Staff Directory 6370508

Kelly Smith

Reporter | Nonprofits, charity and philanthrophy
Phone: 612-673-4141

Kelly Smith covers nonprofits/philanthropy for the Star Tribune and is based in Minneapolis. Since 2010, she’s covered Greater Minnesota on the state/region team, Hennepin County government, west metro suburban government and west metro K-12 education.


Smith was born in Duluth and grew up in the Twin Cities. She graduated from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., and worked for the Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., before coming to the Star Tribune in 2010.
Recent content from Kelly Smith
Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller faced tough questioning in April from Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, over the fe

Records show meals program was ripe for fraud in Minnesota

Federal audits show that Minnesota's Education Department has been repeatedly cited for lapses since 2012.
Daron Korte, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education, left, responded to questioning by Sen. Roger Chamberlain on Wednesday. S

Minnesota senator: 'Something failed' with meal program

Sen. Roger Chamberlain says Education Department could have taken stronger action as far back as 2018.
Maple Grove police officers found a man with gunshot wounds in a car off the road near Interstate 94 and Maple Grove Parkway on Sunday, April 17.

Maple Grove police investigate fatal shooting between motorists

Dispute led to man's death.
Sen. Michelle Benson is among the Senate Republicans calling for more reporting rules for Minnesota nonprofits.

FBI fraud allegations spur new scrutiny on Minn. nonprofits

New legislation would ban newly formed nonprofits and nonprofits with elected officials on their boards from receiving state grants.
A group of fourth-year AmeriCorps tutors raised their right hands as they took the program’s pledge in 2018.

AmeriCorps program aims to boost state's public health workforce

The new Minnesota Public Health Corps is looking for 150 Minnesotans to work for a year in local public health departments and other organizations.
Feeding Our Future’s offices a week after FBI agents raided the St. Anthony nonprofit. ] SHARI L. GROSS shari.gross@startribune.com

Judge to oversee dissolution of Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future

The St. Anthony nonprofit voluntarily agreed to close down in February after the FBI raided its offices in January.
Northside Boxing Club coach Mohammed Kayongo, left, encouraged youth including sisters Aatiqah Haji, 10, right to left, and Fatima Haji, 13, during a

Giving by Minnesota foundations remains high after 2020 surge

According to a new survey, Minnesota foundation grants are estimated to stay nearly flat in 2022, but at a level 22% higher than 2019.
At a virtual hearing on April 7 for Partners in Quality Care to appeal the funding suspension from the Minnesota Department of Education, Mark Weinhar

St. Paul meal provider appeals state funding suspension

Partners in Nutrition made its case Thursday to an internal appeals panel at the Education Department, hoping to overturn the department's suspension of funding.
Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller faced questioning from Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, on Monday, April 4.

Second MDE official defends oversight of meals program: 'Our risk activities worked'

CFO says department doesn't have investigative authority but reported concerns early to federal authorities and stopped payments to meal providers before a judge ordered payments to resume.
The pink rocks of Iona’s Beach near Two Harbors, Minn., were chipped off nearby rhyolite cliffs.

This beautiful pink beach on Lake Superior has a special history in Minnesota

Iona's Beach stands out from the iconic gray rocky shoreline of the North Shore. But it's more than the color of its rocks that makes this site unique.
Joseph “Joe” Brown, a longtime educator in Minneapolis Public Schools, died Feb. 15 at age 51.

Joseph Brown, longtime Minneapolis educator at Anwatin, dies at 51

Mr. Brown, as he was known by generations of students, was a dean, athletic director and coach at Anwatin Middle School for more than two decades.
Salvation Army food shelf volunteer and Minnehaha Academy student Quincy Startling, a ninth grader, loaded bread into a bag while volunteering Wednesd

Minnesota food shelves seeking boost in donations as hunger projected to rise

As COVID relief ebbs and living costs rise, they are rallying for more support.
MacKenzie Scott

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott awards more than $48M to six Minnesota nonprofits

For all the organizations, the surprise donations are the most money they've ever received from one donor.
MacKenzie Scott

MacKenzie Scott gives record $13.5 million grant to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

It's part of a larger $436 million grant from Scott, an author and ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Tate R. Doom

VFW nonprofit required to improve oversight after former leader stole charitable funds

The Department of Minnesota Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Charitable Association, an arm of the Minnesota VFW, has lost $40,000 in the theft.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program is meant to provide children in low-income areas with free meals when school

Third provider of meals to needy kids is barred from program

Youth Leadership Academy, a newly formed Minneapolis nonprofit, was the top provider in Minnesota of summer meals last year — reporting dishing out 7 million meals.
Marie Donaldson, 68, of Wayzata, picked out a loaf of bread Wednesday, March 9, 2022, at the Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners Food Shelf in Pl

Minnesota food shelf visits down from peak in 2021, but aid cuts could spur rebound

Loss of federal COVID aid, extra child tax credit will affect families this year.
A week after FBI agents raided the offices of Feeding Our Future, evidence of the raid was seen in the nonprofit’s offices on Jan. 27, 2022, in St.

Feeding Our Future fraud investigation casts scrutiny on Minnesota nonprofit oversight

A Republican seeking to unseat Attorney General Keith Ellison is criticizing his office for not doing enough to oversee Minnesota nonprofits.
A week after FBI agents raided the offices of Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future after accusations the group’s partners defrauded the federal go

Minnesota AG's Office seeks court supervision of Feeding Our Future closure

The nonprofit, which is being investigated by the FBI, announced last week it would dissolve. Now, the state agency wants court oversight of the process to prevent any fraud of its remaining assets.
FBI investigators say people associated with Feeding Our Future diverted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars meant to provide meals for needy kids to

What to know about the fraud investigation into Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future

According to FBI search warrants unsealed so far, investigators allege at least $48 million in federal nutrition aid was spent on lavish trips, luxury homes and other personal expenses.
The FBI searched the Minnesota nonprofit’s offices in January and froze the its bank accounts in connection with allegations of multimillion-dollar

Feeding Our Future dissolves amid FBI probe over federal nutrition money

The FBI investigation started last May, and the organization hasn't been able to operate since January when its assets were frozen.
A week after FBI agents raided the offices of Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future after accusations the group’s partners defrauded the federal go

Fraud allegations in federal nutrition program spur questions about nonprofit boards' oversight

Unlike corporate boards or college and university boards, laws give more protection to unpaid volunteers who serve on Minnesota's more than 9,000 nonprofit boards.
FBI agents execute search warrant at Twin Cities nonprofit Feeding our Future on Jan. 20.

Minnesota Department of Education seeks to end nutrition contract with second nonprofit

The department wants to terminate its contract with Partners in Quality Care. The St. Paul-based organization plans to appeal.
Evidence of last month’s raid at Feeding Our Future could be seen at its St. Anthony offices. FBI investigators have accused the Minnesota nonprofit

Legislators call for audit of Minnesota Department of Education over alleged nonprofit fraud

Four Republican state senators are requesting an audit of the Education Department and its oversight of St. Anthony nonprofit Feeding Our Future.
Aimee Bock, executive director of the nonprofit Feeding Our Future, speaks out Thursday for the first time after accusations that the organization and

Leader of Twin Cities nonprofit raided by FBI defends organization

Aimee Bock of Feeding Our Future said the investigation of her nonprofit is retribution for a lawsuit against the state Department of Education and that she's done nothing wrong.
Dave New did some shopping in the Twin Cities Mobile Market bus as it stopped at Parkway Gardens Senior Apartment Community in St. Paul.

After record year, Market Bucks program for low-income Minnesotans expands this spring

The statewide program, which offers incentives for Minnesotans on food stamps to purchase fresh, locally grown foods, landed a federal grant that will double its budget this year.
FBI agents raided the Twin Cities nonprofit Feeding Our Future on Thursday. The organization is accused of laundering tens of millions of tax dollars

Minn. nonprofits angered by fraud allegations at St. Anthony organization

Documents allege Feeding Our Future funneled government money into jewelry, trips to Vegas, among other personal expenses.
The FBI executed a search warrant at Twin Cities nonprofit Feeding our Future on Thursday, Jan. 20.

Feds investigate nonprofit Feeding Our Future for alleged fraud

The FBI says the St. Anthony-based nonprofit was part of a broad scheme to defraud the USDA of millions, funneling money from federally funded child nutrition programs to an array of entities to launder the money and use it for personal real estate, cars and other luxury items.
Habtamu Lajebo bagged food on the assembly line at the Every Meal facility in Roseville. Volunteer shifts are only half-full amid rising COVID-19 case

Twin Cities nonprofits face critical shortages of volunteers amid omicron surge

Some nonprofits are scaling back programs or turning to their own staff to work more due to shrinking volunteer ranks.
Sahan Journal employees at their co-working space in downtown St. Paul. From left to right: Jaida Grey Eagle, Ben Hovland, Andrew Hazzard, Mukhtar Ibr

St. Paul nonprofit Sahan Journal awarded $1.2 million grant from American Journalism Project

Sahan Journal is the first nonprofit news organization in Minnesota that the American Journalism Project has funded.
Robin Manthie, director of Minnesota Central Kitchen, is flanked by Bishop Richard D. Howell, Jr. left, Cargill Foundation Executive Director Michelle

Minnesota Central Kitchen reaches 2 million meals, dishing up food for people in need

The effort, which began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, pays Minnesota chefs and restaurant workers to prepare meals for those who need them.
AmeriCorps volunteers organized and worked on distributing boxes of free food from the Harding High School parking lot in 2020 in St. Paul.

New AmeriCorps program to help welcome Afghan refugees to Minnesota

AmeriCorps members will help about 750 Afghan refugees arriving in Minnesota in the next two months.
Julie Anderson, finance manager at Community Shares of Minnesota, worked in her office Wednesday in St. Paul. Community Shares of Minnesota will shut

Minnesota nonprofits grapple with closures in the New Year

More than 300 nonprofits have closed in Minnesota during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the number of closures so far isn't a significant uptick from pre-pandemic.
Shuntay Thomas explained sound mixing to his son Brandon, 10, as they listened to music in their room in the Project Home at the Provincial House in S

Former Catholic convent opens as a new shelter for families in St. Paul

Project Home opened at the Provincial House in St. Paul to help address the housing crisis in Ramsey County.
Jackie Statum Allen, left, and Eileen Briggs are both grantmaking directors at the Bush Foundation and co-leaders of the initiative to invest $100 mil

Bush Foundation awarding $100M to narrow racial wealth gaps

Nexus Community Partners in St. Paul and NDN Collective in Rapid City, S.D., will help design and operate grant programs for Black and Native Americans.
Vehicles lined up at a food distribution event at VEAP (Volunteers Enlisted to Assist People) in Bloomington in February.

Minnesota nonprofits look for new ways to diversify their volunteer ranks

A statewide advocacy organization is pushing to re-examine how to broaden the base of organizations.
A heavily damaged neighborhood in Dawson Springs, Ky., on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, where a tornado flattened much of the town on Friday night. After gri

Minnesota nonprofits assist with the Southern, Midwestern tornado aftermath

The local Red Cross has sent 19 volunteers from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota to help Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas tornado victims.
Volunteer Steve Santos of Mendota Heights mans his post during his first ever shift as a bell-ringer for The Salvation Army Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at t

Anonymous donor drops $4,000 in Twin Cities Salvation Army red kettles

The Twin Cities Salvation Army has dubbed the mysterious philanthropist "St. Grand" for dropping $1,000 in the red kettles for 11 years in a row.
Loaves & Fishes Executive Director Cathy Maes, seen in 2017, said instead of the 20 or 30 applicants per job that she used to get pre-pandemic, now sh

Staff shortages hit nonprofits in the 'Great Resignation'

Local nonprofits are struggling to draw job applicants, looking for new ways to offer incentives to attract and retain employees.
Tonya Carlson, left, Randy Gustafson and Steve Yochim, volunteers from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department, wrapped and packaged gifts for the an

Roseville-based Salvation Army helps incarcerated parents give Christmas gifts to their children

The Salvation Army is resuming its special Toy Lift program, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19.
Located in northern Minnesota, the Lost 40 has preserved white and red pines that are more than 250 years old. A surveying error in 1882 saved these t

Walk among Minnesota's oldest and largest pines in this ancient forest that survived by mistake

The Lost 40 is one of the few places left in Minnesota where you can walk among giants — towering centuries-old pines.
Kathy Boone

Kathy Boone, longtime special education teacher at Groves Academy, dies at 70

Boone was a founding board member at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis.
Kevin Lytle, left, the community and business engagement manager of PRISM, helps load gifts into the large drop boxes outside the Minneapolis Regional

Amid national toy shortage, Minnesota nonprofits seek donations for kids in need

Annual Twin Cities toy drives are navigating a second pandemic holiday season as well.
Av Gordon, center, speaks to his daughter, Abbe Bernstein, about which gravy is vegetarian before Thanksgiving dinner was served Thursday at the home

Minnesotans cautiously resume Thanksgiving celebrations despite spike in COVID cases

The second Turkey Day during the pandemic showed we're not yet fully back to pre-pandemic holiday festivities.
Winona woman killed in rollover crash

Winona woman killed in rollover crash

The crash Tuesday killed 75-year-old Esther Viola Waas.
Rebecca Patient offered five flavors of pie as part of Union Gospel Mission’s Thanksgiving Day meal in 2020.

Where Minnesotans in need can find a free Thanksgiving meal in the Twin Cities

Here is a sampling of some Twin Cities spots offering free Thanksgiving meals for Minnesotans in need.
Stan Hadiwibowo, food services director at Open Arms of Minnesota, placed an 8 1/2-pound turkey in the oven for two clients and their families that wi

With Thanksgiving coming, Minnesota nonprofits are struggling to cope with a national shortage of turkeys

Nonprofits that provide food for people in need are struggling with rising food costs and supply-chain issues causing shortages.
Pete Magnuson chatted with Marshie Allen in her home while making her Meals on Wheels delivery on Thursday in Minneapolis.

Minnesota food shelf visits slightly under record high in 2020, but edging up again

Food shelves say requests for help are spiking again as other extra help wanes.
Helping Paws, which trains assistance dogs for people with the help of volunteers like Lorrie Kantar, has taken part in every Give to the Max Day.

Minnesota nonprofits top $34 million in donations on Give to the Max Day

It's a record in the 13 years of the statewide giving "holiday."
Cathy Maes, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, a Minneapolis-based free meal program, filled out her “Spoon-ometer,” a drawing of a spoon on a

Minnesota nonprofits hit hard by COVID-19 make pitch to donors ahead of annual Give to the Max Day

Experts say donations are still higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Volunteer Steve Santos of Mendota Heights greets a donor during his first ever shift as a bell-ringer for The Salvation Army Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 at

Salvation Army adds Venmo and Paypal as options for online giving amid the COVID-19 pandemic

The red kettles are back for the holiday season but the Salvation Army is also encouraging more online donations
Authorities wheel a shooting suspect to an ambulance after members of the community held him down after an innocent bystander was shot and killed in n

Man shot and killed in north Minneapolis; suspect arrested after attempted carjacking

The suspect was initially apprehended by We Push for Peace, a community outreach group.
Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal elections Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn.] DAV

Minneapolis hits record for turnout in a municipal election, with 54% of voters casting ballots

It's the third con­sec­u­tive in­crease for a city e­lec­tion.
Minneapolis voters elect seven new commissioners to Park Board

Minneapolis voters elect seven new commissioners to Park Board

Just two incumbents will be returning in January.
Jason Chavez, newly elected council member representing the Ninth Ward, celebrated hearing the results with Aurin Chowdhury, his campaign manager at t

Four Minneapolis council members who backed replacing police ousted, new progressives elected

Another four incumbents who supported the policing overhaul were re-elected.
Larry Long of Minneapolis was the first voter in line at Holy Trinity Church Tuesday, Nov. 2, to cast his vote in Ward 2 in Minneapolis.

At least two incumbents appeared on the verge of losing Minneapolis Park Board seats

All nine seats of the board were up for election, with 23 hopefuls running. Board of Estimate & Taxation races were too close to call.
Larry Long of Minneapolis was the first voter in line at Holy Trinity Church Tuesday, Nov. 2, to cast his vote in Minneapolis’ Ward 2.

Minneapolis voters head to polls for a historic Election Day

Officials predict the election — which has drawn national attention and is the first city election since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd — may surpass records for turnout.
From the left; Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and mayoral candidates Sheila Nezhad, Kate Knuth and A.J. Awed debate at an event held by TPT Almanac Oct.

Minneapolis mayoral candidates differ over how to handle future unrest

Candidates running for mayor's job say he mishandled the response to 2020 unrest. Frey said it gave him experience to handle future crises.
Incumbent Jacob Frey

Minneapolis mayoral candidates begin last week of campaigns with WCCO-TV debate

The four candidates are among 17 people vying for the mayoral position.
Election judges Kathy Bonnifield, left, and Bretaina Brigham on Friday confirmed the tabulated results from a batch of test ballots fed into a voting

Minneapolis likely surpasses early voting record

With near record number of candidates and three ballot questions, the city could be on the verge of historic high voter turnout ahead of in-person voting on Nov. 2.
Council Member Cam Gordon (left) and Council Member Kevin Reich (right) attend a City Council meeting in July 2018. ] Shari L. Gross • shari.gross@s

Newcomers vie to unseat Mpls. council members Gordon and Reich

Cam Gordon and Kevin Reich are seeking fifth and fourth City Council terms.
Michael “Mickey” Moore, one of eight candidates for the Ninth Ward of the Minneapolis City Council.

Minneapolis council candidate faces scrutiny over residency

Mickey Moore said he's long lived in the Eighth Ward but is now leasing an apartment in the Ninth to meet residency rules.
A packed room for the Minneapolis City Council meeting to vote to approve the 2040 Comprehensive Plan in 2018.] LEILA NAVIDI ¥ leila.navidi@startribu

Affordable housing among key issues in south Minneapolis City Council races

Incumbents face 10 challengers in 3 council races.
City question 2 addresses the issue of a municipal police department or department of public safety.] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.

Philanthropic foundations support groups advocating on both sides of Minneapolis' policing debate

Local philanthropies find themselves tied to both sides of policing debate.
Mike Findley and his mentor, Christopher Cary, chatted during a Queerspace Collective meeting at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

New Minneapolis nonprofit launches LGBTQ mentoring program, one of few in U.S.

New nonprofit Queerspace Collective fills a crucial void in LGBTQ mentoring programs.
Minneapolis voters are showing support for replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a new agency, a Minnesota poll found.

Poll: Most Minneapolis voters want reform, not fewer cops

Most city residents, white and Black, have an unfavorable view of the department, and Black voters overwhelmingly oppose officer cuts.
Luz C. Tirana-Echeverria meanders through the Rest Area Garden, part of Munsinger and Clemens Gardens in St. Cloud.

St. Cloud's riverside gardens are a 'crown jewel' of central Minnesota — and they're open to all

Munsinger Gardens is the only public garden in Minnesota that hugs the shoreline of the Mississippi River.
As the polls were about to open for the day at the Brian Coyle Center an election worker who wished to not be identified walked to place a flag outsid

Minneapolis elections highlight divide between progressive, moderate Democrats

Fractures reflect a broader gap across Minnesota and nationwide as the Democratic establishment faces intense competition from a newly energized and insurgent progressive wing of the party.
In 2020, Kyle Kvamme, communications coordinator for Open Arms of Minnesota, operated one of two cameras for a live stream as chef Yia Vang taught vie

Delta variant hits at bad time for some Minn. nonprofits

As virus cases increase, some nonprofits are canceling in-person events or implementing new safety protocols.
BFW Institute of Education & Research — also known as Pain Free Patriots — was started by former Becker Furniture World CEO Douglas Huseby.

Settlement reached with nonprofit aiding vets in alleged violation of charitable giving laws

Pain Free Patriots, Minnesota AG settle allegations that pain-relief grants benefited group's founder.
Simon Adams, the executive director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect in New York, will be the new CEO of the St. Paul-based Cent

St. Paul-based Center for Victims of Torture names new CEO

Simon Adams will lead the Center for Victims of Torture, starting in October.
Norka Avignon Petersen, and her husband, Matt, with their son, Voltaire, live in Little Canada but have family in Haiti.

Minnesota nonprofits rally to support Haiti after deadly earthquake

After devastating quake, Minnesotans rally to help.
Awesiinyag Are Loved — a grassroots, community-led effort organized by the Red Lake Nation — held a first-ever pet clinic Aug. 16-18, offering fre

Nonprofit teams with Minnesota's Red Lake Nation to boost culturally-specific animal welfare programs

Goal is to diversify the animal welfare industry by supporting communities of color.
Ziaullah Qazizada immigrated to Bloomington from Afghanistan six years ago. His wife and three of his four children — all U.S. citizens — went bac

Wisconsin military base prepares to house Afghan refugees

Fort McCoy is one of three U.S. military bases the government is considering housing thousands of Afghan refugees.
Ziaullah Qazizada emigrated from Afghanistan six years ago. His wife and three of his four kids, all U.S. citizens, went back to visit her father in J

Minnesota prepares for influx of refugees seeking safety in U.S.

As Minnesotans with ties to Afghanistan scramble to help family and friends trapped by the turmoil, local groups are stepping up to help.