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Winter hats for all! St. Paul groups given $400K for projects to improve their city

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Almost $400,000 in grant funding has been given to organizations aiming to improve St. Paul – and one of them will welcome every new arrival to the city with a warm winter hat.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Tuesday the winning recipients of $5 million of grant funding as part of its Knight Cities Challenge, and four St. Paul projects are among them.

Two of these projects have been noted by CityLab as being among the more innovative proposals put forward – two "welcome to the city" initiatives from St. Paul's Jun-Li Wang.

Wang, who is an artist community organizer for St.Paul-based Springboard for the Arts, won a $67,288 grant for her "Rolling Out the Warm Welcome Hat" plan, which will see people who move to the city officially welcomed by city leaders once a month, and presented with a warm hat to get them through the winter.

Wang was given another $37,960 for her "MN Nice Breakers" proposal – which is described as "using existing events to help newcomers establish social networks."

She told the Pioneer Press the money will fund a "social networking ambassador" who will greet visitors at walking tours, brewery crawls and other organized activities and help connect them with other people.

Funding for fellow and outdoor activities

The biggest grant of $175,000 was won by the Mayor's Office of St. Paul, which will be using it to fund a fellow in the office who will manage the mayor's $42 million 8-80 Vitality Fund, which "aims to ensure that walking, biking and public spaces are a priority in all city projects."

The City of St. Paul notes the grant will fund the fellow position for 18 months. Knight Foundation St. Paul program director Polly Talen said the project is about "creating new opportunities, connecting residents from diverse backgrounds, and giving people the tools to help shape the future of our city."

The final recipient from Minnesota is Greater MSP, which has been awarded $117,000 for its 4 Play proposal.

The project will run one outdoor activity per season – such as ice fishing or canoeing – that will be open to residents. It is designed to raise awareness of Minnesota's outdoor offerings.

The Pioneer Press notes the Knight Foundation awards the funding to improve cities where the Knight family once owned newspapers (which includes the St. Paul Pioneer Press.)

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