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Ely Community Resource appreciates Ely

by Julie Hignell

Executive Director

Ely Community Resource

Ely kids live far away from a lot of things, but they are still some of the luckiest kids on the planet.  They truly are surrounded by a wonderfully supportive community nestled into a landscape that would inspire anybody!

Ely Community Resource (ECR) has been in the enviable position of “middle people,” distributing and organizing that support for our youth since 1978.

Working primarily with Ely schools K-12 and the city, ECR staff have a chance to know our kids throughout their school years, get to know their families and assist in connecting them with academic and social enrichment activities.

Ely schools invite ECR staff in to work with students who need a little help with reading, math, science, personal organization and study skills.

For sixth to 12th grade, the ECR Room is staffed most of the day, and afterschool help is available Tuesday - Thursday.

In elementary grades, the Wolf Pack Afterschool Program takes place Monday - Friday from 2:50 - 5:30 p.m.

ECR fundraising pays for staffing the afterschool program, but the school is providing three spaces that separate the elementary age groups this year, to everyone’s benefit!

The students play outdoors every day, have a snack, and complete homework assignments, practice reading, spelling, and math facts, do art and craft projects, then occasionally get time in the gym and use of equipment there. At K-5 recess and afterschool, students also work on and practice social skills.

The city of Ely provides and maintains the Rec Center and city parks, which our kids can enjoy almost every day of the year.  The Ely Public Library considers our groups when designing programs and schedules, providing frequent great learning opportunities.

Community partners who step up regularly to add value to growing up in Ely include the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs providing financial and in-kind help of various sorts, Ely Field Naturalists who provide field trip support and mentoring, the St. Louis and Lake County Soil & Water Conservation Districts who have provided strong support for all aspects of our Water Project academic enrichment opportunity, the U.S. Forest Service which energetically hosts our kids at various times throughout the year and this fall invited our kids to learn about and explore the de Havilland Beavers at the Shagawa Seaplane Base.

The Burntside Lake Association and WICOLA have been instrumental in the success of the Water Project.

The International Wolf Center, the North American Bear Center, and Dorothy Molter Museum all host our groups and change things up each time so the kids keep learning new things.

The staff at Carefree Assisted Living and Boundary Waters Care Center invite our kids in to share fun and companionship on a regular basis.

The Key Club has developed a yearly routine of holiday visits and activities there, and the ECR Children’s Garden across the avenue provides fun interactions. Recent upgrades for the garden have happened thanks to Ely Flower & Seed, Lake Country Power, Ely Rotary and Gracie’s Plant Works.

The Northland Foundation has provided the backbone for all our intergenerational activities, and heart-felt interest in them has kept them going.

Businesses such as Brainstorm Bakery, Mayhem: Repair, Salvage, and Custom Sewing and the Ely State Theater have invited the students to get a behind-the-scenes look at “how things work.”

Zup’s Food Market donates fresh fruit every week for Buddy Backpacks and provides invaluable advice for purchasing afterschool snacks to fit our budget.  Even staff at the Ely Chamber of Commerce have contacted us with in-kind help and connections with people who end up supporting us.

Our list of youth supporters goes on!  Piragis Northwoods and Northwoods Children’s Home in Duluth have donated used canoes and kayaks for our use, Frandsen Bank & Trust makes a significant financial donation every year after supporting us with affordable rent for many years, Piragis Northwoods, Spirit of the Wilderness, Ely Outfitters, Voyageur Outward Bound School, Northern Tier High Adventure Base and Camp Widjiwagan have all provided loaned equipment and other invaluable support for outdoor adventures and confidence building.

Friends of the Boundary Waters and Northeast Minnesotans for Wilderness have supported the ECR Outdoor Club’s canoe trips, and have donated fishing gear.

Team Borealis coaches and volunteers invited ECR to recruit and organize elementary kids who wanted to learn about single track mountain biking in 2021. An enthusiastic group has had a lot of fun out at Hidden Valley in spring and fall sessions ever since.

YMCA Camp Northern Lights invited the summer kids to try their trails in 2022.  With the Mesabi Trail and new staff expertise available, plans are to expand bike touring for kids on any kind of bike in summer 2024.

Other memorable field trips take place at the Ely Pioneer Mine, Bear Head Lake and Vermilion State Parks and the Nelimark Homestead Museum in Embarrass.

The holiday season winding down is also a time to recognize the extra help families in Ely receive from our Ely and Babbitt churches.

In the Holiday Project this year, the churches, Ely citizens, and the Ely Surplus Store made the season bright for 93 kids in 43 families.  Many churches also send us money for our Families in Need Fund, to be used for emergencies at other times of the year.

St. Anthony’s Catholic Church allows us to use their commercial kitchen and fellowship hall for our annual fundraiser Winter Festival Spaghetti Dinner (coming up on Feb. 2). Grace Lutheran has made their kitchen available for cooking classes and First Lutheran sends us several gorgeous and warm handmade quilts to give away every year.

Ely community support for our kids is remarkable.  Volunteers help with homework and building reading skills, provide one-to-one mentoring, and offer lessons in cooking, ecology, and making things--many times at the Ely Folk School.

Local artists and businesses generously support our major fundraiser, The Celebration of Artful Living in Ely (coming up on April 20 at the State Theater).

We receive financial support from Morse and Fall Lake townships, the city of Winton and we couldn’t survive without the generosity and involvement of the City of Ely.

State and foundation grantors are impressed with the number of partnerships we can list and the amount of matching financial support ECR receives from the community.

Our 2023 Community Campaign is wrapping up strong, we appreciate Alley A Realty for our effective, efficient, and affordable headquarters on the corner of Harvey and 4th Avenue, and we’re hopeful/confident that pending grant proposals will allow us to continue all of our programs.

2024 looks to be a great year for growing up in Ely.

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