SEMCIL received a $10,000 Grant from the Winona Community Foundation’s United Way of Olmsted County Fund in December of 2021. This grant supported their transition program for ages 14-24, all of whom identified as having a disability. This program offered a variety of services including permit classes, 8 on-going classes (i.e. focused on housing, employment, social skills, and health education), healthy cooking, explaining the Soar program, improving financial literacy skills, and basic home safety.

SEMCIL’s Transition Program

SEMCIL’s grant cycle ran January 3, 2022 through December 31, 2022.  During that time, the organization was able to serve 50 residents of Winona County between the ages of 14 and 24, all of whom identified as having a disability. Several of these 50 youth had more than one transition goal and were able to access multiple skills courses and/or received multiple services. Many of the participants were low-income and would not have been able to participate in a fee-based program.

SEMCIL utilized the entire $10,000 grant award between salaries, fringe, mileage and supplies.   Supplies purchased included visual aids, like a dry erase board, markers, and more. The organization was also able to purchase all supplies needed for the cooking class, including grocery items and a blender. Healthy snacks were provided to all test-takers who attended the DMV day as well as 7 first aid kits for students who attended the class on health and home safety.

Services of the Transition Program
  • 8 on-going classes were held at the following schools: St. Charles, Lewiston-Altura, Riverway Learning Academy, SOAR, Hiawatha Valley education District Area Learning Center (HVED ALC), Winona Area Learning Center (WALC) and two groups at Winona Senior High School. These classes addressed several topics, including:
    • preventing eviction or avoiding homelessness
    • equitable access to basic services
    • increasing physical safety
    • completion of job training programs
    • gaining and/or maintaining improved employment
    • stabilized housing
    • improved financial literacy and skills
    • improved social skills
    • pedestrian safety
    • access to health care and/or health education.
  • A monthly class at the Hiawatha Valley Education District Area Learning Center focused on improving financial literacy skills, such as learning to budget, budgeting for housing, etc. Students with disabilities were taught about credit, increasing credit scores, and avoiding financial pitfalls.
  • 2 permit study classes, which culminated in collaborations with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to offer on-site testing, were offered, once in August, once again in October. These testing events were hosted at the SEMCIL office. A DMV representative administered the knowledge test with the following accommodations: test was read aloud, test was paper/pencil, overall setting was lower stress, less distractions and untimed. Several other individuals received 1:1 permit instruction, outside of the groups.
  • A healthy cooking class was offered at SEMCIL. Not only was health and nutrition discussed, Assistive Technology was incorporated into the class for two students with physical disabilities.
  • 1 class to explain to the Soar (formally LEO) students how to equitably access basic services, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medical Assistance, etc.
  • A course in basic home safety, health and first aid were taught to students in a special education classroom at Winona Senior High School. All 7 students received a first aid kit, with instructions on how to use the items it contained.
Meet “S”:

“S” was a 22-year-old single mom who received weekly 1:1 permit instruction from SEMCIL, then joined one of the group testing events. She was convinced she had missed the window of opportunity to ever get her driver’s license.  A SEMCIL staff person encouraged her to “give it a go.”  “S” worked hard, took a risk and obtained her permit.  She is thrilled at the possibilities this will open for her and her child to be able to live and work more independently.

Meet “T”:

T” was a 22-year-old female who participated in SEMCIL’s cooking class. Because “T” has limited use of one hand and arm, SEMCIL staff incorporated Assistive technology into the class, such as a one-handed cutting board, special grips and adaptive knives. This allowed “T” to be able to fully participate in the group alongside her peers, enjoying self-made dishes such as grilled chicken Caesar salad and real-fruit smoothies.

About the United Way of Olmsted County Fund

The United Way of Olmsted County established a fund with the Winona Community Foundation to support Winona area programs and nonprofits.

As a result of the United Way’s affiliation with national corporations, there are Winona County-based companies that participate in United Ways campaigns that participate in the United Way campaigns. UWOC leadership determined that partnering with the Winona Community Foundation would allow them to meet their donors’ expectations by facilitating grantmaking decisions on their behalf.

The Winona Community Foundation is honored that United Way of Olmsted County entrusted us with this important task – a task we do not take lightly.

The Foundation opened a special grant cycle to nonprofit organizations, governmental entities, or educational institutions or programs serving Winona County residents in one or all three of the United Way of Olmsted County’s key strategy areas.

  • Education: ensuring children and youth reach their potential in school and in the community.
  • Financial Stability: helping individuals and families meet basic needs and become financially stable.
  • Health: helping individuals be physically and mentally healthy.

After thorough review and discussion, the Foundation’s grant committee forwarded a recommendation to provide granting to SEMCIL and Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center.

The Winona Community Foundation is pleased to partner with United Way of Olmsted County to ensure gifts raised in the Winona County stay in the County. This partnership expands the Winona Community Foundation’s ability to meet the diverse needs in the community.