Intern Helps Non-profit Obtain $110,000 Grant

Posted on December 9th, 2007 by

Rebecca Andert made a big impact during an internship in Rice Lake, Wisc. (Photo by Pat Christman of the Mankato Free Press)

Rebecca Andert made a big impact during an internship in Rice Lake, Wisc. (Photo by Pat Christman of the Mankato Free Press)

by Robb Murray
Mankato Free Press

Looks like the Rice Lake site of Habitat for Humanity made a wise move in hiring Gustavus Adolphus College student Rebecca Andert as an intern last summer.

She did tons of research. She put together a business plan. She traveled around Wisconsin to tour other Habitat sites. She represented the Rice Lake site at a conference in Texas.

Oh, and on her first-ever attempt at grant writing, she scored $110,000 — enough money to allow the Rice Lake, Wis., site to start up a Habitat for Humanity Restore, a business that sells furniture and other materials for home building or remodeling at greatly reduced prices.

“It feels amazing, and I don’t think I understand the full impact of what I’ve done yet,” Andert said.

The higher-ups at Habitat, obviously, are thrilled.

“It’s the kind of project we never could have accomplished with just volunteers,” says Terry Warren, executive director with the Rice Lake Habitat site. “It’s the perfect project for a summer intern, and we were fortunate to get the perfect person.”

Andert, from Benson, Minn., came to Rice Lake through a program with the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs. The Rice Lake Habitat site applied for an intern from the consortium and ended up with her. The program is competitive: About 500 nonprofits apply for one of between 17 and 22 interns. About 500 students apply for the internships as well.

Getting the big grant wasn’t the first line of business for Andert. Her main job at first was to help research what it would take for the site to launch a Restore, which more Habitat sites across the country are using to have a steady income source.

While working on a viability study, she came across a grant program run through the Department of Natural Resources. The program sought proposals for waste-reduction projects. Andert put that on the back burner and decided to pursue it when the business plan was finished.

“I put everything together and came up with a final draft of the grant — 45 pages, single-spaced,” Andert said.

Without the grant, the Restore wouldn’t have happened — at least not yet. Habitat could have spent months or, more likely, years to raise the money it needed to start up a Restore.

The grant made things much easier for Habitat to start up a business venture that, in the end, helps reduce waste and offers goods to people at low prices.

Andert’s success with the grant is somewhat surprising. She had no experience writing grants, although she said she loves to write, likes doing research papers and has gotten quite good, she says, at writing papers that have many specific requirements.

Ultimately, every internship is about learning. And Andert says she learned plenty.

“I learned a lot about the structure of nonprofits themselves,” she said. “For a seemingly small nonprofit, I was like a paid person in the office.”

She learned grant writing, obviously, self-taught though it was. And she also learned something about the good that can happen when your heart is in the right place.

“A family from a local church adopted me,” she said. “I went to church with them got to know the whole family … I’m actually going back there for a dance recital of my host sister.”

Andert says she’s formed a bond with Rice Lake and the people she met. The feeling, Warren says, is mutual.

“We knew where we were headed, and basically she just ran with it for us,” Warren said. “It was just such a pleasure to have her here.”

The Rice Lake Habitat for Humanity Restore is set to open in February.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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