With ‘Working’ as their final curtain call, seniors bid adieu to Roosevelt Theater

Posted on 09 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Katherine Quackenbush as Kate Rushton (center). (Photo by Jill Boogren)

As graduates prepare to toss their caps in the air and contemplate their futures, it’s a fitting time to take a closer look at the workaday world. In its 2019 spring production of the musical, “Working,” the Roosevelt Theater company brought to life the stories of working people, ultimately showing that people are much more than their jobs.
Directed by Ryan Underbakke, actors remained on stage throughout the show, supporting one other through song and movement – as students, customers, clerks, commuters, laborers and truck drivers.
The set, imagined by Kurt Gough, consisted of filing boxes stacked high, which became a platform, office cubes, countertops and props.
The music, under the direction of Jay Albright and student conductor Km Boogren, was performed entirely by student musicians who often switched instruments and were sometimes joined by a cast member sitting in for a tune.
All combined to create a show that was deep, funny, intense, unsettling, sad and delightful, sometimes all at once.
The musical marked more than the end of a school year. It was the eighth show over four years since the lights came back on in Roosevelt’s auditorium, so this class of seniors was the first to have theater available during each of their high school years. Some joined as freshman, others later. Many came with stage experience. All hope to be involved in theater or other performing arts after high school.
Here are the stories of eight of the hard-working graduating seniors in “Working:”
Anastasia Mlsna-Lubin joined theater to make some friends. Nervous and not-yet-ready to act, she joined the tech crew of “The Seussification of Romeo & Juliet.” She was assigned the role of stage manager, which Mlsna-Lubin called “really nerve wracking, but kind of a rush.” In later shows she helped with costumes and props.
As a junior, Mlsna-Lubin was already in choir, really liked the show “Into the Woods,” auditioned and got the part as Rapunzel’s Prince.

Sebastian Gonzales as Roberto Nuñez sings of a better day in “Un Mejor Dia Vendora.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

“I had a really good time. I really liked showing off,” she said.
By contrast, in “Working,” she played a teacher Mlsna-Lubin saw as “old, confused, out of time and out of touch.” She had to dig deep to empathize, but not condone, racist remarks.
Of her overall experience at Roosevelt theater, Mlsna-Lubin said: “There’s this bond that happens when you’re all working toward this goal. You’re all invested, you wanna be there… it helped me come out of my shell and build some confidence. I went from sitting in the back not being seen to center stage. It was amazing to have that feeling of growth and development.”
Ella Spurbeck joined theater as a freshman playing the role of a senator in “Urinetown, the Musical” She had done theater at Sanford Middle School and, impressed after seeing Roosevelt’s first play, got involved.
She really liked “Almost, Maine.” Though it was “kind of fluffy,” she found Echo Olsen to be a really good partner in their scene, in which, all bundled up in winter garb and to great comedic effect, they fell, literally, as they realized they were falling in love.
Spurbeck was on stage for all but “Into the Woods,” for which she was assistant stage manager. She learned that wasn’t for her. She’s now interested in directing and being a full-time musician in a musical, as well as working at designing sets and costumes.
“I think if you’re looking to get into theater, Roosevelt is a great spot to try it out,” she said.
Having previously been in theater at Sanford and Powderhorn Park, Katherine Quackenbush jumped at the chance to play a part in “Seussification” (she was Narrator 4). “I guess I’ve always wanted to be involved in theater, saw there was a play and thought, ‘I’ll be in it,’” she stated.
Quackenbush was involved in every show since, sometimes working on costumes, sometimes acting. For her latest role in “Working,” she sang of being “Just a Housewife,” conveying a feeling of someone unfulfilled and unsupported.

Sophia Stout (at center, holding towel) as Amanda McKenny, with (left to right) Lily Myers, Anastaia Mlsna-Lubin and Ella Spurbeck in “Cleaning Women.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

She said of her experience in theater: “Something in theater stuck with me. It’s the kind of notion, if you’re gonna look weird, you might as well look weird all the way, try as hard as you can. The community at Roosevelt theater was great.”
Lily Myers had done plays in middle school and was encouraged to audition for “Urinetown.” Though already a choir performer, Myers had an anxiety attack during her audition that prevented her from singing “Happy Birthday.” Fortunately, she got a role anyway and acted in every play thereafter.
“I enjoyed singing and dancing so much, I didn’t care about having a role or not,” she stated. “I just wanted to be involved.”
With “The Laramie Project,” she began exploring how to differentiate characters through their costumes and accents, eventually finding her own voice, learning her range and how she likes to act. She could relate to both her starry-eyed Rapunzel in “Into the Woods” and the millworker who forges through the monotony of factory life with a measured determination in “Working.”
“Acting is just yourself in different personalities,” she said. “Rapunzel and the millworker definitely have different aspects of my character. I can be resilient and strong, but I can also be lighthearted and goofy and romantic.”
Theater gives Myers a deep sense of pride. “Theater has meant so much to me. I’ve been able to come into my own. I’ve gone from having an anxiety attack in my first audition, and now here I am singing my own solo in the last musical of my high school career.”
Luke Longfellow’s first play ever was “The Laramie Project.” He played several different characters, which he called “insane and really, really fun.” He got involved because friends insisted he try it out, and it was one of the most stressful things he’d ever had to deal with. Everything was new: working under a director, memorizing lines. Rehearsals were tiring, but he found he loved being on stage. “I loved being able to see the crowd react to what you’re saying and doing,” he remarked.
Longfellow acted in every subsequent play until “Working,” where he was part of the crew. He was an ancestor in “The Addams Family” and Milky White in “Into the Woods.” “Ghost people and a cow. That’s a broad range,” he said.
Longfellow credits theater for giving him more confidence and making him less reserved, nudging him out of the sidelines to interact with people more and even changing his physical expression. “I [became] more willing to be out loud in public… I always acted more reserved, closed up. [Now] I feel all right about expressing myself around other people, in what I wear and do and say.”
Michael Gough followed his friends into theater, beginning with “The Addams Family” in a role as the father of the boy who wants to marry Wednesday. As a musician, Gough had performed in front of audiences before, just not in theater. “It was new and definitely a little draining, but it was fun,” he said.
He loved his role in “Addams,” but his role in “Almost, Maine” stands out in that it was nothing like him. “I’ve never had to scream or cry on stage before that. It was a very challenging but rewarding experience to completely ignore my own feelings and focus on the character.”
Gough’s take away from theater: “I’ve never been a big put-myself-at-the-center-of-attention person. Theater’s kind of a way to get that experience while having other people back you up along the way.”
Sebastian Gonzales met some of the theater crew through choir and got excited about the musical, “Urinetown.” He had been in a show at Sanford, but his experience at Roosevelt showed him that theater “is actually a profession that people do.”
He enjoyed many roles – as one of The Poor in “Urinetown,” Jack in “Into the Woods” – with his final role as Roberto Nuñez in “Working” his favorite.
“Over the years, I’ve played young kid roles, who haven’t seen a lot. I’ve grown up in theater. I was a baby freshman year,” he said. “Now I’m like six feet. Roberto I can culturally identify with. [Also], looking back on your past, seeing how you got to this point in your life, as a senior in that moment it connected with me, connected with my Latino culture, it felt like home.”
Gonzales likes the roles that don’t have a complete conclusion or a pat ending, because “life isn’t like that.”
For Gonzales, theater at Roosevelt is about family. “We work together. We fight sometimes, some people might not like each other, but we get the job done no matter what… we all have this professionalism.”
Sophia Stout joined theater with her choir friends for “Urinetown” and loved it – singing, being on stage. Stout is also a swimmer, and when she couldn’t give full attention to a role, she helped with costumes and back stage.
Her favorite roles were as the cleaning woman in “Working” and Jack’s mom for a show in “Into the Woods.” “I finally proved I could do something,” she said.
Theater has given Stout confidence and stage presence. “I feel like freshman year I was too timid to do anything. I’d sing quietly. In theater we learn to project. In choir we project, we also know how to warm up our voices so we don’t ruin [them].”
Her parting words: “I hope everyone gets involved in theater once in their life. It’s a good experience.”
For more information about Roosevelt Theater, search Advocates of Roosevelt Theater Arts on Facebook.

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NENA: Shop over 100 garage sales in the neighborhood on June 15

Posted on 04 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

On April 17, 2019 the Minneapolis Health Department recognized the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA) as a Local Public Health Hero in the category of promoting healthy weight and smoke-free living. Becky Timm, Executive Director, and several other staff and board members attended and accepted the award. NENA engaged underrepresented residents, including low-income households, renters and people of color, and increased the availability of healthy foods and smoke-free housing for Bossen area residents. NENA has shown committment to building residents’ capacity to advocate for change. NENA surveyed residents to assess their needs and interests, which led to a partnership with the Twin Cities Mobile Market to launch a new market stop in the area. They also advocated for a local ordinance change to improve the Mobile Market’s ability to reach customers.

Nokomis East garage sale
The Annual Garage Sale registration is now open for all Nokomis East (Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park, Wenonah) residents. The sale day is Saturday, June 15 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.Last year hundreds of people flocked to this popular neighborhood garage sale event. Join the over 100 sales that take place on this day each year. Registration is open until Sunday, June 9 at
Are you more of a garage sale shopper? The interactive garage sale map is live at with sales added weekly. Keep track of new Annual Garage Sale updates and information on our website, or pick up a sale list starting June 10 at Nokomis Beach Coffee, Oxendales Grocery, or the NENA office.

Low-cost rain garden lottery
NENA is offering 15 rain gardens to Nokomis East residents (55417 zip code), and an additional five rain gardens to residents in the Lake Nokomis sub-watershed. The rain gardens, which up to 150-square-feet designed and installed by Metro Blooms, will be offered at a fraction of their cost at $410 – $580 (1,250 – $1,500 value). Sign up by June 17 to beautify your garden, reduce flooding, and help local water quality. Recipients will be selected via a randomized lottery in June and installed in August. Register at

NENA is hiring
The Nokomis East Neighborhood Association (NENA) is seeking an Organics Recycling Engagement Contractor to reach renters in the Nokomis East community that are eligible for residential organic recycling. Our goal is to increase participation in the city’s residential organics recycling program among this key demographic. Recycling organic materials is the biggest opportunity to reduce our trash. Organic materials make up about 25 percent of the trash, and less than half (46%) of Minneapolis residents have signed up to participate.
This position will include door-to-door home organics program recruitment and sign-up at single-family home and duplex rental properties. The ideal applicant will have a basic understanding of organics recycling, strong people skills, excellent personal accountability, and the ability to walk/work in a variety of weather conditions.
This is a temporary, contract position for up to 60 hours from June to August 2019, with the option to extend to September 2019. A full job description is available at Complete applications due 5 p.m. on June 5, 2019. No phone calls please.

Sign up for NENA News
Your guide to news, events, and resources! Get your neighborhood news delivered to your inbox every other Wednesday. Sign up today at Once you sign up, you’ll receive updates on news and happenings for your neighborhood.

Upcoming meetings and events:
6/5/19: NENA Housing, Commercial, and Streetscape Committee, NENA Office, 6:30 p.m.
6/9/2019: Gateway Garden Volunteer Work Day, 4224 E 50th St, 11 a.m.
6/11/19: NEBA Board Meeting, McDonald’s Liquor Event Space, 6:30 p.m.
6/12/19: NENA Green Initiatives Committee, NENA Office, 6:30 p.m.
6/15/19: Nokomis East Garage Sale, Neighborhood-wide, 8 a.m.

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• Phone: 612-724-5652

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June 2019: In Our Community

Posted on 04 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Lori Mercil, a 25-year resident of the Nokomis East neighborhood, is one of three co-producers of an annual dance showcase called “16 Feet,” along with Becky Heist and Gerry Girouard. A wonderful collection of seasoned professionals will be offering an eclectic mix of dance for every viewer’s taste. There are three evening performances of “16 Feet: Dance off the Dock”, the third annual independent choreographer’s showcase at the TEK BOX in the Cowles Center on June 27, 28, and 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 at This series is designed to raise local voices and bring their visions to life. “Come take in these explorations of life: happy, sad, zany, and everything in between!” encourage organizers.

Plant along river gorge
Join Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) staff and volunteers on June 25, from 6-8 p.m. for a worknight along the beautiful and rare oak savanna and woodlands located just off the main trail along the Minneapolis side of the river gorge. Spend the evening planting shrubs, wildflowers, sedges and a few trees helping to build a buffer of native plant populations around the prized oak savanna area and will help to re-establish native vegetation where buckthorn has been previously removed.
All are welcome and no experience is needed. All tools, gloves and training will be provided. However, be prepared to work on steep slopes and uneven terrain.To learn more and register, visit

Anxiety support group meets
NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness) sponsors free support groups for persons with anxiety disorders. The groups help individuals develop better coping skills and find strength through sharing their experiences. An Open Door Anxiety and Panic support group meets in St. Paul’s Highland Park from 6:30 to 8 p.m., on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 700 Snelling Ave. S., in Room 108. For information, call Les at 612-229-1863 or NAMI at 651-645-2948.

New youth kickball leagues
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board just launched brand-new youth kickball leagues in South Minneapolis. Teams from different Southside parks will learn the rules of kickball and partake in friendly competition against each other during a four-week season that begins after Fourth of July Weekend. Emphasis will be placed on fun. To sign up, go to, or visit any of the following South Minneapolis recreation centers: Corcoran, Keewaydin, Lake Hiawatha, McRae, Morris, Nokomis or Powderhorn.

Hiawatha Golf CAC meets next June 11
The Hiawatha Golf Course Property Master Plan continues to move forward with a new Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting scheduled Tuesday, June 11, 2019, 6-8:30 pm at Pearl Recreation Center, 414 E Diamond Lake Rd. The June 11 CAC meeting will take the form of a workshop in which CAC members will decide on an outline for a single preferred design alternative for the golf course property. The CAC will discuss what they like and don’t like about the three concepts, potentially propose ideas that are a combination of any of the concepts, or propose new ideas that fit the project’s vision and guiding principles. All CAC meetings are public and anyone interested in the creation a long-term plan for the Hiawatha Golf Course Property is welcome to attend. Snacks, refreshments, and passive children’s activities are provided. Contact Cindy Anderson at 612-230-6472 or to request language, access or interpretation accommodations.

Annual parade at McRae Park on June 1
Field Regina Northrop Neighborhood Group & McRae Park’s annual neighborhood parade and celebration is set for Saturday, June 1 at 906 East 47th Street, 55407 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Rain date Saturday, June 8. Join in the fun of pony rides, live music, a magician, free ice cream cones, games for kids, a giant bouncy house, urban chickens, face painting, exhibit lane, food trucks, a drawing for bike giveaways from Nokomis Cycle and more, plus purchase raffle tickets to win a 55-inch TV. Parade lineup is at 10:45 a.m. at Field School parking lot, 46th St. and 4th Ave., with the parade starting at 11 and ending at McRae Park. More at

Hiawatha Academies Senior Signing Day

Hiawatha Collegiate High School’s 75 scholars have 265 college admission letters in hand. In all, 100% of seniors are planning to attend college. (Photo by Natanael Moreno)

On Friday, May 17, 2019 the first graduating class of Hiawatha Academies celebrated their admission to college. One hundred percent of Hiawatha Collegiate High School’s seniors have been admitted to college. At the event, each senior announced in front of family, friends and supporters the college they have chosen to attend.
Hiawatha Collegiate High School’s 75 scholars have 265 college admissions letters in hand. One hundred percent college admission is remarkable in Minnesota, a state with one of the nation’s lowest high school graduation rates for students of color. Hiawatha Academies (3500 E 28th St.) aims to ensure access to college as a path to eliminate educational disparities between students of color and their white peers.
Nearly all of the students will be the first in their family to attend college. “Being accepted into college is a really big step in my life,” says Kamren Anderson, a senior at Hiawatha Collegiate High School. “I used to think that I wasn’t smart enough to go to college or like I would never go to college. Over the years I’ve matured and tell myself that I can do it and not give up.”
Hiawatha Academies is a network of high-performing K-12 college preparatory public charter schools located in South Minneapolis. Its mission is to empower all Hiawatha scholars with the knowledge, character and leadership skills to graduate from college and serve the common good. Its vision is to honor the humanity of all people, by actively disrupting systemic inequity in pursuit of an equitable world, and permanently disrupting educational inequity by ensuring a great school for every child.

Theatre at St. Peder’s
Open Eye Figure Theatre is coming to St. Peder’s (4600 E. 42nd St.) and presenting “The Adventures of Katie Tomatie” – an all ages outdoor puppet show – on July 28, 7-8 p.m. More at

Longfellow Garden Club Plant Swap: Growing Iris
Irises have inspired painters and gardeners for centuries. Whether you are new to growing irises or are an experienced iris gardener, come learn about the many varieties of irises and how to plant and care for these beautiful flowers on June 12, 7 p.m., Epworth United Methodist Church (3207 37th Ave S.).The speaker will be Tim Moore, who has been growing irises for over 20 years and whose home garden has been on two national tours. He is currently on the board of directors of the Tall Bearded Iris Society and the Dwarf Iris Society.

Get outdoors June 7
Curious about archery, canoeing, climbing, fishing or Zumba? Try out those outdoor activities and more, for free, at Powderhorn Park during National Get Outdoors Day, June 7, 4-8 p.m. There will be local entertainment for the whole family and dinner available for purchase from food trucks. Powderhorn Park is located at 3400 15th Ave S. and is easily accessible by bus or bicycle. Plenty of on-street parking is also available. The event and recreational activities are presented by the REI Co-op, The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, US Forest Service, Minneapolis Parks Foundation and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Ellen Sweetman show at The Vine Arts
The Vine Arts Gallery and livelybrush, LLC. are pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by native-born Minnesota artist, Ellen Sweetman (Minnetonka) June 1 to June 28. Sweetman dismantles her layered identity, old belief systems, and education, and ideas behind acceptance. Utilizing all the tools in her toolbox, she unlearns and begins anew. Discovering her own unique process of creation and becoming reborn in art.

Upcoming events at Hook & Ladder
Dylan & The Dead, The Jones Gang with special “Dylan” guests Mae Simpson, Dan Israel, James Loney, Mark Joseph, Jon Sullivan plus Tangled Up In Dylan, & Dreams of the Wild will be performing on Friday, June 7, 8 p.m. at the Hook & Ladder, 3010 Minnehaha Ave. The Magnolias with Mike Nicolai (backed by The Rank Strangers), and The Owl-Eyes will be on Friday, June 14. The Suitcase Junket with special guest Snarles B is on Sunday, June 16. The Belfast Cowboys are a nine-piece band that specializes in the music of Van Morrison. They have become one of Minnesota’s (and The Hook & Ladder’s) most popular bands, traveling only when their feet get itchy or the offer is too good to refuse. See them on Saturday, June 22. Malamanya, a U.S.-based band of musicians who mutually share respect and enthusiasm for traditional rhythms and melodies from Cuba and Latin America, will perform on Thursday, June 27. Twin Cities musicians Mark Lickteig and Andra Lee Suchy team up to present a special celebration of two of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music – seminal soul music and rhythm and blues artists, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin on Sunday, June 30.

Picnic & Praise
Enjoy the beautiful spring evenings with a casual picnic meal and informal worship outdoors on the circle drive of Trinity Lutheran of Minnehaha Falls (52nd St. and 40th Ave.). Food and music are provided; bring a lawn chair if you’d like. The meal begins at 6 p.m. each Wednesday in June followed by worship and wrapping up about 7:30 p.m. Call 612-724-3691 for more details.

VBS at Morris Park
All children preschool through 5th grade are invited to kick off summer with a “roar” at Morris Park from 9:30 a.m. to noon, June 10-14. “Life is wild and God is good – and so is having fun with new friends and old,” say organizers. “There will be games, tasty snacks, singing and lots of laughs while learning how amazing God is in our lives.” Register online at or call 612-724-3691 with questions.

Ice cream, social set for June 20
The 7th annual Ice Cream Social and Sidewalk Sale at 56th and Chicago is planned for Thursday, June 20, 4-7 p.m. There will be ice cream, hot dogs, bouncy house, shopping and more. The annual event is hosted by Diamond Lake Community Business Alliance.

Elder voices meets
Elder Voices will meet Friday, May 31 and Friday, June 28, 10-11:30am. Elder Voices meets at Turtle Bread Company , 4205 34th St the corner of 42nd Ave. and 34th St. There will be time for people to tell or update their Elder stories. Don will be back from being hit by a car on his way to Elder Voices on Feb. 22. DeWayne and Marcea will be back from their road trip.

Clay center of celebration July 13
Celebrate the summer season and the opening of Northern Clay Center’s annual exhibition Six McKnight Artists during an afternoon open house on Saturday, July 13, from 1-4 p.m., 2424 Franklin Ave. E. See the works of talented mid-career artists from across the country and the world. Partake in fellowship, picnic food, fun, and hands-on, clay-themed games and contests. Tour the annual Studio Artist Sale, which runs Saturday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, and features artwork by several dozen artists who work, glaze, and fire at the Clay Center. A wide range of sculpture, tableware, and serving pieces will be featured from over 50 in-house talented artists.

LSS Healthy Seniors June events
Join Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors and Minneapolis Community Education for a monthly Senior Social/Health Talk on Tuesday, June 18 at 10:30 a.m. (doors open at 10 a.m.) at Bradshaw Funeral & Cremation Services, 3131 Minnehaha Ave. The presentation is “The Seward Neighborhood – A People’s History.” The Seward Neighborhood Group History Committee compiled a history of this vibrant and historic neighborhood and this book is the result. They’ll share stories that celebrate the people and events that make Seward Neighborhood an important part of Minneapolis history. Tai Chi Easy exercise classes are held on Mondays from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 2730 E. 31st Street. Classes cost $5/each and discounts may be available for lower income seniors. Weekly classes will be held through June 24, and then will break for the rest of the summer. Tai Chi is low-impact, slow-motion exercise that’s adaptable to individual abilities. Movements vary between sitting and standing and help improve breathing, coordination, flexibility and strength. Registration is not required – come and try it! A free monthly Diabetes Support Group for adults will be held on June 12 from 1-2:30 p.m. at Trinity Apartments, 2800 E. 31st St.. Anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes is invited to attend. Additionally, Healthy Seniores is looking for “Friendly Visitor” volunteers and volunteer drivers to help seniors live independently. Call Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors at 612-729-5799 or email for more information on activities, services or volunteer opportunities.

VBS, Weed & Water, Beer and Bible
Whether you’re new to the Bible, new to beer, or well-versed in both, you’re invited to join the Beer and Bible group every second Wednesday at Merlin’s Rest organized by Epworth UMC All walks of life and faith welcome. “Come and enjoy great discussion and fellowship —beer is optional,” say organizers. Weed & Water Wednesday is every Wednesday through Aug. 7, 9:30-11 a.m., at Epworth UMC (3207 37th Ave S, Minneapolis). Kids 0 to 8 and their caring adult are invited to Epworth every Wednesday to tend to the Epworth Garden. Each free session will include a story, craft, games and a snack. Any donations for snacks or supplies are appreciated. Calling all children ages 5-11 – you’re invited to God’s Garden, God’s City Vacation Bible School at Epworth Aug. 12-16, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. “Kids will not want to miss this action-packed week, where we will explore the entire faith story, from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. We’ll learn more about God’s creation and his love for us through stories, crafts, games, science and music! Each day will also include lunch,” say organizers. Learn more and sign up at

Hope for parents
On Sunday, June 9, Hope Lutheran Church (5728 Cedar Avenue South, Minneapolis) welcomes Pastor Hollie Holt-Woehl to lead the adult forum at 9 a.m. and worship at 10 a.m. At the Adult forum Holt-Woehl will share about her recently published book, “They don’t come with Instructions: Cries, Wisdom and Hope for Parenting Children with Developmental Challenges.” The book offers companionship for the journey with a developmentally challenged child. The mother of a son with an autism diagnosis, Holt-Woehl recognizes that parenting is never easy. Drawing on her own experience and that of nearly forty other parents she surveyed, Holt-Woehl shares stories, information, and insights about tending to the pain, recognizing the joy, and finding ways to keep hope through the ups and downs of this path. The book focuses on the challenges of parenting children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), and/or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

Mental illness and substance abuse
A free Dual Diagnosis peer support group for adults recovering from both a mental illness and a substance use disorder such as chemical dependency meets bi-weekly in Minneapolis. The group is sponsored by NAMI Minnesota (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Trained facilitators who are also in recovery lead the group, which meets on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, from 2-3:30 p.m., at Hennepin Ave United Methodist Church, 511 Groveland Ave., in the Longfellow Room. Use the east entrance and ask the receptionist for directions. For information, contact Bruce at 612-338-9084.
All ages ultimate Frisbee
Transition Longfellow hosts All ages Ultimate Frisbee! Thursdays, 5:30 p.m. to dusk at Brackett Park. It’s purposely a low-barrier-of-entry group and style of play. “If you kind-of maybe know how to throw a frisbee and are ok with some jogging, this game is for you!” say organizers. All ages and experience levels – we’ve had kids from age 8 to over 60.

Women’s Golf Week
Women’s Golf Day expands to Women’s Golf Week. Free golf and lessons June 3-7. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Play Golf Minneapolis courses are the only golf courses in the state hosting outdoor Women’s Golf Week events, with FREE clinics, or a FREE 9-hole round (walking or riding on a cart) offered at six golf courses throughout the city.

Catholic school partners with Groves
Our Lady of Peace Catholic School has been selected by Catholic Schools Center of Excellence as one of 18 Catholic elementary schools to participate in a literacy partnership with Groves Academy. CSCOE helps Catholic elementary schools enhance educational excellence and increase their enrollments and Groves Academy advocates for evidence-based literacy instruction for all students in the state of Minnesota. The Groves Literacy Framework™ is a comprehensive, three-year program for reading and spelling instruction designed to prevent reading problems using evidence-based practices supported by scientific research. Weekly classroom coaching, monthly team meetings and other teacher supports are key to the Framework’s success. “Our goal is to have each and every child in our Catholic elementary schools be fluent readers and spellers by the end of third grade. The Framework not only helps the typical student excel, but it can also identify students who struggle and provide them with the support they need to be successful,” said Gail Dorn, president, CSCOE. “We believe that the Groves approach is the best and most successful in the country and we want to partner with the very best!”

Venn Brewing honored
Venn Brewing earned best in the Fruit & Spice Beers (Non-sour) for its Breakfast Stout in the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild (MNCBG) inaugural MN Brewers Cup. More than 500 beers from 80 Minnesota breweries were submitted to 24 beer categories, ranging from Light Lagers to Imperial Stouts and Porters to Wild and Sour Ales. Beers were judged by 30 BJCP certified beer judges. The Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild ( is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 2000. The Guild promotes Minnesota’s booming brewing industry by sponsoring festivals and special events, and ultimately showcasing the talent of Minnesota’s craft brewers.

Reading and math tutors needed
Longfellow-Nokomis schools need 11 literacy and math tutors for the 2019-2020 school year according to Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps. Minnesota is reported to have one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation, heightening the need for literacy and math tutors in schools throughout the state. Longfellow-Nokomis schools that have been awarded tutor positions are: Dowling School, Urban Environmental Magnet (K3/Math); Hiawatha Community School (PreK); Pillsbury Elementary (PreK); and Sheridan Arts Magnet (PreK/K3). Tutors are being sought for three different levels of commitment: 35, 25 or 18 hours a week. Tutors receive a stipend every two weeks, and can earn up to an additional $4,200 for student loans or tuition, which can be gifted to a family member if the tutor is 55 or older. Many tutors also qualify for additional benefits like free health insurance and child care assistance. Anyone interested is encouraged to apply now at or by calling 866-859-2825. Tutors will begin in August 2019, and spend the next school year making the commitment to “Help Minnesota Be More.”

Sen. Torres Ray honored
State Senator Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) was honored at the 8th Annual Minnesota DFL Humphrey-Mondale Dinner on Friday, May 24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The dinner celebrates leaders in the DFL party who make significant contributions to the Democratic party and the State of Minnesota. Senator Torres Ray will receive the Joan and Walter Mondale for Public Service Award in recognition for her tireless work and advocacy on behalf of all Minnesotans, particularly those who are most in need. After working in public policy for 16 years, Senator Patricia Torres Ray became the first Latina elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2006. In 2010 she was the first woman of color to run as Lieutenant Governor in the State. She is a recognized local and national leader and was recently elected to chair the National Caucus of Latina Elected Officials within the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, NHCSL. She is a Public Affairs graduate from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, a former adjunct faculty, and ongoing consultant for the school. She has been a resident of Minneapolis for 30 years and has two boys, ages 24 and 22.

Submit your news
If you are an organization located in the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger delivery area, you can submit your event, special program, or noteworthy news to us for consideration. Submit your item by email to The deadline for the next issue is Monday, June 17 for the June 27 issue.

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‘Beloved Community’ gathers for what may be last MayDay

Posted on 04 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Record numbers of South Minneapolis residents “got together” for the 45th annual MayDay Parade, the last for organizer Sandy Spieler. Heart of the Beast Theater announced in January that it did not have the funds to continue organizing MayDay on its own and asked for help. Individual donors pitched in and HOTB raised the full $200,000 it needed for this year’s event. This year’s ‘Beloved Community’ MayDay theme asked attendees how to carry forward the legacy that MayDay has nurtured. “That question is held in the potential of a seedling tree,” pointed out HOTB Executive Director Corrie Zoll. This year, 1,035 tree seedlings were distributed with the intention that they take root in the neighborhoods as an investment in the future. Those who would like to see MayDay continue are working to figure out how to decentralize the MayDay model, create an equity framework that ensures ownership and decision-making representation from many, and develops a new business plan with a more resilient set of resources to support the work of the Heart of the Beast. “We need your voice, your input, and your support,” said Zoll. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

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Too Much Coffee: Print is not dead – but we are changing

Posted on 04 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Tesha M. Christensen, owner & editor


Print is dead, you say?
Nah. It’s just evolving.
A few months ago I attended the Minnesota Newspapers Association (MNA) annual convention, and listened to a speaker talk about just that. I was particularly interested in the topic as I was negotiating to purchase the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger and Midway Como Monitor from longtime owners Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson. Was I taking a leap into a dying industry?
After listening to Bill Ostendorf of Creative Circle Media Solutions, I was reassured. He’s spent his whole career in newspapers, and he doesn’t believe print is dead.
After 20 years in the industry, I don’t either.
Why am I convinced?
Well, they first started saying newspapers were going to die when radio got popular. But newspapers stuck around.
Then they said newspapers and radio couldn’t last when the television came out. Yet newspapers stayed and even thrived.
When the Internet got big, they were sure it was the final death knoll of newspapers, radio and television. Yet radios are still in every car, most people have one or more televisions in their house, and newspapers continue to print.
The thing is, people are reading now more than ever before. So the question isn’t whether people are reading, the question is are they going to read particular publications.
The questions those of us in the news industry need to be asking is why should people read our stuff instead of the myriad of information out there.
What makes us different?
What makes us worth reading?
What makes our editions important?
Those are the questions I’m committed to asking. I entered the field of journalism at the cusp of the Internet revolution. For those first few years, I called the local librarian to doublecheck my details. And then fact-checking things became much faster via Google. (Although with its own new set of accuracy questions.) I even did a few editions of cut and paste before we switched over to electronic layout with QuarkExpress.
As I ask others what they love about neighborhood newspapers, I have been thinking about what I value. I want to know what’s happening on my street, what development is going to change my neighborhood, and what fascinating things my neighbors are engaged in. I want to see photos of kids I know and congratulate them on their achievements, noting, “I saw you in the paper.” I want to hear the various sides of issues and wrestle over what the best solution will be in the long run. I want to learn what sparked the coffee shop and hardware store and secondhand boutique owners to open up shop, and hear what tips they have for other entrepreneurs.
The daily stuff of my neighborhood can’t be found anywhere but in the papers of my neighborhood newspaper.
That’s what I love about community journalism. I stay in this industry because I love local, I love to see people engaged, and I love to watch community being built. I appreciate the slice of life the pages of the Messenger offer each month.
I’m also excited to see how newspapers are being innovative and creative. It’s amazing to see the convergence of media – of print, TV, radio, audio, video, and more – coming together in to something new.
What will community newspapers look like in 10 years? I’m looking forward to finding out. I think that the answer lies in asking our readers what they want.
Bill Ostendorf encouraged all the reporters in the room at the MNA Convention (and his session was packed) to focus on being reader-centric. This starts with the basics of what we write in an article, how we shape it, and who we include in it. It also means focusing on writing really good headlines about people instead of things, and really interesting photo cutlines. Plus we need more break-out boxes and standout photos. Research has shown that people read headlines, cutlines and break-out boxes first – and they may or may not read the whole article.
Ostendorf advocated for content that is more engaging and more relevant. He encouraged designers to adopt modular layouts that are easier on the eyes. He encouraged sales staff to sell bigger ads that get attention and bring value to the readers.
Ostendorf reminded us that our print newspapers help people live better lives. The information within our pages informs and educates. It helps people make better decisions and be successful.
What do you want from the pages of the Messenger? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at

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View from the Messenger: Let’s hear it for/from our readers!

Posted on 04 June 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Denis Woulfe


I’ve spent the last few weeks helping to introduce the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger’s new owner, Tesha M. Christensen, to Messenger advertisers, readers, and other stakeholders. And during that process it has reminded me of when I was making the rounds introducing myself to Messenger stakeholders when we purchased the paper from Bill and Maureen Milbrath in 1986.
One of the first community groups I met was the Longfellow Ministerial Association. The Milbraths believed that a neighborhood newspaper was an important vehicle to connect all the community stakeholders and provide a forum for residents to discuss important community issues, and they recognized that the area churches provided an important framework for residents to make a connection to the community.
Meeting with the dozen or so ministers who were active in the Ministerial Association was a bit intimidating, as it was obvious that these ministers were regular readers of the Messenger and truly embraced the mission of the Messenger and felt that they were a part of it.
Interestingly, after Bill Milbrath introduced me as the new Editor of the Messenger and the new Advertiser Manager, the ministers went around their large table and asked me a host of questions.
Finally, one pastor asked what ended up being the capstone question for the meeting. “Denis, do you know the name of that structure that connects the Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis to the Merriam Park neighborhood in St. Paul over the Mississippi River?”
I paused for a moment, and I’m sure my face looked a bit puzzled with what seemed like such an odd question, but then I spoke up. “Do you mean the Lake Street Bridge?”
All the pastors started to laugh. I looked inquisitively at Bill for some explanation, and he just smiled and said, “You just passed the test, Denis!”
The pastor asking the question had assumed that I would answer “Marshall Avenue Bridge,” given the fact that our original newspaper for over 20 years had been the Midway Como Monitor in St. Paul and he figured I would see things from a St. Paul vantage point. Because my sister had lived in South Minneapolis for many years, just on the edge of the coverage area for the Messenger, I had always thought of it as the Lake Street Bridge and rarely used Marshall Avenue Bridge in conversation.
Perspective can be a very important thing in publishing a neighborhood newspaper and our goal continues to be to represent all the stakeholders in Longfellow and Nokomis the very best we can by engaging our readers and trying to publish articles and content that is important to them.
But we need your help to make the Messenger even better.
You might know that the Messenger’s new owner is a South Minneapolis resident herself, and as a reporter for the Messenger for the past eight years, she is already well versed on many issues of vital concern to Longfellow Nokomis residents. But in addition to that obvious advantage, we are in the midst of reaching out to residents and business owners like you to find out just what you like about the Messenger and what you’d like to change.
If you have an idea for a story or want to introduce yourself to the new owner, Tesha M. Christensen, you can email her at or call her directly at 612-345-9998.
Or maybe you’d like to find out more about advertising opportunities in the Messenger? I hear this question quite a bit, but just to say this, it is through the advertising of our local businesses that we are able to bring you the Messenger each month. And in turn, it is those same local businesses who want to reach out to local residents like you for their customer base. A community newspaper like the Messenger recognizes that bond between businesses and their local customer base and we help facilitate it.
But you might also know that the options for advertising have changed over the years. In addition to run of press ads in the newspaper, we also offer inserts that can be directed to specific routes in the Messenger delivery area. Inserts can also be a great option for a new restaurant or a church holding a special event. We also offer a special Partner Insert Program where we pair two local businesses to print and distribute a flyer. That makes distributing flyers more reasonable than ever before.
And don’t forget online advertising (you can find us online all the time at Online ads can be placed online almost immediately and it’s a nice complement to appearing in the printed newspaper.
I’d be happy to continue this conversation with you directly. Send me a note at or call me at 651-917-4183.

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Mayor Jacob Frey touts his first-year-in-office accomplishments

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

It has been a little over a year since Jacob Frey (photo right provided) took over the reins as mayor of Minneapolis. But in that year, Frey has made some incremental changes.

Making affordable housing one of his priorities, he has worked on a new initiative, “Stable Homes, Stable Schools,” built on a collaboration with private and public partners and designed to provide stable housing for Minneapolis public school students and families facing homelessness.

Longfellow schools Sullivan and Anishinaabe Academy are among the 15 schools participating in the program, which is a team effort with partners from the City, Minneapolis Public Schools, the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and Hennepin County.

The program focuses on schools with the highest rates of homelessness.

“I included $3.3 million in my first budget as mayor to support the program,” Frey said. “In its first three years, we hope that the program can house up to 320 families and as many as 648 kids.”

Frey said he hopes that this program will not just provide stable housing to families and kids that need it, but will also help stabilize Minneapolis public schools. “We can’t expect our students to learn and succeed in the classroom if they don’t have a room to rest their head at night,” he said. “And our kids are worth the cost.”

Another major issue the mayor has focused on is sexual assault. “Reporting sexual assault is an act of courage,” he stated. “Survivors experience unspeakable trauma, and honoring their bravery requires we make every effort to ensure investigations are handled with compassion and ultimately guided by the goal of delivering justice.”

Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo have set out to pursue a new policy to improve how sexual assault is handled in the city. “The policy is built on the pillars of compassion for victims, responsiveness to survivors and accountability,” Frey explained.

Some of its specifics include victim-centered training for sexual assault investigations, trauma-informed interview techniques and implementing best practices for investigators to follow during a sexual assault case. Also, an in-house victim advocate who works alongside investigators and assists survivors through investigation and legal process will be a part of the new policy.

“Our sexual assault policy holds our investigators to high standards,” Frey noted, “but elected officials also need to be held accountable for giving Arradondo and our police department the resources they need to meet those high standards. Our police department receives more than 700 reports of rape alone per year. We only have eight investigators to handle all of these cases on top of the other crimes they’re assigned.”

Frey is hoping that adding more police officers to the department will help improve the relationship between residents and police, which has suffered in the past.

“Adding more officers will help make Minneapolis safer, through a likely reduction in crime and a lower rate of incarceration,” he said. He cited increased funding by President Barack Obama in 2009 for the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS). “Data has shown that jurisdictions which used the money to add officers saw a concurrent drop in crime without an increase in arrests.

“We also need to improve the response times for 911 calls in Minneapolis,” Frey said, noting that it can sometimes take as long as 30 minutes for an officer to show up when some residents call 911.

“Hiring more officers will reduce the use of force,” Frey continued. “Research has shown that over-scheduled, overworked and fatigued officers are more likely to use force in tense situations.” He said studies have also shown that the number of complaints against a police department drops when cops are less tired. “The best cure for over-scheduling responsible for those problems is more staff.”

“Chief Arradondo has repeatedly requested more officers,” Frey said. “I trust Arradondo to shift the culture of the MPD and advance our goals around community policing. We should give him the resources he needs to do that.”

In his first year, Frey also has stressed immigration issues. “Our immigrant communities have driven so many of the successes that have made Minneapolis an amazing city,” he stated. “Whether it’s our small businesses, our arts scene or our nonprofits, immigrants have made Minneapolis a place where people want to live, invest and start businesses. As mayor, I have an obligation to do everything I can to make sure their talents and contributions stay in Minneapolis.”

He said one of the accomplishments he is most proud of is outfitting every MPD squad car with ‘Know-Your-ICE-Rights’ placards that outline a person’s rights as they pertain to ICE. “We will not let a lack of compassion at the highest levels of our government go unanswered in Minneapolis.”

Frey added that this is also a key step in continuing to build trust between the police department and the community. “We are focused on keeping everyone in our city safe, not on immigration enforcement.”

Celebrating the city is also on the mayor’s mind. Doors Open Minneapolis is a celebration of the city and the spaces that make it unique. “On the weekend of May 18-19, venues and sites across our city will open their doors to the public for free, behind-the-scenes access,” he said. More information can be found at

Reflecting on his first year in office, Mayor Frey said he found his most challenging and complex issue to be the Hiawatha homeless encampment. “It forced us to confront the scope of both our housing crisis and the opioid epidemic,” he said.

“From the start, our entire coalition—city leadership, tribes, Red Lake Nation, Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors—was committed to centering our actions on compassion and a response for human dignity. Our hope is that what we have done will have a lasting impact for the people we serve,” Frey stated.

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Longfellow resident wins prestigious 2019 Bush Fellowship grant

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

Longfellow resident Heather Cusick engaged with the soil at a very early age. And today, as she has been named a 2019 Bush Fellow, she reflects on those early beginnings and how they have played a part in her life ever since.

“I grew up on a farm in Kansas,” she said. “I had access to the natural sites and seasons, and all of that brought sustenance as well as a lot of the values I have. It set in motion my love of the natural world, my protection of the natural world and my concern for the natural world.”

Cusick said that food and soil have been a part of her life in its entirety, and for the past ten years she has had an urban farm in South Minneapolis.
Cusick learned in March that she was one of 24 Bush Fellows, selected from a group of 684 individuals from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 native nations located within those states.

Photo right: During her two-year 2019 Bush Fellowship grant Longfellow resident Heather Cusick will focus on agriculture and climate advocacy. (Photo by Jan Willms)

According to the Bush Foundation policy, Fellows receive up to $100,000 to use from 12 to 24 months in pursuit of a learning experience that will help them develop leadership skills in their chosen field.

Cusick will start her grant in June, and it will continue for two years.

Reflecting on her upbringing, Cusick said food and growing food has a remarkable way of being a lovely language between people. “The chance to be engaged with the soil and gardening and farming has been very much what has inspired me to focus on the protection of the environment,” she said.

Cusick worked for 17 years for the Sierra Club, where she served most recently as Beyond Coal Campaign Regional Campaign Director for the Central/Eastern Regions. Cusick said her work for the past ten years on a national climate campaign offered her the opportunity to work with teams in almost all of the states at one time or another.

“I worked with remarkable people all over the country who are focused to make a huge difference.”

Cusick left the Sierra Club in 2018 and now works as a consultant for Climate Bridge Strategies.

Individuals apply to become a Bush Fellow. “You discuss a little bit of your leadership, your accomplishments, your dreams, and your visions,” Cusick explained. “And then you refine the information through multiple steps. At the end of the process, there is a selection committee that selects the Fellows after a half-day of interviews. “For me, the process and the selection was a real honor and unique opportunity.”

Cusick said that for years she has been working on issues, mentoring, training, and managing staff and volunteers. “This offers me a time to really pause and ask the question about what are some of the areas I would like to develop as I move into this next phase of my interests. The fellowship will allow me the opportunity to transition into a climate and agriculture focus. This is really a wonderful opportunity to respectfully and intentionally enter this community.”

During her career, Cusick has had a lifelong commitment to environmental protection and to communities that are most deeply impacted by climate-disrupting pollution.

With the Fellowship, she said she wants to focus on agriculture and climate advocacy. To accomplish this, she plans to study agricultural models around the world, deepen her equity and racial justice competency and seek coaching to build a stronger public voice.

“I can go to other locations and look at places that were early leaders in climate commitments, and places that produced food with low greenhouse gas emissions,” Cusick said. “It will take me out of the country and expand my perspective. I also am rooting myself in the science, and as much technical urban and rural farming information, as possible…”

“The program is very flexible,” Cusick continued. “I am doing a self-designed program.” She said she will learn from local as well as international communities. “I am interested in expanding my exposure. I have so much to learn.”

“The Bush Fellowship program really benefits our region, and we are really fortunate,” Cusick stated. “They do this every year, where they award an opportunity for someone to develop their leadership through these fellowships.”

Individuals in a wide variety of fields have been selected to be a Bush Fellow. Cusick said the other Fellowship winners are an incredible group of people. “We will have a retreat together, which I am looking forward to,” she explained, “and some additional opportunities to meet after that.”

As the two years move forward, Cusick said she will document her progress and will file reflections throughout the project.

According to Cusick, being a Bush Fellow provides one with an opportunity that is unique and positive.

“Climate Science says we have to change a lot about how we transport ourselves, grow our food, and heat our homes, among other things. The great part is that there are a lot of people out there tracking a lot of healthy environmental practices. They are innovating every day.”

“Our job,” she continued, “is to make sure that they can do this work at scale and be supported and have obstacles removed. Our generation knows what our impact is. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to reduce this impact for future generations, and that is very, very important.”


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Paddle Bridge brings kayak tours to the Mississippi River Gorge

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

Theo Byrnes is the owner of Paddle Bridge Guide Collective, a new service that brings people out on the Mississippi River Gorge in kayaks. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Kayak enthusiast and Minneapolis native Theo Byrnes didn’t paddle the Mississippi River until he was almost 20 years old. Along with his family, Byrnes had explored the city lakes and the St. Croix River as a kid but, like many people, they had stayed clear of the Mississippi.

Now the owner of a two-year-old business called Paddle Bridge Guide Collective, Byrnes is enthusiastically getting paddlers of all ages and abilities out on the mighty river. The driving force behind Paddle Bridge is to promote urban adventure, paddle safety, and the history and ecology of the Mississippi River Gorge.

As a kid, Byrnes came up through the ranks of the YMCA’s Camp Menogyn. He paddled all the way to the Arctic Circle with their advanced explorer’s program in 2007 and got hooked. He found a job guiding for “Above the Falls” in 2009, an operation that brought kayakers out on the river above St. Anthony Falls. When the owner retired in 2017, Byrnes and his co-workers wanted to keep guiding together, and the Paddle Bridge Guide Collective was born. More than just a local outfitter, they are working to create an active and sustainable river community.

All of the Paddle Bridge guides are extensively trained in First Aid and Water Rescue techniques to guarantee a safe paddle experience. “For new paddlers,” Byrnes said, “we start with basic instruction on the shore, and cover everything a person needs to know to feel comfortable on the water. The stretch of the river between Minneapolis and St. Paul is the only naturally occurring gorge on the entire Mississippi. Water speeds are faster here because it’s a narrow stretch. We hope to have our full schedule online by mid-May, if the weather cooperates. Water levels will still be up, but safe for paddling.”

Lessons for experienced paddlers who want to hone their skills are also available by request; kayak terminology, techniques, hazard awareness, and self-rescue are covered. To inquire about lessons, email

Paddle Bridge has a fleet of 12 red hot kayaks made by Current Designs in Winona, including four tandems which accommodate two paddlers at-a-time. There are life jackets for all ages and sizes, though 12 years old is the minimum recommended age. Younger children can be included on private tours.

Two-hour River Gorge tours are $65/person, four-hour River Gorge tours are $95/person, and 1.5-hour sunset tours of Boom Island are $45/person (30% discount for all tours for kids under 16).

Tours are by reservation only. Check the website for availability at When making a reservation, specify if you have a particular area of interest in the river.

“All of our guides have their own interests including geology and biology,” Byrnes said. “Across the board, I’d say our strongest suit is history. Our goals are to get people out on the water; we guarantee them a memorable experience and a good night’s rest.”



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Longtime news hounds reflect on 44 years of neighborhood press

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

Newspapers have helped shape and form community identity within the two neighborhoods they serve

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.

“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 the 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.

“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 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.

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 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 (St. Paul) 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 Bethel’s old St. Paul 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.”

Reach across the river
In 1986, deRuyter Nelson expanded its reach across the river into Minneapolis and purchased the Longfellow Messenger. Soon after the purchase, they expanded into the Nokomis East 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 the 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 closing after 25 years as deRuyter and Nelson retire.

The Monitor and Messenger gave up the longtime Iris Park Place office in St. Paul 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 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 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.

What’s next for these longtime news hounds?

After balancing his newspaper business with the artwork that he picked back up 18 years ago, deRuyter (photo right) plans to focus on his art business ( 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 (photo left) 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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