The Neighbors United Food Shelf received a strong show of community support during the normally quiet Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners meeting. Board members and others from the area attended the meeting to show their support of a request for $5,000 to the county.

The Food Shelf operates in Granite Falls but serves community members from across the county. The request follows several years of declining revenue. In 2015, the organization brought in $71,702 (mainly through grant money and donations) and spent just under $60,000. The following year, this balance narrowed considerably, with the Food Shelf spending $55,508 and receiving $66,527. As of the October of 2017, the organization has raised $56,407 and has already spent nearly $50,000.

On top of these financial worries, the Food Shelf has begun assessing a possible location move. The board has also floated the possibility of purchasing a new location outright in order to eliminate rental payments. While the organization says that they are getting better at grant writing, they underscored the importance of government contributions.

The request is currently in the 2018 county budget, however, the board decided against finalizing the request until all members were present (Greg Renneke was absent for the November 28 meeting). The board plans on adopting the proposed budget on December 26. County Finance Manager Michelle May will continue to make minor updates to the budget until then. The public will also have the opportunity to share their input during the Truth in Taxation meeting on December 12 at 6 p.m. in the County Board Room.

In other news:

Rae Ann Keeler-Aus from Family Services Center appeared before the board asking that the county renew contracts with local mental health care providers. Providers under consideration included Countryside Public Health, Canby DAC, Wood Land Centers, Western Mental Health, and Greater Minnesota Family Services (the last two saw a 3% fee increase). The board unanimously approved the request. Keeler-Aus also informed the board that her department was taking on two new interns, who start in January.

Jennifer Lundberg from the Local Advisory Council on Mental Health updated the board on the new by-laws recently adopted by the council. According to Lundberg, the council is working to address community gaps, which she said are more prevalent in rural areas. The council currently serves Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone, Redwood, and Yellow Medicine counties. The lack of providers and access to transportation are major contributors to this gap. Lundberg also thanked board member Glen Kack for supporting local mental health care efforts.

The board also received an update from Sharon Hendrichs from the Restorative Justice Department. She explained how the department is working with county, school, and social workers to identify at-risk youth before they enter the justice system. Board chair Gary Johnson praised the work done by the department, saying it was a “good move picking kids up before they get in the system.”

Hendrichs stressed that volunteers play a critical role in making their work possible. As of November 24, the program logged 2,561 hours - over 100 hours more than the whole of last year. County Administrator Peg Heglund added at the end of the discussion that she would present on the program during the Annual Association of MN Counties Conference on December 3, calling the program “amazing” and saying that it is “really putting us on the map.”