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Anti-poverty superstars

The people at Mahube Community Council are doing great things. And they have the awards to prove it.

Last week, Bonnie DeVore, childcare resource and referral director/grandparent projects coordinator, and Marcia Otte, family development director, were honored for two programs they have headed through Mahube.

DeVore received the Best Practice Award for the Relatives as Parents Program, and Otte received her Best Practice Award for the Jump Start Vehicle Loan Program.

They picked up their plaques March 14 during a ceremony in St. Paul. The awards are given out through a collaboration of Minnesota Community Action Association, University of Minnesota College of Human Ecology and the Minnesota Department of Human Services Office of Economic Opportunity.

DeVore's program works with grandparents or other relatives who are raising children. It offers discussion groups, of which there are currently six, and now covers 19 counties. There are groups in Detroit Lakes, two in Park Rapids, Bemidji, Wadena and Fergus Falls.

"A lot of time they just want to get together and talk," DeVore said of the people involved.

She will also coordinate speakers to give information on such topics as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and legal advice.

Tuesday, May 9, there will be forum held from 5 to 8 p.m. in Mahube Community Council for anyone raising someone else's children. There will be two speakers on legal and social issues. There is also childcare available.

For more information on the program or the forum, call 1-800-450-1385.

DeVore said her program has served over 60 adults and 40 children.

"I know that there are more than we serve," she said. "We want to get the word out."

According to the 2000 census, there were 46,000 grandparents and other relatives raising children in Minnesota.

"We know it's been growing since then," DeVore said.

She said it's more likely that about 71,000 Minnesotans are raising children of relatives. Not only has the number grown, but many grandparents won't respond to surveys because they think raising the child is temporary, or that they may be getting their own children in trouble somehow by saying they raise their grandchildren.

There were eight awards given statewide for programs like RAPP. Mahube received honorable mention.

While Mahube had to submit information about the program, "it was a pleasant surprise," DeVore said of the honor.

Otte's Jump Start program helps low-income people get reliable transportation -- one of the major hurdles to getting and keeping a job.

The program is coordinated West Central Initiative, which recruits applicants. Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation then helps applicants get financing, and Mahube provides the case management.

"Without one, it wouldn't be what it is," Otte said.

Jump Start assists low-income people with financing for a vehicle to help them get to work, education institution or possibly medical appointments.

Vehicles are bought at auction, and when the applicants are approved for a loan, they pick which car they would like to own. They must pay for the loan, have full-coverage insurance and pay $10 a month to a credit union for future repairs on the car.

There are 30 loans in the area out right now, which is the maximum amount. Otte said she's not sure about the future of the program, if they can give more loans, because it hasn't been financed past March 31.

Jump Start was the only group to be unanimously approved by the reviewers for the Best Practice Award.

"It's very nice to be recognized statewide," she said.

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