Contributed photo
The CornerStone received a $50,000 grant from the USDA to help purchase kitchen equipment for its bistro. The picture is a rendering of what the bistro set up will look like.

Fraternity volunteers to help with demolition

By Barbie Porter


The CornerStone youth center and bistro received a $50,000 grant, and volunteer labor from a fraternity.

Executive Director Tracy Neusser said the grant funds came from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and will go towards purchasing new kitchen equipment for the bistro.

Tracy Neusser

“The grant we applied for was called a community facilities grant,” she said.

When Neusser began as executive director in January, the CornerStone committee had contacted the USDA about grant opportunities and put in a notice of interest for grant funding. Neusser took the lead from there and brought the grant opportunity across the finish line.

She explained the grant provides $50,000 to purchase new equipment for the bistro. The estimated cost for the equipment is more than $100,000. The remainder of the funds will require donations, fundraiser events or more grant funding.

“It took about a week to hear back, once we completed the grant application and submitted it,” she said, adding the CornerStone was lucky to have advocates such as Laura Petit of the USDA speak on behalf of the project. 

For those unfamiliar, the CornerStone is a group of community members spanning the ages of teen to adult who have worked together to bring a youth center to Frazee. The group was contacted by the United Community Methodist Church last year, who offered their building on the corner of Birch Avenue and Second Street Northwest for $500. 

The United Community Methodist Church of Frazee is building a new house of worship in the Red Willow Heights Development.

Since taking ownership, CornerStone went to the Frazee Planning Commission and requested the residential zoned property be changed to commercial. The request was approved. 

The group began demolition to the basement where the bistro will be located, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress.

Jump starting the demolition process once again will be a fraternity from Omaha, Neb. Neusser said, CornerStone board member Karen Pifher has many contacts through her work with Essentia Health. The opportunity to have a fraternity to donate time to do demolition work came about through that resource.

“They are coming in to help clean and finish gutting the basement so we can move forward with rehabilitation process, as well as get ready to purchase the kitchen equipment,” she said. 

While area residents are eager to see the youth center opened, Neusser  said opening this year is not likely. While work is resuming on the building, finding a contractor has been slow going.

“We are hoping to open next year, but we are not sure when,” she said. “The ball is moving forward and we are optimistic.”

While the construction phase is a work in progress, Neusser is focusing on creating policy and procedures with the CornerStone board. She said having those documents in place will open the group up to more non-profit grant opportunities.