Monogram Loves Kids Foundation awards area grants

CHANDLER - Thirteen organizations in the area this year have received $20,000 in grants specifically to help kids. The Monogram Loves Kids Foundation recently announced grants for the 2019 cycle, awarding a Worthington organization $10,000 to continue their own mission.

According to Monogram Meat Snacks Operating Manager Kevin Kuechenmeister, the Foundation focuses on vital community needs centered on children and their families. And while management may weigh in on an applicant, the decision on which local entities they will support comes from the employee-run Communications Committee in Chandler.

At a presentation Wednesday, Human Resources Manager Horacio Mejias said while Monogram originally organized the Monogram  Loves Kids Foundation, "it's the guys on the line that decide where that money goes." He facilitates the foundation locally, but doesn't have a vote.

In 2018, funds went to a variety of recipients, including food shelves, day camps, early childhood education, back pack programs and more. In 2019, a day camp was funded, as was Project Morning Star of Worthington. A mentorship program received funds as did food shelves and school feeding program. The Minnesota West Foundation received money for a soccer field.

Majias said over 50 entities applied, and that the committee works as much as they can with local organizations so they can give back to the communities they live in.

On Wednesday, Keagan's Cause co-chair and founders Chad and Jami Cummings and board member Addie King received a giant check from Kuechenmeister for their non-profit organization.

They took the time to tell Kuechenmeister and Mejias what Keagan's Cause is and how the money will be used. Dedicated to helping meet the needs of children and families in Southwest Minnesota and Northwest Iowa affected by autism, Keagans' Cause was founded in 2017 by Chad and Jami Cummings. Keagan's Cause helps families get life-improving items, such as sling chairs, weighted blankets, iPads and speech tools.

The Cummings' son Keagan was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, and soon the family was learning more and more about the autism spectrum and just how many people are affected by it. Experts say one in every 54 children is born on the spectrum. While some autistic people are high-functioning, others are non-verbal, can be violent toward themselves. Over or under-reaction to any of the senses is a common characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder, changes in routine can be anywhere from slightly uncomfortable to life-altering, and social interaction is a struggle.

According to Jami Cummings, something autistic people find soothing is weighted blankets, which can cost about $200. Sensory chairs, speech and communication tools, flash cards - all of these things can be expensive.

"We just wanted to help some families out," Jami said. "A lot of families don't have the means to afford these things."

Another advantage families who work with Keagan's Cause have is that the items in question have been vetted  and are approved by experts in the ASD field. Researching helpful items can be daunting to someone inexperienced with autism.

Families affected by autism can find more information at keaganscause.org or look them up on Facebook. For more information on the Monogram Loves Kids Foundation, go to monogramfoods.com/values/mlkf.

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