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‘She must have done something wrong’

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Because fit mothers are losing custody and children are being harmed, supporters of Safe Child Act want to make sure family court focuses on child safety over parents rights

domestic violence awareness month

And in danger of losing custody of her children.
That’s where Bonnie Roy found herself while trying to get a divorce in Minnesota 10 years ago.
Because of her own experience and the stories she’s heard, Roy has dedicated herself to positive change in the laws around family court that prioritize the safety and well-being of children.
She’s attended the New York Battered Women’s Custody Conference, and events by the Center for Judicial Excellence and Protective Mothers Alliance International. She’s worked to bring well-known domestic violence advocates Barry Goldstein, who authored the Safe Child Act as well as “The Quincy Solution,” and Lundy Bancroft, who authored “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” to Minnesota to provide trainings to therapists and other family court professionals.
And she’s worked hard to counter this statement made by so many: Well, she must have done something wrong to lose custody.
Of the moms she knows who lost legal custody and got reduced parenting time, none had criminal convictions or had been in criminal court. There was no determination of negligence or endangerment. “They hardly had a speeding ticket,” said Roy.
“People just assume lawmakers and judges are looking out for children – and they’re not.
“The public needs to get informed.”

Evidence ignored as ’heresay’
What is the contributing factor to women losing custody? Not being heard on the evidence they have, according to Roy.
She pointed to cases like that of her friend, Leigh Ann Olson Block, whose evidence of domestic violence was ignored by the Ramsey County Family Court. Having been given joint legal custody and over 50% of the parenting time, Highland High School graduate John Tester murdered their daughter Mikayla the weekend before she would have started kindergarten in September 2004.
This isn’t an isolated case. Since 2008, the Center for Judicial Excellence has identified 748 children who were murdered by a divorcing or separating parent. Among those are 11-year-old William and 8-year-old Nelson Schladetzky, who, along with their mother, Kjersten, were murdered by their father and Whittier International Elementary School PTO president David last November in South Minneapolis.
Once you step into family court, evidence that would be heard in a criminal court gets thrown out, said Roy, who has talked to many women in Minnesota over the years about their experiences in family court. The evidence is labeled “heresay.” Women are labeled as having made “false allegations” and in some cases children are taken away because they’re seen as “alienators” and accused to trying to alienate children from their fathers, a theory that is not supported by research, she observed. Women are even punished for cooperating with child protection investigations.
Minnesota courts are taking children away from their primary caretakers without a determination of neglect or endangerment. You can’t do this in criminal court, but it happens in family court, pointed out Roy.
This is a widespread problem, one that researcher Joan Meiers and team from Georgetown University studied in depth, pointed out Roy. After looking at more than 2,000 custody case appeals involving child abuse, domestic violence and parental alienation nationwide, researchers found that women are losing custody when they bring up domestic violence. When a woman states there was domestic violence in the home (against her, the children or both) and the man counters by claiming she is alienating the kids from him, she loses custody 44% of the time. When claims of sexual abuse is involved, the mother loses custody 81% of the time.
In family court today, claims of abuse by mothers are only believed 23% of the time when alienation is claimed by the father.
This was the case for Block, whose evidence of stalking, abuse and more that was downplayed and ignored in family court. (Read past article on Block online here)
Block was told: “‘You need to stop pushing his buttons.’
“His buttons? He was trying to kill us,” said Block.
A woman may have an order for protection in place against her abuser, but she’s still instructed by the family court to engage in co-parenting in a joint custody situation. “They don’t factor that in,” said Roy. “It is shocking to most people.”

Current law doesn’t make child safety the priority
Minnesota Statute 518.17 lists 13 factors to be evaluated during custody cases. The statute states that the court should consider the best interests of the child and should not prefer one parent over the other, and one factor deals specifically with domestic abuse. But Roy and Block have seen too many cases where domestic violence isn’t factored into a judge or referee’s decision on a custody case.
Because of that, they’re working to replace this language with the Safe Child Act.
“There is no current law that says safety of the child has to be taken first,” said Roy.
“We’re trying to make children’s safety a priority in family court by passing the Safe Child Act,” stated Block.
The Minnesota bill needs a sponsor.
“It’s not a father’s rights issue or a mother’s rights issue,” said Block. “It’s a people’s issue.”
“The issue is children not being heard,” said Roy.

‘No sense to this’
“Abusive fathers are more likely to get custody of their children than mothers,” said Roy. “In law and logic – there’s no sense to this.”
In some of the families, a Guardian Ad Litem had been assigned to the case. The guardian is supposed to assess a child’s situation and then make recommendations to the court about a child’s best interest.
However, a 2018 report by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor found that they are failing children. “There are no training standards,” pointed out Roy. “The training they have is a minimal baseline. Those who lack relevant professional education are making critical decisions that create horrific outcomes.”
The results of the audit didn’t surprise Roy or Block, who have heard story after story of how guardians without training in psychology or domestic violence ignore abuse when a mother or child brings it up. Instead, they’re told they need to get along with the father and co-parent.
“You can’t co-parent with an abuser,” said Roy.
In many of these cases, mothers end up losing custody because the guardian made the determination that a mother bringing up issues of abuse meant she was making false allegations and/or engaged in parental alienation. Decisions are also being made based on the old research that children act out when there is abuse or that women made false claims of abuse to gain an advantage in custody court.
The Safe Child Act would address some of these issues by stipulating that a common intake form is used by all guardians, and that judges would also be educated on how to use the assessment tool. The SAFeR Approach has been developed by the Minneapolis-based Battered Women’s Justice Project, and helps practitioners screen for and understand the full nature, context and effects of abuse so that they can respond with safe and workable parenting arrangements. SAFeR can be used by attorneys, advocates, judicial officers, custody evaluators, guardians ad litem and survivors, and is implemented through the use of worksheets and practice guides.
“The bottom line is that when the Safe Child Act is passed, it will change the dynamics of family court,” said Roy. “It will force the court to look at the dynamics that haven’t been recognized and the abuse cases that are labeled high conflict.
“It’s accountability on everyone’s part.”
The act builds upon House Congressional Resolution 72, which says child safety is the first priority of custody and visitation adjudications, and that state courts should improve how they manages custody where family violence is alleged.
According to the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, an estimated 58,000 U.S. children a year are court-ordered into the unsafe custody or care of abusive parents, over the objections of caring parents.
Right now, too often, “the rights of the father outweigh the health and safety of the mother and child,” said Roy. She wishes the system would do away with the word “custody,” as it becomes a tool used by an abuser. “The abuser looks at it as a piece of property. They will spend a million dollars to get custody,” observed Roy.
“Why did the mother lose custody when all she did was try to protect the child and try to protect their life?”
The Safe Child Act would prioritize keeping the main caretaker the same, recognizing that this has been shown by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies to be better for kids.
“One of the most important findings from the ACE Studies is that fear leading to stress rather than physical injuries cause most of the damage. The essence of domestic violence is that abusers use a variety of tactics to coerce, scare and intimidate the victim to do what the abuser wants. The fear that is engendered in both the mother and children causes a lifetime of health and other problems,” pointed out Barry Goldstein, who authored the Safe Child Act and wrote “The Quincy Solution: Stop Domestic Violence and Save $500 Billion.”
Researchers at the University of Michigan along with the National Institute of Justice looked at what happens when the alleged abuser wins custody and a safe, protective mother who is the primary attachment figure for the child, is limited to supervised or no visitation. “The Saunders’ study found that these decisions are always wrong because the harm of denying children a normal relationship with their primary attachment figure, a harm that includes increased risk of depression, low self-esteem and suicide, is greater than any benefit the court thought it was creating,” pointed out Goldstein. “One reason for the mistake is the courts rarely compare the known risk of separating children from their primary parent with the often-speculative risk they are using to justify the extreme decision.”

Fit mothers losing custody under the radar
“If a divorce was not contentious, you would be able to sit down and you wouldn’t have to go in front of a judge,” pointed out Roy.
Of the 3.8% of cases that require trial, a large majority (75-90%) are domestic violence cases involving the most dangerous abusers, according to Goldstein. “These are fathers who believe the mother has no right to leave so they are entitled to use any tactics necessary to regain what they believe is their entitlement to control their partners.”
He added, “Inadequately trained professionals often fail to recognize the danger because most of these fathers have not committed the most severe physical assaults. But these abusers are willing to hurt their children by taking them from mothers who are usually the primary attachment figures, abusing the children and in extreme cases killing them. Courts rarely look for patterns to help understand domestic violence, but in the last 10 years over 700 children involved in contested custody have been murdered, mostly by abusive fathers.”
Men who abuse women are 40-60% more likely to abuse children physically and sexually, and domestic violence makes child neglect more likely, pointed out Goldstein.
Because the Saunders’ study found that the standard and required training in domestic violence obtained by evaluators, judges, lawyers and guardians ad litem do not qualify them to respond effectively to domestic abuse allegations, the Safe Child Act would require specific training.
It would also requires the use of current scientific research to inform court decisions, instead of the personal beliefs, biases and invalid theories used instead. The idea that a woman makes false allegations of abuse in family court leads to judges imposing punishments and retaliation against the mother – not recognizing the court is punishing the children, pointed out Roy.
“A fit mother is losing custody to an abuser,” said Roy. “That’s the part that is going under the radar.”



Each year, thousands of children in Minnesota are involved in court cases related to abuse, neglect, custody, and other matters. In some of these cases, the courts appoint a guardian ad litem to help ensure the child’s needs are not overlooked during the court process. Guardians ad litem assess a child’s situation and make recommendations to the court about a child’s best interests.

What does it take to be a GAL?
– 40 hours of training and and a bachelor degree (field is not specified)
– Training in child psychology, Cluster B personality disorders, or domestic violence is not required.

Key findings of 2018 legislative audit:
– The GAL program has not had sufficient oversight.
– Not all are complying with required training.
– It has established few standards to ensure guardians ad litem provide high-quality services statewide.
– The program needs greater financial oversight and regular reviews.



25 common dangerous
mistakes caused by failing
to use current research

1) Asking abuse victims to just “get over it.”
2) Minimizing the full harm caused by domestic violence and child abuse.
3) Assuming the end of a relationship ends the risk from an abuser.
4) Assuming abuse that is not recent has little impact on children.
5) Focusing only on physical abuse.
6) Failure to understand the significance of the fear and stress caused by abuse.
7) Failure to focus on the assistance and protection children need in order to heal from exposure to abuse.
8) Mistaken assumptions that very young children cannot be harmed from witnessing domestic violence.
9) Pressuring victims to interact and cooperate with their abusers.
10) Failure to use a multi-disciplinary approach to domestic violence and child abuse cases.
11) Using non-probative factors like returning to an alleged abuser or not following up on a request for a protective order or the failure to have police or medical reports to discredit reports of abuse.
12) Failure to look for a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior to recognize domestic violence.
13) Failure to consider which party is afraid of the other in adjudicating domestic violence.
14) Failure to guard against the ability of abusers to manipulate witnesses and professionals.
15) Failure to consider factors that are associated with a higher risk of lethality in resolving domestic violence.
16) Failure to consider an alleged abuser’s past and future relationships when investigating reports of domestic violence.
17) Treating an alleged abuser’s good behavior in public as if it provides proof about his behavior in private.
18) Treating evaluators who fail to discuss ACE and Saunders or are unfamiliar with the research as if they are qualified to respond to domestic violence cases.
19) Treating any professional who recommends a harmful outcome case as if they are qualified to respond to domestic violence cases.
20) Failure to discuss which parent is the primary attachment figure and how that affects the children regarding the possible outcomes.
21) Failure to guard against gender-biased approaches and assumptions.
22) Failure to understand the importance of holding abusers accountable.
23) Recognizing that court professionals that focus on the myth that mothers frequently make false allegations or unscientific alienation theories reveals more about their lack of qualifications for domestic violence cases than the circumstances in the case.
24) Failure to understand that child sexual abuse is far more common than previously realized and most abuse is committed by someone the child knows.
25) Assumptions that men who are successful in other parts of their lives are unlikely to abuse women and children.
~ Compiled by Barry Goldstein, author of the Safe Child Act

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Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Frogtown Community Center rebuilt into one of city’s best

Ayanna Jones, age seven, and Mayor Melvin Carter III cut the ribbon at Frogtown Community Center during the official opening of the $2.1 million field project on Tuesday, Sept. 22. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The recreation center at Como Ave. and Marion has been transformed, and people came together to celebrate with a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.
“Look what we got,” stated Caty Royce of the Frogtown Neighborhood Association as she looked around at the new building that is four times as big as the old one and has triple the fields. “It’s beautiful.”
“Invite your friends and your families to use this facility,” encouraged Ward 1 Council Member Dai Thao. “This is a place where your family can gather. We wanted to create a place where people can belong.”
“It’s yours to take care of. It’s yours to play on and enjoy and have a good time,” stated Mayor Melvin Carter, who formerly represented the city’s Ward 1.
Speakers recalled the rodents at the old 6,000-square-foot Scheffer Recreation Center built in 1973, and how they had to stand with one foot on the wall to be out of bounds while playing basketball.
“I was excited when I saw the old one coming down,” remarked Sarah Gustafson, who played basketball at Scheffer when she was a girl. She now lives across the street and appreciates the diversity of Frogtown’s residents. “I hope it brings a lot of people here to have a safe place to congregate and play sports,” added Gustafson.
Her granddaughter Ayanna Jones, age seven, cut the ribbon that day. “I’m glad they built the park,” said Jones. Her favorite part is the hammock.
“This place will stand the test of time,” stated North End resident Greg Taylor. “I was really impressed when they built it. It’s really beautiful.”


$2.1 million buys…
• Artificial turf field striped for soccer, football, baseball and lacrosse, 64,300 SF
• Kato/Sepak Takraw court, 5,000 SF
• Basketball court, 79’x45’
• Volleyball court
• Playground, 6,000 SF
• Paths

$11 million project
The event on Sept. 22 marked the completion of phase two, which included $2.1 million in outdoor amenities.
The $11.2 million project began in 2016 with community meetings at the site of the St. Paul’s first playground built back in 1909.
Phase one, the new community center, opened in September 2019. Designed by JLG Architects and built by Shaw Lundquist Associates, construction began in May 2018 on the $7.7 million project. The new building faces Como Ave. while the old one was at the south end of the site along Thomas Ave.
The new 23,500-square-foot facility includes community rooms, arts space, seniors space, teen room, dance studios, kitchen, Rec Check after school space, full-size gym, fitness room, and an upper level walking track. There is a pair of private washrooms where residents can clean up for prayers, as requested by Muslim residents. And there’s a parking lot so people have some place besides the street to park. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not open for regular business hours but limited programming for registered participants is being offered. The old building was demolished in June 2019.
The terrazzo floor and wallmurals, designed in collaboration by local artists, Myc Dazzle, Megan Tate and Tou Yia Xiong, celebrates the diversity of Frogtown.
After getting input from the community, the site was renamed from Scheffer to the Frogtown Community Center. The athletic fields have been named for General Vang Poa, a key U.S. ally during the Vietnam War and the leader of the Hmong resettlement efforts in St. Paul and elsewhere.

Tou Yia Xiong stands by the mural he created at the Frogtown Community Center. The St. Paul artist and toy designer also worked on the terrazzo floor with fellow artists Myc Dazzle and Megan Tate.

‘I love this space’
“I am blown away by this space,” said St. Paul Park and Recreation Director Mike Hahm.
He recalled when new mayor Melvin Carter asked parks and recreation what the number one priority was for funding. They told him it was this center as the community had been working on the project for a very long time.
“Mayor Carter said, ‘Mike, it is my priority, too, that we fund that project.”
“I love this space,” Mayor Carter told those gathered at for the ribbon-cutting. “I love this neighborhood. We’ve gotten a chance to watch this space come alive. It takes me back to when I was a kid.”
Mayor Carter said he grew up playing in the city’s rec centers, and every once in a while they’d be bussed out for a field trip at another city’s recreation centers, which were always much better.
“If Frogtown folks don’t deserve the best, I don’t know who does,” stated Mayor Carter, who pointed out that the fields were always full and it sometimes took 45 minutes to get onto the basketball court to play.
“How could we as a city not respond to that kind of use with this kind of investment?” he asked.
“We must provide equitable programs and amenities the communities want,” said Thao. “Park spaces are a reflection of the community, and I’m honored to have had a role in securing these new facilities in Frogtown for everyone to access and enjoy.”


WEB_SOS_Melvin Carter Jr. 06

Melvin Carter Jr. driven to help youth

Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Why he does it, and why he won’t ever stop


Melvin Carter founded SOS (Save our Sons) in 1991. He knew that the detention system wasn’t working for young Black men and that, in fact, it was hurting them. He wanted to find an alternative way to reach out and help young Black men reach their potential. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Melvin Carter Jr. is a natural-born mentor. The Summit-University resident said, “I mentor young people everywhere I go. I focus on my natural realm of travel these days: between my house, the YWCA, the boxing gym. I see young people that I recognize in the neighborhood, and I take my time checking in with them. I’m always mentoring.”
Carter is a 29-year veteran of the Saint Paul Police Department, from which he retired in 2003. He served in several different capacities there: patrol officer, foot beat, SWAT, and detective. He was one of a handful of African Americans hired when the department was forced to integrate in 1974. In addition, he was part of another distinct minority: an officer who patrolled the streets of the city he grew up in, and chose to raise his children in.
Born into St. Paul’s historically-black Rondo neighborhood, Carter said, “Nobody ever got killed there when I was growing up. The lethal violence we see now in communities of color is something fairly recent. With the advent of the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and the willful destruction of neighborhoods like Rondo, it was clear that Blacks were being targeted.”

Save Our Sons
In 1991, Carter and some of his colleagues decided to do something about it. They created Save Our Sons (SOS) as a community grassroots movement to reclaim young African American men whose lives were being lost to gun violence or prison. Leaders in the movement included local elders, neighbors, faith communities, school and elected officials, law enforcement and corrections officers, and other like-hearted organizations who shared their vision.
African American males make up a disproportionate segment of incarcerated and institutionalized youth in Ramsey County.
In the last 29 years, SOS staff and volunteers have met with more than 2,500 young men who passed through the doors of the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) and the former Boys Totem Town facility. Carter said, “Prior to COVID, our presence in JDC every Tuesday ensured that these young men who were separated from family during a critical time in their lives, had access to the compassion and wisdom of the community.”
Partnerships with St. Paul organizations including Arts-US (founded by spouse Toni Carter), Circle of Peace, Element Boxing and Fitness, and the Gathering at Dunning Recreation Center have also proved valuable. With these partner organizations, SOS provides the framework for transforming and reclaiming the health, safety, and freedom of young Black men while they are in corrections facilities – and when they rejoin the outside world.


Carter has lived his life according to the chorus of a gospel hymn made popular by Mahalia Jackson:

“If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
then my living shall not be in vain.”

Envisioning negotiators,
ambassadors and diplomats
Carter appears reflective these days. He said, “We’ve been able to impact the lives of so many young people, but the wheel we invented for SOS back in the 90s is wobbling. It’s becoming obsolete. Back then, gangs were just starting. Mass incarceration, as we know it today, was just kicking in. Drugs and guns were only a trickle flowing into the community. Everything is different now.”
Carter continued, “I want to do more than get kids out of trouble. I’m dreaming of an institute to cultivate statesmanship. The vision I have now for young African American men is that they would be mentored and coached to become negotiators, ambassadors, and diplomats.”

‘Sick n’ tired of all this dyin’
After suffering a stroke in 2017, Carter had to start slowing down. Recognizing that there are young community leaders ready and able to move forward with the work he started, he is formulating an exit strategy from the helm of SOS.
Giving himself a two-to-five-year time frame, Carter is consulting with his board and other trusted community leaders. In the meantime, he continues pressing on with several initiatives at the core of SOS. First and foremost among those is ending what he calls, “the recklessness of gun violence.”
He said, “Lives are shattered on both ends of the gun when it’s fired wantonly. If the front end of the bullet don’t kill you, the back end will.”
Carter advocates strongly for gun violence prevention in the schools. In one the booklets he authored and has distributed widely in the community called, “Dismantling Gun Violence,” Carter wrote, “So there I was, time after time, identifying friends and even relatives at the morgue, or sitting in the pew at a funeral. In every case, it was a waste of a precious young life that didn’t have to be.”
In both his personal and professional life, Carter has witnessed way too much tragedy related to gun violence. One of his mantras is, “Sick n’ tired of all this dyin’!”
SOS does not have a brick and mortar location. Its office is on the streets of St. Paul, especially the Summit University and Frogtown neighborhoods. According to Carter, these neighborhoods are saturated with guns. He said, “No matter how many we take away, there will always be way too many left.”
He believes gun ownership has to be de-glamorized, and that collective community action is how that will happen.
Even though the model for SOS is changing, Carter continues to see mentoring as a critical part of changing the way young people think. As Carter knows better than anyone, he was fortunate to be born into a family with two extraordinary parents. His father, Melvin Carter Sr., was an especially strong presence in his life.
Looking back on a formative childhood memory, he said, “My Dad took me fishing regularly when I was a kid. We’d rent a row boat, and sit there facing each other – because that’s how it is in a rowboat. He always had me take the oars, and he’d put the bottoms of his bare feet up against mine the whole time.
“He taught me how to row the boat. He taught me how to fish. I often got my fishing line tangled up, but no matter how bad it was – he managed to make it right again.”
To learn more about the ongoing mentorship work of Save our Sons, or to make a financial donation, visit www.saveoursonsmn.com.
Melvin Carter Jr.’s autobiography, “Diesel Heart”, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, is available for purchase locally. The Minnesota History Theater has adapted it for the stage. Watch for the upcoming live performance schedule at a future time.

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WEB_2 Scoops 02


Posted on 18 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Family business 2 Scoops Ice Cream opens during pandemic and unrest, focuses on community


Brian White Jr, one of four co-owners of 2 Scoops Ice Cream Eatery at 921 Selby Avenue. His family was able to open their business by pooling resources and being creative. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Standing on the corner of Selby Ave. and Milton St. with Brian White, Jr., it seems like he knows everybody. Whether passersby are driving or walking, they smile and wave – and he waves back.
White grew up in Frogtown, and spent formative years playing football at the West Minnehaha Recreation Center. He is no stranger to this neighborhood. Now co-owner of 2 Scoops Ice Cream Eatery along with his mother, father, and aunt, he said, “When we got the idea to start our business, we knew we wanted to be part of this community – not just do business in this community.”
The family-owned and operated business is doing just that. They had hoped to open in April but because of COVID, Grand Opening Day was delayed until May 30. On the Saturday of the uprising that rocked the Twin Cities and the world, lines had formed down both Selby and Milton while customers waited patiently for their cones. White said, “We thought it might be rough, but we also know ice cream is a universal goodness. People needed to lift their spirits, and they really came out to support us.”

6 Black-owned businesses nearby
2 Scoops occupies the space that housed Golden Thyme Coffee and Café for many years. The café has moved just a few doors away, and the block on Selby Ave. between Milton and Chatsworth streets now boasts six African-American owned businesses. If it looks like a resurgence of the old Rondo neighborhood that stood until Interstate 94 barreled through, that’s because it is.
White has a lot to say about being an African American entrepreneur in this time and place. He said, “At 2 Scoops, we have a real affinity for youth. We love that African American families bring their kids in to see what’s possible. Last month, a non-profit called Male Mentors came with a van full of young men. I told them, ‘Look, you’re probably not going to grow up to be professional basketball players. Why don’t you think about running your own businesses instead?”’
He calls this, “speaking an idea into existence.”

Others donate so kids can have free cones
On Opening Day, John Becker, who owns a State Farm business across the street from 2 Scoops dropped off a $100 check. He said he wanted to earmark it for kids who might not be able to afford an ice cream cone this summer. White is responsible for social media postings and put word of Becker’s gift up on the company Facebook page. They were flooded with donations from as far away as Michigan. More than 1,000 children under 12 have been given free ice cream cones so far, and the donations keep coming in.
In addition to all this, 2 Scoops has developed a reputation for excellent customer service. White said, “Our summer staff consisted of mostly neighborhood high school students. For many of them, it was their first real job. A lot of kids these days don’t have the best interpersonal skills, because they spend so much time on computer screens. It was great seeing them mature over the summer: they quickly learned how to step out from behind the computer screen, look customers in the eye, and be gracious.”
There are other youth-focused initiatives in the works, as well. White coordinates partnerships with several nearby elementary schools including Galtier, JJ Hill, and Adams Spanish Immersion. When students meet their reading goals, they are eligible for an ice cream cone to celebrate.
A future dream is to develop, “Two Scoops Hoops:” a sponsorship program for boys and girls youth basketball in the neighborhood.
Passion fruit Italian ice, raspberry rhapsody, matcha green tea, salted caramel, and banana cream pie are just a few of the 18 flavors featured right now at 2 Scoops, along with timeless standards like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. New flavors rotate through twice a week, and holiday-themed ice creams are just around the corner. The hot menu (pizza, sandwiches, soups and more) will expand starting Oct. 1.
Visit www.2scoopseatery.com for business hours and menu options. They are also available for catering.

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ON THE JOB with Buck Bros.

Posted on 17 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Longtime Buck Brothers employees Scott Vetsch (left) and Buzzy Napoly return to install new windows at a home where they built a garage previously. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Tracy Kruse didn’t start out to be one of the few women in construction, but it is a role she has enjoyed. The daughter of a high school shop teacher, Kruse was looking for work after college and ended up building movie sets in the Twin Cities.
After a few years traveling and juggling family commitments, she told her Seward neighbor, Joe Buck, that she was interested in a change. He offered her a job on his crew.
This year, Kruse and fellow long-time employee, Jason Manthey, are taking over from Joe and his brother Bob.
“Our company was started in 1983 by Bob and Joe Buck, with the goal of concentrating on remodeling urban core homes and respecting the historic design and detail of these homes,” observed Kruse. “We will continue our commitment to providing high-quality service to our community.” She added, “We have worked on older, single-family homes for over 35 years, and understand the challenges that these homes present. Over the years, we’ve handpicked a project team that can work with homeowners to design the space, anticipate the issues that older homes present and manage the construction of the project.”
Read on for more from Kruse.

Scott Vetsch installs new windows on the upper level of a Minneapolis home.

How has COVID-19 changed how you operate?
COVID-19 has changed many aspects of how we run our jobs. One thing we have always been proud of is running a tight schedule. With lead times on materials becoming longer and longer, it has created some challenges. We require our staff and subs to wear masks and gloves as possible while on the job site. We have created washing stations on the job sites. We are not having more than one trade at the job site at a time, which has also increased the length of our projects. Social distancing can be a challenge in construction as many tasks take more than one person, for example installing windows. While working in homes, we isolate ourselves as much as possible with plastic barriers. At the end of each workday, we sanitize any areas that the homeowner may come in contact with, handrails etc.
What trends do you see right now?
Families are looking for more liveable space in their homes with many people staying home. We have seen an increase in basement remodels and additions.
How do you seek to be environmentally friendly in your business practices?

Jason Manthey and Tracy Kruse are the new owners of Buck Brothers.

We’ve always been proponents of energy-efficient design and construction, and our projects have won awards from Minnesota GreenStar. We have extensive experience at providing clients with creative options for building projects that conserve energy and promote efficiency.
What sets your business apart?
Our extensive experience has enabled us to build a team of designers, field staff, and sub-contractors who provide the quality service and high value that our clients demand. Homeowners need to trust the tradespeople who work on their projects to provide quality and stay on schedule and on budget.

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Web_Healing Justice 04

She gets people talking

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Shanene Herbert of Healing Justice St. Paul engages youth through power of words

Shanene Herbert at the “Youth Will Rise” March on July 3, 2020 on the University of Minnesota Campus. Over 100 people gathered to celebrate the perseverance of youth of color, especially lifting up this year’s high school and college graduates. They carried their message through the neighborhood despite punishingly high heat and humidity, ending with a celebration at Father Hennepin Bluffs. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By Margie O’Loughlin
Shanene Herbert chooses her words carefully.
In her work as Healing Justice St. Paul Program Director, she helps Black and Brown youth find theirs. The program she leads is under the umbrella of the American Friends Service Committee: a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. She works with Saint Paul Public Schools administrators, teachers, and students to build community and repair harm.
She gets people talking.
Before COVID-19, participants in her group sessions would gather in a facilitated circle to talk about race and racism. Now it happens via Zoom, but Black and Brown students still have a chance to build their knowledge and language.
They learn how to recognize racism, and they learn how to organize against it using direct action.
According to Herbert, making sure young people enter into intentional conversation around race and racism is crucial. She said, “People of color have been dealing with the pandemic of systemic racism for more than 400 years. Young people are enraged. They don’t have the patience that their parents and grandparents did. Their generation expects things to happen quickly.”
She continued, “We have to give them the tools to deal with their hurt, their anger, and their fear. Most of these kids don’t have access to quality mental healthcare. How do we keep them from self-medicating with drugs at this time? How will they function with distance learning or with classroom learning in the fall? Will they be ready to take standardized tests when they do go back to school? What words can they find to describe this moment that we’re in?”

‘When we cry for help, no one is going to save us’
In the Twin Cities, we are living in the past and the present simultaneously. Racial injustice has been happening for years on end but people, especially young people, are reacting to it very differently now – as if a line has finally been drawn in the sand.
Again, Herbert chose her words carefully. She said, “George Floyd was lynched in South Minneapolis, in what was historically a Black neighborhood. Notice that I said ‘lynched’, not murdered or killed. This is an important distinction for people of color. We need to be clear with our language.”
She continued, “When you see historical photos of lynchings, there’s a coldness in the killers’ eyes – just like there was in former officer Derek Chauvin’s. And the way he had his hands in his pockets, that was a power move. That image reminds us of all the power we do not have. It reminds us that when even we cry out for help, no one is going to save us.”
Herbert sees this as the time for changing that narrative. She said, “If you have power, you’re likely going to be comfortable all the time. If you don’t have power, you’re always living with a level of discomfort.”

Getting unconfortable is necessary step toward change
Talking about race and racism makes many white Minnesotans very uncomfortable, but feeling uncomfortable is a necessary step toward change. Herbert, who is from New York City, moved to St. Paul at 17 and graduated from Como Senior High School. She said, “Many Black and Brown people who live in Minnesota aren’t from here; they moved from Chicago or Milwaukee, or their parents migrated from the South. We’re of a different make up. We’re a more communal kind of people.”
She continued, “With the pandemic, Black and Brown people were relegated to their homes just like everybody else – but because of our communal nature, we may have found it harder. Our jobs are more likely to be threatened by the pandemic, our family members are dying at disproportionately higher rates from COVID-19, and we were doing badly in this country already.”
When Herbert looks back at her own evolution as an activist, she knows exactly when it started. Arriving at Como Senior High School as a senior, she signed up for an African and African American Studies class. To her surprise, the teacher was white. When she asked why he was teaching the class, the teacher said, “We don’t have a Black teacher here who is licensed to teach it. I wish you would go out and get your degree, and come back and teach this class.”
Herbert went on to the University of Minnesota, graduated with a degree in African and African American Studies, and has been working as an educator/activist ever since.

Name and identify
In the aftermath of the uprising, St. Paul and Minneapolis are busy picking up the pieces. Herbert said, “While the buildings can be rebuilt, we are left with the harder job of addressing race and racism where we live. This work, this emotional labor, is exhausting. I believe that one of the good things that will come out of this time is true honesty, true transparency.“
She added, “At Healing Justice Program St. Paul, we will continue to engage youth in the conversation, without talking around or about them. We will continue to help them name and identify what is happening to them.”
For more information on the work of Healing Justice Program St. Paul, visit the website of the American Friends Service Committee at www.afsc.org/office/st-paul-minn, or email Shanene Herbert at sherbert@afsc.org.

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You don’t have to leave to seek help

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Casa de Esperanza offers hope, resources to help families live free of violence

Local and national staff, along with Carmen Yulín Cruz (mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico), and Teresa Rodriguez, from Univision, who served as the emcee of Casa de Esperanza’s 35th Anniversary Gala, Adelante Esperanza in May 2018.

Need someone to walk with you as you get out of domestic violence? That’s what Casa de Esperanza offers women, children and men.
It’s hard to nail down exactly what the Midway non-profit Casa Esperanza does because they do a little bit of everything.
Teresa Burns currently manages the Casa de Esperanza shelter, and worked as an advocate before that. “I have done everything from accompany a mom for her ultrasound to registering kids for school,” she observed.
Domestic abuse overlaps with every aspect of life, she pointed out, including physical health, safety, mental health, public benefits, education, criminal court, housing, and more. So Casa de Esperanza does too.
“Domestic violence isn’t an isolated topic. It impacts someone’s entire life. So our advocacy matches that,” said Burns.
“I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be part of an organization that has a dedicated group of advocates and other staff that give their all, each and every day. We believe community is the answer to ending domestic violence. We must all work together to make that happen,” stated Casa de Esperanza CEO Patti Tototzintle.

Rights and options
Casa de Esperanza offers Minnesota’s only 24-hour bilingual domestic violence helpline: 651-772-1611. Staff conduct an intake over the phone to help figure out what assistance is needed. In-person meetings are done at a location the caller identifies as comfortable and easy to access, observed Burns. Sometimes that is in their own house or that of a friend. Sometimes it is at a coffee shop that offers some privacy.
“The role of the advocate is to inform and to advocate,” explained Burns. The advocate gives information on options, and helps think through pros and cons. The advocate shares resources and encouragement. “Once a decision is made, our job is to help,” added Burns.
“Big picture, we make sure someone is aware of their rights and knows what their options are.”
Advocates attend order for protection hearings, accompany people to appointments, and help them navigate the various systems out there.
Staff work within the Hennepin County Domestic Abuse Service Center in the basement of the government center in downtown Minneapolis, and at the Bridges to Safety office at St. Paul City Hall.
Advocates help fill out and get copies of police reports, and offer walk-in hours at the Midtown Safety Center, 2949 Chicago Ave. across from the Global Market. (This office was damaged in the Uprising after George Floyd’s death.) They also collaborate with the Mexican consulate, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, and the Tubman Center. They have staff at various high schools, including El Collegio (4137 Bloomington Ave.) and Longfellow High School in Minneapolis, and Agape High School in St. Paul.
Staff operate El Refugio, a 12-person shelter in St. Paul that is open to anyone in the state. While it is one of the smallest shelters in the state, it is part of the Day One network of service providers in Minnesota. They serve about 35 families each year in the shelter, and about 300 families overall through their programs.
Formed in 1982, Casa de Esperanza (or House of Hope) is recognized as the largest, most respected Latina organization in the country focused on ending gender-based violence and is increasing its capacity to respond to sexual assault and human trafficking. Through the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, they offer training and technical assistance across the country; advance public policy initiatives; and lead community-based research on the intersections of domestic violence and Latina realities.
Casa de Esperanza staff work with clients to identify goals. They base their work on the belief that each person is the expert on their own situation. “I don’t know this person that is using abuse against you. You know this person. I’m here to talk through it with you,” said Burns.

COVID-19 effects
During the Stay at Home/Stay Safe order, phone calls have doubled, but most people are staying put for now. Domestic violence programs across the state are expecting an influx of calls after the order ends and people go back to work. They know they’re not hearing from people who are isolated, and don’t have the opportunity to make safe calls.
Calling for help is one of the things that sparks violence, Burns pointed out, and leaving is one of the most dangerous times for a survivor and children.
Some are using COVID-19 as a threat against their victims, which includes refusing to exchange children, and exposing others to the virus. Some threaten that if a call for help is made, they’ll say they have coronavirus so that no one will come assist the survivor.
If you’re experiencing physical abuse or property damage, Burns encourages you to take a photo and send it to a safe location such as a Google drive or a friend, and then delete it from your phone.
Police reports can be filed after the fact, and having evidence of scratches, bruising or damage can be part of that.
They can also be used when filing an order for protection (OFP), used when there is a romantic relationship past or present, the parties live together, or share children together. Another option is to file a harassment order, which has broader criteria than an OFP, or a No Abuse order.
Burns stressed that even with the Stay at Home/Stay Safe order, people can still seek shelter, and domestic violence programs are still operating across the state. Casa Esperanza has a webpage devoted to COVID-19 resources.
Organizations are partnering with hotels to offer more social distancing and to boost the capacity.
One of the most common things an abuser does is isolate a victim and block their ability to connect with friends and family, so Burns urges people to reach out to someone they haven’t heard from in awhile to check in.

‘All of us know someone’
“Statistically all of us know someone in an abusive relationship,” said Burns.
Domestic violence impacts all cultural and ethnic groups at the same rate of 28-33%, Burns said. “It looks different in every culture and country.”
For Latinas in the Twin Cities, domestic violence often has a component associated with the threat of deportation. “There are a lot of misconceptions about people’s rights, even when people have legal status and are doing everything according to the books,” said Burns. “There are a lot of fears and stories,” some related to the historic trauma migrant workers have experienced in Minnesota.
Language is also a barrier. Asking for help is hard, and asking for help in a language that is not your native language makes it even tougher. “The legal system across nations looks really different,” Burns observed, and many refugees come with a distrust of state institutions. Many people don’t know what their legal rights are, and don’t know that some things are basic human rights.
“People are able to seek protection under the law regardless of immigration status,” Burns said.

Why don’t they just leave?
“There’s not one specific reason,” stressed Burns. It’s a combination of factors.
Finances are one barrier, especially in an economic crisis when unemployment is high. “The idea of picking up and leaving – especially with children – may just be unrealistic,” she pointed out. Within the Latina community, many people are already working two to three jobs to make ends meet. Plus it is often still expected that a woman will stay home, so she will need to build a whole new skill set to be formally employed. That might include language access, education and training – which costs money to get. Many Latinas had high-paying jobs in their home countries but can no longer work at those in the United States because they have to re-earn their certifications.
Throw in kids, school, and activities on top of the low-paying job and it can be very difficult. A two-bedroom apartment at market rate is $1,100 a month, and to afford that a person needs to make a liveable wage of $19 an hour.
Women don’t leave because things are not black and white, and there’s a lot of gray matter, Burns observed.
“Life is complicated. Abusive relationships are not abusive all the time.”
The partner who uses abuse isn’t always like that, she stressed. It isn’t that every minute has been miserable. There are genuine good times. So, the good memories and the idea that the person can change keeps women in a relationship. “We all have a desire to love and be loved. It’s normal for a person to be torn,” she said.
Burns continues to believe that people who use abuse are capable of change – if they want to and it is self-initiated.
That said, she thinks people instinctively know that leaving will be very dangerous, and they recognize there will be consequences to splitting up.
“A survivor once told me: ‘The physical stuff, the bruises go away with time. What someone has said does not,” remarked Burns.
Women are told,”You are too dumb to learn English. No one else will ever love you. I’ll kill you if you leave.”
This emotional and verbal abuse, along with the physical, financial, and sexual abuse, also work against a survivor when they try to leave.
What is abuse? “It’s power and control over another person,” explained Burns. Much of this is achieved through fear, intimidation and threats. They may be told if they don’t stay, their vehicle will be damaged. The partner may punch holes in the wall so that the other has to pay the damages, which affects their financial well-being and ability to get another apartment.
Those who do leave often suffer post-separation abuse when the children are used to manipulate and threaten the other parent. The person who uses abuse may also turn the extended family and church community against the survivor so that they are cut off from support and resources. They may harass them at work, via social media, through cyber stalking, and through text messages. Because they are co-parenting, the survivor can’t block the abuse.

You don’t have to leave to seek help
Casa de Esperanza staff are mythbusters.
One of the most common swirls around the idea of “abandonment.” If someone leaves the home in Minnesota, they will not suffer any consequences associated with “abandonment,” which is common in other countries, said Burns. In Minnesota, property is owned jointly by both married parties and remains that way even if someone leaves.
On the other hand, if a child is born to an unmarried couple, the mother automatically has full legal and physical custody.
Those who don’t want to get divorced for religious reasons can opt for a legal separation instead.
And maybe the biggest myth is that people don’t have to leave a relationship to seek help.
More at casadeesperanza.org or call the 24-hour bilingual helpline at 651-772-1611.

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, or financial abuse. Some abusers are able to exert complete control over a victim’s every action without ever using violence or only using subtle threats of violence. Domestic violence is a pervasive, life-threatening crime that affects millions of individuals across the United States regardless of age, economic status, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability, or education level. In a 24-hour survey, NNEDV found that U.S. domestic violence shelters and programs served 74,823 victims and answered 19,459 crisis hotline calls in one day alone. ~ Information from NNEDV

Bridges to Safety
>> Bridges to Safety provides personal and legal advocacy, filing of Orders for Protection, civil legal services, police and prosecution consultation, child care while participants are receiving services, and referral to shelter, permanent and transitional housing, employment, supervised visitation, personal counseling, and other community partners.

>> It is a collaborative of 18 St. Paul and Ramsey County agencies, bound together by a long and successful history of working together and by an interagency agreement.

>> It is located at the Saint Paul City Hall in the heart of downtown, 15 West Kellogg Boulevard, Room 140.

Helpful apps
Casa de Esperanza is developing an app. In the meantime, here are two others to consider:
>> DocuSAFE is a free documentation and evidence collection app recently released by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

>> VictimsVoice provides a legally admissible way for victims to document abuse incidents in a safe, secure, consistent, and complete manner through an annual subscription. Financial help available. It can’t be found in an app store but is available at victimsvoice.app.

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Help kids through trauma

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Telling his own children about George Floyd’s death was one of hardest things Rev. Ronald Bell ever did

Reverend Dr. Ronald Bell Jr. with his wife, Dr. Eboni Bell, and his two sons. Bell encouraged them to keep moving and get out to help the community by handing out Trauma Bags in order to educate others on guiding children through trauma they have experienced. (Photo submitted)

When Reverend Dr. Ronald Bell Jr. sat down with his two sons (ages five and eight) to explain the death of George Floyd and the events that followed, one burst into tears and the other questioned why this was happening.
He wanted to know why a police officer would do this to anybody.
“It was one of the hardest moments in my life,” Bell said. “I could see my five year old’s faith in authority, white people and the system crumble in front of me as I tried to explain.”
The death of George Floyd has impacted many – and especially, children and young adults who may not fully understand what has been going on throughout the United States or right at home the past couple of weeks. Bell is a pastor for Camphor Memorial United Methodist at 585 Fuller Ave in St. Paul. He studied ministry for young adults at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Penn. He believes that parents need to have a conversation with their children about what is going on.
“They are experiencing this fundamentally different than adults are,” Bell said. “As a child, they don’t differentiate that all police aren’t bad, all white folk aren’t bad, so we’ve got to help them get moving in a way that is healing.”

Be vulnerable with kids and focus on truth
After explaining what happened to his boys, Bell had them hand out trauma healing bags in order to engage them physically in helping the community. These bags included things like toys, coloring books, information for parents about children who have been through trauma and books with people of color as leads. All of these were aimed at helping children to heal from the trauma that they have witnessed and to begin to feel more like kids again. By the end of the day, they had helped give out more than 210 trauma healing bags to those in need. Donations for the bags and other resources can be made at the church’s website, CamphorConnects.com.
“It was important to them [Bell’s children] to hear me say ‘Here’s who we are as a family, we love people, we honor people, we serve, protect and help people. That’s who we are,’” Bell said.
Bell believes that parents should be vulnerable when having this conversation with their children. And, to focus on the truth. Parents don’t need to go into details but talk about what’s right and wrong. His advice for everyone going through these difficult times is to remember that you are here in this very specific time and place for a reason, and to trust the power of time.

Trauma affects physical health
Immediately after watching the video of George Floyd’s death, Bell reached out to find those who were recording. He hoped that he would be able to get counseling or help in general for the people who were there. Going through trauma not only impacts the emotional state, but also the physical being of a person, he pointed out. According to a study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emotional trauma can set off the body’s stress responses.
“These people [People of Color] are sitting with trauma that is undealt with, and because of this, their bodies become acidic and are more susceptible to diseases like COVID-19,” Bell said.
Although Bell believes that there are some things that can be done to start healing from the trauma, he believes that people should sit in the discomfort that these times bring. Bell encourages not only young adults, but everyone to get engaged physically in the healing of the community. And, to ask themselves how they can get out and serve.
“It can be as easy as going to a food kitchen and just serving or doing artwork, but how are you physically engaged in this moment?” asked Bell. “I think the danger of this moment is to stay stagnant.”

‘We weren’t able to move away’
Bell observed that there’s a cycle that must be broken. This time, there wasn’t just a hashtag and march before people moved on. Protests happened globally and are still happening in many states. Four hundred National Guard troops were sent out to protect national monuments in Washington. D.C. on June 24, 2020. Protestors camped outside of New York’s City Hall the night of June 23, 2020. Both the protests and trauma surrounding the death of George Floyd demand to be seen and heard.
“With George Floyd, we weren’t able to move away,” Bell said. “This is the first time that the globe has had to sit with and acknowledge that this problem is systemic.”

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YMCA Child Care 030Sm

Midway YMCA: community response hub

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Senior checks, healthy meals, implicit bias trainings and more offered for free; childcare and fitness options available

Children enrolled in school-aged childcare at the Midway YMCA enjoy swimming for an hour every day, a huge plus when beaches and pools are closed across the city this summer. (Photos by Margie O’Loughlin)

By Margie O’Loughlin
When the pandemic first hit in March, it was clear there was going to be a huge need for child care for essential workers. Midway YMCA executive director David Dominick said, “We thought we were a natural to fill that void. There are several CEOs from hospitals and insurance companies on the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities board. We knew we could count on getting the best advice for how to structure our childcare program with COVID-19 safety measures. We also worked closely with the Minnesota Department of Health, and the governor’s office.”
The YMCA fitness facilities at 1761 University Ave. W. closed before the COVID-19 Peacetime Emergency Executive Order went into effect. They quickly evolved into being a community response hub, and were among the first to offer childcare for children of essential workers ages newborn through grade six.
In the beginning, the definition of essential workers was limited to front-line health care workers, firefighters, police officers, and journalists. It would soon expand to include working parents responsible for keeping the city’s infrastructure going: grocery store clerks, sanitation workers, mail carriers, and more.
The Midway YMCA has been able to offer childcare Monday-Friday from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. for a nominal fee. There is still room for more children to enroll.
According to Dominick, “Our childcare staff is masked. We meet the kids at the curb in the mornings and bring them out again in the late afternoon to minimize social interactions with parents or caregivers. We try to practice social distancing while giving the kids age-appropriate experiences, so they can have fun together safely.”

Children enrolled in school-aged childcare at the Midway YMCA enjoy swimming for an hour every day, a huge plus when beaches and pools are closed across the city this summer. (Photos by Margie O’Loughlin)

Much more than a pool, gym
When he started as YMCA executive director 17 years ago, Dominick could never have imagined how many hats he would be wearing. He said, “Not long ago, I realized I’d been working 16 days straight without a break. It’s been very challenging, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. If there’s a chance to support our members and our neighbors, I want to be there. We are way more than a swimming pool and a gym.”
While some Midway YMCA staff are busy caring for children of essential workers, others are reaching out to older members. The stay-at-home order brought social isolation for many, especially those who live alone.
Joan Schimml, the YMCA’s senior communications and marketing director, said, “More than 130,000 wellness checks have been made to 44,000 Forever Well program participants across the metro area. We want members of all ages to feel supported. We have come to see each YMCA as a community response hub, providing multiple critical services.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the Midway YMCA has been offering fresh, healthy meals to families in need at no charge. The corporate kitchens of United Health Group are being used to prepare 300 dinners each day, as well as 120 bag lunches for the Midway YMCA. They also make meals for many other YMCA locations across the metro. The local non-profit Loaves & Fishes is in charge of all deliveries.
Dominick said, “After the unrest last month, we really beefed up our essential needs supplies: toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products and canned goods. Many of the YMCAs from throughout the metro area, and even other parts of the state, have brought donations here because our need is great in the Midway. Bix Produce is also donating 250 boxes of fresh produce to us every week.”
He continued, “Many of the people who come here for meals and other supplies have never been in a position to ask for this kind of help before. Everyone appreciates not having to supply proof of residency or other kinds of documentation. There have been 60,000 meals distributed here since the pandemic started. We will continue distributing food and other supplies through Labor Day.”
In addition to providing childcare for essential workers, wellness checks for older members, and free food for anyone who needs it, the Midway YMCA has recently re-opened on a limited basis as a fitness facility. According to Dominick, the Midway YMCA is operating at about 30% capacity right now. He said, “Many of our members chose to keep their memberships active when we had to close. We’ll be issuing statements for the IRS at the end of 2020, making it possible to claim the money spent on memberships during the closure as a charitable donation.”

Racial equity and systems change
Lastly, the YMCA has just received a $5,000,000 grant from United Health Group to expand the work of their Equity Innovation Center of Excellence. Located in downtown Minneapolis, their educational experiences provide information and insights to advance racial inclusivity and system change.
Registration is currently open for three free online training sessions being offered in the next month on implicit bias, authentic community engagement, and transforming workplace culture. There are other educational experiences available for a fee as well as customized trainings for organizations.
For more information about the upcoming online sessions, contact equity@ymcamn.org or register at www.ymcamn.org.
Schimml concluded, “At the YMCA, we believe that, in partnership with our communities, we must eliminate racial disparities and injustice. Toward that end, we offer programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body FOR ALL. For nearly 165 years, we’ve been listening and responding to our communities. We’re committed to pressing on with that – now more than ever.”

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Will Midway Center be demolished?

Posted on 15 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

City’s first step preserves use of TIF for redevelopment


Tenants at the Midway Center, damaged by fire and vandalism on May 28, are being forced to move out. Their leases have been revoked effective July 17, 2020, but it is unclear what will happen to the building. Over 170 businesses were damaged in the Midway following the murder of George Floyd. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Before fire-damaged building at Midway Center can be demolished, steps must be taken to preserve possible use of tax increment financing (TIF) for redevelopment. The St. Paul City Council, acting June 24 as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, got that effort rolling with two actions.
The HRA approved a demolition and development agreement with Snelling-Midway Redevelopment, LLC, the partnership involved in redeveloping the superblock bounded by Pascal St. and St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues. Midway Center owner Rick Birdoff and Bill McGuire, who has led Minnesota United FC’s efforts to get Allianz Field built on the southwest part of the property, are the development partners. The soccer team starts its second season in Midway this month.
When the TIF request would come forward isn’t known. City officials this summer are already waiting for the developers to request amendments to the redevelopment master plan. Any plan amendments will go to the St. Paul Planning Commission for review and a recommendation, and then to the city council for final action.
The superblock is governed by a master plan that won city council approval few years ago. It calls for a mix of uses including commercial/office, hotel space and housing. The plan was developed with input from a community/St. Paul Planning Commission task force.
McGuire met earlier this year with Union Park District Council to discuss mixed-use development in the form of two buildings west of the soccer stadium. He also described how plans for a movie theater likely won’t occur, but that a hotel and housing are still in the mix.
Metropolitan Council June awarded the United Village Midway Block B $125,000 for cleanup on a 2.4-acre site that is currently a surface parking lot. Plans call for 234 market-rate apartments and 15,500 square feet of commercial space over structured parking.
But how those plans for redevelopment are affected by the fire damage isn’t clear. One finding required under state TIF law is that structures be deemed “substandard” before a district can be implemented.
The HRA on June 24 also made certain findings, including the determination that the Big Top Liquors and Midway Center structures are substandard. The liquor store located in the former Perkins restaurant building at 1544 University Ave. and the northeast section of the shopping center at University and Pascal were extensively damaged during the unrest after George Floyd’s death in May.
TIF is a mean of public financing that is used to pay for redevelopment costs including infrastructure, demolition and other development-related costs. Cities divert future property tax revenues that would be gained through redevelopment back into specific project costs. TIF districts can only be in place for a set number of years. It is controversial because it takes away potential property taxes for other local units of government. But in the face of fewer development tools, TIF is one of the remaining options.
TIF for Midway Center redevelopment has sparked controversy among city council members in the past, but the June 24 actions passed unanimously. Council members Dai Thao and Mitra Jalai spoke to the need for redevelopment, and community members’ eagerness to see something happen.
Interim St. Paul Planning and Economic Development (PED) Director Kristin Guild emphasized that the actions taken June 24 simply preserve the option to use TIF in the redevelopment project. It’s not a commitment that the financing tool will be used. If the developers choose to use TIF, a separate application would be brought before the HRA and city council.
Nor is it even a commitment to demolish or restore the structures, Guild said. As of late June demolition permits for the properties hadn’t been pulled. The sites are fenced off.
“The Big Top Liquor building is really severely damaged,” Guild said. So too is Midway Center, with the worst damage centered on the former Foot Locker store. Fire, smoke and water damage spread to adjacent stores
In September 2017, the HRA made findings to qualify parcels within the Snelling Midway development site as a “renewal and renovation TIF district.” That allowed for demolition of the first structures to move ahead and make way for the stadium and its nearby green space and parking. The longtime Big Top building on Snelling between Shields Ave. and Spruce Tree Dr., the former American Bank building at Snelling and University, and the western portion of Midway Center that included Cub Foods, Midway Pro Bowl and other businesses came down.
But the damage in June to Big Top and the rest of the shopping center meant that a new analysis and new findings should be prepared, Guild said.

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