Transformation grant awarded to the Family Freedom Center

Addressing disparities in Central Hillside

Family Freedom Center was awarded a $500,000 grant as part of a collaborative effort to create a hub for African-heritage economic, social, and cultural excellence in Duluth's Central Hillside community.

The Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation recently announced 34 new grants from the Community Opportunity Fund. A total of $1.4 million will be allocated towards addressing critical needs and supporting solutions to systemic challenges found in the Northland.

“This past year, we’ve reorganized our granting into three areas: opportunity -trying to remove barriers and create opportunity for folks; resilience -thriving communities, thriving families, thriving people bouncing back from the from the hardships that come; and belonging- how do we come together, how do we gather as people in a time that’s fraught and fractured?,” said President/CEO Shaun Floerke. “So what we decided to do was give out larger grants in those three areas, and we wanted to do a transformational grant.”

One of two Transformation Grants will be given to Family Freedom Center in Hillside. This grant is for $100,000 a year for five years.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the Duluth Spirit Area Community Foundation to entrusting us with the resources and the tools that we need to get this job done,” said Family Freedom Center Executive Director Jacob Bell. “Over the next five years, Family Freedom Center’s goal is to transform our organization into a hub for black and brown families from all around the Twin Ports to be able to come to and exist to learn to grow to dream but most importantly to to plan and to map out those dreams.”

Founded in 2018 as a safe and inclusive place for the BIPOC community, the Family Freedom Center provides programming and opportunities for hundreds of families.

“Great organizations like this it make it easy to take some time out of the day and keep the community strong and growing and keep the kids fit and entertained and learning,” said volunteer Tim Squalls. “You hear from the kids, you hear from the kids’ parents- to a lot of the kids in this community, this is their favorite part of the day. And not just for the excitement part of it, but you know also the staff is wonderful. It’s like coming to a second family.”

With the grant, the Family Freedom Center will continue and expand on current programs and start new ones alongside community partners including the Healthy Hillside Coalition led by Zeitgeist, First Ladies of the Hillside, LISC, and One Roof Community Housing.

“There’s been decades of disinvestment and underinvestment in a number of the Hillside neighborhoods, and it’s only going to be through the leadership and participation of Hillsiders themselves working in partnership with organizations like Zeitgeist and the Freedom Center and LISC and the First Ladies that are going to make long-term sustainable change,” said Zeitgeist Executive Director Tony Cuneo.

The other Transformation Grant will go to the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa/Mashkiiziibii to help with their efforts to grow healthy foods, expand food access, and build on cultural knowledge through the creation of Ursula’s Farm. More information about the Community Opportunity Fund grants can be found at this link.