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Archive | April, 2018

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TCGIS likely to tear down former St. Andrew’s Church

Posted on 10 April 2018 by Calvin

The church closed in 2011, and the building has been used by the school since 2013 as an auditorium and gymnasium

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
The Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) is likely to tear down the former St. Andrew church building and replace it with a new addition.

Photo left: AThe former church building needs at least $1.2 million in repairs and upgrades, including a new roof, boiler, windows, doors, insulation, and tuck-pointing. (Photo submitted)

The school has been evaluating solutions to its space needs for about a year as it realized it was outgrowing the buildings on site.

When the school moved to 1031 Como Ave. in 2013, it added a building to connect the existing classrooms and church, and converted the former church sanctuary into a multi-purpose gym and auditorium. The updated space is referred to as Aula or the auditorium.

However, a study of various alternatives concluded that replacing the 1927 Aula with a new, three-level structure is more cost effective than retrofitting the existing Byzantine-Romanesque structure. That building needs at least $1.2 million in repairs and upgrades, including a new roof, boiler, windows, doors, insulation, and tuck-pointing.

The school’s facilities task force also explored the possibilities of renting space across the street in the long-term and acquiring the Mission Orthodox Presbyterian church property, neither of which proved possible. Members also studied moving into other school buildings.

Loss of Aula ‘not taken lightly’
Although she says she will miss the Aula, TCGIS school parent Linda Alhaus says that the removal of the Aula to construct a new building designed explicitly for TCGIS students seems to be the most logical option.

Illustration right: A very preliminary sketch of the possible expanded Twin Cities German Immersion School campus. (Graphic submitted)

“The loss of the Aula is not taken lightly,” remarked Alhaus, who lives in Minneapolis. “I love that building and have many pictures of my children in front of it. I’m slowly coming around to the idea that spending over a million dollars in the next couple of years to save a building that is not energy efficient doesn’t make sense.”

She added, “Adding a third layer in that footprint is a better option than giving up treasured outdoor space.”

School leaders began meeting with potential contractors in March and intend to lock in plans within a month, begin construction in summer 2019, and finish by the end of that year.

At an estimated $4 million, the new addition will have about 23,000 square feet on three levels, and would offer space designed specifically as a gymnasium and cafeteria. It also is likely to add eight classrooms and additional office space.

The plan does not significantly increase the existing building footprint.

According to the District 10 website, plans initially included purchasing the single-family house at 1042 Van Slyke, tearing it down, and using the lot for “outdoor space” or additional off-street parking. Facility Chair Nic Ludwig, the parent of two TCGIS students and a seven-year resident of the neighborhood, told District 10 on March 28 that the school has since cancelled that contingent purchase agreement.

Photo left: The preliminary plan also called for replacing a parking lot with possible green space. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The plan also included examining the possibility of using the Como Pool parking lot for staff parking. The pool option would need city approval, but could reduce the need for parking lots adjacent to the school and nearby homes.

After District 10 posted the plans to their Facebook page, a discussion began with opinions ranging from a desire to keep the old church building to a recognition that the school needs more space.

“I understand the local community appreciates the beauty of the building, as do I,” said Alhaus. “We are a public school, with a public school budget, so we have to be mindful of making smart financial decisions. Our utmost priority is educating students and making decisions that are in the best interest of these students.”

School over capacity
Now in its fifth year on the Como Ave. site, TCGIS is experiencing its first year of being over its designed capacity, according to TCGIS Executive Director Ted Anderson.

The Como Ave. site was built for 23 individual class sections and 560 pupils. This year, the school has 24 class sections and more than 525 pupils. TCGIS projects enrollment to top out between 615 and 630 in the next three to four years.

The tuition-free, K-8 German Immersion School opened its doors in the fall of 2005, and moved its 370 students to the former St. Andrew’s church and parochial site in 2013. The St. Paul parish had closed in 2011, and its convent and rectory were demolished.

“Our need is to create space for both current programs and a very defined increase in enrollment—from our current level of roughly 550 to our projected capacity of 615-630,” said Anderson. “We are not adding any grade levels.”

TCGIS intends to add three additional sections in grades 6-8, but the school is not expanding beyond three classes per grade. Nearly all of the new students at TCGIS are kindergarteners.

Anderson says the growth is primarily the result of unusually high retention rates; in other words, once families enroll in the school, they don’t leave.

TCGIS is a public school, but it is not part of St. Paul Public Schools.

“While TCGIS serves students from throughout the Twin Cities, around 250 are St. Paul residents. Add Falcon Heights and Roseville and over 300 of our kids come from pretty close by,” pointed out Ludwig. “Around 130 kids are from Minneapolis.”

Upcoming meetings planned
“As they consider how to accommodate the growing number of interested students,” said Ward 5 Council Member Amy Brendmoen (photo left provided), who lives nearby, “we must work together and wade through the complex issues involved. I’ll be listening and working closely with my neighbors and members of the school community to help find a mutually beneficial solution.”

Her office has received calls from citizens regarding the proposal to tear down the church.

“In addition to concern about the loss of the church building, there are concerns about growth in the school including noise and increased car traffic during drop-off and pick-up times,” she pointed out.

District 10 Community Council’s Land Use Committee anticipated hearing about the project at its Wed., May 2, 7pm meeting. Check the District 10 website for further details.

“I believe we can find a mutually beneficial solution to the school’s space needs if both neighbors and the school are willing to work together,” stated Brendmoen.

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Kathy3DBookLargeTransparen slidert

Hamline-Midway mom writes a book on homeschooling

Posted on 10 April 2018 by Calvin

‘Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits’ supports families as they make the transition from conventional schooling

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Hamline-Midway resident Kathy Oaks (photo right provided) has just released a book to help new homeschoolers get started.

Oaks wrote “Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits” to support families as they make the transition from conventional schooling to something completely different, bringing fun, mindfulness, and flexibility to the adventure of homeschooling.

“Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits” includes the history of both homeschooling and compulsory schooling, how to talk to naysaying relatives, how to keep your patience, how to make learning fun, and why homeschoolers generally are not hermits and are not worried about the “socialization” question. It also includes things like covering sex ed, finding free or inexpensive resources, and why many colleges like homeschooled students.

Oaks uses an informal and easy-to-read style as she shares about the educational format she knows so well.

One of her best friends at university was homeschooled, so Oaks started out with a good impression of homeschooling. When her oldest son was a baby, Oaks read lots of books on child development.

“Then I read John Taylor Gatto’s ‘Dumbing Us Down’ essay, based on the speech he gave for his New York City Teacher of the Year award. That made me think very differently about the education I had received, especially since my husband and I were both overachievers in school,” commented Oaks.

“The more I read, the more I felt that homeschooling was the way I wanted to go.”

What they enjoy about homeschooling
Oaks moved into the neighborhood in 2006 to be near Hamline University, since her husband teaches chemistry there. In 2011, she earned the Neighborhood Honor Roll Helping Hands award for hosting the Hamline-Midway Barter Market for several years.

The family has grown to three children, and all are homeschooled: Michael age 14, Benjamin age 11, and Simon age 6.

“I most enjoy watching the kids learning with gusto, choosing their interests, and being motivated to learn all about them,” remarked Oaks.

“I can learn at my own pace, as fast or as slow as I want, and don’t have to get up early to go to school,” said Michael. “There is more time to do other fun stuff like playing piano and doing things with my homeschool groups like book arts, board games, and woodworking.”

“It gives me time to do what I want with who I want,” stated Benjamin. “I can learn about Greek mythology or the Crusades whenever I want to.”

Simon said his favorite thing is all the good books. He enjoys being able to do electronics in kindergarten, and he loves being able to take road trips when other kids are in school.

Each of the kids sees homeschool fitting them as students in different ways. For Michael, it’s having a really small math class where he feels comfortable asking and answering complicated questions. Benjamin appreciates being able to learn at his own pace and deciding what alleys of learning to go down, such as the Punic Wars, and finding YouTube channels that actually make the Punic Wars interesting.

Tips for those starting out
Oaks offers these tips to families just starting out as homeschoolers:
• Relax. Do your best and don’t stress about it.
• Trust yourself and your kids. If you feel homeschooling will be best for your family, don’t let naysayers stop you.
• Don’t try to recreate school at home. Instead, create together what will be the best way to learn for your family.
• Keep your long-term goals in mind. What kind of people do you want your kids to be and what kind of relationship do you want to have with them?
• Be flexible. Things often don’t go the way we expect them to, and kids grow and change. Being ready to change with them will help.
• Look for help. Join groups online and find local groups that suit you. Veteran homeschoolers are happy to offer advice. The Homeschool Adventures site is a great place to start—HSAdventures.org.

Oaks has volunteered for several years with Homeschool Adventures, a homeschool support group that offers information on group activities and events, plus field trips and homeschool groups. She also helps organize classes for homeschoolers, including chemistry labs taught by her husband Tom Anderson and math classes taught by Judy O’Neill.

Misconceptions
The biggest misconception out there about homeschoolers, according to Oaks, is that homeschoolers are hermits, doing school-at-home, and sitting around for eight hours at desks with nobody else to talk to or play with. That’s not what it actually looks like, she said.

“We take classes, both with other homeschoolers and those that are open to anyone,” remarked Oaks. “We go on field trips and take museum tours and have playgroups. Our two oldest boys have been involved in theater productions for the past two years with our secular homeschool co-op, Planet Homeschool.”

Another big misconception is that people homeschool only for religious reasons. “Plenty of people homeschool for educational reasons, health reasons, even social and emotional reasons,” explained Oaks. “The homeschool community is seeing more and more people who are pulling one child out of school because school just isn’t working for that child, even when it’s working fine for the siblings.”

School on the road
Kathy Oaks and family are among those who enjoy schooling on the go, commonly called “roadschooling,” and Oaks recently presented a workshop on roadschooling during the Minnesota Homeschoolers Alliance annual convention.

Oaks learned to love travel with her parents, who owned a VW camper van and took the family camping all over the United States. They also lived abroad when her parents took sabbatical leaves from university.

“I had a great time taking road trips as a young adult, but was very intimidated to take small kids on the road,” admitted Oaks. “It was my mother who proposed a road trip with just me and the boys (we had two at the time), and showed me that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

The family has been taking road trips every year since then, at least one and sometimes two.

Photo right: Kathy Oaks and her family at the Grand Canyon National Park. (l to r) Kathy Oaks, Tom Anderson, Simon, Benjamin, and Michael Anderson Oaks. They enjoy roadschooling throughout the country. (Photo submitted)

“My best tip is not to overdo it,” recommended Oaks. “Lots of people think about road trips and imagine 12-hour days and screaming kids.

We often stop, checking out free rest areas, visitor information spots, and parks. We also stop early, only driving 250-350 miles a day, and get a hotel with a pool or a camping spot with hiking available.”

The family takes advantage of their science museum membership, which gets them into other museums all over the country. “Last year we also made sure to get our fourth grader his free National Parks pass from everykidinapark.gov and took two trips to the four corners states to see 17 national parks and monuments,” said Oaks. “We were determined to get every ounce of value out of that card!”

Simon likes listening to music on trips, sleeping in different beds in hotel rooms, and trying new foods.

Benjamin observed, “It gives me the opportunity to see what life is like in other environments.”

Michael agreed. “I like discovering all kinds of interesting places that I didn’t know existed until we went there,” he said.

Book available on Kindle
Oaks’ book is currently available on Kindle and will be available in paperback by mid-May. A free homeschooling resource kit for new homeschoolers, including road trip resources, is available online with every purchase. It includes her roadschooling talk transcript and video, plus car trip activities, a packing list, and a camping packing list.

More at HomeschoolersNotHermits.com/book.

Next up for Oaks will be the “Homeschoolers Are Not Hermits Online Resource Guide,” a compilation of the family’s favorite websites, YouTube channels, games, learning activities, and resources such as the science museum membership benefits, educator discounts, and the Every Kid In A Park pass.

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Marathon Man 05

Marathon man still running strong in his 70’s

Posted on 10 April 2018 by Calvin

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Long distance runner John Concannon (photo right by Margie O’Loughlin) is on a mission. The resident of Lyngblomsten Apartments, a retirement community in Como, plans to run a marathon in every state before he dies. A marathon, for those who don’t know, is a 26.2-mile foot race. This year, between his 70th and 71st birthdays, he plans to complete four.

Last October, Concannon ran the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, Massachusetts (his 45th). In January, he traveled to Baton Rouge and ran the Louisiana Marathon (his 46th). In a couple of weeks, he’ll lace up for the Hogeye Marathon in Fayetteville, Arkansas (his 47th). In September, he’ll travel to Nebraska for the running of the Omaha Marathon (his 48th). Next year’s destinations haven’t been finalized, but Concannon knows this. He’ll return to Ireland, the country of his birth, to run his 50th marathon in 2019.

Concannon was born in the village of Timree, Ireland, in 1947. “We grew up poor, on a farm that had no running water or electricity,” he said. “I was the oldest of six kids. I had to quit school at 13 to help support my family by going to work for a blacksmith. I was never a natural athlete, but I’ve been physically active all my life. As a kid, I loved playing two of Ireland’s national sports: hurling and Gaelic football.”

“When I was 16,” Concannon explained, “one of my aunts sponsored our family’s immigration to Boston. Although I hadn’t been formally schooled for three years, I tested into the 11th grade and was the strongest student in American history, geography, and political science. The teachers didn’t quite understand me, but they could tell that I knew my stuff.”

Concannon has learned some stuff about the sport of running along the way too. He said, ”Running has been a vital part of my recovery from alcoholism and my overall health. I decided to quit drinking in April 1994 and ran my first marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon, in October of that same year. When I crossed the finish line, I felt so great that I knew I’d never drink again. I limped away, and every muscle in my body hurt for a week—but I decided then and there to keep running marathons until the day I drop.”

“I didn’t know much about running or how to train when I ran my first marathon,” he said. “If somebody asked me now, I’d tell them to start with 5K races. Work your way up to half marathons, and take your time. See if you can cover 20 miles in a walk/run combination once a month for a while before you even think of running a marathon.”

“At the age of 70,” Concannon said, “I don’t worry about my time at all; I focus on distance, not speed. If I feel something pull or tweak in my legs or back, I just start walking. I train year round because I love running. I don’t own a car, so I walk two miles each way to the gym to run on the treadmill several times a week. If somebody asked me what my philosophy of exercise was, I guess I’d say just to keep moving. If you don’t use something regularly, whether its brains or muscles, you’re going to lose it.”

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Nick Perez

Como family happy with the decision to go with solar power

Posted on 10 April 2018 by Calvin

By JAN WILLMS
Como resident Nick Perez (photo right by Jan Willms) and his wife were looking for ways to improve the environment and also for different energy profits. “We always try to be conscientious about environmental concerns,” Perez said, “but we also wanted to see where we could get the most bang for our buck.”

He said they started looking at all the solar energy companies in the city and ended up selecting All Energy Solar.

“With the political climate we are in, we knew there might be a limited time we could get the maximum amount of rebates,” Perez noted. “If we were going to do it, we needed to do it now,”

He got on the phone, called the company and said he would like to get an estimate done.

“They looked at our house online, the slant of our roof, the amount of tree coverage, and gave us an estimate,” Perez continued. He said he had already cut down some trees, so he knew he had more sunlight coverage.

“We set up an appointment for a representative to come out, and I was rushing around, picking up laundry,” Perez said with a chuckle. “We have three kids, and there was laundry all over.”

As he answered the knock at the door, Perez was pleasantly surprised. The woman who came out from All Energy Solar was someone Perez had attended high school with 20 years earlier. ”St. Small is what we call that,” Perez said. ”She did a quick estimate and said we could probably compromise our electricity by 43 percent, and that was just putting solar panels on our south-facing garage roof.” They decided to go ahead with a full inspection, go through all the steps and get the project started.

Perez said he did put on a new roof because to install solar panels the roof must be in good condition.

The project started at the end of last summer, and by Dec. 17 Xcel was at the Perez residence doing a test. “The guy scraped a little snow off the roof, went up there and found we were making energy,” Perez said.

Perez has 14 solar panels on his garage, which is about 80 feet from his house.

“They dug up my backyard and put underground piping from my house to the garage. They added a couple of breakers to my breaker box,” Perez said. “That process took two weeks. Everything was almost 100 percent seamless.”

Perez said only one minor glitch happened, which was not the mistake of the power company. “One day my refrigerator was not working because one of the wires got disconnected. It was replaced, and we were done.”

Perez said one of the main benefits of going solar was supplementing some of the electricity the family uses. “My house is mainly electric,” he said. “Adding more electricity makes sense.” He said that the process removes a certain amount of carbon from the ozone and at the same time saves money.

“You are under construction for a time, and you have to have your permits pulled. Everything had to be 100 percent up to 2018 code. I had my basement renovated, so I knew my house was up to code.”

He said it was possible the panels could be an eyesore, depending on where they are located. “Since ours are on the back end of our alley, you don’t even see them.”

Perez said he is in a 10-year contract with the energy company, which could be affected if he wants to make changes or move. “That could be stressful, but you get rebates every year,” he added.

Perez said tree coverage is a big factor in installing the solar panels, but once they are up on the roof, the sky’s the limit.

Perez said his total project cost $17,000, but with the rebates he will get, it only cost him $7,000.

“Over ten years, that’s not that much,” he noted. “Winter is my high energy time,” he explained. He said the summer is when money is made on energy savings. But he has already started saving on his energy bills. “This winter I have used $500 worth of energy, but bought only $414 worth, so I have saved $85,” he said.

Perez said he also uses apps to track his energy usage and savings. “One of the greatest apps I have ever seen is a website All Energy Solar connected us with,” he said. “I can see exactly how much energy is being used in my home. I can see when the kids put something in the microwave.”

Perez said he found another app on his own that lets him measure the amount of energy he makes through using the solar panels. For example, in January he made over 200-kilowatt hours.

“It all comes down to how the sun hits your roof,” he said. “You need a south-facing angle where the sun comes in. And your roof needs to be up to date.” However, even if your roof is not at the right angle, solar energy companies can work around that, placing them in yards or on carports.

“There are also programs where they do a bunch of solar panels out in a field. They call them farmings, and the panels absorb the sun all day,” Perez said.

He said that employing solar panels for energy use can change one’s lifestyle. “You make yourself conscious of it,” he claimed. “It makes you think about how much energy you are actually using. I can check my app and see how much I used, how much I made and how much I netted. It has changed how we live in our house.” He said the family tries to unplug computers or toasters or television sets when they are not in use.

Perez said he was very pleased with the responsiveness of the solar energy company he used. He liked the ability to take power into his own hands. “I’m an off the grid kind of person, and being bound to Xcel is just another thing that grabs you,” he said. “You can try to save some money.”

Getting other people to try and use solar energy is a goal Perez strives for. “I can give the elevator speech in 30 seconds as to why they should do it,” he said.

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Mayor Melvin Carter III

Mosaic speaks volumes of how new Mayor sees St. Paul

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

By JAN WILLMS
In the mayor’s office newly occupied by Melvin Carter III (photo right by Jan Willms), a circular mosaic is soon going to find a home on one of its walls. Sent over by Mosaic on a Stick, a local business in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, the mosaic spells out a message, “St. Paul For All Of Us.”

A fitting message for St. Paul’s first African American mayor and one of its youngest ever elected. Carter said he had met with Lori Greene at Mosaic on a Stick (1564 Lafond Ave.) and asked her to design a mosaic.

“Over the course of a year, we had conversations with people, and then asked them to take a piece of broken tile and put some glue on it and glue it on,” Carter said. “This is the result of people in this city, who don’t know each other, who speak different languages at home, who live in completely different parts of the city and in completely different walks of life.” With all these diverse factors coming together, the broken pieces of tile created something beautiful, according to Carter. “That’s our vision for this city,” he added.

Cater, 38, comes from a family that understands the responsibilities and challenges of public service. His mother, Toni, has served on the school board and is currently a Ramsey County Commissioner. His father, Melvin Carter Jr, is a retired policeman. “My parents are probably my closest mentors, both of whom I see as incredible leaders for our city in different capacities. I think I learned from them at an early age just how inter-related people are.”

Carter said his family would quote Paul Wellstone, who said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

“That’s a powerful phrase that could be a throwaway line if we don’t realize we really are all inter-related,” Carter continued. “We, in a community, have to be a whole together….and so I have learned that from them. Also, I have learned from my mother how to listen and to learn from people. That is something I have always admired about her. Any conversation I have ever seen her in, she has learned to listen and take some policy implication from it—something she can use in her work—and that’s something I aspire to do.”

Carter said there are a number of people he has learned from over the years, including former mayor Chris Coleman. “For a long time, I have learned a lot from him,” he said.

One of the areas Carter wants to address is education, and he has put together a College Savings Plan. “We are working on cross sectors, the public sector with nonprofit leaders, with higher education leaders of foundations and with private sector businesses in our community to create a college savings account that puts $50 in the bank to start every child born in our community on the track to college,” he said. “It’s something I am really excited about.”

Carter noted that research shows that if children from low to moderate income families have a small amount of money put away for college, anything from $1 to $500, they are more likely to go to college. “And when they do, they are four times more likely to graduate,” Carter added. “So planting those seeds are seeds that we expect to water in the form of a bright future for all of our children. And securing a bright future for all of our children, that’s securing a bright future for our city.”

Carter recalled a mentor who always says, “Instead of helping kids beat the odds, let’s get to work in changing the odds.” Carter reflected on disparities that he considers some of the worst in the nation, not just in education but in housing, healthcare, and wealth. He said they are all inter-related. “To change the odds means not just isolating one and saying we’re going to work on the education gap while housing and health gaps remain,” he said. “That won’t actually get us out of where we are.

The idea is to find something that works not just with the children, but with the families right now. I see the college savings account as an odds-transforming proposal that is also pretty cost-efficient.”

Carter said he is also committed to signing a higher minimum wage into law this year. “We are going to raise the minimum wage in St. Paul so no one who works full-time will ever have to live in poverty. We are going to continue to push that forward.”

Another commitment Carter made in his inaugural address was to revise use of force policies with the St. Paul police chief. “We have done that now,” Carter said.

“Tension between citizens and the police force seems to be a national conversation we are having that is renewed over and over again with videos we see on social media and in the news, with unarmed black men being shot by police. It is really disturbing.” He added that he believes a lot in the current police chief. “We are making progress that started before my election,” he said. “Our police force has worked hard to build our practices and transparencies around 21st-century policing models.”

“We are working hard through our Community First Public Safety Plan. Public safety isn’t just about what happens after something bad occurs or after someone has called 911. It’s about building safe environments; it’s about connecting people to opportunities; it’s about investing in the critical trust that has to exist between police officers and our neighbors.”

Carter said his administration is already about three months into that. “We have already revised our police use of force policies, so we are all on the same page about when officers are and are not allowed to use force,” Carter explained. “We did that in an unprecedented community engagement process….We spent two months gathering feedback, and the feedback we got subsequently changed what the final product came out to be. So we’re going to continue to train officers and push the ball on our Community First Public Safety strategy and work closely with the police department and neighbors to ensure we are on the same team to make our neighborhood safe.”

Considering the national political scene, Carter said that right now he sees it as very adversarial. “It’s one that a lot of people, myself included, have a real distaste for.” He said he believes in the saying that all politics is local. He stressed the importance of how we take care of each other on a local level, how we ensure that every person in every part of our city has access to a great school, has a great job and an affordable home where they can live with dignity. “I think some of that can speak a lot more loudly than anything that happens in Washington, DC, does,” he stated. He said the focus of Serve Saint Paul, a new initiative that will be launched at the upcoming State of the City Summit, is an invitation for residents to build sweat equity in the city through service. “It’s so important that people have a need to be part of something right now,” he said, “something that is not just watching Washington, DC, as it gets worse and worse.”

Considering the years ahead of him as mayor, Carter said he realizes there will be many challenges. “One of the greatest right now is to figure out how to harness all the energy that exists in this city. There is so much, and so many people who want to help.” Carter said the mayor’s office wants to do community service projects and offer opportunities for people to interact with each other.

“That’s why we are doing a State of the City summit instead of just an address,” he said. He said he hopes people will come and join the summit on Sat., Apr. 14 at Johnson High School from 9am to noon. “The hope is to hear not just from me but to really engage with city leaders about the direction we are taking this city,” he added.

Carter paused for a moment.

“It’s in many ways the honor of a lifetime just to have the opportunity to sit in this office and to lead the city I grew up in,” he said softly. “I find myself reflecting on the amazing conversations I have had with people who have held this office over the course of the years.”

Carter said that St. Paul has every ingredient needed to move forward. “St. Paul is a thriving, vibrant, multilingual, diverse space.” He said that’s what is needed to start building a future.

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Vertical Endeavors 39

Vertical Endeavors opens bouldering site in new Midway location

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

Head climb team coach Alexandra “Alex” Johnson is a Hudson, WI native who has made numerous first female ascents. She is a five-time United States National Bouldering Champion and two-time Bouldering World Cup gold medalist. Johnson has been climbing professionally for more than a decade and will lead the Climbing Fitness Training and Competitive Team Training at VETCB. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Vertical Endeavors held a grand opening for their fourth Twin Cities indoor climbing facility on Mar. 17. Located at 2550 Wabash Ave., Vertical Endeavors – Twin Cities Bouldering (VETCB) will be one of the largest bouldering facilities in the country. The new gym has 18,000+ square feet of boulder climbing wall surface, a dedicated “crack wall” with a variety of crack widths, a climbing treadmill, a yoga studio, a pro shop, multiple training and fitness areas, state-of-the-art locker rooms, a community space (with fireplace), and a large exterior patio with in-floor heating.

The Grand Opening kicked off with a ribbon cutting celebration followed by free climbing, a membership sale, and an opportunity to meet the VETCB staff.
Facility manager Gabe Olson said, ”We’re aspiring to be a community gathering place. If you have a membership at one of our climbing gyms, you’re welcome to use any of them. We have three other climbing gyms in the Twin Cities: in Uptown, Bloomington, and East St. Paul, but this new location is the only one that focuses exclusively on bouldering.”

Bouldering is rock climbing that’s been stripped down to the bare essentials. It’s rock climbing without ropes, but the person doing it isn’t usually more than 20’ off the ground. There’s a thick, soft “crash pad” underneath the climber to cushion any falls. Bouldering makes up for its relative lack of vertical distance with technical difficulty. A boulder “problem” is like a puzzle that you solve with your body. Using climbing techniques, upper and lower body strength, as well as finger strength, you try to reach the top of the boulder without falling.

With ceremonial ribbon cutting scissors in hand, Vertical Endeavors owner Nate Postma said, “We looked at a lot of sites before choosing this one. Located in an old warehouse space that borders Interstate 94 near the 280/University Avenue exit, the facility couldn’t have better proximity to both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Ours is the most westerly address in St. Paul and the most easterly address in Minneapolis. The Twin Cities are divided down the middle of Emerald Street, which borders the edge of our parking lot.”

Photo right: Vertical Endeavors Twin Cities Bouldering as seen from the front. An extensive parking lot is to the left. Easy access from the LRT is just two blocks to the north. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“Bouldering is a very social sport,” Postma explained. “Usually a bunch of friends come to boulder together, so we were intentional about having enough mat space underneath each of the boulder climbs to accommodate groups. We gutted this building and, partnering with Yaeger Construction, worked for a year on the project. What we ended up with is something really special: soaring hardwood ceilings, skylights that run the length of the gym, and indoor bouldering challenges that are second to none.”

VETCB offers a free pass for first-time climbers on the first Friday of each month from 6-9pm. Otherwise, a day pass costs $18, a ten punch card costs $135, month-to-month and annual memberships are available, and all gear can be rented or purchased on site. There are discount days for homeschool and scout groups, fitness training opportunities for youth and adults, and a range of yoga classes to choose from. VETCB is open Monday-Saturday from 10am-10pm (members only from 8-10am) and Sunday from 10am-6pm. Visit their website at www.verticalendeavors.com for more information.

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Karmit Bulman

One organization helps those who recruit and manage volunteer staff

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

By STEPHANIE FOX
There was a time when charitable organizations could count on volunteers to put in long hours and stay at their posts for years. But, societal changes—women in the workplace, the increasing demands on time for families and for both young and older people—have drastically changed the face of reuniting volunteers. For people whose job it is to find and retain these people, the new reality is challenging.

MAVA, the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration is a statewide non-profit organization based at 970 Raymond Ave. Its mission is to educate and advocate for those whose job it is to find, recruit, and organize volunteers for non-profits, charitable organizations, and governmental entities. Their social mission, they say, is to create partnerships building on resources to serve all of Minnesota.

Currently, MAVA, the largest professional membership organization in the state representing professionals involved in volunteerism, works with a variety of non-profits and governmental organizations. They partner up with, among others, the City of St. Paul, Dakota and Hennepin Counties, the Girl Scouts of River Valley, Habitat for Humanity. Members say that it is a leading resource for people involved in volunteerism to exchange ideas and information.

“We have upwards of 700 members representing hundreds of groups,” said Karmit Bulman, MAVA’s director (photo right provided). “We are keeping them appraised of the new trends and giving them the tools to adjust their strategies accordingly.”

But, she said, these professionals are working with some serious disadvantages.

“This is a hidden profession with a lack of job equity,” said Bulman. “This is the same type of job as a corporation’s development director, a program director, or a human resource director. But, they are paid much less. They are the first to go when there are budget cuts. They are often not included in the executive team or strategic planning.”

“They are undervalued, and their work is often misunderstood,” she said. “These people are a hidden resource, and they are treated like second-class workers even though they are the secret sauce that makes these organizations work.”

MAVA is here to help. The mission of MAVA, she said, is to support and to train these experts to do their jobs better and to advance their profession in the face of inequity. Founded 16 years ago as a way to bring volunteer organizers together, to help them do their jobs better and to change the face of their own profession as well.

Last summer, MAVA began a study to find the roots and the results of the problems. CEOs of 464 organizations filled out a 22-question survey to learn more about the attitudes and problems faced by organizations that use volunteers.

Bulman found that one misperception from the CEOs is that volunteers are easy to recruit and retain. “But, they are not. Without volunteers, most of these entities could not achieve their missions,” she said. “I interviewed 25 CEOs, and they said they feel that this study is game-changing.”

Bulman said that there are things the leaders of organizations can do to support their staff members. She recommends that they let their recruiting staff know that they are valued, to give more responsibility to staff members, to involve them at higher levels throughout the organizations, and to invest time and resources in their volunteers and staff.

“You need education, orientation, supervision, performance evaluation, and job descriptions. You need policy and procedures so the staff can do their work,” she said.
The research examined why there is a lack of understanding about the nature of volunteers and who leads them. The results showed that this inequity ultimately undermined the effectiveness of nonprofits and government organizations.

Some of the training helps non-profit organizations adjust to the changes in volunteerism. “In the trade era,” she said, “people would put in many hours a week. We still see that model, but the Millennial generation and even the Baby Boomers are now more likely to be short-term volunteers. Therefore, recruiters have to change their methods.”

There is also a move to skill-based volunteers, she said. Organizations are not just looking for people to stuff envelopes. They want accountants, graphic designers, and other highly-skilled occupations.

Other changes, said Bulman, is the move toward inclusion and equity. Organizations that service certain groups need to include volunteers from those groups. MAVA’s study showed that volunteers aren’t just people of privilege, she said. One workshop offered by MAVA focuses on engaging volunteers from diverse and immigrant communities.

Through MAVA, organizations can also become certified Service Enterprises, operations that excel and bringing out the best from their volunteers. Service Enterprises are proven to be more adaptable, sustainable and capable of scaling their impact in comparison to peer organizations. Some of the 45 Minnesota based Service Enterprise organizations include the City of Roseville, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, Make a Wish, Catholic Charities and Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minnesota

MAVA also runs workshops to teach volunteer leaders to advocate for themselves, to get organizational buy-in, learn workplace negotiations and foster leadership.
MAVA has its own volunteers. Anvitaa Pattani has been working with MAVA’s Strengthening Service Task Force, identifying sponsors and donors for the last few months. “I also spread the word about MAVA and raise awareness about the cause,” she said.

Pattani moved to Minneapolis last December and thought that the best way to meet new people would be to get involved as a volunteer. “While looking for opportunities, I met quite a few people, one who worked with MAVA. That’s how I got involved.”

Nationally, the volunteer rate for adults older than 16-years is 24.9 percent. In Minnesota, the second best state for volunteers, the rate is 35.43 percent.

“I have not seen volunteerism done as passionately as it is done in Minnesota,” she said. “Equally important is our community’s reliance on volunteers. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Ann Fosco, the Community Impact Director with Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, one of MAVA’s Service Enterprises, has worked with a number of non-profits and finds MAVA to be invaluable. “With the past three or four organizations I’ve worked with, I have made sure that they are members of MAVA,” she said. “The opportunity to connect with other non-profits and to engage that community helps us better do our mission. We learn from each other; we share materials, ideas, and research. This wouldn’t happen without MAVA.”

The days of organizations automatically having a professional volunteer coordinator is fading, she said, so she has signed on as one of MAVA’s trainers to help staff without this kind of experience understand their new assignments. “For some, this is an extra responsibility,” she said. “We talk about the different things they can do to support their volunteers.”

“Volunteers change the world,” Bulman said, “from civil rights to the anti-gun violence movement. It’s volunteers who put their passion into action. MAVA is here to support the people who find and guide those volunteers so they can do the work that needs to be done.”

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AuSM Ellie Wilson

Midway-based AuSM works to improve lives in Minnesota

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

Autism Society of Minnesota offers education, support groups, events, convention, and more

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Under the helm of a new director, the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) is working to improve the lives of those on the spectrum and educate those around them.

Based at 2380 Wycliff St., AuSM was started by parents as a grassroots organization in 1971. The initial goals were to make sure their kids were understood and recognized in school and all facets of the community.

Today, that’s expanded to represent a broad spectrum and a wide age range. In addition to providing education to parents, AuSM is also committed to connecting people to strategize about autism. Classes are offered for parents, teachers, emergency responders, doctors, business owners, community members and more. Last year, 2,200 people were trained by AuSM.

“We have a very broad and rich diversion of services,” stated AuSM Executive Director Ellie Wilson (photo right provided). “We want to be there for families, but we also want to be out there changing the landscape.”

“It’s a great organization and why I’m trying to give back as a board member,” stated Paul D’Arco, who has a son with autism.

Why work in this field?
Thirteen years ago, Wilson worked as a camp counselor at Camp Knutson in Cross Lake, MN. When the camp for kids with autism began, “it was a like a light bulb went off,” recalled Wilson. “Everything has been about autism since that day.”

She has considered going to medical school like her parents but changed her career plans to focus on autism, disabilities, and public health, learning everything she could about this disorder. As the pieces began to fit together, she realized her place belonged in advocacy work so that she could focus on the big picture.

Wilson was hired as the Executive Director of the Autism Society of Minnesota in October 2017.

“It’s been an incredible privilege for me,” she said.

What is autism anyway?
“Autism is what we call a developmental disability,” observed Wilson. “You have it from the time you are born, and it affects how your brain develops.”
She added, “All of us develop a little differently anyway. What seems to happen with autism is that development has even more variation.”

Differences show up in how people process information and what their perceptions are.

“Because of these differences, we see differences in behavior, specifically how people contribute and how they interact socially,” said Wilson.

Photo left: Over 1,000 people attended the Steps of Hope for Autism in Minnesota 2018 fundraising walk held at Southdale Center in March 2018. The free event is also a resource fair. (Photo submitted)

April is National Autism Month. Autism is estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 68 individuals, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Autism is five times more prevalent in boys than in girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of a child having autism.

Autism is a “spectrum disorder,” which means that characteristics and level of support needed are unique to each autistic individual.

While more boys than girls are diagnosed with autism, that doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer girls are affected, observed Wilson. In fact, it could be that girls are exhibiting the same signs, but because of what society expects girls to be (more shy, for example), it doesn’t send up the same flags as with little boys who are supposed to be boisterous.

“Cultural biases are affecting the pattern,” said Wilson.

Misconceptions
One of the oldest myths out there about autism is that people on the spectrum aren’t interested in social interactions and prefer isolation, pointed out Wilson.
“I have never known anything to be less true,” stated Wilson. “It’s more like wanting to play a game, but not necessarily being able to understand the rules.”

She pointed out that the behavior of those who aren’t on the spectrum is dictated by social conventions that develop early. Children have a natural instinct to mimic others. Kids and adults on the autism spectrum can’t do that.

“Everyone I know with autism wants relationships, wants to be successful,” said Wilson. “But it’s like they’re not reading the same playbook sometimes.”

Another misconception about the disorder is that everybody needs to present the same way.

AuSM is working to promote more acceptance of the “neurodiversity” in people, or the idea that not everybody is the same.

“We all think and process in a different way. That’s ok,” said Wilson. “And often, that’s good.”

In some ways, autism can be an invisible disorder, pointed out D’Arco. His son has no real visible disability, so they’ve experienced some misunderstandings and negative comments by others.

D’Arco thinks that sometimes others don’t give his son the opportunity or stretch him to the extent he could go because of his autism.

“It’s really our job as parents, and his as he self-advocates, to give him opportunities,” stated D’Arco.

He hopes that other people focus more on what his son can do rather than his disability.

What sets AuSM apart?
AuSM works to support people with autism throughout their lifespan. Many get diagnosed these days when they are between 3-5 years old, and many programs focus on early intervention and support up through age 20. There are fewer programs available as a person with autism ages.

“Adults on the spectrum have existed forever, but we just haven’t paid attention until now,” observed Wilson.

However, sometimes they go undiagnosed, and their issues aren’t recognized by co-workers or families. “Employment issues are quite complex,” pointed out Wilson. Workers with autism have a lot of intellect, perspective, and skills valuable to employers, but because of social differences can find it hard to get and keep a job.
Among the AuSM programs offered are support groups for those with autism, as well as caregivers and parents.

AuSM provides a community for those on the spectrum. They organize a Dakota County Book Club, Monthly Birthday Celebration and Game Night, Skillshops Tailored for Adults on the Spectrum, and Art On the Town. Other sponsored activities include Minnesota Zoo Classes for Adults with Autism, Advanced Filmmaking with Film North, ComedySportz Improv excursions, On the Town Adventures, and more.

“We’re committed to being a good resource for people across the state,” observed Wilson.

Photo right: St. Paul Police Department members attend an autism training event led by AuSM in February 2018. (Photo submitted)

AuSM is not a traditional service provider and doesn’t focus on offering behavior or speech therapy. The organization does offer a small mental health department to facilitate things like support groups and to help people understand a diagnosis. But mostly AuSM helps connect folks to the many service providers in the state and isn’t attached to one provider. Because of that, when they receive a call, “we’re attuned to listening to individual needs,” said Wilson, and providing a recommendation based on those.

What does AuSM offer?
There’s so much on the website (ausm.org) that some find it hard to navigate. Wilson encourages people to look under the Who Are You tab to tailor information to their needs. Or, give the office a call 651-647-1083.

“We’re really a catch-all,” said Wilson.

AuSM hosts an annual walk, The Steps of Hope, on the first Sunday of each March. Over 1,000 people attended the indoor walk this past year. This free event is also a resource fair.

Their largest annual event is the Minnesota Autism Conference, now in its 23rd year. Set for Apr. 25-28, this year’s conference features four keynote speakers, 35 breakout sessions, exhibitors, and the AuSM Bookstore.

New this year is Julia’s AuSM Autism Celebration on Apr. 25, 3:30-5:30pm at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Minneapolis Park Place. All families are invited to meet Julia, Sesame Street’s new character with autism, and to participate in lots of sensory-friendly activities offered by many organizations in the Twin Cities, including TPT, Walker Art Center, Children’s Theatre Company, Children’s Minnesota, and more.

This year, AuSM is offering nine sessions of summer camp at three different locations for students as young as seven and as old as 40. About 300 people experience camp sessions each summer. Some are overnight experiences while others are day camps.

In 1995, D’Arco’s son Tony was diagnosed with autism. One of the first things he and his wife did was attend the AuSM annual convention. “It was a tremendous first step in dealing with autism,” observed D’Arco.

Photo left: AuSM Board Vice President Paul D’Arco (second from left) with others at an AuSM event. He praises AuSM for the life-changing experiences the organization offered his family. D’Arco’s son, Tony, was diagnosed with autism at age three, and the first thing his and wife Sharon did was attend the AuSM annual convention. (Photo submitted)

When Tony was about eight, he began attending summer camp in Cross Lake and continued that until about age 19.

“For him, it was the opportunity to have the traditional camp experience that any typical kid would have,” said D’Arco. He enjoyed campfires, boating, swimming, fishing and more—learning social and practical skills. “He built some lifelong relationships,” D’Arco added.

“For Sharon and I, it was a vacation. When you have a kid with autism, it’s a full-time job. It’s difficult to have time for yourself.” The couple sometimes went away themselves and used the time to recharge.

D’Arco joined the AuSM board four years ago and is currently board vice president. He’s trying to give back to the organization that supported him and his family on their journey.

“They were life-changing experiences,” said D’Arco.

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District Council News

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

Hamline Midway Council – District 11

By MELISSA CORTES, Community Organizer

A new Community Engagement Committee
Are you passionate about Outreach and Community Engagement? Do you feel that we can do more as a community? Then, this may be the spot for you!

Hamline Midway Coalition is looking for people with a passion for the Midway and the desire to work toward connecting with, and in, our community. The hope is that those who respond would be willing to work with our neighbors, businesses, and city on the ever-present issues in and around our coalition area. We are currently accepting applications for committee members.

Please send your interest to communityengagement@hamlinemidway.org or visit www.hamlinemidway.org/communityengagementcommittee for more information.

(NOTE: No meeting date has been set. If you are interested in the work of this committee and want to stay in the loop, please send us your name and email to be added to our newsletter.)

Environment Committee
The Environment Committee members are currently working to respond to the state legislature’s exemption bills for sustainable to-go packaging and plastic bag ban. This bill would preempt all Minnesota cities from passing their own ordinances on any single-use bag free and recyclable, reusable, or compostable to-go food containers. Not only is this a step backward for the environment and human health, but also for residents to engage in the democratic process with their local representatives.

Also, the Environment Committee members have committed to mobilizing for stormwater adopt-a-drain community engagement—see www.adopt-a-drain.org. If you’d like to participate or want to weigh in on this work, contact environment@hamlinemidway.org.

Garage Sale
Mark your calendars for Hamline Midway Coalition’s annual neighborhood Garage Sale Weekend, May 4-6, 8am-3pm. With this event gaining popularity every year, we have decided to make it a Garage Sale Weekend, for three days, May 4-6! To sign up visit www.hamlinemidway.org/garagesale or visit us in person in the Hamline Midway Library at 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave.

 

Como Community Council, District 10

By MICHAEL KUCHTA, Executive Director

You live here … vote locally!
Residents of District 10 can vote on Apr. 17 for eight open positions on the Como Community Council Board. Any renter, homeowner, or other resident of District 10 who is age 18 or older, is eligible to vote. So are authorized representatives from a business or nonprofit located in District 10.

Up for election this year are vice-chair, treasurer, one representative from each of the four geographic sub-districts, and two at-large representatives. Elections take place at the beginning of the community council’s annual meeting. The meeting is Tues., Apr. 17 at 7pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton.

To find out more election details, including a rundown of candidates on the ballot, see the article on District 10’s website: www.district10comopark.org. Under the council’s bylaws, nominations also can be made from the floor on the night of the election.

Hostile vegetation is just the beginning
What you plant and where you plant it, the fencing you choose, and how you let your lights shine—all can be tactics to keep your property safer. Pick up advice in these areas and more during “Crime Prevention through Landscape Design,” the next presentation in District 10’s Sunday Series. Patty Lammers, crime prevention coordinator for the St. Paul Police, shares tips in natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement, access control, and even hostile vegetation.

This free presentation is scheduled for Sun., Apr. 15 from 1-2:30pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station.

Get your gardening off to a great start
The Como Community Seed Library holds its 2018 May Mosaic on Sat., May 5, 11am-2pm at the Como Park Streetcar Station, 1224 Lexington Pkwy. N. The free event is a great opportunity to swap seeds, plants, and perennials; swap stories; get advice from garden experts; and more. For details, see https://comoseedsavers.geopoi.us.

A rain barrel is a bargain—advice is even better
District 10’s Environment Committee and the Capitol Region Watershed District hold a Rain Barrel Workshop on Sat., May 19 from 1-3pm at the Twin Cities German Immersion School, 1031 Como Ave. Participants can get a rain barrel for the unheard of price of $29 (plus tax), and learn how to set it up, so it works the way it’s supposed to. (If you already have rain barrels at your home, you can show up and learn to use them correctly—for free.) Space is limited, so register now at www.bit.ly/d10-rainbarrels.

Fairgrounds drop-off is June 9
The annual Citywide Drop-Off at the State Fairgrounds is much earlier than usual in 2018: It’s Sat., June 9 from 8am-1pm. The Drop-Off, organized by St. Paul and District 10, is a great chance to get rid of the junk you can’t throw in the trash (for a reasonable price). If you volunteer to help staff the event, you can get rid of a load of your junk for free. Sign up to volunteer at www.district10comopark.org/volunteer_form.html

Other things to look forward to
• Sat., Apr. 21: Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Spring Cleanup, 9-11:30pm, Como Lakeside Pavilion.
• Sat., Apr. 28: 2018 City Nature Challenge, 9am-4pm, Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom. Track what lives in the woodland, part of a competitive “bio-blitz” in 60 cities worldwide.
• Sun., June 3: Block Party in the Park, 4-7pm, Orchard Park, 875 W. Orchard Ave. Neighbors hanging out with neighbors. You don’t have to live in South Como to join the fun.
• Sat., June 16: Como Neighborhood Garage Sale. By popular demand, it’s later than usual this year (cross your fingers for better weather).
• Sat., June 23: Como Lake Rain Garden Workshop, 9am-noon., Streetcar Station. Capitol Region Watershed District leads a hands-on workshop to identify locations for the next wave of boulevard rain gardens in District 10. These are among the most cost-effective ways to collect and filter polluted street runoff before it reaches Como Lake. The best part is the selected locations will get rain gardens installed at no cost.

Upcoming District 10 Meetings
• Como Community Council Monthly Meeting: Tues., Apr. 17
• Environment Committee: Wed., Apr. 25
• Neighborhood Relations and Safety Committee: Tues., May 1
• Land Use Committee: Wed., May 2
All meetings begin at 7pm, typically at the Como Park Streetcar Station, which is at the northeast corner of Lexington and Horton. Community members are always welcome to attend and participate. Whenever possible, agendas are posted in advance in the “Board News” section of District 10’s website.

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Hamline Library Mosaic 11

Hamline Midway Library mosaic mural is made by many hands

Posted on 09 April 2018 by Calvin

More than 100 participants helped build the mosaic one tile at a time, over the course of three workshop days. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
More than 100 people gathered at the Hamline Midway Library, 1558 W Minnehaha Ave., Mar. 22-24 to create a colorful tile mural designed by community mosaic artist Lori Greene. Once complete, the 3’ X 7’ mural will be permanently attached to the library’s east-facing fireplace wall.

Library manager Shelly Hawkins said, “The Hamline Library is a community library in every sense of the word. We wanted to fund a community engagement project that would be accessible to everybody. The Hamline Midway Coalition donated funds to hire Lori Greene; the Midway Men’s Club contributed, and our library had money for the project also. The theme of the mural is nature in the urban world.”

During February, library patrons were asked for their input about how to portray nature in the city. They contributed words, photos, and drawings, and Greene translated all that information into an urban landscape outlined on mesh backing. She cut the material into several smaller sections, and mosaic makers as young as three helped to glue cut pieces of tile onto it—making bees, dragonflies, rabbits, birds, and plants come to life.

“We’re what’s called a Nature Smart Library,” Hawkins explained, “so this project felt like a natural extension of our library’s values. Our philosophy is that you can learn about nature wherever you are. As part of our Nature Smart mission, we’ve assembled several backpacks for families to check out. The backpacks contain books, toys, equipment, and other supplies on a variety of themes including birds, trees, frogs, urban animals, and more. Sun Ray, St. Anthony, Riverview, and Merriam Park are also participating Nature Smart Libraries.”

Melissa Cortez is the community organizer/communications specialist with the Hamline Midway Coalition, one of the project partners. “Shelly and I worked together on this project,” she said. “Shelly had done something similar when she was at another St. Paul library. She knew it would be a great way for staff to interact with the Hamline Library patrons, and for the patrons to connect with each other in ways that they wouldn’t normally get to do. You could see that happening at the work tables during the mosaic workshops: there were teens working alongside senior citizens and little kids, and people were sharing their ideas about how everything was coming together.”

“As the Hamline Midway Coalition community organizer,” Cortez said, “my part in this project was to get input from community groups like the Hamline Midway Elders, families using the nearby Hancock Recreation Center, neighborhood businesses, staff, parents, and students at Hamline Elementary School. We recently partnered with Hamline Elementary School on their fence weaving project along Snelling Avenue, so neighbors were already excited about participating in a public art project. The inspiration for what should be included in the mosaic came from all of them.”

Community mosaic artist Lori Green lives in the Hamline Midway neighborhood and her business, Mosaic on a Stick, is there too at 1564 Lafond Ave. She said, “I’ve done more community art projects than I can even count any more, and it’s amazing—they always work. I made a decision early on not to be at the library during the building days. After all the ideas came in, I laid out how the project would flow. I don’t believe in micro-managing. With community art-making, you have to trust the process and give people a chance to figure things out. They create a community within themselves, rather than relying on being told what to do. That’s a beautiful thing!”

The mosaic mural should be up and ready for viewing by the end of April.

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Discovery Club