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
Defendant Abdiaziz Shafii Farah walks into United States District Court during the third day of jury selection in the first Feeding Our Future case to

IRS agent testifies about 'peculiar' names in food distribution sites in Feeding Our Future trial

Prosecutors have called more than 30 witnesses in the meal fraud trial, which entered its fourth week of witness testimonies on Monday.
FBI agents raided Feeding Our Future in St. Anthony in January 2022.

Cash, gold jewelry, luxury cars: FBI agent details evidence seized in Feeding Our Future case

An FBI agent testified Friday in the Feeding Our Future trial about the luxury purchases defendants bought during the alleged fraud scheme.
Hadith Yusuf Ahmed walks out of the Diana E. Murphy U.S. Courthouse in Minneapolis after his 2022 hearing.

Defense attorneys seek to discredit key witness in Feeding Our Future meal fraud scheme

Hadith Ahmed, a former Feeding Our Future employee, testified Thursday that he hopes for a reduced prison sentence for cooperating with the FBI.
Hadith Yusuf Ahmed walks out of the Diana E. Murphy U.S. Courthouse in Minneapolis after a 2022 hearing.

Feeding Our Future employee testifies he took kickbacks, didn't check meal sites

Hadith Ahmed was the first Feeding Our Future employee to testify in the trial, revealing how a massive fraud scheme unfolded and admitting he got kickbacks from defendants.
Defendant Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, right, walks into United States District Court with his attorney Edward Sapone on Monday, April 22, in the first Feed

Witnesses testify about 'outlandish' numbers of meals they never saw served in Feeding Our Future trial

Six witnesses from across Minnesota testified on Tuesday in the Feeding Our Future trial that they didn't see thousands of meals distributed to apartments, parks or a music venue.
Defendant Said Shafii Farah, center, walks into United States District Court with attorneys Clayton Carlson, left, and Steve Schleicher, right, on Apr

Witnesses in Feeding Our Future trial testify they saw no meals served

Five witnesses testified Monday in the Feeding Our Future trial that they either saw no meals served or "few people" at meal distribution sites run by defendants.
Defendant Said Shafii Farah, center, walks into the U.S. District Court with his attorneys Clayton Carlson, left, and Steve Schleicher during the Feed

Crowds in closed park and FBI tipsters: Trial unveils details in alleged meal fraud scheme

In the first week of the Feeding Our Future trial, prosecutors revealed their evidence defendants stole millions of dollars while defense attorneys moved to cast doubt in the FBI's investigation.
The FBI executed a search warrant at Twin Cities nonprofit Feeding our Future on Jan. 20, 2022.

FBI agent reveals how the agency's massive fraud investigation began in Feeding Our Future trial

An FBI agent was the second person to testify this week in the trial for seven defendants with ties to Feeding Our Future.
The Diana E. Murphy United States Courthouse building in downtown Minneapolis.

Minnesota Education Department official testifies in Feeding Our Future trial about fraud concerns

Emily Honer, a supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Education, was the first witness called in the trial. She said she had concerns about the number of meal sites tied to Feeding Our Future in 2020.
Defendant Abdiaziz Shafii Farah walks into U.S. District Court during the third day of jury selection in the first Feeding Our Future case to go to tr

Defense attorneys in first Feeding Our Future trial say defendants served 'real food'

Prosecutors and defense attorneys gave opening statements Monday in the first Feeding Our Future trial, painting different versions of how meal programs were run.
Defendant Said Shafii Farah, center, walks into the U.S. District Court with attorneys Clayton Carlson, left, and Steve Schleicher, right, during the

Jury selected for Feeding Our Future trial after unusually long process due to publicity of massive fraud case

More than 70 Minnesotans were questioned in an unusually long four-day process to select a jury for the first Feeding Our Future trial due to the high publicity in the massive case.
Defendant Abdimajid Mohamed Nur, right, walks into United States District Court with his attorney Edward Sapone during the first day of jury selection

First trial in Feeding Our Future case underway as jury selection begins

More than a dozen potential jurors were interviewed Monday from a pool of 1,000 people summoned.
The Diana E. Murphy United States Courthouse building in downtown Minneapolis.

First trial in Feeding Our Future federal fraud case starts Monday

It's the first Feeding Our Future case to go to trial since the more than $250 million fraud scheme was publicly revealed in January 2022. The seven defendants' lawyers have argued they didn't knowingly commit a crime.
Hail pounds a roof as a severe storm rolls through the Twin Cities in May 2022.

Why do so many Minnesota homeowners get free roofs after a hailstorm?

Stormy weather has been beating up local roofs lately. But insurance companies are also scaling back coverage, arguing that "something's got to change."
Joel Ackerman, a former UnitedHealth Group executive and startup founder, was inspired by a Canadian man who started with a red paperclip, trading it

Buy Nothing meets GoFundMe: How a new Eden Prairie website aims to 'revolutionize' philanthropy

RedLadder is a new online marketplace where people trade free household items, resulting in donations to Twin Cities nonprofits.
3M headquarters in Maplewood.

Some of Minnesota's largest companies have quietly closed their foundations

3M, General Mills and Thrivent have closed their foundations in recent years, changing how they give back to the community.
The Diana E. Murphy United States Courthouse building in downtown Minneapolis.

An 18th defendant pleads guilty in Feeding Our Future fraud case

Hoda Abdi, 53, of Burnsville pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Carolyn Wharton left , John Whaley, Annette Whaley and Lauren Whaley join hundreds of other people to watch a partial eclipse at the Science Museum of

Minnesotans traveling to see Monday's solar eclipse hope to catch 'cosmic dance'

Many Minnesotans are embarking on road trips across the country to witness three or four minutes of a total solar eclipse on Monday.
Pollen Midwest employee Jerome Rankine, center, handed off 6-month-old Dani to her mother Jamie Millard, Executive Director of Pollen Midwest, before

Minneapolis media arts nonprofit Pollen Midwest shuts down after nearly 15 years

The small nonprofit was well-known in the nonprofit sector for its events, storytelling and jobs board.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, at podium, announced charges in March 2023 against 10 more people in the ongoing $250 million federal food aid fraud case

Bloomington nonprofit leader tied to Feeding Our Future agrees to step down

In a settlement agreement, Ayan Abukar agreed to step down from the nonprofit she continued to be involved with despite federal criminal fraud charges.
YWCA signage still hangs on the former Uptown facility on Friday.

YWCA Minneapolis sells Uptown fitness facility to nonprofit creating workforce development hub

Tending the Soil, a coalition of nonprofits and unions, plan to close on the sale in June.
Roland Arnold, 71, who had been homeless since 2007, shows one of the beds he used to sleep in at Catholic Charities Twin Cities' St. Paul shelter on

Homelessness in Minnesota declined slightly in 2023, according to new study

For the first time in five years, Wilder Research has released a count of homelessness in Minnesota.
From left, Project Success Facilitator Clara Kennedy works with Minneapolis high school seniors Maya Ndjarakana, Riyah Wooley and Adrien Brown during

Minneapolis nonprofit Project Success expands to Mankato schools after $3M donation

Its largest donation ever will allow Project Success, which provides free classes to Minneapolis students, to expand its programs to Minnesota students outside the Twin Cities.
MacKenzie Scott has doled out more than $126 million to 34 Minnesota nonprofits since 2020 as part of her pledge to give out a majority of her wealth

MacKenzie Scott gives $20 million to 10 Twin Cities nonprofits

The donations, announced Tuesday, from the Seattle billionaire will help Minnesota nonprofits expand their work.
Iconic orange banners over the main Nicollet Mall entrance.The YWCA Minneapolis closed its longtime Uptown and downtown (Shown here) fitness centers a

YWCA Minneapolis sells downtown fitness facility to St. David's Center in Minnetonka

St. David's Center hopes to close on the purchase of YWCA's building on Nicollet Mall this summer, allowing it to expand its child mental health and autism programs.
From left, Chuck Picard, Chuck Carlson and Sue Carlson biked toward the top of the Miner’s Mountain Overlook at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Minnesota launches new outdoor recreation office in a bid to be 'top 10' state for recreation

In the last decade, 20 states across the country have set up outdoor recreation offices. Minnesota has now launched its own, aiming to boost the economy.
Lauren Bennett McGinty, executive director of Explore Minnesota, speaks to more than 500 travel and tourism industry leaders from across the state dur

Explore Minnesota unveils new marketing campaign to sell the state to tourists, new residents

Travel industry experts got a first look at a new national ad campaign touting Minnesota to tourists and potential new residents.
Visitors sit in wood-fired cedar saunas and look out over frozen Lake Minnewashta at Sauna Camp in Excelsior. “Sauna-preneurs” Danny and Sophie St

From Lake Minnetonka to downtown Minneapolis, Twin Cities sauna culture heats up

Minnesota has become the epicenter of the sauna revival in the U.S., with new sauna experiences popping up in the Twin Cities.
Hero Pascal got excited to jump into the brand new V3 Sports pool n Minneapolis. The 25-yard swimming and training pool will soon be open to the publi

V3 Sports opens new north Minneapolis aquatics center this spring

The first phase of the $97 million aquatics and sports center is opening this spring, and with a June grand opening.
Rebecca Crooks-Stratton of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community says there are "no modern Indians in textbooks."

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community wraps up campaign to change Minnesota schools' perspectives on Native Americans

The Understand Native Minnesota campaign, which launched in 2019, has funded grants, research, new curriculum and training for teachers.
Minnesotans tailgated in Naples, Fla. in 1990.

What's the story behind the Minnesota communities in Arizona and Florida?

Even far away from their home state, Minnesotans often find each other.
Aimee Bock, the executive director of the nonprofit Feeding Our Future, spoke to the Star Tribune Jan. 27, 2022, days after her St. Anthony nonprofit

Feeding Our Future leader alleges a Minnesota Department of Education cover-up

Aimee Bock, who is criminally charged in the Feeding Our Future case, alleges that Education Department employees used burner phones and misspelled messages to hide information from a civil lawsuit the nonprofit filed over stopped payments.
Gov. Tim Walz greets tax preparation volunteers at the nonprofit Prepare and Prosper in St. Paul on Monday.

How to get free tax help and receive Minnesota's new $1,750 child tax credit

The new child tax credit is the highest in the country, helping an estimated 300,000 families in the state.
The Diana E. Murphy United States Courthouse building in downtown Minneapolis.

Burnsville grocery store owner charged in Feeding Our Future case

Hoda Abdi was charged Thursday with wire fraud, the 61st person to be charged or indicted.
Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Brooke Cunningham speaks during a press conference at the Ramsey County WIC Office with U.S. Agricultu

Thousands of Minnesota women, infants could lose access to federal program due to stagnant funding

On Thursday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Minnesota to urge Congress to fully fund the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program, or it will face funding cuts for the first time in 25 years.

Hot dish 2/1/24

Plus: Most of Minnesota's House delegation joined a bipartisan effort to approve a tax cut package.
Gov. Tim Walz was joined by corporate and nonprofit leaders and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan to support Second Harvest Heartland's new "Make Hunger History

Target, Cargill pledge $10 million each to Second Harvest Heartland's new plan to cut hunger in Minnesota

Second Harvest's new "Make Hunger History" plan could cost more than $150 million over the next six years in new staffing and programs.
A crew filmed a commercial for Explore Minnesota at the Market at Malcolm Yards in Minneapolis on Friday.

Minnesota funnels 'historic' $25 million to boost marketing the state to tourists, new residents

The Legislature approved the first funding increase to Explore Minnesota in more than a decade. The funding will support new campaigns to market Minnesota to travelers and prospective residents.
Volunteers Sue Weber, from left, Tracy Rahmig and Phil Soucheray packaged onions at Second Harvest Heartland in Brooklyn Park on Thursday.

Second Harvest Heartland grows to push ambitious plan to reduce hunger in Minnesota

The Twin Cities food bank is adding new data, policy and outreach staff in a broad new plan to cut hunger in half by 2030.
The new state flag, courtesy of the State Emblems Redesign Commission.

New Minnesota state flag becomes partisan issue in 2024

Republicans plan to introduce legislation to put the final Minnesota state flag design to a public vote.
Volunteer Lisa Polzin helps pack more than 40 boxes of groceries to be delivered to area families in need of food assistance Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024 at

Minnesota hits a new record for food shelf visits

More Minnesotans visited food shelves in 2023 than any year in recent history. More residents are also relying on food stamps than any year since 2016 as stagnant wages and rising costs bust budgets.
R.T. Rybak, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation.

Activists urge Minneapolis Foundation to rescind 2022 donation to Alpha News

Activists want the Minneapolis Foundation to rescind the donor's $11,500 grant to Alpha News, which they say may have been used to make the film "The Fall of Minneapolis."
Sharon Ross, who ran the St. Paul nonprofit House of Refuge, walked out of U.S. District Court on Wednesday with her attorney Earl Gray. Ross changed

Former St. Paul nonprofit leader pleads guilty in Feeding Our Future case

Sharon Ross led St. Paul nonprofit House of Refuge and could face three years in prison for wire fraud.
Among the new laws, landlords must include all fees in the total cost of rent on the first page of the lease, and heat units to at least 68 degrees.

New Minnesota laws aim to bolster protections for renters

State law changes include adding a grace period before evictions and requiring landlords to give 24 hours' notice before entering a unit.
The DFL-controlled Legislature had one of the most consequential sessions in state history, with a flood of progressive policies and new spending. Man

How new state laws will affect Minnesotans starting Jan. 1

Many laws take effect on the first day of 2024, from new gun safety rules to a requirement that workplaces offer sick time.
Kate Barr, CEO of Propel Nonprofits in Minneapolis, is retiring in January.

Meet the leader who's helped hundreds of Minnesota nonprofits with financial advice

Kate Barr, a former banking executive, is retiring in January after leading Propel Nonprofits for 23 years.
CEO Tawanna Black of the Center for Economic Inclusion

The Center for Economic Inclusion in St. Paul cuts staffing

The nonprofit cited declining donations and increasing expenses.
The U.S. Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis.

Feeding Our Future defendant cannot travel to Saudi Arabia, judge rules

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung rejected Hamdi Hussein Omar's request to make the trip.
Gov. Tim Walz and Sen. Heather Gustafson met with law enforcement leaders at a Lino Lakes fire station Thursday to discuss the $300 million in state f

Public safety agencies across Minnesota receive $300 million boost from state

The money will go to fire, police and emergency agencies statewide next week.
St. Grand has struck again, this time dropping $1,000 in hundred-dollar bills in a red kettle in Coon Rapids.

St. Grand is back, dropping $1,000 cash in a Salvation Army red kettle in Coon Rapids

The Twin Cities Salvation Army found a $1,000 donation of cash bills rolled up in a red kettle in Coon Rapids on Tuesday.
Glen Taylor announced at a news conference Tuesday in Mankato that he was donating $172 million worth of farmland to a foundation that will generate i

Billionaire Glen Taylor announces a new charitable mission for 2024

The Mankato businessman and Star Tribune owner will rent out his farmland, valued at $172 million, and donate the proceeds to charities and southern Minnesota communities.

Judges approve nine Feeding Our Future defendants' requests to travel

The travel requests cite family, religious or business needs and so far, it appears that none have fled the country before facing sentencing or trial.
The FBI executed a search warrant at Twin Cities nonprofit Feeding our Future on Jan. 20, 2022.

16th Feeding Our Future defendant pleads guilty

Ahmed Sharif Omar-Hashim pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud in the sprawling Feeding Our Future fraud scheme.

How low-income Minnesotans can qualify for heating assistance this winter

State officials urged low-income Minnesotans to take advantage of federally funded programs helping to offset utility costs or boost weatherization.
The FBI executed a search warrant at Twin Cities nonprofit Feeding our Future on Jan. 20, 2022.

Brooklyn Park woman pleads guilty in Feeding Our Future case

Filsan M. Hassan could face about three years in prison.

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott surprises six more Twin Cities nonprofits with $26.1M in gifts

Scott's foundation announced her latest round of surprise donations to nonprofits nationwide.

More Minnesota foundation dollars are going to Florida and other states

Some experts worry that means Minnesota nonprofits are getting less support from some Minnesota foundations.
Keith Ellison

Twin Cities nonprofit that helps families of first responders accused of conflicts of interest

The Minnesota 100 Club was ordered by the state Attorney General's Office to revamp its policies, including adding a conflict-of-interest policy.
Project for Pride in Living is proposing a new $60 million development to replace a Wells Fargo that burned down off Lake Street in the civil unrest a

Minnesotans can help affordable housing — and get a tax credit

The state's housing finance agency has launched a six-year fund to drum up donations in exchange for an 85% tax credit.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a written response to the audit that his office purchased a grants management system in May.

Audit finds Secretary of State's Office needs to boost oversight of grants

The Minnesota Secretary of State's office passed the state audit in every measure except for its oversight of grants.
Chief Natalie Hudson with husband Reverend Willie Hudson and Wilhelmina Marie Wright a her side, celebrates her new role as the leader of the Minnesot

Hudson, Procaccini mark new roles on the Minnesota Supreme Court with ceremonial oaths

Natalie Hudson and Karl Procaccini were officially sworn in in October, but a public ceremony was held Monday to honor them.
St. Paul firefighters responded to a report of a dead person in a downtown cave.

Explorers discover dead person in downtown St. Paul cave

No additional details were released about the deceased person or how they died.
Laura Wennik, a volunteer with the Food Group, packed pears into produce boxes last week during the food bank’s “Pack to the Max” event on Give

Minnesota on record-setting pace to top 7 million food shelf visits this year

Minnesota leaders announced Monday that the state will distribute an extra $5 million to food banks.
This historic Charles H. Burwell House is the first site in Minnetonka on the National Register of Historic Places.

Minnetonka estate showcases Victorian era and Minnesota's milling past

The Charles H. Burwell House was the first Minnetonka site to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Laura Wennik, a volunteer with the Food Group, helps pack pears into produce boxes during the food bank's "Pack to the Max" event on the 15th annual G

Give to the Max Day draws $34 million, the second-highest amount ever

The final tally: $34.2 million was donated on Give to the Max Day — the fourth consecutive year the statewide online fundraiser topped $30 million.
Foster Michelle Gregoire offered Susie a treat at Bauhaus Brew Labs during a fundraiser for Ruff Start Rescue on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.

Will Minnesotans break from the national trend of declining Give to the Max Day donations?

Many Minnesota nonprofits are seeing a drop in donations this year even as their expenses rise.
Minnesota Energy Climate Corps team member DeAndre Colquitte takes a photo of a building blueprint before resketching it during an energy audit Thursd

Minnesota's new Energy Climate Corps aims to diversify growing energy jobs

Minnesota's new Energy Climate Corps will train nearly two dozen AmeriCorps members on clean energy jobs as they make state park buildings more energy-efficient.
The Salvation Army’s annual red kettle campaign is going high tech, starting to accept mobile donations this year via Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Twin Cities Salvation Army adds tap technology to red kettles to boost donations

After adding Venmo and Paypal options and QR codes, the Salvation Army is now adding tap technology to increase digital donations.
Two of the dogs that the Animal Humane Society seized from an Andover animal rescue organization last week are expected to be up for adoption soon. Th

Authorities seize 30 dogs from Andover animal rescue after eight others found dead

The Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley is now assessing the dogs' medical conditions and hopes to put most of the pups up for adoption soon.
Tonya Allen, CEO of the McKnight Foundation, spoke at the launch of the GroundBreak Coalition in Minneapolis in May 2022.

Twin Cities coalition has raised nearly $1B to help Black homeowners, entrepreneurs

The GroundBreak Coalition launched about a year ago to raise $5.3 billion over the next decade and close racial wealth disparities in the Twin Cities.
Sahan Journal employees posed earlier this year. CEO Mukhtar Ibrahim is in the front row, fourth from right.

Mukhtar Ibrahim, who founded the Sahan Journal in St. Paul, announces he's stepping down as CEO

The online news organization has big plans to continue to grow, expanding coverage outside the Twin Cities and adding community events.
Liban Alishire exits on the escalator inside the Federal Courthouse after attending a plea hearing in Minneapolis in January

Judge allows Minnesota man convicted in Feeding Our Future case to go overseas

Liban Alishire said he needed to travel to Kenya to sell properties he bought in the Feeding Our Future scheme, so he can pay back restitution to the federal government.
Ann Averill, the Violence Prevention and Intervention Manager at 360 Communities, shows one of the rooms at the domestic violence shelter in Hastings.

Minnesota and Wisconsin domestic violence shelters brace for cuts

Minnesota and Wisconsin domestic violence shelters brace for a possible 40% decline in federal aid next year, which could spur layoffs and program closures.
Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Minnesota seeks to shut down nonprofits accused of defrauding federal meals program

Some of the organizations are tied to Feeding Our Future, the nonprofit at the center of a separate federal criminal investigation.