UWNEMN's COVID-19 response in Koochiching County

The United Way of Northeastern Minnesota, serving Koochiching County, is rallying to raise funding to help those most in need during the COVID-19 pandemic and is also maintaining a comprehensive list of local services for those in need.


“When news broke of school closures, our office was flooded with inquiries about Buddy Backpacks,” said UWNEMN Executive Director Shelley Valentini, referencing the organization’s program that provides weekend meal kits to children at-risk of hunger. “I am proud to say our local schools and staff have risen to the occasion to ensure that all local children continue to receive the food they depend on at this time.”

UWNEMN’s staff of six is packing the weekend meal kits – a job usually accomplished by a team of volunteers – while practicing social distancing and taking every hygiene precaution they can.

“I am inspired by and grateful for the creative ways our local schools have found solutions to get these kits to the 185 children who need them in Koochiching County – and of course, to Mike Silvers, Walt Buller, Julie and Terry Ehrman, Soren Oleson, and Gus Loop who continue to bring the kits to the schools each week,” Valentini said.

UWNEMN staff has also received questions related to food, health, rent, education, childcare, and more. While they as an organization can’t provide assistance in all these areas, they have created a COVID-19 resource page on their web site with information specific to Koochiching County as related to the pandemic.

In the process of making the web site, “it became clear that we needed to create a fund to bolster the work being done to directly assist individuals affected by this crisis,” Valentini said.

The organization is now working to build a UWNEMN COVID-19 Crisis Fund, which individuals, companies, and foundations have already begun to support. The fund will have no administrative costs associated, so 100% of funds received by the organization will be given to local agencies and programs providing immediate assistance to those impacted by COVID-19.

This isn’t the first time UWNEMN has raised and distributed crisis funds like this.

“This is something we excel at – raising funds, assessing needs, and distributing resources to the right organizations or programs that are directly assisting individuals in need,” Valentini said. “So that there is no confusion, funds UWNEMN raises in Koochiching County will stay local to help those in Koochiching County.”

For UWNEMN’s list of Koochiching County resources – or to donate to the UWNEMN COVID-19 Crisis Fund, click here. Donations can also be mailed directly to 608 East Drive, Chisholm, MN 55719.