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Midway Como Monitor, Messenger transition to new ownership May 1

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

After 44 years, current owners Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson sell newspapers to writer Tesha M. Christensen

The Midway Como Monitor and its sister publication, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, will be under new ownership beginning May 1, 2019.
Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson of deRuyter-Nelson Publications have sold their two well-established neighborhood newspapers to south Minneapolis resident Tesha M. Christensen, who has written for the two newspapers for almost eight years.

Christensen always knew she wanted to be a writer and was drawn to journalism at a young age when she wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Cambridge Star newspaper.

“From that point on I was hooked. I had gotten my first glimpse into the power of the printed word,” recalled Christensen. “I wanted more. I saw how newspapers could be used to generate change in their communities, and how they could inform and engage people.”

Photo right: New owner Tesha M. Christensen of TMC Publications CO and her two children, Axel (age 6) and Joselyn (age 10) are excited to become more involved in these two neighborhood newspapers. The kids, of course, are pushing for a new section for kids. Got ideas on what that should include? Email Tesha.christensen@gmail.com. (Photo courtesy of Tesha M. Christensen)

Lifelong learner
She earned a degree in English and writing in 1998 from Bethel College, where she wrote for the Clarion, and then entered the community newspaper industry.

Her first job was with the same newspaper that printed her letter to the editor, then renamed The Star newspaper. Christensen worked as the assistant editor and special sections editor of her hometown newspaper for ten years, serving two counties and a circulation of 21,000 with a twice-weekly newspaper.

Over the years, Christensen covered a range of topics in Isanti and Chisago counties, from school board levies to new county parks to crime news. “I wrote about what new businesses were coming to town, local musicians, and rodeo shows, and a story about one resident who saved the life of another,” Christensen recalled.

“I love the ever-changing nature of this business, and how I learn something new with each story I write.”

She left the full-time workforce in March 2009 when her first baby was born, but continued writing on a part-time basis for Northstar Media, the Isanti County News, ECM Publishers/Adams Publishing Group, Twin Cities Daily Planet, RedCurrent, and The Alley newspaper in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

From 2006 to 2012, she worked as an adjunct journalism instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College where she taught a variety of journalism classes and was an adviser for the Cambridge Campus newspaper, the Ink Spot. She also taught for one year at Planet Homeschool, a homeschool co-op in St. Anthony, and helped launch a school newspaper written by the middle and high school students.

“I love journalism, and I am passionate about sharing journalism with kids and young adults,” stated Christensen. “They are the future, and it’s so exciting to hear their ideas.”

Christensen has served on a variety of committees and boards over the years and is a co-founder of Team Yarn – Head Huggers (teamyarn.blogspot.com), a small non-profit dedicated to making and donating hats, shawls, and lapghans to those battling cancer and other serious illnesses.

Forum for community discussion
Christensen and longtime staff member Denis Woulfe, along with the writers and photographers who contribute to the paper, are looking forward to what the future holds for the Monitor and Messenger newspapers.

“I think what excites me about this next chapter is working to re-engage the newspapers with the communities that we serve,” observed Woulfe, who started as an intern at the Monitor while he attended Hamline University 40 years ago.

“The world has changed since each of the newspapers was founded, but the basic needs of our readers are largely the same. I think they value the work and the role of the Messenger and the Monitor, and our challenge now is to find out how to heighten that engagement and fulfill that special contract between our readers and the newspapers that enhances and enriches the communities that we serve.”

Photo left: The team of writers and sales staff will continue working under new owner Tesha M. Christensen. Left to right: (writers and photographers) Jan Wilms, Jill Boogren, Stephanie Fox, Margie Oloughlin, (sales) Lynn Santacaterina and Denis Woulfe. Not pictured writer Jane McClure and sports columnist Matthew Davis. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Over the years, Woulfe has served in many different roles at the neighborhood newspapers, including the editor, typesetter, managing editor, advertising manager, and more. For the past few years, he’s been busy selling ads, and is currently a board member at ALLY People Solutions in the Midway which just merged with Community Involvement Programs (CIP) of Minneapolis. He is also a member of the Alumni Annual Fund Board for Hamline University.

“We dealt with many challenges over the years, but one, in particular, was the discussion over the role of a neighborhood newspaper and the balance between reporting what some readers saw as ‘good’ news and what others saw as ‘bad’ news,” said Woulfe. There also was a constant dialogue about what role the neighborhood newspaper had, and how it differed from the daily newspapers.

“Despite the different neighborhoods we serve with the two newspapers, the value of bringing community stakeholders together and providing a forum for community discussion has remained the constant over the years,” stated Woulfe. “It remains as important now more than ever!”

Think print is dead?
Christensen agrees that it is more important now than ever, and will be recruiting various people from each neighborhood to serve on an advisory board that will share story ideas and tie each story closer into the fabric of the neighborhood.

“At the Monitor and Messenger, we are here to tell the stories of our neighborhoods,” she stated. “We want to be reader-centric and make our content—both ads and articles—engaging and applicable. Print is evolving, and we’re looking ahead in innovative and creative ways. More people are reading than ever before in the history of humankind, and we want to ensure that local residents are reading their community newspaper because it is ‘News for You.’

“Think print is dead? Think again.”


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Hamline University decides it will tear down 1549 Minnehaha

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

A Hamline University plan to demolish 1549 Minnehaha Ave. after five years’ discussions, and a proposal to make changes to the Hamline University Neighborhood Advisory Committee (HUNAC) are prompting objections and questions in the Hamline Midway neighborhood.

Some neighbors are asking if the demolition, approved by the HU Trustees and revealed at the March HUNAC meeting, signals a move toward the more aggressive university teardown policies that roiled Hamline-Midway neighborhood several years ago. Other questions raised are if the university is walking away from its role with HUNAC.

The next HUNAC meeting at 6pm, Mon., Apr. 15, is to be a working meeting of representatives from stakeholder groups to discuss the future of HUNAC and whether the group becomes part of Hamline Midway Coalition.

HU spokesperson Christine Weeks said outstanding questions would also be addressed at that meeting.

Weeks said a possible change in HUNAC structure is eyed because from the university’s perspective the district council is seen as having more direct access to neighborhood residents. She described a potential role for HMC as a “conduit.”

Photo right: The house at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. has been approved for demolition by the Hamline University Board of Trustees. The University said that they do not believe that the house is of significant historic value, and that it is in a state of disrepair that leaves no option but to be torn down. (Photo from the Monitor’s 2015 archives)

HUNAC was launched by the University, neighborhood and city leaders in response to the university’s teardown of houses it owns outside of its campus boundaries and the demolition of the White House on-campus (2014). It was modeled after the West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee (WSNAC), which was set up more than a decade ago as a response to longtime tensions between the University of St. Thomas and its neighbors. WSNAC is funded by St. Thomas, which also provides web hosting and staffing.

Some neighbors want to see if there is still a chance to save the house. But university officials’ minds are made up. A press release sent out by the university stated that the school’s board of trustees approved an administration recommendation that the house be demolished. “The Hamline University Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to demolish a university-owned property at 1549 Minnehaha Ave. in St. Paul,” the press release stated. “The property was purchased by the school in 2014. The structure is in significant disrepair and not of a historic nature.”

“It’s common for universities to seek to own properties next to campus to allow for evolution and change,” said Jeff Papas, Hamline director of communications, in the press release. “Hamline hosted and participated in community discussions on the property for a number of years and helped to facilitate a historic survey of the neighborhood.”

The press release went on to state “Since 2015, Hamline has invited and received suggestions for the use of the property, but no proposal included a viable and sustainable source of funding.” It also went on to state that the university is in a strategic planning process and that potential uses for the site are being explored.

“Hamline is a vibrant campus that’s been part of the wonderful Hamline Midway community for well over 150 years,” said Papas. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with our neighbors.”

Leaders from the group Historic Hamline Village (HHV) couldn’t attend the March meeting, so members of that group felt blindsided by the demolition decision. Some question whether HU’s actions are a “demolition by neglect” by letting the house sit for so long without attention.

The dispute over the house is likely to draw in other groups, including Save Our St. Paul Neighborhoods and the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission. The HPC staff is already looking into the matter. Recently a study was done to take first steps toward at a potential historic district in the neighborhood.

HHV leader Roy Neal said the decision to demolish feels sudden in light of more than five years’ work. One option that had previously won HU support was that of a “rehab lab” where classes on home improvements could be offered. HU approved the rehabilitation lab option in fall 2018. It was designed in partnership with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota. Neal said the lab was purposely created to address university concerns and is still on the table pending further discussions with the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections. The lab idea also had support from former Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark.

But Weeks said the university has been transparent during its years of discussions about the house. Ideas were solicited, but none came to fruition.



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Front Ave Pottery 6448

Front Avenue Pottery fires it up during St. Paul Art Crawl

Posted on 09 April 2019 by Calvin

Ian and his daughter complete the finishing touches on their garden lantern at last year’s hand building workshop. Front Avenue Pottery owner Mary Jo Schmith details another patrons lantern! (Photo provided)

Front Avenue Pottery, 895 Front Ave., is Firing It Up once again during the St. Paul Art Crawl, Apr. 26-28. The Como clay studio and its artist neighbors invite you to this exhibit, sale, and community art event.

Hours of the sale are Fri., Apr. 26, 5-10pm; Sat., Apr. 27, 10am-8pm; and Sun., Apr. 28, 11am-5pm.

Photo left: Art crawl patrons receive clay hand building tips from Laura Thyne (center), Front Avenue Pottery’s studio assistant. Hands-on activities have always been a part of Front Avenue Pottery’s tour activity. (Photo provided)

Once again this year there are lots of times to try your hands at the potter’s wheel, Fri. from 6-9pm, Sun. from 12-5pm, and Sun. from 12-4pm. There will be a clay hand building workshop between 12-5pm on Sat., and 12-4pm on Sun. Aprons provided! All events are free, and donations accepted to cover material and firing cost.

The studio will also display the works of multiple area artists:
Mary Jo Schmith of Front Avenue Pottery, hosting. Schmith has been creating dinner and serving ware and clay tile commissions in her South Como Studio for 25 years. Her playfully decorative pots are functional, with drawings celebrating the cycles of nature that surround us in our daily lives.
Brett Monahan of Brett Monahan Pottery is a functional potter working in NE Minneapolis making lively porcelain and stoneware pottery with luscious, smooth buttery glaze surfaces. His coffee pour over cones is amazing. It’s rumored he may make some planters for this spring show! Photo right: Trying her hands at the potter’s wheel, Iris Mirski is assisted by Brett Monahan of Brett Monahan Pottery. (Photo provided)
Jenny Levernier of JMML Designs creates sterling silver and stone jewelry. Lever­nier loves the history found in the pattern of every stone and the story it tells. Her work focuses on color and pattern, with the quality of workmanship as the real star. She is a highly skilled metalsmith.
Marit Lee Kucera for M’Art Designs is a fiber artist not only creating wearable art but also designing and dyeing her own yardage for herself and other fiber artists. Her garments and fabrics are found on six continents! What fabric creations will she bring to this year’s art crawl? Her screen-printed designs, totes or her beautiful scarves?
Ryan Ball of Ryan Ball Pottery is a functional potter living and working in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. You may remember Ball’s work for it’s beautiful, vibrant, shiny, fluid glazes adorning his functional cups, bowls, vases. Anyone would love one of his Olive Oil Jars or stunning cups.
Steve and Linden Wicklund of Wicklund Ceramics are two successful and skilled clay artists now working as a team. Both typically functional potter’s, they excel in their skill with porcelain, altered functional serving ware, fluid slip or fun and funky glaze decoration.
Marc Johnson-Pencook of Illustrator Marc is a pen and ink illustration artist. Marc’s intricate drawings will keep you occupied for hours, each inch of the drawing full of information. He shares his drawings in limited edition prints, originals, and as wearable t-shirt art.
Kristi Casey of Kristi Casey Design creates small architectural home vignettes, bursting out with history, age, and wisdom. Using your images and found objects, she creates for you a downsized architectural version of your home and memories.
Anna Clare Tiller of Anna Clare Pottery is a clay artist. Her functional soda-fired stoneware pottery is alive with surface decorations and altered shapes and rims. She specializes in mugs, bowls, and serving ware.
Alana Hawley of Alana Hawley Art is an amazing portrait artist who will draw your portrait on site during the show. Her illustrations are full of life. Earning her undergraduate and masters degrees from the University of Minnesota in studio art and art education, she is currently feeding her wanderlust by learning to speak Finnish as quickly as possible. Bring a Finnish word or two to the crawl to test her new language skills.

Photo left: Nine artists will exhibit and sell artwork at Front Avenue Pottery during the Spring St. Paul Art Crawl, including pottery, jewelry, wearable fiber art, drawings, and portrait sketches. (Photo provided)

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Midway Como Monitor changing ownership after 44 years

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

When 22-year-old Calvin deRuyter bought the Monitor in 1975 for $1 from a man who thought it had no future, he had no idea what he was getting himself into.

Forty-four years later he’s perfected the art of dealing with challenges in the job he’s loved.

Photo right: Calvin deRuyter in 2018. (Photo submitted)

“You face it, yell and scream at yourself and the world, then buck up and try to come up with a solution or solutions that will address the challenge,” stated deRuyter. “Isn’t that how we all face the challenges in life?”

Paper shares community identity
deRuyter had been the editor of his student newspaper, The Oracle, at Hamline University, and started working for the Highland Villager while he took a year off between his undergraduate and graduate work in art. He volunteered to edit the first issue of the “Midway ?”—which was given the name Midway Monitor following a neighborhood naming contest.

Some local business owners and leaders co-signed deRuyter’s first loan to get the paper started, and the Monitor joined the other community newspapers being birthed along with the neighborhood councils. Residents were seeking new ways to develop their community identity in the Cities. The first boundaries were established by the district council boundary, so the Midway Monitor followed the borders of the District 11 Hamline Midway Coalition.

“People were excited about being involved in their neighborhood and finally having, they believed, a way to have a voice in the shaping of city policy that was so prevalent in their lives,” recalled deRuyter. “The whole citizen participation movement was what shaped the paper for years. It was the same in Como when we expanded the paper to be the Midway Como Monitor.”

Nelson joins paper
Calvin deRuyter was one of the first people that Tim Nelson met when he enrolled at Hamline University. deRuyter was a junior and working as arts editor at the Oracle. They lived in the same dorm, and then worked together at the student newspaper. Nelson had been editor of his high school newspaper, and set his sights on a career in politics and government. He had been accepted as a graduate student in Public Affairs at Willamette University in Oregon when deRuyter asked if Nelson was interested in working for him.

Photo left: Tim Nelson, 2019 (Photo submitted)

“I was intrigued, but torn as to what to do,” stated Nelson. “I called my advisor at Willamette and asked for his thoughts. His response surprised me. He said, ‘Tim, Willamette has been around since 1842, and I don’t think it is going anywhere. The chance to go into business for yourself may only come around once in a lifetime. Try the business, and if it doesn’t work out, you are welcome here. I look forward to hearing what you learn.’”

“I have never decided whether that was the best advice I ever got or the worst,” Nelson commented. “It varied day to day for the last 44 years.”
Nelson began as 50 percent partner in July 1977, and deRuyter-Nelson Publications Inc. was born. The expansion into the Como neighborhood occurred in 1979. The newspaper also expanded into the Frogtown area for a brief period but didn’t have the local ad revenue to support the growth.

The business was growing rapidly, and it was an exciting time.

“We started the typesetting business at that point, and it was an extremely fast-paced and technology-driven industry in those years,” stated Nelson.

The newspaper did the typesetting for several college newspapers, including the Hamline Oracle and Bethel Clarion, as well as the Park Bugle, Equal Time, West 7th Community Reporter, Longfellow Messenger, and Grand Gazette.

Photo right: Calvin deRuyter (left) and Timothy Nelson enter their new office space at 600 N. Fairview Ave., circa 1978. (Photo from the Monitor archives)

People excited about paper
“The community was very excited about the paper in those days, and we had a constant flow of involved citizens coming to the office to share things of interest or to suggest story ideas,” said Nelson. “Along with those people who believed in the paper, we also had groups we were less than popular with.”

A few bricks were thrown through the office windows at 600 N. Fairview in response to endorsements of political candidates.

During that same time, Nelson remembers when a columnist wrote an opinion piece that was critical of the organized church. “We had a religious group that went to our advertisers and told them that if they ran an ad, they would not support their business. We had many heated meetings with this group, and it was not a pleasant time,” he said. “It was a rather contentious year! When the Job Corps moved into the Bethel campus, we were also threatened by the community group who opposed that happening. They didn’t like how we were covering the events and again, threatened to go to advertisers with a boycott.”

Ironically, it is those same events that were not pleasant, such as vandalism and threats to their income base, that have also been the highlights.

“Any time a community is passionate about a topic, it’s an exciting time,” said Nelson. “Our goal is not to be loved by everyone. I have always considered the greatest compliment to be when we get complaints from both sides of a controversial issue saying that we are biased against them. That means we are providing a balanced story.”

Various issues have sparked discussion within the neighborhoods and the pages of the newspaper.

“The expansion of the Twin Cities German Immersion School is a recent issue that has stirred a lot of interest. The arrival of the Job Corps and light rail were big changes in Midway/Como, along with the new soccer stadium,” remarked Nelson. “When Hamline was going to remove some of the houses near campus, that certainly got some folks upset. Again, it tends to be pockets within the neighborhood that are most impacted by the changes that feel the most strongly.”

According to deRuyter, “The main challenge has been the changing nature of the commercial zones that run through it and around it… Snelling, Lexington, and University avenues, and Pierce Butler Route. These have changed the nature of the neighborhood dramatically.”

Reach across the river
In 1986, deRuyter Nelson purchased the Longfellow Messenger, and expanded its reach across the river into Minneapolis. Soon after the purchase, they expanded into the Nokomis neighborhood.

The Messenger was formed in March 1983 by community activists Maureen and Bill Milbrath as a project for their retirement years. deRuyter-Nelson Publications had performed their typesetting for years, and they were the logical ones to purchase the paper. Plus, there was a family connection that they were not initially aware of. Bill had been a college fraternity mate of Nelson’s dad and was the soloist at his parents’ wedding.

Today, the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger has a circulation of 21,000 in the Longfellow and Nokomis areas of Minneapolis. It offers comprehensive home delivery to 17,000 homes and an additional circulation of 4,000 at high-traffic business, church, and school drop-off points.

The Messenger has an estimated reach of over 50,000 readers.

The Monitor also has an estimated reach of over 50,000 residents in St. Paul’s Midway, Como, and Merriam Park neighborhoods. With a circulation of 21,000, the Monitor offers comprehensive delivery to 16,000 homes and businesses and an additional circulation of 5,000 at high-traffic business, church, and school drop-off points.

Over the years, deRuyter-Nelson also operated a successful graphic design business, providing design and production services to large and small corporations and government agencies.

Out of personal tragedy, they created A Place to Remember, a business that published and distributed resources worldwide for families experiencing a difficult pregnancy, premature birth, or death of an infant. A Place to Remember is now in the process of closing after 25 years as deRuyter and Nelson retire.

The Monitor and Messenger gave up the longtime Iris Park Place office (1885 University Avenue W., Suite 110) four years ago, and have operated with a virtual office since then. Other shifts at the time involved Nelson handling the newspaper production and deRuyter the editor responsibilities once again, while long-time editor and sales representative Denis Woulfe began focusing only on sales.

Evolving industry
The industry is changing, but deRuyter and Nelson still believe newspapers are part of the fabric of neighborhoods.

“I think community newspapers are vital to the neighborhoods,” observed deRuyter. “We have watched so many community newspapers die so that the community journalism movement in the Cities is just a tiny fraction of what it used to be. I don’t think there is a single community that is better off because their community newspaper could not survive.”

“But I also think that the residents and the businesses don’t truly grasp the importance of the cohesiveness that the neighborhood press provides,” deRuyter added. “If it is used properly, the community newspaper can be the place where things ‘come together’ in one place; where you can get an overview of the things going on; where you can learn about the unique businesses that are housed there; where you can learn about the neighbor who has faced a challenge, or who has overcome one.”

deRuyter asked, “Where is that place if your community newspaper dies? You certainly won’t get it from the city-wide or regional press.”
Nelson has also mulled over the changing face of journalism over the past four decades that he’s been involved in it.

“I think that over the years, the papers lost some of the fire that made them more interesting in the early days. The stories became more routine, and obviously there is no way the timeliness of a monthly publication can compete with the immediacy of news spreading on social media chat groups or blogs. The need for a community newspaper in a neighborhood was diluted.”

But, Nelson quickly added, “That is not to say that I don’t think that there is a need for a community newspaper or that the concept is dead. As a matter of fact, it may be more important now than ever given the fact that the daily papers are struggling to find their niche and are cutting budgets in order to compete in the electronic age. Social media does not even attempt to be objective, and although the media is constantly being accused of bias, I assure you we always attempt to bring the community both sides of an issue. It’s a matter of finding out what readers want to learn more about from their neighbors, and working to help reshape that delivery.”

What’s next?
Nelson and deRuyter will officially retire on May 1, 2019 when they pass ownership of the Messenger and Monitor to Tesha M. Christensen, who has been a deRuyter-Nelson freelance writer for the past eight years and has worked in journalism for over 20 years. (See article on page 1)
What’s next for these longtime news hounds?

After balancing his newspaper business with the artwork that he picked back up 11 years ago, deRuyter plans to focus on his art business (www.calsportfolio.net). In addition to painting, he offers various classes and workshops. He and his husband, Jim, are also renovating an old schoolhouse outside of Evansville, MN. He’s not leaving the Monitor or Messenger completely, either, as he’ll be providing bookkeeping services to the new owner.

Nelson will continue selling a support book he wrote for fathers who have experienced the death of an infant through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. The book, “A Guide For Fathers–When A Baby Dies,” is in its seventh printing.

Also, Nelson and his wife, Monica, have four children living around the world. “It’s not always ideal having your children spread out, but at least they have chosen interesting places to visit—London, El Nido (Philippines), Phoenix and Los Angeles,” remarked Nelson. They are also fortunate to have six grandchildren living in Arizona and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of triplet girls in California.

“Let’s just say, I’m not worried about being bored,” said Nelson. “At least while I am still able to get on a plane.”

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Past Chamber Exec Photo 2019

Midway Chamber celebrates 100 years of service to the community

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Calvin

The longtime tradition of luncheon with an informative guest speaker began in 1923 and continue today. Here is a group gathered in 1939. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

Members reflect on what the chamber has accomplished over the last century

One community group has been the face of the Midway area for a century. Formed in October of 1919, the Midway Chamber is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

First called the Midway Club and then the Midway Civic Club, the Midway Chamber of Commerce reflects the history of the Midway as a whole, observed local historian Jane McClure, who is working on a book to celebrate the chamber’s 100th anniversary. It will be available later this year.

“The Midway Chamber really shaped the growth and development of the entire area, in ways we don’t think about today,” added McClure. “Needs and issues including paved streets, the extension of streetcar lines, improved police and fire service, taxation, street lights, and jobs were among the issues the Midway Club championed. The organization brought back the Winter Carnival years before it became a citywide event again. Members worked to retain Saints baseball here and were part of the effort to attract the Minnesota Twins years ago.”

“When what was then the Midway Club began a century ago, getting things accomplished meant being organized,” McClure said. “We didn’t elect our City Council members by ward. Neighborhoods organized betterment or improvement associations to promote their interests to elected officials in those days. Every neighborhood had a small group to promote and advocate for an area’s interests. Midway Chamber was an umbrella group for many smaller neighborhood associations, which organized around small business nodes or city parks or schools.”

“It’s charming to think of ‘boosterism,’ but it’s how things got done in those days. There was a strong and intense loyalty to where you lived and where you did business,” McClure noted.

“Also, think of organizing around an issue or a community need when phones weren’t all that common, let alone when there was no Internet,” Jane said. “You had newspapers and radio to some extent, but to get things done, you had to get people physically together. That’s where having a club, later chamber, and a group to gather with, was so important.”

“We can look back at the early days of Midway Chamber, and it’s pretty remarkable to see how much got done,” Jane concluded.

Critical leadership
The Midway was already an important regional hub for transportation, industry, commerce, and education by 1919, and the 1910 census shows it was the fastest growing part of St. Paul.

“The Midway was long a center for commerce (the predecessor to Delta Airlines was headquartered in the Midway many years ago),” observed Ellen Watters, who headed up the Midway Chamber as its paid president from 1996-2002. “As the primary district connecting the two downtowns, the Midway has been a critical transportation and commerce link for the region.”

Photo right: Those who have led as executive directors of the Midway Chamber gather during the 100th anniversary gala in February 2019. Left to right: Kari Canfield, Ellen Watters, Chad Kulas, and Lori Fritts. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

The Minnesota Transfer Railway Company had organized in 1883 and filled about 200 acres with tracks, switches, and buildings along the University-Prior Ave. area. Every train going into the Cities rolled through that yard. Early Midway industries provided a vast array of goods for the northwestern United States, including mattresses, beds, chairs, tables, pianos, furnaces, stoves, radiators, brooms, linseed oil products, and farm equipment.

In December 1890, the Interurban Street Car Line had connected the two downtown areas, following a similar route as today’s Green Line along University Ave. in St. Paul and Washington Ave. in Minneapolis. The streetcar’s Midway shop—later known as the barns—sat at the northwest corner of the University and Snelling intersection for decades. The line ran until 1953 when it was replaced by buses.

The new Midway Club helped boost businesses and provided critical leadership on countless neighborhood and regional issues. Early club committees focused on attracting new industry and also beautifying industrial sites. Others dealt with streets, health and safety, education and recreation. One daunting task was getting dirt streets scraped and improved by city crews. In the early years, the club helped establish the Hamline Community Playground, supported the Midway Transfer YMCA, and pledged money to build a new Midway Hospital.

The club had 454 members in December 1919 and grew to 702 members by the next year. Women were allowed as members in 1924. After a brief decline during the Great Depression, membership topped 1,000 in the mid-1930s.

Club members turned their attention to vehicle traffic and street improvements, working to make things safer as the area became known as Auto Row and its trucking industry began to thrive. By the mid-1940s, the Midway was home to over 40 trucking firms, and it dealt with parking shortages as early as the 1950s. Members raised funds to save the Como Zoo in 1955.

“The chamber continues to be a unique voice for the Midway area. Organizations that make up the Chamber care about the vitality and improvement of the area. While I was there we worked hard to get Metro Transit to vacate the bus barn site which now, 17 years later, is home to the new Allianz Field,” stated Watters.

She added, “When I was president we advocated for the new Light Rail Transit which eventually was built. Today the Green Line is a major success that has helped transform University Ave., bringing new housing, and new investment, to the area.”

Face of the Midway
Jeffrey Fenske of Fenske Law Office (239 Cleveland Ave. N.) has been a member of the chamber since the 1980s. He sees the Chamber as “the face of the Midway business community with City and civic leaders.”

Highlights of his time on the Chamber Board include the Green Line, helping businesses stay and grow in the area, and expanding the opportunities for interaction among members with more programming, events and networking opportunities.

“The personal and business connections developed with fellow chamber members is invaluable,” said Fenske.

Photo left: Past Midway Chamber Board Chairs who have served between 1994 and 2019 gather during the 100th anniversary gala in February 2019. Left to right: Mike Zipko of Goff Public, Rick Beeson, Colleen Hartmon Bollom of Piper Jaffray, Julie Esch of Mortenson Construction, Jeff Fenske of Fenske Law Office, Alden Drew, Chris Ferguson of Bywater Business Solutions, Steve Johnson of BankCherokee, Ted Davis of Davis Communications, Tom Whaley of Saint Paul Saints, Terri Dooher Fleming of Park Midway Bank, Ferdinand Peters of Peters Law Firm, and Dan Leggett of Avant-Garde Marketing Solutions.. (Photo courtesy of Midway Chamber)

Membership has grown significantly since Dan Leggett of Avant-Garde Marketing Solutions joined the chamber in 2005, and he has watched programming explode. Leggett served as board chair from July 2014 to 2015. The Midway Chamber has added three annual Summits (Economic Development in 2014, Legislative in 2015, and Leadership in 2015), small business workshops, Will Power (Women in Local Leadership), Chamber Connect, and Lunch on the Line (which began as Lunch on the Avenue during the building of the Green Line). The longtime tradition of luncheon with an informative guest speaker began in 1923 and continue today.

Plus, the chamber has established a foundation with an emphasis on education and literacy.

Building a network and having fun
Belonging to the Chamber helps members develop their networks and get to know other business owners, employers, colleges and more. “It helps expand your reach,” pointed out Midway Chamber Executive Director Chad Kulas, who was hired in June 2015.

The chamber has strong relationships with the city, and that benefits its members when they’re working individually with the city on building and street projects. “We can help them in that process and advocate for them,” stated Kulas. The chamber is also involved in larger policy and development issues that affect the whole Midway area.

“The chamber is an advocacy voice for members and the community on important issues that affect the business community with the city and other governmental agencies that decide policy affecting our members,” observed Fenske. “It also provides a base for support and education for bigger picture issues that affect the collective group and area.”

Joining the Midway Chamber has provided increased exposure for his merchant processing business and has enhanced market penetration, pointed out Leggett. “I have also had the privilege of meeting and working with some phenomenal individuals who are tirelessly committed to promoting and growing business relationships in the Midway. Oh, it’s been great fun as well!”

Identity of its own
While many chambers are identified by the cities they are in, the Midway Chamber is different. “We are right in between two very large chambers,” remarked Kulas. “That can be both a strength and a challenge.”

The membership of the Midway Chamber is diverse, and so then is its funding supply, so no single business leaving or closing will mean that the Chamber is out of funds.

Over the years, people have discussed whether the Midway Chamber is needed considering the larger chambers in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“But it has always been the will of the board and membership that we have a place, too,” said Kulas.

“For different reasons, we’ve kept that identity, and people still feel very strongly about keeping that identity,” said Kulas.

“In addition to providing networking, education, and community volunteering opportunities, our chamber is a solid advocate for this community,” stated Leggett. “I believe this advocacy became more apparent with the construction of the Green Line, and even more notable with the soccer stadium and related development in the area. No doubt this will continue well into the future with the anticipated robust growth in the Midway over the next 5-10 years and beyond!”

“The Midway area is booming,” agreed Kulas.

Editor’s Note: Some of the historical information in this article is based off a piece written by Jane McClure for the Ramsey County Historical Society magazine in the fall of 1994.




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Welllington – Snelling & Shields Ave B

University-Snelling housing developments en route to City Hall

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin


This simulated aerial view of the proposed Wellington housing development at 427 N. Snelling shows how it would fit into the surrounding neighborhood. The new Allianz Stadium is across Snelling, and directly in back of the building is Central Baptist Church. It does not show the proposed Scannell housing development at 441-453 N. Snelling Ave. (Photo provided)

Two six-story mixed-use buildings planned for the University-Snelling area won votes of support from Union Park District Council (UPDC) Mar. 6, and are now en route to City Hall. In February Wellington Management’s development at 427 N. Snelling and Scannell Properties’ development at 441-453 N. Snelling Ave. won recommendations of approvals from UPDC’s land use committee.

If both win needed city approvals, the University and Snelling area would likely have two large mixed-use projects under construction at the same time. That has impacts ranging from traffic and noise disruption for neighbors to concerns about how two adjacent churches and the many community services programs they run could be affected.

Both projects need the St. Paul Planning Commission to grant conditional use permits for additional heights and floor area ratio variances for increased density in the traditional neighborhoods 3 district. Developers hope to submit formal requests to the city this month.

With the developments under construction at the same time, committee members and neighbors said that good communication is essential. “It’s not every day you have two large developments going up next to each other,” said John Lassaux, Scannell’s development manager.

Representatives of Wellington and Scannell are working together on their plans and will work closely with church, commercial, and residential neighbors. Wellington’s project backs up to Central Baptist Church, and Scannell’s is adjacent to Bethlehem Lutheran Church-in-the-Midway.

Many church representatives were among the two dozen people attending the February land use committee meeting. “We’re so close, we wonder how we can not be affected,” said Tom Nichols, a member of Bethlehem Lutheran. That church recently replastered walls and repaired windows. Lassaux said the company would work with the church to try to mitigate possible damage and impacts including noise, dust, and traffic.

Open Hands Midway at the church feeds 150 to 300 people with a weekly meal and provides other services. Both churches host clothing closets, many support groups and programs, and Bethlehem Lutheran rents to a second congregation. “We don’t want to lose the great community work both churches do,” said Dean Nelson, co-chair of the land use committee.

“It’s a big change,” said Rev. Scott Simmons, Bethlehem Lutheran’s interim pastor. “We want to see where opportunities are and mitigate any challenges.”

But Simmons said his concerns go beyond the adjacent projects. He and others said they worry about gentrification and people being displaced from the area.

Image right: Architectural view of what the proposed building at 427 N. Snelling would look like. It would be be approximately 10 feet taller than the nearby Spruce Tree Center. (Image submited)

“We hear those concerns, and we’re not tone-deaf to that,” said Casey Dzieweczynski, Wellington project manager. Wellington is currently working on a mixed-use project with affordable housing and University Ave. and Dale St. He said the Wellington and Scannell projects would be among the first east of Fairview Ave. to be market-rate rather than affordable housing.

The buildings will also be among the tallest in the area. Spruce Tree Center, at the southwest corner of University and Snelling, is about 64 feet tall.

The Pitch, Wellington’s building, is six stories tall with 156 dwelling units and a proposed height of 74-75 feet. Dzieweczynski outlined project changes including enclosed drive-through lanes for tenant Bremer Bank and potential tenant Walgreens, and a proposal to vacate less of the north-south alley shared with Central Baptist. The alley will be truncated, which should reduce cut-through traffic for Roy St. residential neighbors southwest of the development site.

Pedestrian safety and the drive-through lanes were discussed by the land use committee. They asked Wellington to consider ways to mitigate any potential safety hazards.

Deliveries for future retail tenants will be off of Snelling, which raised concerns among audience members. They questioned how much traffic would back up along Snelling

Wellington needs a conditional use permit to allow for a height of 73 to 74 feet. The underlying zoning allows heights up to 55 feet. Site plan approval, a variance for floor area ratio for additional density, alley vacation, and a non-conforming use permit to continue drive-through lane use for commercial tenants are sought.

Wellington plans micro, studio, one and two-bedroom units in its U-shaped building. Two levels of underground parking are planned, with some first-level enclosed parking for retail customers. Wellington and Central Baptist are also working together on shared parking that would front Roy St.
Shields Ave. and a north-south alley will provide access for business drive-through and business and resident parking.

Scannell needs a conditional permit to allow a height of about 71 feet, as well as a floor area ratio variance to allow increased density.

Scannell’s building is to have 122 apartments in a mix of small and standard studios, one, two and three-bedroom units and 72 resident parking stalls. It will also have 5,700 square feet of commercial space.

Scannell plans 15 “public” parking stalls, which would be used by a tenant or the general public. The latter use raised questions from neighbors, who questioned whether soccer fans would vie to park there. How the spaces are used will likely be determined once a retail tenant is named.

Scannell’s parking would be accessed from Shields and Spruce Tree Dr., and a north-south alley. That is also where any retail deliveries would be made. Lassaux acknowledges that the alley is already a cut-through and that the developer and church need to work with city officials to see how that can be resolved.

Both developers are planning similar strategies to encourage transit use and reduce motor vehicle use, through ample bike racks and giving tenants a $50 transit card when they move in. There are some differences. Wellington wants to use parking along Snelling for its building. Scannell wishes to eliminate parking and widen its sidewalk.

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Cafe Biaggio 03

Café Biaggio to host annual St. Joseph’s Day Feast on Mar. 24

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Café Biaggio co-owner John D’Agostino in the restaurant named for his maternal great-grandfather, Biaggio. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

St. Joseph’s Day is a traditional Italian holiday celebrated around the world. Thanks to Café Biaggio co-owners John D’Agostino and Shari Breed, it will be observed in the Midway neighborhood too. Joseph is the patron saint of Sicily and recognized as the husband of the Virgin Mary.

D’Agostino said, “On Sun., Mar. 24, starting at 1pm, we’ll be serving our annual St. Joseph’s Day Buffet. There’s no charge to come and eat, though you can leave a donation for local charities and families in need. We bring any leftover food to the Visitation Monastery of North Minneapolis, where the sisters serve the urban poor every day. This tradition was started locally by my mother 52 years ago at her restaurant ‘Sammy D’s’ in Dinkytown on the U of M Campus. ”

“Mama D,” as she was affectionately known, passed away in 2006 at the age of 95. “I told her I would keep this tradition going because it was important to her,” D’Agostino said. “In small towns in Italy, families still walk from door to door enjoying a dish at each home. Last year, we served about 700 people, and it’s not just for Italians. We get a lot of clergies; the sisters from the Visitation Monastery will bring a bus load of neighbors from North Minneapolis. People come who are poor, and who are not poor. In the old days, my mother’s friends and family would contribute dishes, but the Health Department doesn’t allow that anymore. Everything is prepared right here; we’ll make 100 pounds of meatloaf and about 40 pounds of mashed potatoes. We’ll have fish, vegetables, breads, and desserts—something for everybody.”

Sysco, Twin City Produce, and Greco and Sons are all generous donors to the event. D’Agostino and his business partner pay for the rest. D’Agostino said, “Last year, I watched a guy who came in for the St. Joseph’s Day Brunch. I could tell he was homeless. Afterward, he came over and said, ‘Thank you—this is the first good meal I’ve had in a long time.’ If we feed even one person out of the whole bunch who really needs it, then I think it’s worthwhile.”

Café Biaggio has been in its current location at 2536 University Ave. W. for 18 years. The menu is the owners’ interpretation of simple, rustic Italian foods found in small cafes in Chicago, on the East Coast, and throughout Italy. Many of the recipes have been handed down through D’Agostino’s family. Mama D’s classic antipasto salad, which first graced the menu at Sammy D’s Restaurant in the 1960s, remains unchanged.

Features of the “made-from-scratch” menu include homemade pasta, an all-Italian wine list, hand-turned gelatos, and an Italian specialty called semifreddo: a creamy, semi-frozen concoction made with amaretto, egg whites, and macaroon cookies.

Café Biaggio has a large parking lot behind the restaurant (enter from the Raymond Ave. side.) Regular hours are Mon.-Thur., 11am-9pn; Fri., 11am-10pm; Sat., 4:30-10pm; Sun. closed.



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Create, connect, craft at camps over the summer months

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Friends School, Hamline Young Writers, St. Paul Urban Tennis, St. Paul Ballet, Camp Como, and others make summer memories they’ll never forget

Create a cardboard castle, a cigar box guitar, or a Lego robot. Connect with long-time friends and make new ones while learning how to kayak, juggle or sew. Make a puppet, animated cartoon, stationary, or your own song. There are so many summer camp options in the Twin Cities area your kids will have trouble picking just one!
Browse below for more information on some of the camps offered locally.


Experience outdoor activities including swimming in an outdoor pool, horseback riding, use of a ropes course and climbing tower, group games, or hiking. Enjoy sensory crafts, gross motor activities led by a registered occupational therapist, music groups led by a board-certified music therapist, boating, and sports during a Wahode Day Camp in Eagen where campers arrive each morning and leave each afternoon. Two residential camps where campers stay several days and nights are also offered in northern Minnesota at several locations. AuSM camps are tailored for youth and adults with autism. AuSM camps are available for individuals ages 6 and up who are AuSM members.

Blackhawks offer several exciting half- and full-day soccer camps for players ages 5-18 that encompass a wide variety of activities and skills. Specialty camps focus on specific skills such as ball control, shooting, and goalkeeping.

Spend some time “Monkeying Around” with your primate pals, go for the gold in “Animal Olympics,” take an “African Adventure” without leaving Como, or try on the hat of a zookeeper or gardener in “Behind-the-Scenes!”. Como’s camps focus on developing children’s appreciation for the natural world through play and exploration, behind-the-scenes experiences, interactions with zookeepers and gardeners, and up-close encounters with plant and animal ambassadors. Five-day, half-day or full-day sessions for preschool to grade eight. Extended care is available.

Free Forest School of the Twin Cities is a free group, open to young children and their parents or caregivers. This is a welcoming and non-judgmental group where parents and caregivers can practice giving children space and autonomy to explore and create in nature. Free Forest School meets every day of the week throughout the year at wilderness areas around the metro. Share a snack, take a hike, play in the woods, and have circle time. Parents get a chance to unplug and step back… Kids and their imaginations take the lead.
Cost: Free

Want to make a film just like the professionals? Feel like biking 10 (or 20!) miles a day? Have a secret stash of poems to share? Feel a need to express yourself through paint and paper-folding? Maybe you’d rather argue for the defense in a real courtroom? Friends School will be the place to do that—and more—from June to August for ages 4-14. There are weekdays, half- and full-day options available. Extended daycare in the mornings and afternoons and need-based financial aid available.

Travel back in time and learn about life in the 1800s. Explore seasonal Dakota activities including the maple sugar camp, wild rice village, and learn about life in the tipi, hunting games, methods of travel, language and song. Three-day, half-day camps. One-day Pioneer PeeWees camps offered for ages 4-5.

High school students ages 15-18 can explore the craft, prepare for college, and connect with other young writers in the Twin Cities while working closely with Hamline Creative Writing faculty and published authors.

Join the Minnesota Waldorf School for good, old-fashioned summer fun with outdoor games, natural crafts, water play, gardening, fairy camp, and much more. For children ages 3.5 to (rising) 6th grade.
651-487-6700 x202

Summer sessions for ages 6-14 are run by the University of Minnesota’s Rec & Wellness Camps. Camps also offered in partnership with MIA and Richardson Nature Center.

Fun, exciting camps that combine physical fitness and education are offered throughout the summer for school-age kids. Register early for discounts.

Make your own games and design circuits. Paint with pizzazz. Search out connections between visual art and creative writing, and explore the life of a story in journalism. Options at SPA cover a wide range of academic, arts, and enrichment activities for grades 2-12.

Summer is a great time to try dance. Programs include workshops and camps for ages 3 and up, weekly drop-in classes for teens and adults, and a “mommy and me” baby class.

Located at 30+ sites, with several locations in the Midway Como neighborhoods, St. Paul Urban Tennis offers a summer program for all age groups and skill levels. Tennis lessons combine high-quality instruction with life skills learning. Sampler Camps offer a condensed, 4-day version of the lesson program. Scholarships are available.

Explore the variety of Y Summer Programs at over 60 metro-area locations. Programs include flexible three-, four-, and five-day options for preschool and up, as well as day camps, overnight camps, Teen Wilderness, family camps, and more.



Be initiated into an ancient and esteemed House of The Realm, jump into live-action adventure gaming, build your own arms and armor, and more during these five-day, full-day sessions for ages 8-17.

Solve mysteries of the past in this three-day History Detective Camp for ages 10-13. Or, young ladies ages 9-12 can step back in time in a unique Finishing School for Young Ladies day camp.

Unleashed summer campers entering grades 3-10 spend a full week immersed in animal learning and fun at one of four AHS locations,

A variety of art disciplines and mediums with themes like puppetry, world cultures, If I had a Hammer, animation, art car, public art and activism, printmaking and more offered for ages 4-18. Five-day, half- and full-day sessions available.

Write your own songs, start your own band, build cigar guitars from the ground up, and learn electric guitar.

Camp and canoe while learning leadership and teamwork skills in a free, seven-day resident camp for youths age 13-18 who live within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul. Held on the St. Croix River in Rush City and organized by YouthCARE.

Explore international circus arts at Circus Juventas. Five-day, full-day sessions and one-day sampler camps offered for ages 6-15. New this year is Teen High-Flying Adventure Camp for ages 13-18.

Experience cultural and language immersion; 15 languages to choose from. Resident camp for ages 6-18 and family camps.

Campers have fun while gaining an appreciation for nature by meeting live animals, building forts, and getting their hands dirty during full- and half-day, four-day camps offered for students entering 1-8 grades. Shorter sessions are available for ages 3-6.

Day camps exploring science, technology, and engineering are offered in partnership with local community education programs. Sessions, length and price are varied per location and type of camp for ages 4-14.

Make butter, ice cream and bread while learning about science, agriculture and history at the Bruentrup Heritage Farm in Maplewood. Plus, students will play old-time games like townball and do arts and crafts during three four-day sessions.

Fiddle Pal Camp Minnesota is four days to discover, learn and play for children, adults and families at three locations.

From fusing to casting to glass blowing, ages 9-18 are introduced to the mesmerizing medium of glass through immersive half-day, five-day experiences.

Experience the outdoors, or the lives of the engineers and grenadiers who called Fort Snelling home. Go back to the past and explore the stories of children who lived in Fort Snelling at Bdote area. Camps range from one to four days.

Speak, hear, sing, and create in German while exploring subjects ranging from history and art to science and music during five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for grades K-13 at the Germanic American Institute.

Summer camps allow time for more in-depth projects, such as Wild & Wooly, Fairies, Critters, and Sea Creatures, for kindergarten and up.

Enjoy Summer Tennis in Minneapolis parks for ages 6-17. Free and reduced programs available.

Professional Irish Dance training by director Cormac O’Se, an original member of Riverdance.

Half-day, five-day sessions and single day sessions for beginners through experts ages 8-18 enhance hand-eye coordination, boost concentration and build self-confidence.

Yoga infused throughout the day via story, dance and games for campers age 5-12. Located on the Greenway with daily field adventures.

Girls and boys ages 6 to 17 can design and build their creative ideas, mixing art, science and technology during partial-day, weekday camps. There are more than 120 classes available over ten weeks, including a Harry Potter Theme Week with giant Hogwarts Castle build.

There’s something for everyone—from the youngster just learning to put pen to paper to the seasoned high school senior with a novel already under her belt. Sessions run in week-long blocks July and August, full and half-day options available for ages 6-17.

Roller ski, mountain bike, canoe and more during adventure camps for ages 9-13 at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis. Equipment provided during the full-day, five-day sessions.

A variety of athletic, academic and enrichment programs are offered, including baking basics, woodcarving, viola and cello, Ev3 robots, Hispanic Culture Camp, fencing, stop motion, sewing, painting, rocket science, drumming, and more. Half- and full-day, one- to three-week weekday sessions. Camp Minnehaha, a full day camp for pre-k to grade 8, includes daily devotions, games, indoor and outdoor activities, daily swimming lessons, and weekly off-campus activity.
612-728-7745, ext. 1

Play music, get creative, bake bread and construct books while exploring the rich culture along the Minneapolis riverfront district. Campers aged 9-11 will explore a new experience each day at four arts centers.

Work with sculpture, tiles, or wheel-thrown pottery in half or full-day sessions for ages 6 and up.

With camps happening at the new Discovery Center in Minneapolis Uptown every week of the summer, as well as at various schools and educational partners around the Twin Cities, Snapology has got you covered for kiddos as young as 3 and as old as 14—Robotics, Coding, Science, Technology, Drones, Pre-K, Engineering, Architecture and more.

Learn about devised theater, music and other performance art forms during these one- to two-week, half- and full-day sessions for those preK to grade 12. Two theater classes offered in collaboration with the Science Museum and Minnesota Zoo.

Learn about track, motors, and controls and how the crew does their jobs at the Minnesota Streetcar Museum in Minneapolis. Each child ages 6-11 will have the chance to climb into the Motorman’s seat and run the car down the line.

Sew, knit, felt, dye and more. Take home completed fiber items from three- and five-day, half-, full- and extended-day sessions for ages 6-16.

Students ages 8-17 enrolled in the week-long, half-day camps will experience a variety of circus disciplines—including Trampoline, Static Trapeze, Acrobatics, Circus Bike, and of course Flying Trapeze.

Animal encounters, canoeing, hiking, swimming, pond-dipping, mud-mucking, and gardening adventures await for ages 3-13.

Painting, drawing, clay, theatre, writing, glass and much more for ages 6-14.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of every camp in the Twin Cities. If you would like to be included in next year’s guide, please send us detailed information on the camp.

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Como author publishes a life-long collection of short vignettes

Como author publishes a life-long collection of short vignettes

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Como resident Paul Kotz (photo right by Jan Willms) wanted to write a book for his daughters. “I was trying to write something that they might know their dad in a different way,” he said. A number of years passed and in 2018 Kotz published “Something Happened Today.”

It is still a book for his daughters, now young adults, but it is also a challenge to other readers to find something positive and unexpected in the simple experiences of everyday living.

His publication is some short excerpts that can be read in one or two sittings or can be read as a message a day to search for the positive elements of life.

Kotz, who initially came from a corporate background, has been an educator for the past 27 years. He currently teaches a doctoral program in leadership at St. Mary’s College in Minneapolis.

“I love to observe what is going on in the world,” Kotz reflected. “So I started writing stories, looking for good and hope in the world. I think a lot of it springs from seeing what people experience each day.”

Kotz said that, especially with his students, over the last 20 years he has seen a myriad of things happen, from the horrific to simple acts of kindness. And it is these acts of kindness that he has showcased in his book.

“There is a sense of humor throughout the book,” he continued, “but you also see ‘Oh, Wow! That happened?’ in its pages, also.”

One example he writes about is a young man named John, who has come from Kenya and needed a host family for a couple of weeks. Kotz and his family took him in, and a neighborhood celebration was being planned to welcome him. The evening before that took place; John learned his father had died.

Kotz writes about the feelings of joy in being welcomed to a new place while at the same time the feelings of sadness at losing a parent thousands of miles away.

“We had to make this into a celebration for John,” he noted. “We tried not to reflect on the loss, but at the same time we recognized it.”

On a different note, Kotz describes coming across a young man in LA Fitness who was screaming and yelling expletives. Kotz said he had his fears and was not sure whether to engage him. “I just told him I hoped it would get better. He swore at me again, but after a little time with this man, he let me know he was struggling; he had lost his job and broken up with his girlfriend, his car was not working, and he was in economic straits. Sometimes you just have to listen, and I wonder, are we doing that enough?” Kotz said. “Are we taking the time to listen and to care about others?

He said that in gathering the information for his book, he kept his ears open and his eyes receptive to people’s experiences.

“In my line of work when I hear a story or observe something, it is a gift just to take it in,” Kotz said. “As an advisor in St. Mary’s leadership program, people will ask me what they should do. They want advice on what their next step should be. In the grand scheme of things, I can’t give them advice, because all our stories are different. I have to stay open and listen.”

He said he listens and stays present and hears what is going on in the world. And this has been his experience in writing “Something Happened Today.”

“I love to write,” Kotz said, “and I will write about the things I see and the people I meet.” He said he might meet someone during the day and write it down that night, or think about an experience he had in the past couple days, and write it down.

He said his goal in teaching is to make his students better decision-makers and help them make better ethical decisions. He said some readers have asked him if his ideas are not too Pollyannaish. “They say you can’t trust people, because they will burn you.”

“My answer is yes, we have all been burned, but every person has some good in them. You don’t always see it, and sometimes you have to dig really deep.”

Looking back on his own life, Kotz said that there were always other people who would look out for him and steer him onto the right path. He was born in New York and came to Minnesota when he was 11. “I am now 55, and I have seen a lot in my life. But when I was young, if I would drift off the path I would have people who would tell me that if I wanted to be in this community, I needed to act a certain way. “

Kotz said there were always people who could see the goodness in him and see his potential. “A lot of kids don’t get that opportunity today,” he explained. “A lot of adults don’t get that opportunity.”

Kotz also mentioned the mentoring of strong women in his life, including his mother. She had a bumper sticker on her car that read “Women are natural-born leaders. You are following one.”

The students Kotz works with now are primarily adults, and he said they go through a lot. “How do you integrate work life with the rest of how you want to live your remaining days?” he asks them. And he tells them there is not a lot of time until they retire to savor the goodness, so why not start now?

“I go to bed, tired, with a lot of responsibilities like everyone else,” Kotz said. “But I wake up and ask God to help me be a better man. I am present to people. I sometimes don’t do the best job, but I try. And I start the day out that way and capture the good moments.”

Kotz said this book is a collection of surprises about what life has to offer. “I think the world is an amazing place, and I look for the good to see hope in society and that everybody has something good to give back. As a nation and as a world, it is imperative to keep this world going in a good way. We can really learn from others, and you can alter your perspective on how you deal with the daily grind of life.”

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Resurrection City Church 06crop slider

Resurrection City Church meets at Hamline Elementary School

Posted on 11 March 2019 by Calvin

Julie (center left) and Joel Stegman (center right) are co-pastors of the newly planted Resurrection City Church, which meets weekly at Hamline Elementary School. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Resurrection City Church (RCC) is a newly planted church that meets in the cafeteria of Hamline Elementary School on Sundays at 9:30am. Their vision is to glorify God by seeing people, the city, and the world made new in Christ.

Julie Stegman and her co-pastor husband Joel live near the State Fairgrounds. “We’d been working at a church in downtown Minneapolis,” Julie said, “but felt like we really wanted to be more a part of the community where we lived. It seemed like the right time to plant our own church. Hamline Elementary School was welcoming, and willing to let us rent.”

To hear Stegman describe it, starting a church from scratch is a lot like starting a business. “A team of about 35 people helped us turn our vision into a reality,” she said. “Most of them live in the Hamline- Midway or Como neighborhoods, and some are people we’d met at our previous church. The team helps us set up in the cafeteria every week, among a hundred other things. We’re all at the school by 7am on Sundays, unfolding chairs and making coffee.”

RCC appears to be a young congregation, with an average age of less than 30. There are a lot of young families moving into the neighborhood, and the congregation reflects that. Stegman said, “We have a strong emphasis on community here. There are small, community groups that meet in people’s homes throughout the week to pray and to be a supportive part of each other’s lives. We’re also involved in the broader community; several of our members volunteer at Hamline Elementary School through their Reading Partners Program.”

On the first Monday of each month, RCC sponsors a conversation at Groundswell Coffee called “Views and Brews” from 7-9pm. According to Stegman, “This is a time to talk about life and faith, and anyone can come. We’re very polarized in our country right now. It’s hard to have respectful conversations with people we disagree with—we’re hoping this will be a place to have respectful conversations about many different things. The next meeting is scheduled for Mon., Apr. 1. The March discussion topic was: is Christianity still relevant?”

Stegman said, “Obviously, we believe it still is. We chose the name of our new church carefully because we see the resurrection as the sign that Jesus was exactly who he said who he was. We believe that he’s making people new every day; and that these people are being called to make their city new, and the broader world they live in.”

Hamline Elementary School is located at 1599 Englewood Ave. The parking lot on Hubbard St. offers the easiest access, near the Rec Center. Dress is casual, and the fellowship time wraps up around 11am. There is childcare for children under five, with a secure check-in process. Brake Bread donates muffins and pastries, and the RCC provides coffee. Email co-pastor Julie Stegman at julie@rescitychurch.org with any questions.



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