Since 1998 Valspar Corporation, headquartered in Minneapolis, has partnered with the six Minnesota initiative foundations for the "Minnesota Beautiful" program. This grant provides free paint to communities and nonprofits for beautification and restoration projects.

At Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), this long-standing Picture-It-Painted program is the exciting kick-off to our summer. Each year, we award projects based on visual impact, public benefit, volunteer participation and support, intended use, and benefit to those in need. We've awarded paint for historic buildings and structures, senior citizen centers, community centers, libraries and murals.

This year, we awarded $18,434 worth of paint in collaboration with Valspar - over 700 gallons to 20 organizations. The Picture-it-Painted program is always exciting. We know we're supporting projects that will improve the look of our region, but it also reminds us that collaboration shapes and improves our communities. The projects we fund must involve a number of volunteers - and while communities are comprised of buildings, parks, and streets, the real community is built by people and neighbors. We're happy to supply the paint that will provide these communities with an asset they can enjoy for years to come.

Our partnership with Valspar has been a valuable one-and we're pleased to announce another opportunity. At our annual luncheon on Oct. 2, themed "Investing in Communities," we will announce the recipient of a special paint project. There will be stiff competition, as only one community will be awarded paint through this program.

For this one-time grant program, we urge area nonprofit organizations and agencies of local, state, and federal governments in southern Minnesota to apply for free paint products for a community mural project. This special Paint the Town grant is administered by SMIF in collaboration with Valspar Corporation, which is generously donating the award between 50 and 100 gallons of paint products, conservatively valued around $25 per gallon.

We will be distributing an official request for proposal for this Paint the Town grant shortly with full details. All applications will be due Aug. 15. We hope you'll begin thinking about a mural project for your community!

Tim Penny is president/CEO of Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. He welcomes your questions and comments. You can reach him at