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Truce Center opens in Summit University

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Community conflict resolution center is response to gun violence

Stand out quote from the wall in the Reflection Room:
“Another day,
another chance.”

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
It’s no secret that the city of St. Paul has been hard hit by gun violence in the last several months, and that the victims have been disproportionately African American.
Miki Lewis, an African American man who grew up in the Summit University neighborhood, felt called to do something about the violence.
He started formulating a plan last summer, and opened the 8218/Truce Center on the northwest corner of Lexington and Selby avenues in December. He said, “This is a place where kids ages eight to 18 can come to learn, to relax, and to figure out how to settle their differences peacefully.”

Understanding value of their own lives
Walking through the door, visitors are welcomed into a room filled with African artifacts. Lewis explained, “Africa is where we came from, so it seems like the right place to start.”
The 8218/Truce Center is both a space for conflict resolution and an African American museum. Lewis created the dual mission because he saw a multitude of needs going unmet for young people.
The center offers classes in community awareness, conflict resolution, health and wellness, entrepreneurship, leadership, self-respect, depression, suicide prevention, and African American history. Lewis and his team of volunteers mentor African American youth in gaining more self-knowledge and understanding.
Students earn a certificate of leadership when they complete all of the courses. Lewis said, “We teach them things they aren’t being taught in school.”
Leaving the reception area, a visitor walks through a doorway over which a sign is posted, “For Colored Only,” a remnant from the Jim Crow era of segregation. Every inch of the African American Museum shows images of the African American experience – images that speak both to great struggles and to great accomplishments. Lewis said, “There is no substitute for our kids knowing the reality of who they are. We’ve got to help them understand the value of their own lives, and that starts with learning their history.”

Space to be safe in
Lewis was born just a few blocks away, on Hague and Milton. He said, “Gun violence always had its mark in this neighborhood, but it has gotten so much worse. I’ve been mentoring kids out in the community for more than 20 years, and I knew it was time to create a space where they could come and be safe. I feel like, if you don’t know who your neighbors are – it’s a lot easier to get in trouble. And there are just fewer places for kids to go these days. ”
Youth come to the center to learn about themselves, and they also come to learn about each other.

Miki Lewis is the founder and director of the 8218/Truce Center. He is shown standing in the Reflection Room, where photographs of more than 50 Minneapolis and St. Paul residents who died of gun violence or drug overdoses line the wall. He tells young people, “This is one wall I do not ever want to see your picture on.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Reduce violence in community
If there’s an argument happening out in the community, or bullying, or threats, Lewis and his volunteers can help. He said, “Because I’m from this neighborhood, I’m a known person. We’re here to help parties mediate their differences, and to get conflicts resolved safely. This is our effort to reduce community violence.”
While the center is dedicated to mentoring African American youth, anyone is welcome and encouraged to take a tour. The 8218/Truce Center is located walking distance from several schools at 175 Lexington Ave. N. Hours are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m; call 651.340.4081. Visit www.8218trucecenter.org to learn more.

‘We’re in this life together’
Lewis is finalizing the details of getting non-profit status for the center. Since it opened, he has paid the bills himself. He said, “I believe we’re all put here to assist in saving the world. I can’t do it by myself, and neither can anyone else. We’re in this life together. If someone wants to make a donation to the center, they’re welcome to. But what would light me up more than anything would just be for people to come down to the center and learn some African American history.”
As Lewis is fond of saying, “Just do what your heart allows you to do.”

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All Energy Solar celebrates 10-year anniversary

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

‘The time is now’ for solar power, according to co-owner Michael Allen

Richard Franco has an exterior Smart Meter that measures his home energy use in 15 minute increments. He also gauges his family’s energy consumption (and availability) using an indoor meter and a smart phone app. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The numbers are in. The U.S. Department of Labor’s statistics predict that over the next decade, solar installer jobs will grow more than any other occupation.
All Energy Solar is a company in the Midway that designs, installs, and monitors solar power systems for homes and businesses – and they’ve been doing it for 10 years. Their new, expanded headquarters in Energy Park made it possible for the company to stay in St. Paul during a time of significant growth.
The solar energy industry is booming, which is good news for the environment and for the economy. The jobs that are produced can’t be outsourced or done by robots – the work has to be done by local people.
President and co-owner Michael Allen said, “Last year, we installed more than 1,000 solar power systems. This year, our goal is 1,250 installations. While our company has a six-state reach, the lion’s share of our business is right here in the Twin Cities.”

‘They did the heavy lifting’
Richard Franco was an All Energy Solar customer in 2019; he had 12 solar panels installed on his home last spring. He said, “I’d been interested in solar panels for a while. There were tax credits and rebates in place, it seemed like a hedge against energy costs continually rising, and, of course, there are the obvious environmental benefits.”
Franco had seen signs for All Energy Solar in his neighborhood, and appreciated that they were a local company. When one of his neighbors had solar panels installed by All Energy Solar, Franco knocked on his door. The neighbor described his experience as extremely positive, and Franco’s would turn out to be as well.
In Franco’s words, “They came out and evaluated everything, determining that my steeply-pitched, south-facing, relatively unobstructed roof was perfect for solar panels. They did all the heavy lifting, and got the logistical stuff set up with Xcel Energy. While I was making sure my homeowner’s insurance would cover solar panels, All Energy Solar didn’t pressure me in any way.”

“We’re proud to be part of this economic sector based on renewable energy. With Governor Walz calling for statewide carbon-free energy by 2050, awareness of the benefits of solar energy
will continue to grow.”
~ Michael Allen

Individualized assessments set them apart
Michael Allen was working in the solar energy industry for 10 years before he started All Energy Solar with his brother Brian a decade ago. He said, “It’s easy enough to buy a solar energy system over the internet, but it will likely end up costing you more in the long run. We believe that individual attention is essential for having a system work optimally. If it isn’t installed properly, it might not be up to code or pass the insurance inspection.”
He added, “We model every home or business we work on in 3-D imaging, and interpret exactly how the panels will be integrated with smart, efficient design. There are trees and structures that get in the way of the sun. If the south side of a property is shaded, maybe the panels will have to be placed on the east or the west.
“Our consultants are highly skilled at at site design, and every site is different.”
All Energy Solar helps homeowners choose a system that is appropriate not only to their site, but also to their energy needs. Energy use is evaluated on a 12-month cycle, and those numbers inform the design of each solar power system.
Community solar gardens are growing in popularity, and Allen supports the idea – to a point. He explained, “When you look at it carefully, it’s a continuation of the idea of renting electricity. Somebody builds a solar garden in an outlying area, pumps a lot of energy into the grid, and customers get a slight credit on their Xcel bill.”
He believes the motivation for installing a home solar energy system is the same as what gets people to buy, rather than rent, their home. It’s empowering to generate your own electricity — and it’s a sound investment.”

‘The time is now’
According to Allen, the technology of solar panels hasn’t changed much over time. They use the same technology developed by scientists at Bell Laboratories in 1954. What has changed tremendously in the inversion technology that converts DC (direct current electricity collected from the sun) into AC (alternating current electricity that can be used in the home).

Solar panels typically come with a 25-year warranty. Once they’re installed, they are relatively maintenance free. There is no need to keep them clear of snow and ice. The panels are dark colored, and will clear themselves on their own. Allen said, “Don’t go up on your roof to check on them!”
The solar industry is a global industry, with the U.S. being – so far – a very small part of the market. According to Allen, “Not even 2% of the energy used in this country comes from renewable sources. Collecting energy from the sun is a simple, safe technology that we just haven’t adopted in a big way. We have the opportunity to move forward with the Green Economy in this state and in this country, and revolutionize our infrastructure to be truly renewable. All of the technology is ready. The time is now.”
For more information on installing solar panels on your home, or to learn about job opportunities with All Energy Solar, visit www.allenergysolar.com. Company headquarters are located at 1264 Energy Lane, St. Paul.

 

Benefit this year
If you install a solar panel system in 2020, 26% of your total project costs (including equipment, permitting and installation) can be claimed as a credit on your federal tax return. If you spend $10,000 on your system, you owe $2,600 less in taxes the following year. The solar tax credit will be less in 2021, and will expire in 2022.

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Micro theater series highlights women filmmakers

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Moonplay aims to be radically generous, celebrate creative energy and feature do-it-yourself approach

Jes Reyes has taken on a new hat as curator for Moonplay Cinema, a series of films by female and non-binary filmmakers that will be screening at Dreamland Arts (677 Hamline Ave. N.). The first film will be shown June 28. (Photo by Terry Faust)

By Jan Willms
Jes Reyes is an artist who wears many hats. She founded the Altered Esthetics Film Festival at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis and directed it for four years. She teaches at Springboard for the Arts. She is a program coordinator for Avivo Artworks, a multi-faceted studio for artists living with mental illness. She is a painter and filmmaker who also creates poetry.
But now she has taken on a new hat as curator for Moonplay Cinema, a series of films by female and non-binary filmmakers that will be screening at Dreamland Arts, 677 Hamline Ave. N. The first film will be shown June 28.
According to Reyes, the project has been in her thoughts for some time.
“I led the Altered Esthetics Film Festival and was also a member of the working board of directors for that organization,” Reyes said. “My term as a board member ended in 2017, and so I was able to hand over that program to a whole new body of artists. I always have dreams for something else and am working on things.”
She said she sat for a while with her ideas. “I’m not somebody who just dives right in,” she explained. Reyes said she had been working on another film program that involves community focus, and is small and more intimate. “I was not sure at that time it would be for women filmmakers specifically,” she said.
Then a colleague who runs Dreamland Arts asked if she would be interested in curating a program in film for that venue.
“I thought that would be beautiful,” Reyes said. “It’s in my neighborhood and it’s the kind of micro-theater with 40 seats that’s more intimate. Micro-cinema is something that has always interested me. You actually get to talk to people. I had dreamed of turning my garage into a micro-cinema, but who wants to sit in a cold garage in the middle of winter?”
Reyes still bided her time, even after the curating offer. “I wasn’t ready. I work full-time, teach and am a practicing artist. But the time came, and I was applying for grants here and there. I knew I would try the grant route first, and if I wasn’t able to get one, I would launch the program myself.”

Women-specific because…
“So I knew 2020 was the year, and I decided the film program would be women-specific because we live in a world with a lot of gender disparities. “
She said there are opportunities for women artists, but as they move up in their careers, those opportunities are more limited in terms of access.
“My goal is to provide a safe place for women to be honored and their stories to be told and recognized,” Reyes stated. “I want a film program that is set up to support gender-marginalized individuals, and that includes women and those non-binary identities who are gender non-conforming.”
Reyes said most of the filmmakers she has scheduled for Moonplay Cinema for 2020 are Minnesota-based. Kiera Faber, Andrea Shaker and Molly Parker Stuart are all filmmakers she has curated before and that she has gotten a lot of inspiration from.
These three who are scheduled for the 2020 showings explore topics around mental illness, home and family, according to Reyes. But they do it in different ways.
“Kiera does stop-motion animation, which I have an affinity for,” she noted. “Andrea is a photographer and filmmaker in what I call slow cinema. And Molly works in digital pixilation.
“The films will explore non-traditional cinema, but will also be close to what we experience. They will end with a Q and A, so folks can get to know the filmmakers, and they can get to know their audience.”

Why ‘Moonplay’?
Reflecting on how she chose the name Moonplay, Reyes said the moon has always peaked her interest as an artist. “I have actually been working on a short narrative film for a couple years now called Moonland. It’s a semi-autobiographical film, centered on the loss of a mother to a terminal illness,” Reyes said. “The moon represents that longing and also uncertainty and night time, and how anxiety can come out at night. I have had other projects related to the moon,” she added.
She said she thought Moonplay was a good metaphor for the screen itself and watching films. “Also the moon is open and inclusive,” she said.
And one of her favorite filmmakers, Marie Menken, was an experimental filmmaker who made short, very quick abstract films on celluloid. “She made a stop-motion short in the 1960s, and it’s called Moonplay. So I wanted to honor her,” Reyes said.

Planted in community
Reyes described her own work as an artist as multidisciplinary. She does abstract paintings and video poems and diaries. She likes doing experimental films.
“I generally am a filmmaker who works by herself,” she said. “If I collaborate with one other person, that person is usually not another filmmaker.” Reyes attended film school in Long Beach, Calif. and then moved to Minnesota, where her mother grew up, to spend a year. She has now been living in the Hamline-Midway and Frogtown area for the past 15 years.
Reyes attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota, getting her master’s in liberal studies, focusing on creative writing, feminist theory and film studies. She noted that as an artist, and particularly a filmmaker, she and her colleagues usually have to go to Minneapolis to practice their craft. “It’s just not fair,” she commented. With Moonplay Cinema, she said one of her goals it to establish an ongoing film program in her community.
She is currently raising funds through indiegogo.com, which is set to run through March 17. Her film program has already been 41 percent funded through it. Reyes said she also wants to be able to pay the filmmakers and the venue.

Upcoming: short films by local residents
“Dreamland Arts is a neighborhood treasure, and I want to make sure the theater is appropriately paid,” she said. “And I want participating artists compensated for their time.”
“As an artist, if you feel like your voice is not being heard or your work is not being represented, you do it yourself and go from there,” Reyes said. She already has something in the works for 2021, and she would like to develop an educational component to Moonplay. Her idea is to have people who are interested in exploring their neighborhoods in Hamline-Midway, Como or Frogtown be able to go out and create short films about their areas. She hopes to use a Minnesota Arts Board grant to fund this.
Reyes said Moonplay Cinema definitely comes from the perspective that patriarchal priorities do not dictate the efforts made by female and non-binary artists. “Our mission is to be radically generous and requires creative energy and a do-it-yourself approach,” Reyes said.

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Get help at end-of-life

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Midway mortician starts business to help families take an inspired journey together

“By combining doula work, funeral education work, and celebrant work, families can benefit from continuity of care that no one else is offering,” stated Angela Woosley of Inspired Journeys. (Photo submitted)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
A Midway woman is breaking ground by launching the first woman-owned, family-centered natural deathcare company.
Angela Woosley of Inspired Journeys offers innovative end-of-life doula services, home funeral education, and funeral celebrant services in the Twin Cities area.
She enjoys breaking down the walls around death and dying, educating people about their choices at the end of life, and generally busting myths about death and morticians.
Woosley has been a licensed mortician for over 15 years, and has taught in the Program of Mortuary Science at the UMN for the last 10 years. She is a trained end-of-life doula through the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), a certified celebrant (an officiant who is a more secular alternative to a pastor or preacher), and a seasoned educator.
She is also a hospice volunteer through Allina, as well as a member of the National Home Funeral Alliance (NHFA).

What prompted you to start Inspired Journeys?
As a mortician and educator, I have seen the rise in both hospice deaths and cremation rates, and I worry that families are falling through the cracks between the health care system and the funeral profession.
I want families to feel partnered with and cared for across the spectrum at the end of life, instead of feeling handed off from one stranger to the next. As dying increasingly comes home with the hospice movement, it is more important than ever before that families feel informed and supported, and that those facing the end of life feel empowered and heard. Hospice sets the stage for people to face the end of life on their own terms, and families are learning that the transition from this world is beautiful, powerful, and sacred. I want to honor that sacred space and allow people to continue to care for the person they love even after death to give this profound occasion the time and space that it deserves. Decisions that flow naturally from approaching death on your own terms include wishing to minimize your impact on the Earth, so there are many affinities between hospice, death at home, home death care, and natural burial and other natural forms of disposition.
I am dedicated to empowering families toward natural death care through individualized consultation, partnership, and expert guidance.

What is an end-of-life doula/midwife?
An end-of-life doula is a paraprofessional who, like their birth counterparts, provides emotional and spiritual support to a dying person and their family. Similarly, a death midwife is often someone who helps families learn how to care for the dead in their home.
Doulas and midwives are not meant to be a replacement for hospice or palliative care at the end of life, but they can fill in the gaps and help support both the terminally ill person and the family so that everyone is better able to approach the end with more grace and less fear or confusion.
The work of a doula is highly individualized based on the wishes of the dying person, but it often involves curating and creating the physical space around the dying person to be the most peaceful and calming environment. It also often involves working on a legacy project that allows the person to see, feel, and create a project that captures their essence and honors their impact on the world. Additionally, this work often involves holistic care for the dying that includes natural pain management, caregiver support, companionship, and personal advocacy.

How does this vary from hospice?
Hospice care is often a multidisciplinary, team-based approach to care that focuses on pain management and comfort, and is funded by Medicare. Care providers include nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers who are generally able to visit patients about 1-3 times a week. Generally, patients on hospice at home have a family member who serves as a primary caregiver, and hospice employees and volunteers supplement their care and submit paperwork and billing to Medicare.
A doula can fill in the gaps in care, support family caregivers, help families navigate the complex system of care that hospice provides, and maintain presence with the terminally ill patient with no preconceived agenda. For example, end-of-life doulas could offer the patient guided visualization, rub their hands or feet, talk them through worries they have, help them brainstorm ways to reconcile with family members, sing with them, pray with them, and most importantly, truly, deeply listen to their needs and concerns.

How can end-of-life be family-centered?
When families have been caring for a terminally ill family member for months or even years, they have learned to care for that family member in an intimate way. They have bathed them, given them food and medicine, helped them brush their teeth, comb their hair, and use the bathroom for all this time.
Once death occurs, suddenly they are expected to turn all of this care over to a stranger, and that just doesn’t make sense to me. You were able to bathe Mom before death, and she’s still your mom now. It just makes sense to continue caring for her.
All I offer is the patience and affirmation that you can do this, along with some practical education. Many people think it’s illegal to care for your own dead, and this simply isn’t true. I am able to guide families through the practicalities, legalities, and show them that this is a simple and natural extension of their care and love.
Many people share that a terminal diagnosis is a sort of wake up call to live in the present moment and take stock of their life. As a mortician, I am a firm believer in living in the present moment as much as possible, regardless of your health!
But especially at the end of life, it can feel like so much is out of your control. It can be confusing and overwhelming. Remember that this is your life and you get to choose how to live it. Doulas can help you get answers, set priorities, and make plans for your care.
More information about the company’s services may be found online at inspiredjourneysmn.com, or by calling 651-300-0119.

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Freddie is swimming

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Carol Mahnke
The hardest part of learning to swim is putting your face in the water — especially if you’re 77 years old and have never learned to swim.
But Freddie Lissimore has the courage and determination to do it. She decided she wanted to swim and so she is.
She has an extraordinary teacher in Mitchell Lallier who offered lessons after Lissimore wished aloud that she could swim.
“I always wanted to learn to swim before I was 60,” Lissimore said, “but somebody has to push me,” said Lissimore.
And Lallier was right there ready to push.
Lallier teaches some classes at the Midway YMCA. He was a junior high physical education teacher, but has taught swimming for some 50 years. Currently he runs S & L Team Cleaners based in the nearby Griggs Building.
Lissimore has had a variety of jobs since she started doing piece work, sewing sleeves, for Twin Cities clothing manufacturers after she graduated from the former Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul. Much of the time she has cared for children as a daycare center teacher or as a nanny.
She was born in Valdosta, Ga. Her family moved to the Twin Cities when she was 11 years old.
“I’d always watch Olympic swimming and tell myself one day I’d like to do that, too,” Lissimore said. “One day I’ll do it.”
Tim Hurley, who has been honing his skill at the front crawl with Lallier’s help, said, “kids just jump into the water.” They don’t seem to have the depth perception adults have.
But seniors have to be encouraged. Fear of drowning, built up over decades, hovers constantly.
Lallier provides a sense of safety and continual confidence in each student’s ability to swim. And Lissimore recently swam the back crawl for 50 yards.
He kept saying, ‘I gotcha, I gotcha’,” Lissimore said of her first efforts.
“For an older person to take the chance, they have to have the desire and they have to trust,” Lallier said.
“Once you feel safety,” Lallier added, “you push yourself to do things.”
Hurley said swimming has changed his life, helping him recover from a disability.
Ruthann Ryberg says walking in the current pool has helped her gain strength after a serious traffic accident. She, too, is taking lessons from Lallier and thinks Lissimore’s progress has been wonderful.
Many seniors find the YMCA pools are good for recovery from a variety of physical complaints.
“It’s an invaluable resource for the community,” Hurley said.
Lissimore now swims under water. Hurley gave her his extra goggles and she bought a swim cap.
“You’ve gotten past your fear,” Lallier tells her, “And you’ve brought others in.
Lallier volunteered to teach Lissimore, and now he has other students including Hurley and Ryberg as well as David, a man from Ethiopia and Luz, a woman from Mexico.

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Neighborhood needs your voice

Posted on 20 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Faith Dietz (at left) share what she loves about her neighborhood. (Photos submitted)

The Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC) has begun work on the 2020-2030 Neighborhood Plan, a roadmap for the next 10 years of transportation, development and environmental initiatives in Hamline Midway.
All community members are invited to share their thoughts and ideas for the future of the neighborhood at Newell Park on Saturday, March 21 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Children are welcome and the working meeting will be followed by a light lunch and socializing.
HMC started work on the neighborhood plan in the fall of 2019 by establishing a committee and hiring an intern, Emma Kiley. She is in charge of implementing the ideas of a steering committee that includes Mike Reynolds, Christine Weeks, Garrett Backes, Steve Samuelson, Seema Kairam, Don Raleigh, HMC Director Kate Mudge and HMC Community Organizer Melissa Michener.
“We are committed to including as many community members as possible into a single vision for our neighborhood and we’ve been planning how best to do that,” said Mike Reynolds who is on the HMC Board of Directors.
So far, the committee has created lists of businesses and organizations to partner with, developed a plan and timeline for outreach events, and Kiley has created a toolkit to use to gather ideas from the community.
Kiley researched community engagement methods and compiled the most promising in a document that will be accompanied by the materials, such as markers and paper, to complete the toolkit. The toolkit will allow any member of HMC to obtain community input for the neighborhood plan.

Tachianna Charpenter shares what she loves about her neighborhood. (Photos submitted)

“The toolkit has options for all group sizes and ages of participants,” said Kiley.
The toolkit will debut at Newell Park (900 Fairview Ave N.,) on March 21 during the first of three community engagement events for the neighborhood planning process. Next up will be an online survey via the HMC webpage and a second meeting on Saturday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Hamline University’s East Hall.
For more information about the neighborhood planning process please see the website: https://www.hamlinemidway.org/neighborhood-plan.

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Jessica Kopp steps into new role on school board

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

She views her job as connecting community, SPSD

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Former middle school teacher Jessica Kopp started a new part-time job in early January. She is one of two newly elected members of the Saint Paul School Board: a four-year, non-partisan position which she won with more than 20,000 votes.
Interviewed after her first two weeks on the job, Kopp said, “I’m aware of the bigness of it right now. Our school board has a budget of more than $700,000,000. We’re the second largest school district in the state, with more than 35,000 students in K-12, transitional programs, early childhood education, special needs, adult basic education, and more.
The school board administers almost 70 different programs across the city. Being on the Saint Paul School Board is a big responsibility.”
Kopp doesn’t want the identity of the elected official to be her dominant one. She sees herself as being a connector between the community and the district in her new role.
The 20+ year Midway resident feels she was “accidentally prepared” for becoming a school board member. Kopp was very involved at Hamline Elementary when her daughter (now 12) was a student there. She said, “Although we’d lived in the neighborhood since 2000, it wasn’t until 2013 that we really felt we were part of the neighborhood.”
Kopp credits her involvement with Hamline Elementary for solidifying her family’s sense of belonging.
She often talked about the foundational value of neighborhood schools during her nine month campaign last year. Kopp said, “St. Paul has some really awesome specialty schools, but we also have to invest deeply in our neighborhood schools. As I travelled to different parts of the city, the message that ‘neighborhood schools strengthen neighborhoods’ resonated with a lot of people.”
The idea of running for school board was born out of those years of working in the school district and in the community. Kopp didn’t claim to know much about local politics when she started campaigning, but she did know how to organize – and she had years of experience helping to rebuild Hamline Elementary when it was facing declining enrollment and funding levels.
Kopp had a campaign team of talented, smart, dedicated volunteers working behind her. Some had political experience, but most didn’t. She said, “Because of the years I spent teaching, I’m good at recognizing people’s strengths – and getting them to work from their strengths.” She ran her campaign the same way she approached advocating for education as a community activist, which was by doing the very best she could.
St. Paul schools face many challenges in the coming years including budget shortfalls, declining enrollment, and racial disparities in both learning and discipline. Kopp believes there’s a full palette of opportunities within the district, and that there’s a school for every student out there.
Her advice to families considering where to send their children? “Don’t just read the demographics online – go into the schools and talk to staff, students, and families. Move away from your computer and pick up on the real vibe of a place before writing it off.”

 

 

IN FOCUS
Jessica Kopp has three broad areas she wants to influence during her tenure on the board:

1. To contribute to a school board and school district that are welcoming, responsive, and accessible to all.

2. To build strong partnerships between the school district, the city, and the county – so schools can concentrate on teaching. Mental health, food insecurity, and homelessness are issues more appropriately handled by staff at the city and county levels.

3. To support diversity of education in both teaching and learning.

School board meetings are held on the third Tuesday of every month at the District Office, 360 Colburne Street. The public is welcome to attend and participate. Jessica Kopp can be reached by direct email at Jessica.kopp@spps.org.

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Reusing electronic waste = free and affordable computers

Reusing electronic waste = free and affordable computers

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

PCs for People diverts electronics from waste stream, promotes digital inclusion

PCs for People Tech specialist Chang Yang tests more than 100 donated computers
every day. If a computer can’t be repaired, its usable components are refitted and
its unusable ones are recycled. Last year, PCs for People provided affordable computers and related technology to 804 customers in the 55104 zip code. At its most recent
community event in this part of St. Paul, 50 computers were distributed to families
at no cost. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin) >> Read more on page 5.

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Last summer, PCs for People expanded to a 31,000-square-foot warehouse in the Como neighborhood. National communications and marketing director Tina Stennes said, “We were bursting at the seams. Our original location at 1481 Marshall Ave. is still our home-base for retail, but it was also our recycling and refurbishing space for 20 years.
“We’ve been able to increase both the scope and scale of our operations since we expanded. Our combined workforce in the two locations is now close to 50. One fifth of the employees at the warehouse are adults with disabilities.”
Stennes said, “Everybody that works here has a real passion for our mission, which is to provide income-eligible adults with equitable access to technology. In my previous job (in workforce development), I saw that lack of access to technology was a huge barrier to people trying to get ahead.”
PCs for People accepts donated computers – and other forms of digital technology – from individual and corporate donors. Items do not need to be in working order. Corporations are considerable donors because the average lifespan of digital technology in the corporate world is three years. There are a lot of digital electronics entering the waste stream.
The new warehouse is stuffed with used laptops, desktops, old typewriters, outdated cell phones, ancient car phones, hard drives, miles of USB cords, and every component imaginable, but there’s room for more. Email recycle@pcsforpeople.org to schedule a free pick-up of your used digital technology.
Privacy protection is a huge issue when it comes to refurbishing computers. Stennes explained, “We hold the highest industry certification for data security. The donor should do a data transfer prior to coming in, but we’ll do the rest. The computer is literally wiped clean of all personal information; the donor is given a transfer of ownership. We guarantee that the parts will be refurbished or responsibly recycled.”

Free computer events
PCs for People hosts about 10 community events each month, where they bring refurbished computers out into the community for distribution at no cost. Participating families are pre-selected using income eligibility based on the free and reduced lunch program guidelines. Most of these events take place in schools, and everything needed to operate the computers is included.
Stennes said, “In 2018, 60% of the customers we served through our community events or through our store had never owned a computer before. Often students know how to operate a computer, but their parents don’t. We follow up with new owners, providing tech support and digital literacy support. Every computer comes with a no-questions-asked one year warranty.”

Saytun Ahmed is a customer service representative at the Marshall Avenue store. She spent a day on the line in the new warehouse, getting a feel for the recycling process. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Affordable computers for sale
When a prospective customer enters the Marshall Ave. store, they are greeted by a customer service representative. Each customer provides income verification paperwork; acceptable forms are listed on the website www.pcsforpeople.org. Income eligible customers can purchase a desk top starting at $30 or a laptop starting at $50, which is approximately 1/10 of the used market value. Each refurbished computer comes with all new RAM, hard drive, Microsoft Word 10, and the same warranty as computers distributed through community programs.
Another point of removing digital barriers is having affordable access to the internet. Income eligible customers can choose to buy low cost internet (as low as $15/month). This service is prepaid, has high speed 4G, and runs off of a mobile hot spot.
“We want customers to have an experience in our store that is as professional as any other retail outlet, and we want them to leave with a computer that fully meets their needs,” said Stennes. “Customers often come back and tell us what they’ve used their computer for. Or, they’ll send an email saying, ‘This is the first email I’ve ever sent. Thank you!’”

PCs for People national communications and marketing director Tina Stennes said, “Last year, we provided affordable computers and related technology to 804 customers in the 55104 zip code. At our most recent community event in this part of St. Paul, 50 computers were distributed to families at no cost.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

PCs for People started in St. Paul, has expanded to Denver and Cleveland, and plans to open soon in Baltimore and Kansas City. If you are interested in their mission of digital inclusion and waste stream reduction in St. Paul, email volunteer@pcsforpeople.org to learn about volunteer experiences for groups. No tech experience is needed.

 

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New jobs coming to Midway

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE
A firm with water resource projects, including the recent Transforming Central work, is relocating to University Ave.
The St. Paul City Council Jan. 8, 2020, acting as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Board, unanimously approved a $49,500 forgivable Strategic Investment Fund loan to Emmons & Olivier Resources, Inc.
It is one of two jobs creation projects coming to the Midway.
“We’re excited to be here,” said Brent Emmons, CEO of Emmons & Olivier. “This is a big decision for us. Our business is growing.” He described the University Ave. site as being in a vibrant area. “We found a great location.”
The location is on University between Fairview and Prior avenues.
Recently the development firm Reuther Walton announced plans to build two apartment buildings east of the site.

Central High project
Emmons & Olivier Resources is moving its headquarters to 1919 University Ave. from Oakdale. It is a water resource-based engineering and environmental consulting firm that specializes in water resources engineering, watershed planning, environmental compliance, biological surveying, restoration. sustainable site design, planning, and landscape architecture. The company works with watershed districts and watershed management organizations, municipalities, counties, federal and state agencies, corporations and individuals. It has six offices, with two in Ontario, Canada, three in Iowa and one in Wisconsin.
Emmons & Olivier has been in business since 1996 and has been looking for a St. Paul site since 2016, according to an HRA staff report. The site at 1919 University Ave. was occupied for many years by University of Minnesota offices. Now known as University Centre, the building houses a variety of local government and private companies.
The move will fill vacant office space, which is undergoing renovation. The company will use the city funds to purchase office furnishings and fixtures.
Emmons & Olivier was involved in design work for Transforming Central. The St. Paul Central High School project took place between 2011-2019. Part of the project included managing stormwater runoff on school property, improving landscaping, relocating walkways and creating an outdoor classroom. The project had a total cost of more than $760,000.

‘We’re seeing job growth’
Interim Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED) Director Kristin Guild praised the company’s move to St. Paul. “They’re bringing 33 jobs to start and are projecting at least three more so we’re seeing some growth,” she said.
The Strategic Investment Fund will have $208,602 remaining after the Emmons & Olivier funding was approved. The loan fund can be used for capital expenses, leasehold improvements or other renovation of space. It can also costs of parking and transit-related improvements. The term of the loan would be five years and the interest rate will be 5.75 percent (prime plus one percent).
A key feature of the Strategic Investment Fund is its focus on retaining companies. Each scheduled yearly payment on the loan would be forgiven if Emmons & Olivier maintains at least 33 full-time (or full-time equivalent) jobs on site. The loan will be a full-recourse obligation of the company. The HRA will have a separate security interest in the firm’s fixtures, equipment, and other business assets.
Most firms that receive loans from the fund meet their obligations and the loans are forgiven. It’s rare for a firm to default on a loan.

‘This is a great fit’
Mary Rick administers the fund for PED. “We really felt like this was a great fit, primarily because the company is relocating their headquarters into St. Paul,” she said. That is one of the primary criteria for the fund. Rick also said that the Emmons & Olivier track record, historical financial performance, the types of jobs offered and the types of business the firm generates are other factors. “We use a pretty extensive scorecard,” she added.

108 new jobs coming
The move of Emmons & Olivier, and a second Jan. 8 HRA action to sell part of the old St. Paul Fire Department property at 1675 Energy Park Drive will bring a total of 108 new jobs to the city.
Citing the increased jobs, Ward 2 Council Member Rebecca Noecker said, “It’s a great day for St. Paul.”
The property sale to Wellington Management affiliate Snelling Properties LLC will help tenant Minnetronix expand its medical technology business, but adding parking area. Minnetronix current employs 260 people at its location near Energy Park Drive, and has plans to add 75 more jobs over the next three years. A $6 million expansion is planned by Snelling Properties to accommodate Minnetronix.

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Briefs February 2020

Briefs February 2020

Posted on 10 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Erin Spry

Watershed district honors D10 volunteer
Congratulations to Erin Spry, who received this year’s Watershed Citizen Award from Capitol Region Watershed District. Spry voluntarily coordinated 2019’s Como Lake Cleanup. The cleanup, overseen by the District 10 Environment Committee, attracted more than 60 volunteers last summer. They pulled more than 200 pounds of trash from the water and the shoreline.

Hamline Hardware closing
After serving St. Paul’s Midway area for nearly a century, Hamline Hardware is closing its doors.
For the last 94 years the Hagen family and current owners Jim and Jan Gildner and their staff have strived to provide excellent products and outstanding service for the do-it-yourselfer and working professionals alike.
Hamline Hardware, now known as Hamline Hardware Hank, has been in business since 1926 when Walter Hagen started the business at its current location at the corner of North Snelling Avenue and Englewood Avenue. Over the next several decades two succeeding generations owned and operated the business, selling to the Gildners in order to pursue other ventures about 10 years ago.
Jim and Jan are now ready to retire and are conducting a storewide liquidation sale through March 28.

Murray Middle School’s Science Fair is known as the largest science fair of any middle school in the state. This year was no exception.

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