Archive | July, 2016

Ready & Resilient_heat

Hot time in the city!

Posted on 20 July 2016 by Calvin

Climate change means we are experiencing more extreme weather. In the summer, we will experience more days that are hotter than average, and more nights that don’t cool down. Those of us without air conditioning, and those of us who usually work and play outdoors, are likely to suffer. We will need to adapt our behavior (limit strenuous activity during the hottest days) and adopt practices to keep cooler and healthy.

Heat can be deadly. You likely know that heat stroke and heat exhaustion are a result of the body overheating (to 105° F). But you may not realize how quickly overheating can damage the brain and other internal organs. Call 911, but cooling within 30 minutes is essential to maximize survival. Many summer sports training and events now provide an ice bath to immediately immerse an athlete in case of an emergency.

Ready & Resilient_heatPhoto right: The Driftless Organics harvest team takes a well-deserved break to rest, hydrate and cool down; they deliver CSA boxes to the Hamline Midway area and local co-ops.

Anyone who spends time outdoors in strenuous activity is at risk. This includes runners, sports teams, youth engaged in outdoor activities, construction workers, farmers, gardeners, and homeless people. Small children and pets depend on your ability to recognize when they are heat stressed.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to extreme heat as they may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. They may have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. And, some prescription medication reduces the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or inhibit perspiration.

Acclimating, or getting used to heat stress, is a key factor. Most serious health problems and deaths due to heat occur within the first few days of starting strenuous work or exercise in the sun. Your body needs about two weeks to acclimate to extreme heat. Factor this into your schedule. Start with shorter periods of activity and allow lots of breaks to rest and cool off. You can gradually increase the duration and strenuousness of activity each day as your body gets used to the stress.

Staying hydrated is vital. When it is hot, you will be sweating even if you aren’t aware of it. For every 1% loss in body mass, your body temperature will increase by a half degree Fahrenheit. You want to minimize the loss of fluids during exercise to reduce the risk of heat stroke.

We often hear the heat index as a measure of extreme heat, but remember that it is calculated for shady areas. If you work or exercise in the direct sun, consider using the standard used by the military and OSHA: the WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT). It measures heat stress in direct sunlight and offers guidelines for the number and length of breaks (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/tsa/?n=wbgt).

So how can we cope?
• If you have one, use your air conditioner. Make sure it works before you need it. Many of the people who have died during extreme heat events had air conditioners but failed to use them due to cost concerns, or because they are broken. Your life and health are worth the cost!
• If you don’t have an air conditioner, find an accessible place that does. Libraries, stores, and movie theaters are good options.
• On the hottest days limit the use of your oven or stove, which will only make your house hotter.
• Wear loose, lightweight clothing.
• Take cool showers or baths, or wrap a wet towel or scarf around your neck to cool down.
• Drink more water than usual: throughout the day and before, during and after exercise. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Carry a water bottle with you and use it. Limit the intake of alcohol and caffeine.
• Don’t rush. Assume tasks will take longer because you are building in more and longer breaks.
• Schedule more strenuous outdoor tasks for early morning or evening when it is cooler.
• Take your breaks in the shade or inside: this is time for your body to cool down, as well as to rest.
• Don’t forget that pets suffer from heat—bring them inside where it is air-conditioned, provide shade for them, schedule walks in early morning or evening when it is cooler, and provide lots of water.
• Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are characterized by confusion, dizziness, and collapse. You may not realize how hot or ill you are. So on those extreme heat days, have someone check on you! And do the same for others!

More health and safety tips and resources to deal with extreme heat can be found at www.ready.gov/heat and emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp.

The Ready & Resilient Hamline Midway project is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Environmental Group (HMEG) to build climate change resilience in our community.

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ComoFest shapes neighborhood identity, brings people together

ComoFest shapes neighborhood identity, brings people together

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

Community partners share what they appreciate most about the seven-year-old festival of family-friendly activities

Historical photos submitted

How has ComoFest developed from a small ice cream social with a few hundred people to a month-long event drawing in thousands?

Ask the organizers and they’ll point to how the festival strengthens the community while pulling in neighborhood partners. Plus, it’s fun.

Movie Night & Camp Out 2013 030“ComoFest has an established reputation of building the community through family-fun events,” stated Lyngblomsten Director of Lifelong Learning and the Arts Andrea Lewandoski. In 2012, Lyngblomsten integrated its annual “Mid-Summer Festival” into ComoFest.

“The events allow for an open, friendly atmosphere, the opportunity for community members to meet and speak with local artists, hear live music from local bands and musicians, and provide the chance for community members to visit local businesses and restaurants,” said Lewandowski. “Fine food and a variety of arts and wellness activities add to the festive fun during the entire month of July.”

“When folks think about Como Park, they typically think of the park and zoo, which is a huge draw and major asset to this neighborhood,” remarked AndreaLynn Johnson. “But ComoFest is giving families throughout the Twin Cities and surrounding area another reason to visit the neighborhood—for the food, the music, the arts, to explore new events, and meet new people in Como that they didn’t know. It is a way to highlight what the people of the community have to offer the greater Twin Cities community.”

summer 2010 014Johnson has been part of the festival since the beginning when she coordinated the first art crawl. That year, five artists opened up their studios and homes, including Johnson. Over the years, the art crawl has evolved into an art fair that she continues to organize.
What’s kept her involved over the years?

“I love finding unique ways to promote the arts, and doing so in this non-juried art fair has been a wonderful way to highlight local artists,” said Johnson. “I have enjoyed not only seeing the community come together for one unified event or focus, but getting to know my fellow community members and business even better.”

“The willingness to volunteer time and genuine love for the neighborhood shown by the community is unmatched,” Johnson said.

ComoFestArtFair2014Photo right: Artist AndreaLynn Johnson (at right) has helped organize the art fair since its inception. “I love finding unique ways to promote the arts, and doing so in this non-juried art fair has been a wonderful way to highlight local artists,” said Johnson. “I have enjoyed not only seeing the community come together for one unified event or focus but getting to know my fellow community members and business even better.”

“This has strengthened our working bonds for sure,” said Darcy Rivers, St. Paul Parks and Recreation Community Recreation Director of Programming. “Having the opportunity to work with District 10, Lyngblomsten and others is a no-brainer. We all service the same people, combine our resources, learn from each other, receive new contacts and develop friendships.”

One thing that sets ComoFest apart is that each event operates independently. “There’s no grand planning committee,” explained Michael Kuchta, District 10 Executive Director. “But we do collaborate, we do support each other, and we do coordinate as much as we can on things like logistics, advertising, and publicity.”

Movie Night & Camp Out 2013 036District 10 serves as the hub for ComoFest and hosts the web page and Facebook page. It also handles the finances and contributes its own event, the Ice Cream Social.

This year’s partners include Lyngblomsten, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, Topline Federal Credit Union, The Underground Music Cafe, Honest-1 Auto Care, Como Dockside Lakeside Pavilion, and Como Park – Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program. Humphrey Job Corps Center supplies volunteers.

From a weekend to a month
Instead of cramming everything into one weekend, this year there will be eight events spread out over four weekends. “We’re hoping that gives neighbors a chance to sample activities in a way that fits their schedules,” explained Kuchta. “If they happen to be out of town one weekend, or already booked solid for one weekend, they’ve still got a chance to check out a half-dozen other events.”

The festival started with the North Dale Movie Night on July 8 and the ComoFest Art Fair on July 9.

Next up:
• District 10 Ice Cream Social on July 15;
• ComoFest 5K Walk/Run for Everyone on July 17;
• Lyngblomsten Mid-Summer Festival: A Celebration of Arts & Lifelong Learning on July 22;
• Community Appreciation Picnic on July 23;
• Northwest Como Campout on July 29; and
• the Block Party at UMC on July 30-31.

“Don’t miss any of it,” urged Rivers. “Each event brings a new flavor of activity that is representative of the neighborhood.”

“The evolution of ComoFest from one small event to a month-long series of events has been due to our want to include more partners within and outside of District 10, wanting to include a wider variety of activities and by spreading the activities out over a month, giving families a better opportunity to attend more of the ComoFest events,” said Johnson.

Work in progress
ComoFest is a continual work in progress with new ideas and community members, observed Rivers.

River remembers the meeting in 2010 that gave birth to ComoFest. She and then-District 10 Community Council Coordinator Rhonda DeBough recognized that people couldn’t afford to travel because of the recession, and they decided to offer the District 10 Staycation. They combined the Northwest Como Movie Night with District 10’s Art Crawl, Garden Tour, and Bike Ride, along with the Chelsea Heights PTO Flea Market and Coffee Grounds Music Festival on one weekend.

The festival also offered residents a way to discover a little bit more about their neighborhood.
“In that way, nothing’s changed,” remarked Kuchta. “You can still experience ComoFest without spending a dime. It’s still family oriented, and it features a variety of very simple, very low-key, but enjoyable events that expose you to some of what’s available right in your own backyard.”

Some events come and go, he noted, but the essence is still the same.

“It’s not a big festival that shuts down streets and disrupts people’s lives for a couple of days. We’ve got enough high-impact activity in our neighborhood. ComoFest is actually the opposite of that.”

Spreading through Como
Kuchta is excited to see the event growing to include more than just the intersection of Hamline and Hoyt, where things were centered at the beginning. “For the first time this year, we’ve got something going on east of the lake—with North Dale’s movie night—and something going on in South Como—with TopLine’s cookout. I’m hoping we can build on that, so we really do tie in the whole neighborhood,” he stated.

Como Park – Falcon Heights Living at Home Block Nurse Program initially got involved with Comofest by invitation from District 10. The community non-profit began with an information table at the ice cream social and that morphed into sponsoring a 5K run/walk around Como Lake last year.

“It turned out better than we thought,” recalled Executive Director Jody McCardle. “And we loved meeting neighbors who were glad to learn about how we help seniors remain in their homes safely. We even had a few runners become volunteers for our program.”

“Many of the seniors we work with talk about their love of Como Lake and their everyday walks around Como Lake with family and friends—so in a way it is a continuum of celebrating our seniors in our community and the natural resources of District 10 that we treasure,” McCardle added.

All part of Como Park
The Como area is in high demand from people all over the state and visitors, pointed out Rivers. While the community cherishes the Como resources and shares them, residents also value their neighborhoods. ComoFest helps with community identity, strengthens the neighborhood and takes back the space.

“It sounds cliché, but anything that gets us out from behind our own fences helps build community,” said Kuchta. “Something like ComoFest can eliminate, in small ways, the physical barriers that separate parts of our neighborhood: Which side of the park you are on, which side of the tracks you are on, are you in a home or an apartment? Doesn’t matter—you’re still part of Como Park.”

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Galtier saved! Neighborhood elementary school to remain open

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

It’s a new day at Galtier Elementary School, as parents and supporters work to increase enrollment. The school community plans a public celebration 5:30-7:30pm on Thur., July 21 at the school, 1317 Charles Ave. The school community wants to thank everyone who helped during the battle to keep the school open. There will be free activities, as well as some food for purchase to support the school.They’re also welcoming families interested in the school as an option for their children.

On a 4-3 vote on June 21, the St. Paul School Board voted to keep Galtier open. Superintendent Valeria Silva had proposed that the school close in 2017. Silva had argued that the improvements needed to keep Galtier open would increase Galtier’s budget from $1.259 million to $1.96 million. Silva said that students could be sent to Hamline Elementary starting in fall 2017.

But Galtier parents rallied, with dozens attending School Board meetings to make the case for the school. Many contended that the school district hasn’t given Galtier the resources it needs to survive and thrive and that closing the school would hurt its families.

Galtier was a citywide magnet school before it became a neighborhood school under Silva’s Strong Schools, Strong Communities program. Enrollment dropped to 158 in 2015-16 and is projected at 144 this fall. Supporters contend that the school district hasn’t done enough to help promote the school and that allowing Hamline Midway families to have children bused out of the neighborhood has hurt Galtier.

In the weeks up to the Galtier vote, parents speculated that it could be a 4-3 split to either close or save the school. They cheered when the vote went their way.

School Board Member John Brodrick was the most vocal about saving Galtier, saying that district officials were pulling the rug out from under the school and not giving parents time to boost enrollment. He was joined by Steve Marchese, Zuki Ellis, and Chue Vue, who turned out to be the swing vote. John Schumacher, Mary Vanderwert, and Jean O’Connell voted for the closing.

The 4-3 vote was part of a lengthy and contentious School Board meeting in which Silva’s tenure as superintendent was ended and School Board Member Jean O’Connell resigned in protest. O’Connell is done effective June 30. Silva will stay on for a time as a district consultant.

The School Board also voted to close a projected $15.1 million budget gap.

Galtier parent Clayton Howatt said the vote to keep the school open signals a new day as parents, teachers and other school supporters focus on increasing enrollment. Galtier parents, students and school officials hosted an open house June 29, which was attended by several prospective families.

“School Board members have told us they want to see Galtier not just thrive but survive,” Howatt said. Ideas for how Glitter engages parents could be tried at other struggling neighborhood schools.

As they work on other ways to boost enrollment, parents are also reaching out to area colleges to see if they can partner with Galtier.

“We’re moving on and trying to increase enrollment,” Howatt said. School supporters recently changed the Facebook page Save Galtier into Grow Galtier. They’ll use the page and other means to promote the school.

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Rich Purcell & Family 01

Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell turns 100

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

(Historical photos submitted)

One hundred years’ service to the community is an accomplishment for any locally-owned business. Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Homes and Cremation Services will mark its centennial 2-4pm on Sat., July 23, at its Midway funeral home, 536 N. Snelling Ave.

hhbp photos 20004Photo left: The original home of Holcomb-Henry Boom-Purcell when it was just the A.E.Henry Funeral Home. Note the street car tracks in the foreground. (Photo submitted)

Community members are invited in to help celebrate the anniversary, meet the staff, learn about the home’s history and its current services, and enjoy refreshments.

“We’ve been proud to carry on a long legacy of community service,” said Richard Purcell. He and his wife Sharon came to work at the funeral home in 1982 and later became the fourth owners of the business.

Rich Purcell & Family 01Photo right: 2016 photo of (l to r) Dennis Boom, Roswitha Holcomb, and Sharon and Richard Purcell. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The firm, through its St. Paul and Shoreview locations, serves 300 to 400 families per year.

“We consider it a great honor to have cared for so many families over the years,” said Purcell. “We take our responsibilities very seriously, as we walk with families in their time of sorrow.”

“When you own and operate a business like ours, you’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to serve people,” said Purcell. “We have a long tradition of dedicated staff that has continued through our family owners. It has been a privilege to be called on to help people.”

hhbp photos 20003“We’re honored to have served our community for 100 years,” said longtime owner Dennis Boom. “We feel we are very much a part of the Midway.”

Albert E. Henry and his wife, Vena were the first funeral home owner-operators in 1916. It was at a time when St. Paul had a few dozen small, family-owned and operated funeral homes throughout its neighborhoods. Almost a dozen funeral homes have operated up and down Snelling Ave. alone.

The Henrys raised their family in the funeral home at a time when many area residents still didn’t have phone service. The building was never locked, and people could come in 24 hours a day for assistance.

hhbp photos 20005“It was very standard for families to have wakes or visitations in their homes,” said Purcell. When funeral homes started to open their doors, families often opted to have two evenings of visitation, with the funeral on the following day.

When Albert Henry retired in 1948, St. Paul resident and mortician Earl Holcomb and two partners bought the Henry Funeral Home. Holcomb, whose family members still live in the area, also raised his family in the funeral home’s upstairs living quarters.

In 1963, Dennis Boom began his career as a funeral director with the firm. In 1981, he and his wife, Elaine purchased the business and the property from the Holcomb family. Dennis and Elaine Boom built a second chapel in Shoreview and made their home above the chapel. The Booms grew up in St. Paul and furnished their Shoreview home with a collection of antique furniture, some of which came from their childhood homes. Elaine Boom passed away in 2015.

hhbp photos 20001Dennis Boom grew up in the area and still attends Hamline Church United Methodist. Last year he was honored at the Minnesota State Fair as a 50-year volunteer at the Hamline Church Dining Hall. Visitors might find him serving up coffee to the breakfast crowd.

“We’ve always believed in community service and being part of the greater community,” Boom said. “That’s part of our tradition.”

Richard Purcell notes that funeral home directors have collectively had a long record of community service, including the Midway Area Chamber of Commerce, Shriners, churches, St. Paul Winter Carnival and other organizations.

In 1982, Richard Purcell was hired and in 1995 his wife, Sharon, also a licensed funeral director, joined the staff. The Purcell’s purchased the business in 1999 and in 2003 they purchased the properties.

hhbp photos 20002Purcell noted that much has changed in the way people care for their deceased loved ones. Visitations are the same day or the day before. Cremation is a much more popular option. “We also have the opportunity to host receptions, with a range of food options, which we weren’t able to do before.”

Despite the changes, Purcell said the tradition of offering personalized, caring service at a reasonable cost remains the same. “The clients we serve are not numbers, they are family to us.”

Purcell is a native of Forest City, Iowa. As a young man, his family suffered an unexpected death. “Seeing how the funeral director helped our family in our time of loss, and how he helped us get through a very tough time, made a strong impression on me. That service, commitment and ministry to my family was so important.”

When Purcell was assigned a high school paper on career choices, he wrote about being a funeral director. He also worked at his hometown funeral home, doing general maintenance and other chores, as a teenager.

“That left the impression on me that we want families to be comfortable, to be treated with respect and dignity. And that is what we strive for.”

Learn more about Holcomb-Henry-Boom-Purcell Funeral Homes and Cremation Services at http://www.holcombhenryboom.com.

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LPI on University Ave slider

Cutting-edge technology company calls University Ave. home

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

When Robert Jorgenson was 16, he wandered into an Ax-Man store, a place he liked to explore to see all the gadgets. He saw a sheet of glass that was black and had all kinds of wires on it. He asked what it was for. The store clerk told him that when sunlight hit the glass, it made electricity.

“I said okay. I was hooked. From that day forward, I knew what I wanted to do,” said Jorgenson, now the CEO of Lightwave Photonics, Inc., (LPI) located in a massive old art building at 2500 University Ave.

“I knew when I was young that I wanted to work with semiconductors, and I wanted to do something that would help cut carbon emissions,” recalled Jorgenson. He attended the University of Minnesota, picking up two bachelor’s degrees, one in chemical engineering and another in material science.

Jorgenson said he initially wanted to work in solar cells, but he found himself working with light emitters. “Emitters are a really good way of reducing carbon emissions,” he said.

LPIPhoto left: Robert Jorgenson looks on as engineers Stephanie Tandean and Sara Rothwell work with wafers in their University Ave. lab. His company, LPI, was established in 2007 to commercialize advanced LED technology. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“LED light bulbs cut carbon emissions by 5%, and we are trying to cut them by another 5%,” Jorgenson explained, as he described the goal of his company. “The efficiency of LED bulbs is somewhere around 30%,” he continued. “We are looking to more than double that efficiency.”

Jorgenson said that currently 70% of the energy in the LED bulb is energy wasted as heat. He wants to make the bulb 70% efficient, so that only 30% of the energy is going to heat and the rest for light.

Jorgenson said that growing up in Minnesota he was exposed to a lot of technology with companies that were here. “It’s sort of a little-known secret, but Minnesota is a hotbed for crystal growth,” he noted. “And that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Crystal growth is the foundation of all modern technology.” Jorgenson explained that the University and all the colleges around here are not focused on that, even though there is so much industry in the Twin Cities.

LPI was established in 2007 to commercialize advanced LED technology. LPI provides the only commercially available conductive, reflective, and lattice matched templates for the subsequent epitaxial growth of Gallium Nitride based LEDs and Lasers.

Put more simply, LPI is growing crystalline round semiconductor wafers that will make LEDs more efficient. “The current state of the art templates for subsequent LED crystal growth are basically transparent,” Jorgenson said. “Our wafers are highly reflective and ideal for crystal growth of LED materials. If you want green LEDs, you can now grow on top of highly reflective green wafers. If you want blue LEDs, you can grow on top of blue wafers, and blue LEDs power the phosphors in white LEDs used in light bulbs.”

Jorgenson went on to explain that by coupling LED light emission to a mirror positioned precisely by crystal growth, you create more efficient and powerful light emission. “We now have materials to allow that to happen, and we are talking to a lot of different companies. There are about 40 companies around the world to target, and we have generated a lot of purchase orders.”

The beginnings of the company that is creating these major technological changes from its small space on University Ave go back to when Jorgenson first met his wife in Minnesota.
“She wanted to get out of the snow, so she went to Arizona, and I followed along,” Jorgenson explained. “I was doing consulting, so I could be anywhere, and I was able to hang out with my girlfriend Lynn, who is my wife now.”

Originally, he was looking at similar technologies to license from a university in Arizona for a different application. “The metal did not have all the properties they said it had,” Jorgenson said. He started getting deeper and deeper into the physics of his research, and something clicked. Jorgenson and his now wife moved to San Diego, where Jorgenson started his employee-owned company in 2007. “I had filed a patent a year before that using the law services here in Minnesota. The best lawyers I could find who could understand the technology were here in Minnesota,” he said.

There was also so much opportunity in the Twin Cities with crystal growth that the company returned to Minnesota. “We were only supposed to be here six months and then move back to San Diego,” Jorgenson recalled. “We had put everything in storage. But everything went so well here, we decided to stay. We recently purchased a house, and now we are here and plan to stay here.”

The Jorgensons have been back in the state for four years, and the company has been located in the University Ave. artists’ building for nearly three years. LPI is surrounded by potters, a record store, a tattoo artist, and painters.

“Now we can produce the materials we need, but the problem we’re running into is making modifications to our equipment for higher throughput. We have put a lot of hard work into it, and from this point on, it is easier,” he said.

They have recently won a Department of Energy (DOE) grant. “It is a small grant, but it has really helped us take off,” added Jason McGrath, marketing director for LPI. “We’re anticipating winning a Phase II DOE grant in 2017 and are looking for small investors to help us get there.”

The company is also in competition for the annual MN Cup, sponsored by the University Of Minnesota Carlson School Of Business.

“This competition has been helpful, “McGrath said. He noted that as a part of the competition, mentoring services are offered by Carlson as well as the Department of Energy. “They’re helping us build a pretty solid business and commercialization plan,” he commented. “The competition kicked off a couple of weeks ago and goes until September.”

As well as cutting carbon emissions by another 5% in LED bulbs, LPI is helping enable projectors in persons’ cell phones called pico-projectors and better laser-powered headlights.

“BMW is developing laser-powered headlights,” Jorgenson said. “The type of laser we enable is superior to the lasers currently available.”

Jorgenson said some of the companies LPI is talking to have crystal growth facilities the size of football fields. “If you can just imagine, there are these enormous buildings with 100 to 1,000 crystal growth systems,” he described. “We are looking to sell wafers to demo what they can do, then license to those companies. We have patented the technology, and they can take the final product while it also cuts the cost of production.”

The wafers sell between $1,000 and $3,000 each. “We are looking at making six of them a day from this small facility here,” Jorgenson continued. “We estimate each company will buy about 400 demo wafers before they start production and the final licensing agreements.”

Quite an amazing undertaking from a company with seven employees working from a small lab, with a CEO who was influenced by an Ax-Man gadget.

Jorgenson also cites his training at Webster Magnet School. “I really benefited from that science program,” he said. His training at the U of M and working with a laser program at 3M were also helpful in his path towards technology.

“Some of the larger companies with crystal growth are still around, but not many of the little ones,” he said. Jorgenson said he is working with some of the colleges, such as the U of M with its Nano facilities that can be rented out, and St. Paul College. “We’re working with them to create an incubator, and we get some interns from there.”

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Community Oven slider

Bread ministry reaches well beyond the walls of the church

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

Community oven is ‘on’ at Hamline United Methodist; community pizza parties planned in July and August

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
There’s a new addition to the Hamline United Methodist Church at 1514 Englewood Ave.: a robust, brick community oven that was completed last year with the help of more than 100 volunteers. According to church member and oven spokesperson Mark Ireland, “The football team from Hamline University helped haul concrete, church members and plenty of neighbors who didn’t belong to the Church rolled up their sleeves and pitched in. There were people working on site 5-6 days a week last May and June. Then it took the bread ministry team the rest of the summer to figure out how to operate the thing.”

Community Oven 01Photo left: The handsome community oven at Hamline United Methodist Church takes 10-12 hours to rise to its baking temperature of 900+ degrees. Made of high-temperature concrete, clay bricks and wool insulation, the traditional design keeps the high heat on the inside. On the outside, it’s barely even warm to the touch.

The oven is in full swing now. It’s the one and only community oven in St. Paul, and there are just a handful of them in Minneapolis. Sharing a community oven was a common practice across Europe until the last century, and it’s still the way bread is baked in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

“We got to wondering,” Ireland said, “what it would be like to build a community oven in this space, in this time when everyone seems to feel so hurried? Feeding people by baking in a brick oven is SLOW; there’s nothing instantly gratifying about it. We need to haul 3-4 wheelbarrows of wood for starters; then we have to stoke the fire for 10-12 hours to get the oven to baking temperature.”

Community Oven 02Photo right: Life-long Hamline Midway resident and bread baker Mark Ireland with his daughter Kathleen. He said, “The real community building happens when people are hauling and throwing wood together, or standing around waiting for the bread to come out of the oven.”

Hamline United Methodist Church received a grant from the White Bear Lake United Methodist Church to build their oven. Bryce Johnson, a long-time pastor at the White Bear Lake church, had an oven built some years ago for his congregation. The oven was so successful as a tool for community building that the White Bear Lake church created a grant, which any Methodist church in Minnesota could apply for.

Ireland explained, “We won primarily because of our unique relationship with Hamline University, our active inner-city neighborhood and the close proximity of neighborhood elementary schools. “We literally have the chance to impact thousands of people with this project,” he said.

There are two events coming up this summer to taste what the community oven can do, and to savor the company of neighbors. On Wed., July 20, free wood-fired pizza will be served at 6pm with the movie “The Love Bug” showing at dusk. On Wed., Aug. 17, free wood-fired pizza will be served at 6pm with the movie “Shaun the Sheep” showing at dusk. Bring your own blanket, lawn chairs, salads and sides.

“For a pizza party,” Ireland said, “we heat the oven to almost 1,000 degrees, and it stays warm for 3-4 days afterward. It only takes 90 seconds to bake a pizza, but it takes a long time to get to that baking point. As the oven cools, it’s possible to bake other lower-temperature breads. The first to go in are the ciabatta or other artisanal loaves, then the sweet breads. We can bake 30-40 loaves of bread at a time.”

If you’re interested in learning how to build your own portable oven, David S. Cargo (one of the founding members of the St. Paul Bread Club) will offer a class at HUMC on Sat., Aug. 20, from 9am–3:30pm. The fee for the class is $80. The class covers choosing an outdoor oven site, preparing the ground, and all of the skills needed to construct an oven. Each student will receive plans for three different sizes of ovens, a materials list, and bread recipes to use with their wood fired oven. For more information or to register, contact David S. Cargo at escargo@skypoint.com.

For more information on baking events or to learn about baking your own bread in the community oven, email the church office at hamlinechurchum@gmail.com with the subject line “bread oven request.”

Ireland concluded, “The community oven is not an outreach to increase our church membership. It’s a way to bring people together in the neighborhood who might not otherwise get to know each other.”

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Butterfly House 16

Butterfly exhibit opens at Como

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

Butterfly House 16It’s a flutter fest at Como Park Zoo and Conservatory, where the popular “Blooming Butterflies” exhibit opened in June. Hundreds of butterflies from Africa, Asia, and the Americas are flying freely in an indoor garden environment filled with tropical plants. Up to 400 butterflies will be released each week. Every day at noon guests are invited to pay $1 to release their own personal butterfly. The free exhibit is open every day from 10am to 6pm, through Sept. 5.

Blooming Butterflies offers visitors a total immersion experience for the young and old. The 2,500 square foot greenhouse features a thrivingButterfly House 14 butterfly habitat that, over the course of the summer, becomes home to over 100 species of butterflies from around the world.

As many as 6,400 butterfly pupae (chrysalis) are being sent to Como throughout the summer. The chrysalis is unpacked, inspected for any sign of disease or parasitoids, then pinned to foam boards and placed into the emergence chamber. They emerge anywhere from two days to several weeks and then are placed in the exhibit.

Butterfly House 29Blooming Butterflies introduces visitors to the wonders of metamorphosis. This seasonal exhibit showcases countless beautifully colored butterflies sipping nectar and taking flight, offering guests the opportunity to better understand and appreciate the life cycle of the creatures and their importance to the ecosystem. Inside the exhibit, you can chat with volunteers and ask questions, or simply relax and enjoy the garden while butterflies flit and fly about.

While a few of the butterflies exhibited in Blooming Butterflies are found in Minnesota, the bulk of them are not native. Como holds special permits to exhibit these non-native butterflies. Most of the butterfly species featured at Como are short-lived with an average life span of two to four weeks.

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SPPS Saturday workshop 2

St. Paul Public Schools embarks on five-year renovation plan

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

Interactive classroom projectors, security cameras, a remodeled cafeteria and a new artificial turf field are a few of the improvements public schools in the Hamline Midway and Como neighborhoods will see in in the next few years.

Construction will begin this month for the Saint Paul Public School’s (SPPS) five-year facilities master plan. This is after two years of gathering data on 72 schools and facilities and 465 acres of land that belong to SPPS, in addition to collecting input from over 1,000 people who work and study there.

“Most of the work we’re doing this summer is maintenance, bread and butter stuff,” said Tom Parent, the Facilities Director at SPPS, with the exception of Johnson High School in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood.

SPPS Saturday workshop 3All Photos: Saturday workshops were held around the district to develop the five-year plan. (All photos courtesy of the St. Paul Public Schools)

The district has always had long-range maintenance plans, said Parent. But making improvements has been a technical expert focused process in the past. This is the first time that there has been a strategic five-year plan laid out for students and parents.

“This is a change in focus for us as a district to look at things more holistically,” he explained.

According to Parent, security cameras and improving classroom technology were two of the main needs identified across the district. Every school is getting some work related to those areas. Classroom technology includes interactive projectors and distributed sound for better classroom instruction.

“Both of those initiatives are to get every school in the district to a baseline of service for those systems,” he said.

The process
The Facilities Department developed the plan through four phases. The first phase analyzed key data such as demographic trends, student enrollment and building capacities.

SPPS Saturday workshop 1Phase two analyzed costs and the district’s project priorities. One of the biggest challenges in this part of the process was establishing consistency in priorities with such a diverse set of schools built across many decades. Over 90 percent of the buildings are between 30 and 115 years old.

The next step involved taking those priorities and tailoring them to each school.
“How do we take district level aspiration and articulate it at each one of our schools?” said Parent.

Phase three worked to answer that question, and community involvement was a key part.
“This was a process in which we were able to engage the community in having an active voice in how the buildings needed to change in the coming years,” said Parent.

SPPS Saturday workshop 2At first, Parent said he thought that they would hold meetings for the community to give input and “whoever comes, comes, and it will be great.” However, it was quickly realized that “by doing that we’re over-representing some perspectives over others,” he said.

SPPS then put together diverse 20 person committees made up of students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators to identify each school’s needs.

“We were very intentional about having a diverse set of perspectives,” said Parent. “This works best when it’s built on empathy and multiple perspectives from the community.”

Then, SPPS held Saturday morning workshops in which committees worked alongside engineers and architects to decide which improvements were most needed at their schools. Over 800 people participated.

“We don’t need a lot of perspective in the roof being replaced, but educationally and civilly — we need those perspectives,” he said.

Another diverse 65 person committee — that included students, parents, SPPS administrators and District Council and Parks and Rec representatives from across the city — helped throughout the entire process. This committee also helped to prioritize what needs were most important in phase four.

This committee “represented the stakeholders we have here in Saint Paul,” and “really spoke to the breadth of service and need that we have in the district,” said Parent.

To help prioritize needs in phase four, SPPS developed criteria. One of the top priorities listed is to address temporary structures. If a program in a portable building has been successful, said Parent, it’s important to find a permanent space for it.

The criteria also lists enrollment growth, classroom quality, main building entries, building conditions, size and quality of core spaces like gyms and cafeterias. Additional information about prioritization criteria is available online at the SPPS Facilities website.

Parent says that the majority of phone calls he receives are requests for upgrades to athletics and that there is enormous pressure to improve those facilities.

“There is a hunger for better athletic facilities throughout St. Paul,” he said.

Space poses a challenge for SPPS in this area. Saint Paul high schools have about a fifth of the space compared to suburban high schools, said Parent.

“Not every school needs everything,” he said. “But, let’s find a way to share the resources we have so that we really see efficiency at the face.”

SPPS analyzed sport participation data and the balance of physical space for competition athletics and physical activity for all.

“We were able to identify inequities and opportunities to increase participation,” said Parent.
Two other high schools in addition Como Park Senior High School will be getting turf fields for the first time. Furthermore, four schools will have their turf replaced in the next five years.

“Our space is so incredibly valuable and utilized so heavily,” said Parent. Turf fields will help utilize that space for as much of the season and as many hours a day possible.

According to Parent, SPPS has been receiving the same dollar amount for building improvement and maintenance from the state legislature since 1994.

“We have lost 38 cents of each dollar just in inflation,” he said.

By law, that funding must be used for building improvement only. The funds make up four percent of the district’s overall budget. The 2015-16 building construction fund stands at $27.4 million, according to the Facilities website.

For more information, go to http://www.spps.org/Page/22595.

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Frame Works

Five performances of ‘Frame Works’ slated during Fringe

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

Frame Works PosterDance has been a part of Chloe Sekhran’s life since she was three. Raised in Como, and now a junior at the University of Iowa, Sekhran is performing in a Fringe presentation choreographed by her former dance teacher, Margaret Marinoff.

Five performances of the dance presentation, called Frame Works, will be offered during the Fringe Festival, which takes place Aug. 4-14 at various venues in the Twin Cities.

Sekhran is using the performance to hone her skills in dance and marketing, as she is also working on the publicity for the Fringe show. She is majoring in dance and marketing at the University of Iowa, one of few schools that allow students to do a double major. “It’s one of the reasons I picked Iowa,” she said.

Sekhran said she has been dancing all her life at the Midwest Youth Dance Theatre (MYDT), where she met Marinoff, who continues to teach there. It started out in Falcon Heights and has now relocated to Roseville.

“I have done ballet, modern, tap, jazz and musical theater dancing,” Sekhran said. “In Iowa, I am focusing on ballet and modern. I am drawn to the contemporary ballet style.”

“I knew I wanted to dance in college,” she continued, “but I wanted to also major in something else to supplement it. I chose marketing, because some day I want to be a fashion buyer.”

This will be her second time performing a production for Fringe, and for Marinoff it will be the third.

Marinoff, from Arden Hills, can trace her beginnings in dance back to the Como area, also.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BFA in dance, she said she first started dancing at the Davis School of Dance, which was in a little green house by Como Park. “I remember there were lion statues outside the front doors of the house,” she recalled.

Frame WorksPhoto left: Chloe Sekhran and Margaret Marinoff strike a dance pose. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Marinoff teaches ballet, pointe and combos at MYDT. In Frame Works, she works with a cast of six, some of whom attended the St. Paul Conservatory of Performing Arts and trained at the St. Paul Ballet (655 Fairview Ave. N. and a location on Grand Ave.).

Frame Works is described as an art-in-motion piece with dances that explore the beautiful hues and themes found on canvas, and inspired by artists past and present.

“I was influenced strongly by art work done by Henry Asencio, who paints figures of women,” Marinoff said. She said that his work is the basis for the opening piece, which is done to Cuban guitar music.

The second part of the performance reflects seascapes that are painted by Ran Ortner. And the final dance pays homage to Vincent Van Gogh and his sunflower paintings.

“The first part of the performance has a little bit of ballroom style, the second is more contemporary and the last is more classical,” Marinoff explained.

She and Sekhran have kept in touch through the years. “Some students I have bonded with more because of their interest in ballet,” Marinoff stated. “Chloe is a strong dancer in ballet and modern and musical theater. When someone is that well rounded, you want to keep in touch with them so you can utilize their skills.”

She added that marketing is one of her biggest challenges, so she thinks it is wonderful to have Sekhran here to work on that aspect, also. “With this experience, she can see how it goes if she someday wants to start her own company.”

Sekhran agrees that she is grateful for the experience to use both her dancing and marketing skills this summer.

“Dancing has always been my primary activity,” she noted. “When I was in elementary school, I tried other sports like softball and basketball, but I wasn’t too good. And I liked dance more than anything else. I knew that was what I was supposed to be doing.”

She considers herself fortunate that she can pursue dance as one of her majors. Once she finishes college, she hopes to perform in a contemporary ballet company and then go on to teach dance as well, with the fashion buyer career still a part of her plan. “I like to teach five to seven year olds, something I have been doing here and there when I can fit it in,” she said. “You can really make a difference, and I want to inspire young girls to like dance as much as I do.”

For the Fringe performance, the dancers have been practicing for four hours on Saturdays, and this coming week will have an additional four days of practice. The show is being put together in about two months.

Marinoff also puts together the costumes. “I rely on Marshall’s, Discount Dance Supply and those darling little discount shops on Facebook,” she said.

During preparation for the Fringe, Marinoff said it takes priority over everything else. “My house and car show it,” she said with a laugh. “And I also work at another job, and I tell my co-workers they are all a part of Fringe, too, because I rely on them for support.”

The most challenging aspect of putting on a Fringe performance is the short time frame and working with everyone’s schedules, according to Marinoff. Sekhran said she doesn’t mind the short time allotted. “You have to work hard, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t hinder the process.”

For her, the fact that the shows can be any time of day, in the morning or at 10pm, makes it interesting. “People can be in different moods at different times of the day,” she said.

As far as audiences, Sekhran said dance shows tend to attract people familiar with dance.

“Family and friends come to support you, too,” she added. “But then as the show goes on, word of mouth gets out, and other people come.”

“Dance is probably one of the least understood art forms,” Marinoff said. “It takes a specific type of person to be attracted to dance because there isn’t dialogue that goes along with it like in normal theater. Some dance forms are a little less clear on what they are trying to say, and doesn’t translate as well.”

All genres will be covered in the 169 live performances offered by Fringe this year. Audiences will have an opportunity to see Frame Works at 4pm on Aug. 6, 8:30pm on Aug. 7, 10pm on Aug. 8, 8:30pm on Aug. 11 and 1pm on Aug. 14.

For more information on schedules and venues, visit the Fringe website at www.fringefestival.org.

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Soccer stadium project delayed, waiting for state to act

Soccer stadium project delayed, waiting for state to act

Posted on 11 July 2016 by Calvin

As plans and approvals continue forward, June construction start date passes waiting for tax bill

Plans for a Major League Soccer stadium and redeveloped Midway Center are set to go to the St. Paul City Council for a public hearing at 5:30pm, Wed., Aug. 3 at City Hall. The ambitious projects are moving ahead on paper while a property tax exemption hangs in the balance.

The plans won Planning Commission approval July 8.

About 50 people attended a June 10 St. Paul Planning Commission public hearing on the stadium, site plan and master plan for the block bounded by Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues. Almost 150 people attended a June 7 open house at Concordia University.

soccer illus 1 SLIDERCity staff recommended approval of the plans, with some measures to mitigate traffic, parking, noise and other issues. The mitigation measures will also be shaped by an Areawide Urban Alternatives Review or AUAR, which outlines steps to deal with potential impacts. Comments on the AUAR were due July 6, with city staff responses and a final report expected by July 18.

On July 13 the Metropolitan Council was expected to act on $1.25 million pollution cleanup grant for the former bus garage site and RK Midway-owned property to the east.

Planning Commission members have continued to review the plans, but they and others have asked what will happen if the Minnesota Legislature doesn’t have a special session and approve the property tax exemption for the stadium site. That was included in the tax bill that Gov. Mark Dayton recently pocket-vetoed. Dayton and state lawmakers have discussed the possibility of a special legislative session but haven’t been able to agree.

Minnesota United officials have been mum since the regular session ended, Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire told the Planning Commission in June that he is confident that there will be a special session.

Stadium construction was supposed to start in June but without an adopted tax bill, nothing will start.

Many citizens, members of the Snelling-Midway Community Advisory Committee and area district council members say that that more details are needed on both plans and that the fast pace of development means a lack of access to needed information. “This represents incredible risks and opportunities for our city and our neighborhoods,” said Snelling Midway Community Advisory Committee Co-chairman Eric Molho. The task force wrapped up its review of the site plan and master plan in May. While the group generally supports the plans, “the reality is, we know very few of the critical details.” Molho also said the advisory group had “significant concerns and frustrations” about the process and believes that more public engagement is needed.

“This has been a huge and very fast-moving project,” he said. Union Park District Council is forming its own task force to monitor stadium and shopping center planning. Hamline Midway Coalition broadly favors the ideas presented so far but wants more input on issues including open space, pedestrian safety, density and site design. Coalition representative Nathan Roisen said that his neighborhood is just as, if not more, affected by the project than Union Park is. Capital Region Watershed District also weighed in, asking for more attention to storm water management.

Many citizens also spoke at the Planning Commission and community meetings, raising worries about traffic, spillover parking, game time noise and disruption to an area that has been through years of Green Line light rail, Snelling Bridge, and Snelling Ave. reconstruction.

One new issue to emerge is that of whether the redeveloped site should have some type of water feature, possibly as part of a storm water management plan. Some Planning Commission members would like to see that added. But McGuire said he’d rather see green space and reminded the Planning Commission that maintaining a water feature can have a high cost.

Merriam Park resident Danette Lincoln described herself as “one of the little people” who has been following the plans. She lives near I-94 and said neighbors could face years of construction noise and disruption, followed by noise and spillover parking. While people want to see redevelopment, “we don’t want to be stepped on in the process.”

“Neighborhood parking is already being used by people using the Green Line,” said Hamline-Midway resident Yvonne Schneider. She and others worried that soccer fans would use neighborhood streets for parking. But Schneider and others also said they would be pleased to see the area redeveloped with amenities such as green space and new businesses. She described the current conditions as “a pit.”

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