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Local Lutheran shares honor for advocacy on behalf of children

In Minnesota’s public policy circles, the late Nancy Latimer is widely considered a pioneering statewide leader, one of the most respected influences on the conscience and direction of our state. Latimer, who died in 2006, worked hard and effectively and quietly over three decades, at the McKnight Foundation and in other roles, building a case and a network for more and better investment in early childhood development, and also to advance and protect the interests of rural Minnesota.

One-third of all our births in Minnesota over the last many years actually are paid for by medical assistance. So, we are seeing in our babies some of our most concentrated poverty.” -Jane Kretzmann

Annual awards granted in Latimer’s name don’t typically attract much mainstream media attention. But the fourth annual “Nancy” awards by the Minnesota Early Childhood Funders Network generated palpable enthusiasm June 24 among a growing network of advocates for investing amply and wisely in the crucial childhood years, and getting off the dime in the new decade.
Watch for continued strong leadership and new directions from these two veterans of the early childhood cause, each of whom were awarded a “Nancy” at a conference of community leaders at the Wilder Foundation campus in St. Paul.
Jane Kretzmann, a former program officer for the Bush Foundation, heads up a promising new “Project for Babies”with the support of several local foundations. She promised in 2011 and beyond to “bring the voice of babies” to the public policy debates over budgets and priorities in Minnesota.
Kretzmann was also previously state refugee coordinator and a key leader for the Minnesota Community Foundation and the St. Paul Foundation. She is a member at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA), Minneapolis. In addition, she is daughter-in-law of Metro Lutheran founder, the late Rev. Norman Kretzmann.
“One-third of all our births in Minnesota over the last many years actually are paid for by medical assistance,” Kretzmann told Minnesota Public Radio. “So, we are seeing in our babies some of our most concentrated poverty.” And such poverty can create or exacerbate a toxic environment for children who already are likely more vulnerable due to health-related stresses.
Sharing the honor, Art Rolnick, one of the state’s most respected and oft-quoted economists, was recognized as one of the foremost authorities and advocates for early childhood education. He is retiring this summer as senior vice-president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and beginning a new career at the University of Minnesota. He will head up a center focusing on research and policy studies in early childhood.

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