An area nonprofit organization serving a 21-county area in northwest and west central Minnesota, as well as Grand Forks County, has received a large grant to help fund its construction project at a new location in East Grand Forks.

The North Country Food Bank received a $200,000 grant from the Engelstad Family Foundation on Friday, Sept. 20.

“You can’t imagine the feeling when I opened that envelope,” said Susie Novak, executive director of the North Country Food Bank. “Our campaign needed that gift. It puts us much closer to our fundraising goal and will make North Country stronger as an organization. Most importantly, it will increase our capacity to serve thousands of food-insecure individuals and families living in our service area.”

North Country Food Bank is remodeling a 35,000-suqare-foot location at 1011 11th Ave. N.E., in East Grand Forks. After construction is finished, the nonprofit will move from its current location in Crookston. The food bank expects the project to be completed late in the year.

“North Country Food Bank has been a vital resource for the community, and we are proud to invest in its next chapter,” said Kris Engelstad McGarry, trustee of the Engelstad Foundation. “Last year, the organization provided more than 8.5 million meals to local families and, with this investment, we know they will make a positive impact on many more in need.”

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The grant puts the food bank close to its goal of raising $2.88 million, which is what the organization estimated the total cost for construction, new equipment and relocation would be.

The Engelstad Foundation grant included, North Country has raised about $1.88 million for the project, according to Novak, leaving $1 million yet to be raised.

“We started construction two weeks ago. and we’re ahead of schedule so far, so knock on wood .... We’re underway, for sure,” said Novak, noting the new location needs work on the sprinkler system, HVAC, construction of a loading dock, and new drive-in freezers and coolers will be installed.

Locally, past beneficiaries of the foundation, which was founded in 2002, have included UND, the Community Violence Intervention Center, the city of Thief River Falls and Sacred Heart Church and School.

“It’s really encouraging for us,” said Novak. “We need some of these bigger donations. We certainly are pursuing donations and grants of every size and kind, but it’s helpful to get some of these bigger supporters to help whittle away at that total we need and get other people more interested in getting on board the project, too.”