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
A man walked past collapsed buildings following a devastating earthquake in the town of Jinderis, Aleppo province, Syria.

Minneapolis-based Questscope helps earthquake victims in Syria

Questscope, affiliated with Minneapolis-based Alight, is assisting Syrian villages after the deadly Feb. 6 earthquake.
Visitors this month climbed the stairs beneath a giant wire astronaut hanging from the ceiling at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Science Museum blames budget shortfall for latest layoffs

The St. Paul museum laid off 15 people last week in the latest round of layoffs, citing COVID-related revenue losses.
The Foshay Tower, which houses W Hotel, may be one of the most iconic buildings downtown but few people may know that they can go to the top of the 32

Foshay Tower observation deck touts panoramic views of Minneapolis year-round

Go to one of the city's most iconic buildings for the view; stay for the story behind it.
Annie Zechmeister, 9, Zoey Hasek, 8, and Jacob Zechmeister, 7, from left, on Friday helped unload bags collected from a weeklong food drive for the IC

State's food shelves seek boost as demand rises to record

Across Minnesota, food shelves are rallying for donated food and cash this month to help them meet the demand from a growing number of Minnesotans in need.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced the first wave of Feeding Our Future charges on Sept. 20, 2022. ] GLEN STUBBE •

These are the 50 defendants charged in the Feeding Our Future fraud case in 2022

Ten additional defendants were charged March 13, bringing the total to 60.
Legislation would offer tax incentive encouraging charitable donations

Legislation would offer tax incentive encouraging charitable donations

The Charitable Act, introduced this month by 11 senators including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, would allow taxpayers who take the standard deduction to deduct some charitable donations.
Minnesota Historical Society union employees rallied in December outside the Minnesota History Center for better pay and benefits.

Minnesota Historical Society employees win pay boost in tentative contract agreement

The union contract, one of the first to be negotiated by a Minnesota nonprofit, will need approval by workers.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Lt. Gov. Flanagan to assume state's top job Monday while Walz has colonoscopy

Gov. Tim Walz will briefly transfer power Monday to Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan while he's undergoing a colonoscopy, and he's expected to be back to work Tuesday.
Farmington teen dies in car crash

Farmington teen dies in car crash

Rodrigo Leon Dooley died after a collision in Vermillion Township, west of Hastings.
Plymouth police investigate fatal shooting

Plymouth police investigate fatal shooting

One man was killed in the shooting late Saturday at a Plymouth home.
Ava Gehrman points at types of sea urchins in the Exquisite Creatures exhibit Thursday, March 2, 2023, at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

After pandemic hit, cultural groups hope for boost from state

Museums and cultural nonprofits are struggling to recover from the pandemic as the number of donations and visitors continues to drop.
The ruling against against ThinkTechAct’s executive director was the first legal action Attorney General Keith Ellison, above, has taken against one

Court penalizes leader of 'sham' Edina nonprofit that worked with Feeding Our Future

The order was the result of the first legal action Attorney General Keith Ellison has taken against one of Feeding Our Future's sites.
Mirella Ceja-Orozco and Elizer Darris, co-executive directors of the Minnesota Freedom Fund.

Minnesota Freedom Fund starts political organization seeking to end cash bail in the state

The Minneapolis nonprofit has launched a separate political arm to lobby to end cash bail in Minnesota, and already is pushing for legislation this year to restrict bail for some misdemeanor offenses.
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation CEO Joseph Lee: “We can provide healing for the entire family, and it’s going to help outcomes for everybody.”

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation receives record $10 million donation

The money will go toward a $100 million fundraising campaign to start a new Hazelden Betty Ford National Center for Families and Children.
Peter Steinert, longtime sports copy editor at the Star Tribune, dies at 55

Peter Steinert, longtime sports copy editor at the Star Tribune, dies at 55

He worked as a sports copy editor for the Star Tribune for 26 years before succumbing to cancer.
File photo of Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Lucinda Jesson, a former state human services commissioner.

Minnesota Court of Appeals upholds state's rejection of Minneapolis nonprofit in meals program

Gar Gaar Family Services sought to reverse the state Education Department's decision to deny the Minneapolis nonprofit from participating in a meals program.
A crew worked on a Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity house in St. Paul in 2021.

Program aims to close racial gap by helping prospective Black homeowners with down payments

Minnesota ranks 38th in the country for the widest gap in homeownership rates between white residents and communities of color.
Volunteer Deb Gallagher filled the shelves of the cooler at Open Door Pantry in Eagan on Wednesday.

Minnesota food shelf visits hit record: 'There's a lot of unmet need'

Final data from 2022 released on Wednesday show that Minnesota food shelves recorded more than 5.5 million visits — the most ever.
Civil defense workers and security forces carried an earthquake victim Monday as they searched the wreckage of collapsed buildings in Hama, Syria.

Minneapolis-based Alight raising money for earthquake survivors in Syria

The nonprofit is providing funding and resources to a Syrian team operating three shelters in Aleppo.
Beth O’Connor, a retired library employee, right, and Kathy Moore, a retired nurse, packaged groceries Thursday for Keystone Community Partners in S

Despite decline in numbers, Minnesota ranks No. 3 in volunteerism nationwide

More Minnesotans volunteer than Americans overall, according to a new report, but it has trended downward since 2019.
Legislative Auditor Judy Randall testified last year about the federally funded meals program at Feeding our Future.

Report: Minnesota 'failed to do the very basics' of grant oversight

The state legislative auditor's report focuses on state funding to nonprofits, not federal money, as was the case with Feeding Our Future.
Hilda Landy, left, and Luz Astudillo, both with Kitchen Coalition, packaged meals of tofu curry to be delivered to student housing last week at the Ca

Kitchen Coalition expands beyond Twin Cities with restaurant-style meals to needy

Second Harvest started the program to put restaurant workers and caterers back to work when kitchens closed at the start of the pandemic.
Dawn Williams, a volunteer, stocked a freezer with pork on Jan. 24, 2022, at the Southern Anoka Community Assistance Food Shelf in Columbia Heights.

Minnesota nonprofits seek a slice of state's $17.6 billion pie

The requests come as grants to nonprofits are under increased scrutiny because of the FBI's Feeding Our Future investigation and a new report reviewing state agencies' oversight.
Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge adds mental health services in metro suburbs

Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge adds mental health services in metro suburbs

RockBridge Counseling and Mental Health Services will open next week in Crystal, Maplewood and Lakeville.
Ana Macy, from left, Sven Hoaglund and Shaun Tutor enjoy a sauna session at Sisu and Löyly Sauna in Grand Marais.

From Grand Marais to Golden Valley, sauna 'revival' grows across Minnesota

A new Grand Marais sauna is tapping into a growing trend of public saunas across Minnesota.
Attorney General Keith Ellison

State sues Edina group, a Feeding Our Future site, for running 'sham nonprofit'

The Attorney General's Office is suing ThinkTechAct Foundation and three of its leaders for running a "sham nonprofit."
The Marsh, in Minnetonka.

Minnetonka signs off on buying the Marsh from the YMCA for $4.3 million

The City Council unanimously approved the purchase of the wellness facility and 7-acre site.
The Gallery Professional Building at 17 W. Exchange St., in St. Paul was donated to the Twin Cities Salvation Army by Tareen Development Partners and

Real estate firms donate St. Paul office building to Salvation Army

The eight-story site could be converted into affordable housing, which is urgently needed.
Anne Lukas Miller worked out last month with exercise specialist Brenda Steger at the Marsh.

Minnetonka reaches tentative agreement to buy Marsh wellness center from YMCA

If the City Council approves the deal, the Marsh would be the second fitness center owned by the city of Minnetonka.
Workers at Open Arms’ Minneapolis facility assembled shipments of meals.

Open Arms of Minnesota opens new St. Paul site to offer more meals

The nonprofit will expand to serve people in western Wisconsin and more Minnesotans.
FBI agents raided Feeding our Future’s St. Anthony offices in January 2022.

Feeding Our Future probe casts scrutiny on state's nonprofits

Some nonprofits worry the fraud scandal has decreased donations and will lead to new regulations in 2023.
The St. Anthony offices of Feeding Our Future on Jan. 27, 2022, a week after the FBI raid.

How to vet a Minnesota nonprofit

Experts say there are simple ways that donors can vet a nonprofit to make sure it's well-run and transparent.
Anne Lukas Miller worked out with exercise specialist Brenda Steger on Thursday at the Marsh in Minnetonka.

City of Minnetonka one of several possible buyers of the YMCA's Marsh wellness center

The Y is closing the Marsh on Dec. 31, saying it's no longer financially viable to run the longtime wellness center.
Minnesota History Center

Minnesota Historical Society workers seeking higher pay as officials confront shortages

The Historical Society is below pre-pandemic staffing levels following COVID-19 layoffs and high turnover. Some employees say low pay is the top reason.
Officials say St. Grand has given the Twin Cities Salvation Army more than $150,000 over the past decade. 

'St. Grand' strikes again, dropping $1,000 in cash into a Salvation Army red kettle

The secretive philanthropist has been dubbed "St. Grand" because donations often start with $1,000.
Jayne Witzany, a volunteer, picked out toys Wednesday during the first day of the Salvation Army Toy Shop at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul.

Minnesota holiday toy drives are having trouble meeting demand

More donors this year are coping with inflation, leading to fewer toy donations for kids in need.
Rendering by UrbanWorks Architecture of the new Agate Housing and Services shelter and affordable housing slated to open in south Minneapolis in 2026.

Nonprofit Agate to open new affordable housing, shelter complex in south Minneapolis

Construction is anticipated to start in 2023, with the new building slated to open to residents in 2026.
Khadija Ali posed in 2020 at the interpreting company she founded. She also started a nonprofit called Gar Gaar Family Services to provide education a

Minneapolis nonprofit argues the state arbitrarily rejected it from meal program due to separate fraud

The Minnesota Department of Education rejected Gar Gaar Family Services from a federally funded meal program in December 2021, one month before the FBI's investigation into Feeding Our Future became public.
PRISM clients shopped the fresh produce Tuesday in Golden Valley.

More Minnesotans visiting food shelves than any year on record

The number of Minnesotans using food stamps has also increased this year from 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Initial evaluations by Wilder Research, at the St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation, show the Before Racism program has been effective in helping staff me

St. Paul nonprofit launches preschool programs aimed at preventing racism before it starts

Before Racism started piloting its anti-racism curriculum in four day care and child care centers this year, and plans to expand in 2023 to 12 more sites.
The American Cancer Society held a gala on Nov. 17 at Quincy Hall in northeast Minneapolis.

After pandemic hiatus, Minnesota nonprofits are resuming in-person fundraising galas

Many nonprofits shifted galas and other fundraisers online during the pandemic.
Lulete Mola, co-founder and president of the MN Black Collective Foundation, was also named a 2022 recipient of the St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation’

Minnesota's first Black-led community foundation gives first-time grants

The Black Collective Foundation is distributing its first grants this month to Black-led Minnesota organizations and leaders.
Thousands of walkers showed up at the Mall of America on Thanksgiving Day in 2019 for the annual Walk to End Hunger.

After two years online, Walk to End Hunger resumes in person Thursday at Mall of America

Now in its 15th year, the walk will raise money for seven hunger relief organizations.
Nonprofits picked up “Home for Good” kits from Greater Twin Cities United Way in 2020, containing household supplies for homeless Twin Cities fami

Greater Twin Cities United Way responds to surge in calls for housing and mental health help

The nonprofit, one of the largest chapters in the U.S., recorded a surplus for the first time in six years.
While giving a tour Thursday, Nikki Warner stopped to say hello to Therese Moore who uses the commercial kitchen at the Good Acre, a Falcon Heights no

Minnesotans collect $34.1 million for Give to the Max Day, coming close to topping last year's record

The number of donations fell just shy of breaking a new record for the online fundraiser, now in its 14th year.
Nikki Warner stopped Thursday to greet Therese Moore at the Good Acre in Falcon Heights. The nonprofit held an in-person fundraising event for Give to

Minnesotans contribute more than $34 million to nonprofits on Give to the Max Day

Nonprofits across the state made their pitch to donors Thursday for support in the 14th annual event.
Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Heather Mueller faced tough questioning in April from Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes over the fed

Education Department denied legal fees reimbursement in Feeding Our Future case

A judge rejected a bid by the Minnesota Department of Education to force Feeding Our Future to repay more than $500,000 that the state agency spent defending itself in a 2020 case.
Micah Peterson-Brandt, Amber Frederick and Madilynn Garcia chatted during happy hour Tuesday at HeadFlyer Brewing in Minneapolis that was hosted by Pr

Nonprofits aim to buck national trend of declining donations on Give to the Max Day

Donations to Minnesota schools and nonprofits for Give to the Max Day so far are above 2019 levels but below the record set in 2021.
Volunteer Steve Santos of Mendota Heights greeted Peggy Cutard as she made a donation during his shift as a bell-ringer for the Salvation Army in 2021

Twin Cities Salvation Army looks to boost donations in face of rising need, costs

Costs have gone up 10% to 20% over last year's expenses.
Craig Warren, new CEO of the Washburn Center for Children in Minneapolis, is the first leader of color in the nonprofit’s history.

Craig Warren named CEO of Washburn Center, making him the nonprofit's first leader of color

Warren, who's served as acting CEO since May, will lead the Minneapolis mental health services provider.
At a virtual hearing in April, Partners in Quality Care’s attorney Mark Weinhardt, left, argued on behalf of the nonprofit while Emily Honer, right,

St. Paul nonprofit Partners in Nutrition drops lawsuit against state over meals program

The Minnesota Department of Education cut off funding to Partners in Nutrition, a St. Paul nonprofit, in January when the FBI's investigation was revealed.
Dakota County election results delayed

Dakota County election results delayed

Officials blame modem transmission issues, instead driving results to state.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig greeted supporters at an election night party Tuesday at Loon’s Landing Brewery in Savage.

Craig declared winner over Kistner in Minnesota's Second Congressional District rematch

Craig defeated Kistner once again after a win against him in 2020.
Anab Artan Awad, 52, of Plymouth pleaded guilty to her role in the massive food fraud scheme on Friday.

Plymouth woman pleads guilty to meal and Medicaid fraud schemes

Anab Artan Awad, 52, admitted she fabricated paperwork to defraud the federal government of more than $11 million in reimbursements for feeding children.
Cross country skiers with the Loppet Foundation did hill work on roller skis in lieu of any snow falling beneath the Franklin Avenue Bridge, as unseas

People shuck coats and don shorts as metro area hits 76, breaking daily record

Wednesday's 76 degrees broke the record set on Nov. 2, 1978, part of increasingly common 70-degree November temps in Minnesota.
Sister Mary Madonna Ashton posed for a photo at her home in Carondelet Village in St. Paul in 2016.

Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, who made history as Minnesota's first female health commissioner, dies at age 99

She was a public health pioneer, leading a hospital before taking the helm of the health department as its first woman and first non-physician.
Amirah Menawa spoke Friday with Danette Scorza, a talent acquisition manager from Opportunity Partners, during the Government and Nonprofit Career Fai

Nonprofits launching new incentives to draw hires amid workforce shortage

Minnesota's nonprofit sector has shrunk by 30,000 workers during the pandemic, leaving many nonprofits struggling.
Abdul Abubakar Ali pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud related to the massive Feeding Our Future case Wednesday in Minneapoli

Fourth defendant in Feeding Our Future case pleads guilty

Abdul Abubakar Ali pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger in September announced a significant COVID-related fraud case based in Minnesota. Fifty people are now charged in the case.

Shakopee man becomes the 50th person indicted in Feeding Our Future fraud case

A Shakopee couple who operated a nonprofit and food vending company have been charged with bribery.
Twelve students stretch during a 2001 golf fitness class at the Marsh.

YMCA closes Minnetonka wellness center after nearly four decades

Membership at the Marsh dropped significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said.
Girl Scouts watched a live owl during a wildlife presentation by the Raptor Center in the rotunda of the Mall of America.

Twin Cities-based Girl Scouts council gets record $4.2 million from MacKenzie Scott

Scott has given at least $80 million to Minnesota nonprofits in less than two years.
State representative's brother runs nonprofit that participated in federal meals program

State representative's brother runs nonprofit that participated in federal meals program

State Rep. Mohamud Noor's stepbrother Mohamed Amin Ahmed runs a nonprofit that lost funding to distribute free meals because an organization it was associated with had its funding cut off amid the FBI investigation.
Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman, who represents the Sixth Ward.

Wife of Mpls. council's Osman leads nonprofit with ties to fraud investigation

Ilo Amba started Urban Advantage Services, which is among 213 sites under Partners in Nutrition.
The St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation announced the 2022 recipients of its Facing Race Awards: (clockwise from top left) Angela Hooks, Classie Dudley, T

St. Paul & Minnesota Foundation honors four anti-racism activists

It's the 16th year of the Facing Race Awards, which honor community leaders who are working to eliminate racism in Minnesota.
 U.S. District Judge John Tunheim denied Partners in Nutrition’s request for a temporary restraining order, which sought to lift Minnesota Departmen

Judge denies St. Paul food provider's effort to rejoin meals program

The Education Department terminated Partners in Nutrition's participation in May amid an FBI investigation into broader alleged fraud in the program.
Workers at Brava Cafe in Minneapolis packed seven days worth of packaged meals on Feb. 4, 2022. The federal waivers allowing distribution of meals tha

Food program oversight strengthened as state returns to pre-pandemic rules

Some worry that Feeding Our Future scandal will result in regulations that create more hurdles for legitimate organizations to distribute food to children in need.
A week after FBI agents raided Minnesota nonprofit Feeding Our Future in January, evidence of the raid was seen in its St. Anthony offices.

Questions continue in food fraud case over judge's words

The Minnesota Department of Education stopped and then restarted payments to Feeding Our Future in 2021.
Aimee Bock, the executive director of the nonprofit Feeding Our Future, shown in January.

For Feeding Our Future leader, an unlikely path to scandal

Self-professed "rule follower" Aimee Bock has become the face of a $250 million food fraud case
A day of recriminations over the Feeding Our Future scandal ended Friday with Gov. Tim Walz backing away from a call to investigate the judge who pres

Feeding Our Future charges lead to dispute over 2021 case

At issue is a 2021 lawsuit that led the Minnesota Department of Education to resume payments to Feeding Our Future, the nonprofit that federal prosecutors say was used to orchestrate a $250 million scheme to defraud the federal government of money meant to feed poor children.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Heather Mueller

Department of Education seeks over $500K in legal fees from nonprofit

Feeding Our Future sued the state Education Department in 2020 after the department stopped payments to the nonprofit over concerns about a rapid increase in meal claims.
Hanna Marekegn, owner of Brava Cafe, at her warehouse in February. She worked with Feeding Our Future before the nonprofit terminated her contract. Sh

Dispute between Feeding Our Future, Mpls. site alleges kickbacks, inflated meals

Both parties blame each other in the alleged $250 million federal food aid fraud scheme.
College Possible at Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, MN, January 12, 2015.

College Possible Minnesota receives anonymous record $1 million donation

The donation will help the St. Paul-based nonprofit expand the number of students it works with to help boost college admissions.
The Washburn Center for Children in Minneapolis in December 2014.

Washburn Center for Children in Minneapolis receives surprise $3 million donation

The gift comes as the Minneapolis mental health provider faces a growing number of calls and an unprecedented workforce shortage.
Skyler Thomas, 5, posed with books handed out by the Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute.

St. Paul nonprofit works to boost literacy rates among children of color

Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute is distributing more books to Twin Cities kids this year thanks to a new grant and fundraiser.
Melissa Evers served in Minnesota’s first-ever Recovery Corps in 2018, providing peer-to-peer support for individuals overcoming addition.

Minnesota's Recovery Corps doubles its volunteer force to combat substance abuse issues

The AmeriCorps program is looking for 100 Minnesotans to mentor peers with substance abuse.