Organization honors the legacy of mothers and grandmothers

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

Virkelyst, an organization of Danish American women in South Minneapolis, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

Virke means work, and lyst means willing, when translated from Danish into English. Quoting from an early Virkelyst scrapbook, “This gathering of willing workers began as a club to spread good cheer to the less fortunate, wherever they might be, and to help further good causes.” It was also meant to be a social outlet for women that could fill a need in their lives for greater community and friendship.

Ginny Leppart is a third generation Virkelyst member. “It’s amazing what these women were able to accomplish with limited means in the last years of the Great Depression,” she said. “They met on the first Wednesday of each month, taking turns hosting in each other’s homes. Their children would accompany them, playing together while the women knitted and sewed. Many of the children and grandchildren of the founding members are still close friends.”

Photo right: Club members Ginny Leppart (left) and Kathryn Jensen pored over one of the many Virkelyst scrapbooks. The two women have been friends for decades. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

“This was a progressive women’s organization from the start,” Lepart explained. “The first Virkelyst project was making baby clothes for unwed mothers at the former Booth Memorial Hospital in St. Paul. Single parenthood wasn’t something much talked about or addressed in those days. Over time, we’ve raised money and made donations of goods and clothing to so many women’s organizations; we don’t consider anything regarding women’s issues to be taboo.” The current Virkelyst service project is raising donations for a non-profit called Helping Women Period, which provides feminine hygiene products for low income and homeless women.

Kathryn Jensen is a second generation Virkelyst member. She explained, “Of our current 40 or so female members, all are either Danish, married to Danes, or somehow connected to the Danish American Center (DAC), located at 3030 W. River Pkwy. And for the record, it’s not that we discriminate against men; it’s just that none have ever asked to join.”

Members of Virkelyst have compiled several scrapbooks dating back to the formation of their club. In 1938, there were no membership dues—but a contribution of 10 cents per month was suggested to cover the cost of coffee. The pages of these scrapbooks give the reader a considerable glimpse into what life was like back then—in ways both small and large. Most strikingly, the scrapbooks document the changing roles of women in the community and the relationships that have sustained the Virkelyst members for 80 years.

During WWII, members of Virkelyst sent what money they could to the Danish War Relief effort. They also gathered at a work center on Lake St. organized by the National America-Denmark Association to sew and repair clothing. There were shortages of clothing all across Europe at that time. A thank you card that arrived after the end of the war said, “Even though clothing is finally available again in the stores, their cost is out of reach for the average Dane. Your continued gifts of clothing and toys for the children have been received with joy and thankfulness, not only for the material help but for the evidence of love crossing oceans and national boundaries.”

An entry from 1952 spoke to the American Baby Boom Generation and the Korean War. ”We gained six new members this year,” the entry notes, “bringing our membership up to 31. It’s gotten hard to pack everyone into our smaller homes for meetings, as many of our young members are having babies in a trend that hasn’t let up since! This was a year that almost all of our charitable giving was in the form of money. We sent $143 worth of CARE packages to Korea for the American soldiers fighting there.”

Changes in fashion and the introduction of new ideas were referenced in an entry from 1962. “Our program themes this year went from the sublime to the ridiculous. A beauty salon gave a demonstration of modern hairstyles, using some of our own members as models. For one meeting, the topic was fashionable hats and how to wear them.

Later in the year, Reverend Jorgenson gave a talk on ‘What to do when a family member dies,’ and Professor Kazuko Suwa gave a demonstration in modern Japanese flower arranging.”

Through the last eight decades, Virkelyst has been a gathering place for women dedicated to community service. Jensen said, “It has also been a way for us to honor our mothers and grandmothers who started this organization, our heritage, and our friendships with other women. Our Danish tenacity has kept us going through many changing times.”

Virkelyst’s 80th birthday celebration will be held at the DAC on Sat., Sept. 29. Anyone with remembrances or Virkelyst photos can contact Ginny Leppart at

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Future repairs, master plan ahead for entire Minnehaha Creek

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

Minnehaha Creek is getting attention in Minneapolis this year.

The first project will fix erosion problems that sprang from flooding in 2014, while the second will create a master plan for the 39 acres of parkland along the creek.
Both projects were discussed during two identical open houses in April.

FEMA repairs this fall
In 2014, the Twin Cities saw the wettest first half of the year since modern-day record keeping began in 1871, with June 2014 being the wettest month on record. Coupled with a long winter and late snowmelt, this extreme precipitation led to a record flow on Minnehaha Creek and prolonged flooding throughout most of the spring and summer, according to the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD).

MCWD, together with the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB), are working together to repair the erosion caused by flood damage, improve water quality, and improve access to the creek.

Thirteen places have been highlighted for work that will cost a total of $1 million. Of that, $500,000 will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and must be spent by June 2019.

Work will begin in September 2018 and be finished by June 2019.

Photo right: Citizens attended an open house on Apr. 17 open house at Lynnhurt Recreation Center to learn more about upcoming projects occurring around Minnehaha Creek. An open house was also held on Apr. 12 at the Lake Nokomis Recreation Center; both provided the same information. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The project has been divided into three areas. The first, west of 35W to Emerson, involves four sites. The second, from 35W east to Portland, has two sites in need of repair.

The remaining seven site projects are at Minnehaha Park.

The project includes a few walls constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s that are part of the Ground Rounds historic district. The historical society will weigh in on whether to remove or fix these walls.

At Minnehaha Park, the bridge at the base of the falls was eroded by high water. Nearby, stormwater and hillside run-off damaged the trail. In other areas, a rock slab collapsed, riprap was washed away, and boardwalk was undermined.

Most of the erosion issues will be solved by installing riprap (large stones), live plant stakes, and plants to stabilize the soil, explained MCWD Project and Land Manager Tiffany Schaufler.

Throughout this process, planners have also identified 13 storm sewer outfalls that drain directly into the creek as top priorities. The MPRB and city will work to figure out the best way to filter out pollutants from these outfalls and incorporate these solutions in future work near the creek, said Schaufler. This might include rain gardens, underground storage, or other types of soil infiltration methods. The report is new, and planners are still digesting the information, she pointed out.

Master plan in the works
In the early 1900s, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board began acquiring property along the Minnehaha Creek—even though the city of Minneapolis only extended to Franklin Ave. at the time and everything farther out was farmland.

Under the direction of Theodore Wirth in the 1920s and 1930s, the creek was straightened in many places, and the parkway/carriageway installed.

Photo left: Lisa Goodard of Minneapolis Public Works chats with Nokomis resident Teresa Miller during the Apr. 17 open house. Miller is keeping a close eye on water issues in the area, concerned because of the perpetual flooding in her backyard that is adjacent to Solomon Park. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Eckbo Plan guided improvements along the creek. The roadway was paved its signature pink, and bicycle and walking trails separated. The pedestrian bridges were built in 1978.

“Since then, no master planning has been done,” pointed out MPRB Project Manager Adam Arvidson. “We’re overdue.”

He’s leading a comprehensive look at the parkland to fashion a master plan that looks ahead 20-30 years.

A Community Action Committee (CAC) is in the process of being formed and will begin meeting soon. A plan is expected to be created and approved by the MPRB of commissioners in January 2019.

Among the questions raised are whether MPRB should extend its system of trails all the way west of Lynnhurst Park to the city line. Right now, the trails head north at the parkway to Lake Harriet and do not extend any farther west.

Another question is whether more canoe launches should be added. Currently, there is one near Lyndhurst, one at Lake Nokomis, and one proposed for Lake Hiawatha.

Public input was solicited at two open houses in April, and a survey is available online at the MPRB project website to collect comments. Citizens can also sign up to receive project updates.

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Homeowners worried about damage from too much water

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability believes comprehensive study needed of entire Watershed

These images show the same area on the west side of Lake Nokomis in 2014 and in 2017. On left is an image taken by Amy Stabala, who lives on W. Lake Nokomis Pkwy. of her children flying kites in the park. This is what the park land in that area looked like from at least the 1930s to 2014. This same area is now too wet to mow, as shown in the second photo (above) of Monica McNaughton walking on the path on the west side of Lake Nokomis near the Knoll and Amelia holding/retention ponds. Invasive cattails have taken over the area that was once mowed turf, and standing water is between the path and the cattails. (Photos submitted)


Basements are flooding, backyards are under water, sinkholes are developing, and sewer lines are breaking around Nokomis and Hiawatha lakes.
Residents are concerned, and they’re asking why.

They also notice that there’s a lot of standing water throughout the year around Lake Nokomis, and lake levels at Nokomis and Hiawatha are higher than they used to be.

Joan Soholt and Monica McNaughton are trying to fit the puzzle pieces together and look at more than just the impact on city infrastructure, resident’s homes, the Hiawatha Golf Course, and Lake Nokomis shoreland.

The two women are leading a group of neighbors who share information and ask questions concerning ground and surface water infiltration in the lower Minnehaha Creek subwatershed. The Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability group also hosted a meeting in March to pull together residents, politicians, and experts; this grassroots meeting was attended by over 100 people.

“We have many concerns that the planning being done by the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) does not have enough scientific evidence behind it to guarantee homeowners and taxpayers that properties will not continue to be adversely affected by water that has been modified to flow into the creek, lakes, and ponds,” said Soholt.

Illustration left: Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha are at the end of a large watershed that begins around Lake Minnetonka and drains via Minnehaha Creek towards the Mississippi River. Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability is pushing for the United States Geological Survey to conduct a comprehensive and unbiased study of the region to learn what’s driving the water problems in South Minneapolis. (Click on image for larger display)

“Promised maintenance and upkeep has not been done possibly adding to the increase in ground and surface water. An example of this would be the increase in cattails around Lake Nokomis that may be holding water in rather than helping absorb it.

She added, “We are also concerned that with increased precipitation our community is not in a position to handle more water because of modifications that have been made to the creek and lake system.”

Soholt and McNaughton have proposed bringing in the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a federal scientific agency that provides unbiased, accurate and consistent research to study the issue in depth. (They have also been involved in the water issues surrounding White Bear Lake.)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is currently deciding what the scope of the project should be, and will progress from there, according to District 63B Representative Jean Wagenius, who lives a couple of blocks north of Minnehaha Creek in the Northrup neighborhood.

Image right: Changes in the Richfield area, as well as around Lake Nokomis, have contributed to an increase in surface water run-off around Lake Nokomis. Shown here in this Google Map are Taft (bottom left) and Mother (bottom right) lakes, which have both risen, as well as Solomon Park, which is under water. The three water retention ponds around the south and west of Lake Nokomis are also visible.

Soholt is concerned that the scope will be too narrow and focused merely on Lake Nokomis instead of the entire Minnehaha Creek watershed. They have approached the DNR, Hennepin County, Met Council, Minnehaha Creek Watershed, and local officials to help secure funding for a USGS study of the larger Minnehaha Creek watershed.

“Until a comprehensive study is completed, water management projects affecting our area should be delayed,” said McNaughton. “This includes any planning or action to fill the floodplain at Hiawatha Golf Course. No entity in the discussion has enough data to assure homeowners around Lake Hiawatha and the Hiawatha Golf Course that what has occurred around Lake Nokomis will not occur if changes are made to water management in their area.”

What’s the problem?
In 2014, the city resurfaced Soholt’s street, and subsequently, eight houses on her block experienced sewer breaks. Soholt started asking questions and has now collected information on over 80 homes that have dealt with sewer line breaks, sinkholes developing under their basement floors, sinking foundations, standing water, and more. Repairs have cost homeowners between $5,000 and $60,000.

Homeowners whose backyards abut Solomon Park near Highway 62 have lost half their yards to standing water in the past three years, and now have to purchase flood insurance. Plus 100-year-old trees are dying.

Following the installation of retention ponds to help mitigate the water on the west and south of Lake Nokomis, basement floors began to collapse. A sinkhole developed in Nokomis Pkwy. near the Amelia water retention pond. One day emergency trucks arrived because it was affecting a gas line, Soholt recalled.

McNaughton is particularly concerned about the standing water she’s observed in three areas: the west side of Lake Nokomis (known by many as the Lagoon) between the two holding/retention ponds known as the Knoll and Amelia ponds; the southwest end of the Cedar Ave. bridge that goes over Lake Nokomis; and the area east of the Gateway Pond near Derby Ave.

“Historically, these areas were dry most of the summer and fall,” said McNaughton, but now they’re full of invasive cattails.

McNaughton is also worried about uncharacteristically high groundwater levels, which she’s seen increasing for the past four years.

Since 2014, over ten sewer connections have been repaired between 54th St. and 58th St. and 12th Ave. and Edgewater Blvd. In the summer of 2017, dewatering on Edgewater Boulevard took six weeks before sanitary sewer repairs could be started, she pointed out.

The city of Minneapolis did not have any groundwater monitoring wells in the Nokomis area until two monitoring wells were installed last fall.

“The absence of historical data has made it difficult for the city to identify the triggers that are exacerbating the problems in the area,” observed McNaughton.

What’s causing these issues
“Many argue that the problem began in 2014 after the significant June rain event,” said McNaughton. “However, we have seen significant changes in the area since the late 1990s.”

In addition to draining the neighborhoods directly around Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha, water is also coming from the airport and Richfield. Plus, storm sewer lines in Minneapolis drain an area that stretches all the way up to Lake St. into Lake Hiawatha.
Specific changes in the area that have affected surface runoff (that becomes groundwater) include:
• The closing of Rich Acres golf course (permeable soil) on the east side of Cedar Ave., south of Hwy 62.
• Completion of the North-South Runway at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, and significant building of air freight and airport facilities (nonpermeable soil)
• Development of Richfield Commons (Target/Home Depot). Previously, this area was composed of single-family residences that had significantly more permeable soil.
• Minnehaha Creek Watershed District water quality projects at Legion Lake (Veterans Park)
• Expansion of 35W/Crosstown Interchange
• Building and completion of the holding/retention ponds at Lake Nokomis – Knoll, Amelia, and Gateway
• Management former MAC property now known as Solomon Park taken over by MPRB
• Building and of the weir (low dam) at Lake Nokomis completed around 2000 and rebuilt/redesigned in 2012

Additionally, since Grey’s Bay Dam in Minnetonka was replaced, the level of Lake Hiawatha has been much higher, pointed out Jerry Mullen who lives across the street from the Hiawatha Golf Course. While there is a weir separating Lake Nokomis from Minnehaha Creek, the creek flows directly in and out of Lake Hiawatha. From the 1940s to the 1970s, Lake Hiawatha’s water level ranged from 810.5 to just shy of 812. From the 1990s to the present, the lake levels have ranged from 812.5 to shy of 813.

“Groves of mature trees are dying in Solomon’s Park and Mother Lake. Neighbors tell me that until now, nothing like this has happened in the memory of folks who have lived in the area for over 40 years,” wrote Wagenius in a letter to the DNR in December 2017.

She also pointed out that the weir at Lake Nokomis is several feet higher than the level of Minnehaha Creek, which prevents Lake Nokomis water from freely flowing out of the lake and keeps water levels high. Beachfront has been lost on the lake, and mature trees are dying.

Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability is pushing for the level of Lake Nokomis managed to rarely be above its Ordinary High Water level elevation of 815.4 feet.

Water best management practices have evolved, pointed out Wagenius.

“Now instead of moving water off the land as quickly as possible, best management calls for slowing water down to protect surface waters and recharge groundwater resources. Both are important,” she said. “Recharging drinking water aquifers is especially important in the Minnehaha Creek watershed since aquifers upstream from Minneapolis are showing stress. Slowing water down should have multiple benefits, not just for those downstream but for those upstream especially since DNR must ensure sustainability when permitting wells including drinking water wells.”

What can you do?
Nokomis/Hiawatha Water Sustainability urges residents to follow the group on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay updated.

People are also encouraged to contact their city council members (Jeremy Schroeder in Ward 11 and Andrew Johnson in Ward 12) and ask that the city support the USGS study, ensure the DNR’s leadership in managing the entities involved, and move aggressively to identify and implement solutions in both the short and long-term to protect homes, infrastructure and parks.

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Lending art library on the move, but has roots in South Minneapolis

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

The Minneapolis Art Lending Library (MALL) is one of only five organizations of its kind across the country. Their mission is to support artists and to share the joy of art with all members of the Twin Cities community through the lending of artwork.

MALL will be celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer; 88 artists have contributed pieces of art for lending to date. Volunteer and outreach coordinator Amelia Foster, said, “Ours is a small but mighty organization. Our lending collection features over 100 contemporary artworks, with a focus on Twin Cities artists including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, ceramics, and sculptures. In addition, we’ve acquired a permanent collection of 25 pieces through donation and purchase.”

What started as a small, home-based lending library in South Minneapolis has grown into a mobile program with lending events held all around town. MALL’s spring lending event will take place on Fri., Apr. 27 from 5-8pm at the North Commons Rec Center in North Minneapolis (1801 N. James Ave.). At every lending event approximately 100 pieces of art are available to check out for a three month period. MALL asks a $5 donation for each piece that is borrowed; a borrower may only check out one piece of art at a time.

Photo right: Longfellow resident Amelia Foster, volunteer and outreach coordinator, with the oil painting she has on loan for three months from the Minneapolis Art Lending Library. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Foster is a Longfellow resident with a keen artistic eye. “At MALL,” she said, “we want people to have the opportunity to live with art in their homes, and a lot of people assume they can’t afford to do that.” This quarter, she has enjoyed living with a 20 x 16 Robert Nicholl oil painting, as well as a work by Magnum photographer Alec Soth that her partner chose.

“The third and fourth quarterly events this year will see MALL going in new directions,” Foster continued. “Our summer lending event will take place at the Minneapolis Central Library, in coordination with the Northern Spark Festival in early June. On either side of that event, we’ll have an exhibit mounted at the library—and that’s a first for us. Our fall lending event will be at the Rondo Library, our first venture into St. Paul.”

Details on both of these events can be found in the months ahead at MALL’s newly designed website First-time borrowers must bring proof of address and sign a borrower’s agreement. Lending events are free and open to all.

MALL issues a call for new works twice each year; the next call will be in fall 2018. Their curatorial committee chooses which submissions are best suited for the lending library: size and weight are factors, and two-dimensional work must be framed and ready to hang.

Foster explained, “Now that we’re in our fifth year, one of our goals is to expand the way we support artists. Because of funding we’ve received through the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council and an increase in individual giving, we’re now able to offer participating artists a $50 stipend for each work of art we accept. We feel that the exposure we give artists to new audiences, especially emerging artists, is also very valuable.”

There are currently two neighborhood artists on the MALL roster: Longfellow resident and photographic collage artist Nicole Hoekstra, and ceramic artist Heather Rae Tietz of East Nokomis.

Foster concluded, “Sometimes people who aren’t familiar with the concept of an art lending library say, ‘Would artists really loan art to total strangers?’ Our answer is simply, yes! They may be strangers, but they share the artist’s interest in contemporary art and grassroots community building. This is a trust-based project. One of the cornerstones of our organization is community building, and communities are built on trust.’”

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Public Hearing on tunnel rehabilitation planned May 22

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) held a public meeting Apr. 24, is currently in a comment period, and will sponsor a May 22 public hearing on plans to rehabilitate sewer infrastructure in the area of Minnehaha Regional Park.

According to the Met Council, the work needs to be done to protect the integrity of the infrastructure. Earlier plans were modified to ensure the protection of the Coldwater Spring. Staff is meeting with neighborhood groups and conducting other community engagement.

The public hearing, where verbal comments will be recorded, will be held Tues., May 22, 6:30-8pm at the Hiawatha School Recreation Center, 4305 East 42nd St.

The proposed project is located on the north side of E. Minnehaha Pkwy., and the tunnel is located under Minnehaha Creek, Hiawatha Ave. and the METRO Blue Line light rail corridor. The existing tunnel is located 1½ miles northwest of Coldwater Spring, a significant cultural and historic resource.

The existing regional sanitary sewer tunnel, built in 1935, is in need of rehabilitation. MCES plans to clean the tunnel, install a liner that will create a new sewer pipe within the existing tunnel, and upgrade the existing regulator and electrical vaults. The proposed work will preserve the structural integrity of the tunnel and will minimize the risk of failure.

MCES previously planned to replace the tunnel and to start construction in 2017. Due to concerns expressed last year, MCES performed additional technical studies to better understand the groundwater flow connected to Coldwater Spring, and to determine if the existing tunnel could be rehabilitated rather than replaced. MCES has determined that the existing tunnel can, and should, be rehabilitated (rather than replaced) to avoid the potential for impacts to groundwater flow to Coldwater Spring.
The rehabilitation work that is now planned will start in 2019.

MCES is working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), as delegated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), to determine which state and federal cultural resources requirements apply to this sewer rehabilitation project. MCES will continue to coordinate with tribes, neighborhoods and other interested parties as the project continues.

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Chard Your Yard, speakers, movie, parents group

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

The volunteers with Transition Longfellow create opportunities for South Minneapolis neighbors to get to know one another while also learning how to live more sustainably and prepare for changes ahead. Visit for more details on these and other activities.

“Energy Present – Energy Future” is scheduled for Fri., May 4, 7pm, at the Walker Community Church, 3104 16th Ave. S. With massive oil exploration underway, will the US rival Saudi Arabia and Russia as an oil and gas exporter? Or as geologist Art Burman has suggested, is shale oil and shale natural gas heading for a “retirement party”? Can markets find a Goldilocks “just right” price anymore? Why the volatility? Energy futurist Jon Freise will share the big stories in national and international energy.

At the same event as above (Fri., May 4), “Cooperative Community Solar – A First Step Towards Energy Democracy” will be presented by Timothy DenHerder-Thomas. He is the general manager of Cooperative Energy Futures, a community energy co-op. He will talk about the emergence of community solar gardens, what’s working and what isn’t, and how state, federal, and utility decisions are impacting the future of solar. This presentation will help explain the role solar plays as a first step towards an energy system of, by, and for everyone who uses energy.

Prepared Parents & Kids Play Group will meet Sat., May 5, 10am to noon at Longfellow Park, 3435 36th Ave. S. Bring kids aged 10 and under for a free play date and meet with other parents to for conversation and support on raising resilient kids, living a sustainable, low-waste family life, and preparing your family for extreme weather. Toys available.

The Book Group will meet on Thurs., May 10, 6:30 p.m., at Moon Palace Books, 3032 Minnehaha Ave. The book under discussion is

“21 Stories of Transition: How a movement of communities is coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world” by Transition founder, Rob Hopkins. Millions of people are taking the kind of personal steps that world leaders continue to debate to reduce the world’s carbon emission. These 21 stories from 39 communities in 15 countries celebrate how communities are becoming better connected, happier, more fulfilled and making a meaningful and measurable difference on the ground where they live. (This book is no longer available in print, but the stories can be found at .

Help Build a Community of Food Growers! Volunteer for Chard Your Yard Garden Install Day on Sat., May 12, starting at 8:30am. Chard Your Yard is Transition Longfellow’s signature project, helping neighbors grow some of their own fresh, healthy food by installing 3’x5’ raised-bed vegetable gardens in home and apartment yards. To meet the goal of 24 gardens installed, the group needs another 20 volunteers for 3 hour or 6-hour shifts (with ample breaks for food). Volunteers share breakfast and lunch. All participants can attend the event wrap party! Sign up on the website:

Movie Night will be held Fri., May 18, potluck at 6:30, movie at 7pm, at Minnehaha Communion Lutheran Church, 4101 37th Ave. S. Share a meal, then watch the documentary “Inhabit – A Permaculture Perspective,” a movie Permaculture Magazine called, “simply the best film ever made on permaculture.” This movie looks at environmental and agricultural challenges faced by communities in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the U.S. and the solutions that permaculture practices bring to rural, suburban and urban landscapes.

“Save Money, Drop a Car” with Pat Thompson (Transition ASAP), Leslie MacKenzie (Transition Longfellow) and the folks from Hour Car is slated for Mon., May 21, at Pratt School, 66 Malcolm Ave. S.E. (see community ed catalog for the time). Have you dreamed of escaping traffic jams and parking tickets? Ready to put that car insurance money to better use? This class will help you understand the true cost of your vehicle(s), and identify strategies you can take to reduce your vehicle use. You may find you can drop a car altogether.

Step-by-Step Preparedness Emails are sent out each Friday. The email will relay some actions you can take that week to become more prepared for extreme weather. May emails will focus on what documents you need to have in place—and need to take with you should you have to leave your home. Sign up for the series at the website, where you can also find past emails.

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Longfellow’s climate adaptation work unique among neighborhoods

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

In 2017, Transition Longfellow took its commitment to helping people prepare for changes ahead to a new level by delivering the speaker series, “When Climate Change Comes Home.” The planning team of neighbors who worked on this project included Leslie MacKenzie, Lisa Strong, Karen Grabou, Rachel Hefte, Eliza Tocher, Dani Cloutier, and Ebony Beck.

In April 2018, Transition Longfellow was nominated for a Local Public Health Hero award by Pam Blixt, City of Minneapolis preparedness manager, for the group’s work on this and other preparedness projects. “There is genuine enthusiasm and dedication to the work by the group that is contagious,” Blixt noted.

Kelly Muellman, Sustainability Program Coordinator for the City of Minneapolis, valued the partnership.

“Working with Transition Longfellow, and other community partner organizations, has provided the City with an opportunity to support the development of social connection around climate resilience and emergency preparedness,” Muellman said. “We saw it in the literature, but experiencing the power and importance of social cohesion in person has reinforced how critical it is to the resilience of any community.”

Lisa Strong, who serves on the Transition core team, is a scientist with the MN Department of Health. She said: “We kicked off the series with a presentation by Paul Moss, our state Climate Adaptation Specialist, with data about current and future climate effects from the State Climatologist Office. We wanted people to know what to expect and when.”

“But facts aren’t really enough for people to know how their lives, their homes, their health and their community will be impacted,” Strong said. “That’s why this series focused on real-life solutions. Those solutions go beyond just what we can do as individuals. It’s got to be a community effort.”

Bringing the Facts to Life
• In May 2017, when the Twin Cities experiences torrential rain, speakers talked about how to stop water intrusion into basements and how to stay safe in a flash flood.
• In June, presenters talked about living through an extended power outage as a result of violent storms.
• In July, a doctor and a veterinarian talked about protecting people and pets (including chickens) from heat-related illness.
• In September, the speaker gave people ideas about how they can protect themselves and their children from disease-carrying ticks.

At the end of each session, participants shared actions they would take personally and then brainstormed steps that could be taken at a community level to prepare for challenges ahead. Ideas included:
• More workshops to continue to learn about solutions and to help people create their family emergency plan.
• A community buddy system pairing vulnerable adults with someone on their block who will check in on them in a heat wave or severe storm situation.
• Encourage block clubs to connect with one another and develop phone trees.
• Stress reduction workshops to help people develop strategies to cope with and respond better in stressful situations.
• A network for sharing things—developing a culture of sharing and mutual support.
• Creating an asset map of community resources and a list of community resource people.
• Creating and distributing window signs people could use to say OKAY or NEED HELP.
• Installing community bulletin boards or information kiosks like the one found outside The Wedge Co-op that neighbors could use to share information.

Actions that are already in the works include:
• Weekly preparedness emails with step-by-step actions people can take.
• A prepared parent playgroup for parents with kids under 10, meeting the first Saturday of each month at Longfellow Park, 10am.

Get Involved
Transition Longfellow’s next step is pulling together a team to review the ideas and develop a community action plan. Neighbors who are interested in being part of this plan can send an email through the website at

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NENA and SENA Minneapolis Comprehensive Plan Town Hall

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

Did you know the City of Minneapolis is drafting a comprehensive plan for the next 20 years to manage its projected growth and change?

Minneapolis 2040 will provide guidance on the city’s built, economic and natural environment into the future. Minneapolis 2040 will guide policymaking decisions on important issues such as housing, job access, healthy and safe neighborhoods, transit, land use, climate change, and racial equity.

NENA and Standish Ericsson Neighborhood Association are hosting a Town Hall Meeting with City Planning Staff, Council Member Jeremy Schroeder (Ward 11) and Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12) for our communities to learn about the plan’s goals and policies, share your thoughts and listen to your neighbors’ viewpoints. This event is planned for Tues., May 15, 6:30-8pm at Northrop Elementary School (4315 31st Ave. S.).

Before it is considered by the City Council in late fall, residents will have several opportunities to review, comment and improve the draft. The City encourages public comments through its interactive website and will be hosting a new round of community open houses in May in every part of the city.

Nokomis East garage sale
The long-awaited garage sale event of the season is back for another year. Garagesalers in the Nokomis East area are invited to register their sale on the NENA website, starting May 1. Last year over 100 sales took part in this all-day neighborhood event, which draws bargain hunters from all over the metro area. The garage sale itself will be June 16, from 8am-4pm.

Monarch Workshop
Register for the free 12th Annual Grow Monarch Habitat Workshop on Sat., May 19, 9:30am-12pm. Doors open at 9am at the Lake Nokomis Community Center, 2401 E. Minnehaha Pkwy. Register for this popular workshop while you still can!

These two kid-friendly sessions offer a wealth of information for both beginning and advanced gardeners. Registration is required, workshop attendance is free, and participants may purchase Garden To-Go Kits from NENA with 12 native pollinator plants for your yard. To register, fill out the form found at

The workshop will include two special sections:
• Grow Monarch Habitat – An Introduction to The Essentials of Gardening For Monarchs, 9:30-10:30am. This 45-minute session covers the monarch life and migratory cycle and how these two cycles determine the habitat components. The current environmental status of the monarch butterfly and other pollinators is also addressed.
• NEW! Grow Monarch Habitat – A How-To on Planting, Maintaining and Expanding Your Garden 11am-12pm. This 45-minute session is designed to expand on previous years GMH workshops and cover some new ground.

Bossen Field
The old Bossen Park facilities are getting a facelift. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) will start construction on the historical park building this summer, focusing on updating the bathrooms and the building exterior. The construction will also include improvements to building lighting and adding a new accessible restroom.
In addition to the existing park building updates, MPRB also plans to add a maintenance garage at the south end of the park to store equipment used for athletic field upkeep. Those interested in following the construction progress can do so at the MPRB online project page.

Bike racks for businesses
NENA and the Nokomis East Business Association (NEBA) are offering an opportunity for Nokomis East located businesses and organizations to acquire a bike rack, or multiple bike racks, at NO COST. This is the second season this opportunity is available as part of an effort to offer more bicycle parking for local businesses. These racks will be installed on the right-of-way, near the street.

The bike rack design is a U-type with a “Nokomis East” design in the center. Businesses like Oxendale’s Market, Nokomis Shoe Shop, Nokomis Hardware, and Al Vento have participated in the program. Contact Program and Communication Manager Lauren Hazenson at 612-724-5652 or for more information or to sign up.

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Longfellow ReStore hits $1 million mark

Posted on 23 April 2018 by calvin

The Minneapolis ReStore—a home improvement outlet that supports Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity—has reached an incredible milestone.

The Minneapolis location opened in mid-September of 2016 in the Longfellow neighborhood at 2700 Minnehaha Ave. S. Now, a year and a half later, the Minneapolis store has hit a huge milestone: one million dollars in sales. And all that goes right back to making Habitat homes affordable for low-income homebuyers across the Twin Cities.

“Hitting the $1 million milestone this quickly is unusual for Habitat ReStores (850 nationwide) and helps to validate that we picked a great location,” says Pete O’Keefe, Senior Manager for ReStore Operations. The Minnehaha location is easily accessible to city dwellers and is near bus and light rail routes.

The ReStore features quality donated home furnishings, furniture, and building supplies at a fraction of the original cost. They accept donations, many of which are new overstock items from offices, apartment complexes, and construction sites. All revenue from the ReStore goes to building, rehabbing and repairing homes for hard-working local families.

Last year, proceeds from the ReStore sponsored the construction of six homes for low-income Twin Cities families., as well as diverted 940 tons of building materials from landfills.

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Ballare Teatro celebrates 20 years of dance in Longfellow

Posted on 26 March 2018 by calvin

The non-competitive studio focuses on professional instruction in a nurturing environment

Ballare Teatro has been developing great dancers for 20 years.

Located at 4259 Minnehaha Ave. S., Ballare opened in 1998 under the direction of Ann Williams with 75 students and two instructors. Today, there are 16 instructors and 300 students taking classes each week.

“My commitment to our families is to provide professional instruction,” remarked Williams. “All of my instructors have degrees in dance, professional experience, or both. This is their passion; it isn’t a hobby. Because of this, our instructors love what they do and want to share and grow that passion in the students they teach.”

Birth of a dancer
Williams began dancing when she was five, but then tried other things after a year. When she was 10, she asked her parents if she could return to dance, and she began taking jazz and tap at a studio in Lincoln, NE. She added ballet at age 15 and was teaching at the studio when she was 16. Knowing she wanted a career in dance, Williams enrolled at the University of Minnesota to earn a bachelor’s degree in dance and mass communications.

Photo right: “I love how dancing makes me feel. It is so many things,” said Ann Williams, owner of Ballare Teatro. “It can be your own unique expression, or it can be a specific technical style. I love watching the little ones find their own way, seeing the joy on their faces, and I love watching our more advanced dancers grow technically and personally. I love seeing the adults at the studio connect with dance, and I love the community at Ballare.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“When I first auditioned for the dance program, I got placed in the fundamental level—that is the same level that dancers who have never danced get placed!” recalled Williams. “It made me wonder what I had been doing? What kind of training had I gotten?”

Looking back, she sees how good that ended up being for her. “The instructors at the U taught me how to dance stronger, more technically,” said Williams.

That experience also fueled her passion for how she wanted to run a studio.

She doesn’t want anyone to leave Ballare and feel that they’ve wasted their time.

After teaching for several years in Lakeville, Williams felt ready to open a studio of her own and pulled in a partner for the first year. She took a class at St. Thomas, developed a business plan, and decided to locate her dance studio within her Longfellow neighborhood—despite recommendations from fellow students that there was more money in the suburbs.

She had nearly given up on finding a space when City View Community Church moved, and the church building came up for sale. Williams’ husband spent nights remodeling the space, and less than two months after purchasing the building, Ballare held its first open house.

Professional instruction, a nurturing environment
Known for professional dance instruction in a nurturing environment, Ballare offers a variety of classes, including Music and Movement for toddlers, creative dance for 3-4 year olds, Fundamental ballet/tap A and B for 5-6 year olds, ballet/tap IA and B for 7-9 year olds, ballet/tap level II, jazz II, ballet/tap III, jazz III, modern III, ballet/tap IV, jazz IV, modern IV, mixed level technique (for levels IV and V), ballet/tap V, jazz V, modern V, pointe prep, pointe, and an extra technique class for boys in level IV/V. Adults can pick from beginning ballet, beginning tap, advanced beginning tap, intermediate tap, fast intermediate tap, advanced tap, hip-hop and cardio funk.

Photo left: Company B co-director Sarah Hauss instructs members (left to right) Zoie Hetletvedt, Emily Williams, Greta Harrington, Joy Meyers and Solveig Fellows during rehearsal on Mar. 18. Company B offers students the opportunity to perform in a variety of places. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“At Ballare, we build on the commitment dancers have to dance in a way that is developmentally appropriate, increasing the time in class, and the expectations to how committed the student is to their dance education as they go up through our levels,” said Williams.

Preschoolers spend 45 minutes dancing once a week. As they move up through the levels, more time is added: 5-6-year-olds dance one hour a week, 7-9-year-olds 1.5 hours a week. Once they get advanced to level II, they are dancing 2.25-3.5 hours total, coming either once or twice a week. Dancers in level V are dancing 7.75 hours/week over four days.

“I believe that you can get great things from students through encouragement and positive feedback,” stated Williams.

Dancers at Ballare take ballet and tap all the way through their training. “Ballet gives them the technique to move their bodies, stay lifted and graceful,” explained Williams. “Tap provides dancers with groundedness and rhythm. I feel that having these two techniques will help them branch off into jazz and modern, and other techniques.”

Ballare produces four shows, including a spring concert the second weekend in June for dancers in the fundamental level through level V and the adults; and special, low-key show for the creative dancers that is free for families.

Two original productions usually happen in alternate years in March. “Isabella Saves the World,” written by dancers 17 years ago, is Ballare’s answer to the “Nutcracker.” “The Excellent Adventure” showcases rhythmic dance.

Company B performs in the community
Last year, Ballare launched Company B, a performing group co-directed by Ballare instructors Sarah Hauss and Timothy Herian. Dancers in their second year of level III through level V may audition for the company during placement auditions each August. If they make it into the company, they have rehearsal on Sunday evenings for 1.5 hours.

Photo left: Joy Meyers (front) and Solveig Fellows try out choreography during a Company B rehearsal at Ballare Teatro. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Company B members learn repertory and new works from outside choreographers. Last year, they learned a hip-hop piece from B-Boy J-Sun Noer and a modern piece from Herian. Hauss worked with them to create their own trios. This year Ballare brought in Judith James Ries (formerly of Jazzdance by Danny Buracezski) and Brian J. Evans (Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater).

Company B performs at different venues around town, including the Winter Carnival, The Modern Dance Project, East Lake Library Cultural Dance Series, and Chaotic Playground at Perpich Center for Arts Education. This year, they also produced their show at the Off-Leash Art Box and performed to two sold-out houses.

Ballare has developed partnerships with the University of Minnesota and Gustavus Adolphus dance programs. Their dance majors complete their teaching practicum at Ballare—so they are learning to teach from Ballare teachers. Williams also speaks to U of M majors about teaching and studio ownership.

‘Like family’
A senior at the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, William’s son Brigham has been dancing at Ballare since he was three. He loves how dance allows him to express himself, and he always feels better after being at Ballare.

He intends to go into the performing arts after graduation and appreciates the training he’s received at Ballare. “I’ve always felt this is a place where dancing doesn’t have to be the only thing you do,” Brigham pointed out. “It allows for versatile performing.” He appreciates how Ballare allows a student to tailor classes, and come out with the experience they want.

“It teaches you what the real world is like while providing a safe environment,” stated Brigham.

Photo right: Mia Gray-Decker started dancing at Ballare when she was seven and came back after college to work as a studio assistant. She loves the family-like atmosphere at the studio. Founded in 1998, Ballare Teatro means “Dance Theater” in Italian. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Mia Gray-Decker started dancing at Ballare when she was seven. She remained a student until she graduated from high school. The atmosphere at Ballare and the sense of community are what she valued most when she was a student.

“It felt like a family,” she recalled.

Today, Grey-Decker is studio assistant at Ballare. It’s that connection between instructors, students, and families that she continues to value.

“My goal has always been to prepare dancers for an audition for a college dance program,” stated Williams. “Now, I know that a small percentage of our dancers are actually going to go on and study dance in college or dance professionally. But I want to provide them with the best instruction and technical training so, no matter what they choose to do with their dance education, they have the skill and tools to get them there.”

A special event celebrating Ballare’s 20th anniversary is in the works. Stay tuned.

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