Patterson Foundation, St Paul, Minn, funded primarily by current and former employees of Patterson Companies Inc, has awarded $277,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations across the United States. The latest awards were decided at the foundation’s December board meeting.

The December awards bring the total given by Patterson Foundation in 2016 to $1.2 million. This is the first year in the foundation’s history that annual giving surpassed $1 million.

Operation Grace MN received the largest grant—$120,000 for operating support for its program to provide comprehensive dental care to underserved high school students through its mobile dental clinic. The Foundation also provided a $60,000 grant to Operation Grace at its September meeting.

“Providing access to quality dental care has been a keystone of the Foundation’s charitable giving for many years, making it a natural choice to partner with Operation Grace MN,” said Dave Misiak, president of Patterson Foundation. “We are completely on-board with their goal to serve young people and are thrilled to support this good work taking place in Patterson’s backyard.”

Operation Grace MN is working with school systems throughout Minnesota to provide care to students. The organization selected 12 secondary schools in the Twin Cities, Duluth, St Cloud, and Buffalo that have high populations of low-income families who are unable to access essential dental care. Each school identifies the students eligible for care, secures parental permission for treatment, and schedules the patients.

“More than 7,000 students have been identified as needing care. This is the first time some students are receiving a dental cleaning or even seeing a dentist,” said John Braddock, executive director of Operation Grace MN. “With the support from the Patterson Foundation, we now have the resources to confidently move forward with our program to reach more schools and students.”

Braddock predicts that the organization will be able to provide approximately $1 million in dental care to students with 3,700 preventative and restorative appointments this year.

Some of the other grant recipients from the Foundation’s December meeting include American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation (Madison, Wis); CARE Clinic (Red Wing, Minn); Dental Lifeline Network (Denver); Holland Free Health Clinic (Holland, Mich); and Interfaith Dental Clinic (Nashville, Tenn).