived with the flow,” Nara said. “Today, we’re almost self-sufficient, and now we have the goals to get us there. Pathway of Hope has given me patience and has taught me that everything will happen in due time.”

Pathway of Hope is offered at Salvation Army locations nationwide, including all 30 of our Worship and Service Centers in Minnesota and North Dakota.


The Otto Bremer Trust oversees banking, investment and philanthropic activities that have paved the way for significant and enduring community commitments over the years. Its primary holding, Bremer Bank, operates in most of the same Minnesota cities as The Salvation Army.

The Trust’s 2016 grants to The Salvation Army have benefited our locations across Minnesota, allowing The Salvation Army to boost its community outreach to thousands of seniors, kids, and at-risk families – many of whom the Otto Bremer Trust counts as its customers.

“This partnership is a win for everybody,” said Denise Overstake, Salvation Army corporate and foundation relations director. “By channeling resources through The Salvation Army, the Trust and its holdings are making a significant contribution to the same communities in which they do business.”

Please join The Salvation Army by volunteering or making a donation to support your local community.