Art as empowerment

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Artists at work: Ricardo Perez, Sebastian Rivera and volunteer Hab Wako put finishing touches on a mural honoring George Floyd at Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St.) on June 4, their last of five days creating the painting. (Photo by Jill Boogren)


Ricardo Perez talks about his art and his process in making a mural. “Sometimes there’s destruction. And there’s life that comes after that. Rather than focus on destruction, it was more about life.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

After boarding up the windows at her firm on East Lake St., Abigail Wahl, owner of Puerta Grande Law Firm, decided to ask an artist from the community to use the space to express whatever they wanted regarding George Floyd. Artists Ricardo Perez and Sebastian Rivera, community organizers with The Alliance and West Side Community Organization, respectively, answered the call. Together with volunteers, they spent five days creating a mural on the boards.
On June 4, as they were applying the finishing touches, Perez described the mural and the process, which he said changed organically as it unfolded.
“We wanted to be very intentional about it being about Black and Brown relationships. A lot of people are curious about the cactus [featured prominently in the middle of the painting]. It kind of throws them off, like ‘Why are cactus on it? That’s not from here.’ But you know, George Floyd wasn’t from here. He was from Texas, and… Texas is the cactus. There’s also a Mexican flag… Lake St. There’s so many intersections of our identities.”
Mentioning the cityscape, Perez pointed to a detail in the upper left window of where people were being evicted. Above it, a banner reads: FREE the Oppressed. At the top of another high rise a banner reads: #BlackLivesMatter.
“Sometimes there’s destruction. And there’s life that comes after that. Rather than focus on destruction, it was more about life. That’s why we have so many plants and the city and the mountains,” Perez continued. “This is the craziest thing… these boards were put up to protect from destruction, but they became art. It became a healing element for the community.”
By email, Wahl offered her take of the mural: “To me, Ricardo Perez’s creation speaks to the solidarity between the different communities in Minneapolis and Minnesota, and the love we are feeling for George Floyd.”

Artists at work: Ricardo Perez, Sebastian Rivera and volunteer Hab Wako put finishing touches on a mural honoring George Floyd at Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St.) on June 4, their last of five days creating the painting. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

After the art comes down, Wahl said the artist will decide on its final home. Perez hopes for a permanent space to share the piece. “Not only the painting but the energy that was captured in this moment.”
Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St), which offers legal representation in immigration matters, remained open throughout the uprising.

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LBA pulls together businesses to share needs, discuss damage

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Businesses want to stay in neighborhood, many unknowns about insurance coverage and repair

Folks empty out the Glass Endeavors building on Friday morning, May 29, 2020. Although it survived the burning of the post office, staff were not sure it would survive another night. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Most businesses damaged around Minnehaha, E. Lake St. and 27th Ave. want to stay in the neighborhood, but they’re waiting to hear back from inspectors and insurance companies, they told the Longfellow Business Association during a ZOOM meeting on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.
The initial estimate is that 31 buildings were completely destroyed in the unrest following George Floyd’s murder by a police officer on Monday, May 25, including three major grocery stores, and two pharmacies. Beyond that at least 49 other businesses sustained significant damage. Many are locally- and minority-owned.
“We are a small organization, but we focus on bringing together businesses for networking and information,” pointed out Kim Jakus. “I know there’s a lot of immediate action plans but we are really in it for the long haul.
“We are really going to have to work together. We are here to listen and invest.”
Jakus pointed out that other entities are also involved in local efforts, including the Lake Street Council, which set up a fund that has raised over $6 million, and the Longfellow Community Council. The LBA is asking itself how it differentiates itself and also how it can partner with other organizations. It has set up a fund and is raising money to help local businesses.

View towards the burnt out MIGIZI and Ghadhi Mahal on Friday, May 29. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

LV’s Barber Shop at 3006 27th Ave. S. wasn’t impacted as much as those around it, but owner Lamberto Vergara was still waiting to see if the building was stable after the fires at Minnehaha Lake Spirits and Wine and GM Tobacco and Super Vapor. He knew that, at minimum, the fire damage to the back wall would need to be repaired, but wasn’t sure if the entire building would end up being condemned.
His shop had been closed since May 18 due to COVID-19. Along with his six barbers, “We’re just kinda hanging in there, trying to see what’s going to happen,” said Vergara. “I’d like to stay in the neighborhood. The faster we rebuild, the faster I can go to work.”
John Gwinn of the non-profit MIGIZI, said they had planned to offer summer programming for Native American youth in their new facility which had opened last summer after an extensive renovation project, and had already restructured things due to COVID-19. Now that fire has destroyed their building, they are looking for a temporary space to run the programs. “Hopefully we can find some space and have some jobs for our youth,” said Gwinn.
He was grateful for people’s generosity and the donations they have received.
A small shell of Town Talk Dinner at 2707 E. Lake St. remained standing as of June 3, but was knocked down later in the week when the entire El Nuevo Rodeo/Oddfellows building was leveled. Town Talk Diner owners Kacey White and Charles Stotts said they were in the process of creating a list of everything that had been in their building for the insurance company, going room by room. “It’s so much work to get done before we contemplate the next step,” observed Charles.
He aded, “We really love being part of the Longfellow neighborhood. Hopefully we can figure out how to be a part of the rebuilding.”

View towards the burnt out MIGIZI and Ghadhi Mahal on Friday, May 29. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

KB Balla was close to opening his sports bar, Scores, on the far east side of the El Nuevo Rodeo building (2713 E. Lake St.), and celebrating his grand opening.
“It’s been kind of surreal,” said Balla. He is one of the Black business owners affected by the protests and works as a firefighter in Brooklyn Center. “I can’t tell you what the plan will be. I’d love to say that we’ll stay in the community. Right now we don’t know how long it will take to rebuild,” said Balla.
Until then, he’s hoping to figure out how to help others.
Minnehaha Lake Wine and Spirits, directly across from the Third Precinct at 2613 E, Lake St., was looted, vandalized and burned down. Like Town Talk, owners Jason Krause and Steve Krause said they were still focused on the immediate needs.
They are also evaluating a potential temporary location site.
“This is pretty devastating,” said Krause. He pointed out that many of their staff have worked there for 10-15 years. To help those out of work, they started a GoFundMe. It raised $9,000 in less than 24 hours.
Steve pointed out that he learned it was the responsibility of the property owners themselves to demolish their sites and make them safe, and the line item from their insurance company for this item was pretty small. They don’t know yet what requirements might be for environmental clean-up.
“Every hour there’s a new issue that comes up,” said Steve.

View towards the burnt out MIGIZI and Ghadhi Mahal on Friday, May 29. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Coliseum building damage
Across the street at the Coliseum Building at 2700 E. Lake St., numerous small organizations including the FATHER Project and Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice were affected.
Created 20 years ago, The FATHER Project has been located at the Coliseum building for the last 10. There was considerable smoke and water damage to their space, according to program manager Guy Bowling.
The FATHER (Fostering Actions To Help Earnings and Responsibility) Project became a program of Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota in 2004. Since then, the FATHER Project has served thousands of fathers through an extensive network of community partners. The program offers: case management, parenting support, child support services, employment services, and GED tutoring.
“The resources we provide are part of a systems change,” observed Bowling.
Also located in the Coliseum, Literacy Minnesota is looking for a new space, according to Kristin Collins, just like so many others.

Members of the National Guard rest in the entryway of the looted U.S. Bank building at 2800 E. Lake St. a few hours after they were called into the area. The Guard blocked off sections of the most heavily damaged for most of the day, and then opened it back up Friday evening, when more structures were damaged. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The Seward Longfellow Restorative Justice program in the Coliseum Building was able to salvage all of the things most important to their program, according to Michele Braley. Staff have been working from home due to COVID-19 and will start looking for a space, as well.
Businesses not as heavily damaged have offered up space that could be used for programming, future relief efforts, and more, including: Hook & Ladder, The Lift Garage, Tapestry Folkdance (large meeting room), Kennedy & Cain (conference room space), pointed out Jakus.

Wellington properties
Casey Dzieweczynski of Wellington Group reported that the ALDI in the former Rainbow space will be cleaned up and reopen in about two months.
There was a little damage to the charter school on the back side of the building, but the classrooms were all fine.
The Wendy’s was burned down, as was the affordable living apartment building under construction in the parking lot. “That was heartbreaking,” said Dzieweczynski, who is the project manager. It will be rebuilt, although they’re not sure if the foundation will be salvageable.
On the west side of Hiawatha, portions of the Hi-Lake Shopping were burned to the ground, but there was minimal damage to the ALDI there, and it reopened in early June. The condo building above was fine. The Lake Street Station apartments and the low-income seniors that reside there, lost power on Thursday and were evacuated on Friday night. They returned on Sunday.
“We’re glad to be part of this neighborhood,” said Dzieweczynski.

‘A long road ahead’
A fire was set at one of the area’s oldest buildings, the Schooner Tavern (2901 27th Ave. S.), according to Wendy Kremer, but it was put out. There was also looting and vandalism. Thankfully, none of the 20 tenants were hurt. The building was still without power as of the meeting on June 3. They don’t yet know what will be involved to get the building fixed.
“We’ve got a long road ahead,” said Kremer.

Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Schubert and Hoey (2747 26th Ave. S.) outdoor advertising was first broken into and later damaged by fire, according to Mike Hylandsson. They were dealing with a broken water pipe that was still running, unable to shut it off inside because it was too dangerous. They were also trying to figure out how to get their mail. The suggestion was made that businesses get a PO box at a neighboring post office as a temporary solution.
Despite its location to the south of the Third Precinct, the Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge (3010 Minnehaha Ave.) had minor damage, according to Jesse Brodd and Chris Mozena. As they haven’t been able to hold any shows, the performance venue is in a state of transition, and looking for ways to support the community.

Minnehaha Lake Wine and Spirits with the Hook and Ladder and the Third Precinct on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The Hub Bicycle Shop wasn’t damaged by fire, but some bicycles there for repair were stolen, according to Lisa Olson. They anticipate that insurance will help them replace the items.
Tony Kersey of Boker’s (3104 Snelling Ave.) reported their buildings were fine, but they have a larger concern around the issue of neighborhood safety and the need for law enforcement.
Cathy Heying of the Lift Garage (2401 E. Lake St.) reported that although the Arby’s 10 feet away burned down, their building was still standing. The non-profit repair center hopes to offer space as needed in the community as they can.
“My heart goes out to everyone on this call,” observed Chris Romano of Seward ReDesign. He pointed out that the non-profit has services that will benefit businesses. “Hang in there. They’re a lot of support around you.”

The view of the Coliseum building on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Healthy Seniors lose space at U.S. Bank
The Longfellow Seward Healthy Seniors office has been located at the U.S. Bank (2800 E. Lake St.) for over 20 years. The office was significantly damaged.
From Mary Albrecht: “We are awaiting our insurance adjuster to come in. We don’t have direct access into the bank and our office since the rioting and looting occurred. One laptop was stolen and several monitors were destroyed by looters. We will have to hire a mitigation service to clean up our office because there’s broken glass all over, soot and smoke damage. It’s not safe for our staff or volunteers to try to deal with on their own. The day after the first night of looting two of our staff who live close by were permitted access into our office and were able to bring out our desk top computers (CPUs) and set them up in their homes. We did not have any data breach since the desktop computers were not stolen. Those staff are now working out of their homes. I am temporarily working out of the Southeast Seniors office (a program similar to ours) located on University Ave. in Minneapolis. It may be quite some time before the bank will reopen.

Where the Walgreens on East Lake used to stand as of June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors provides many services to help area seniors live healthy, independent and socially connected lives. We serve 600+ seniors and caregivers annually. Right now the biggest needs of our clients are getting groceries and prescriptions. Due to damage incurred from the rioting and looting, Target, Cub, ALDI and Walgreens are closed. Our neighborhood has suddenly become a food and pharmacy desert. Local seniors, many of whom don’t have their own transportation, are having a harder time getting groceries and prescriptions. Our staff and volunteers are doing grocery shopping and delivery for our clients, and are delivering food from local food shelves as well. We recently got a Hunger Solutions grant for food distribution and delivery to lower-income seniors. We plan on distributing perishable foods such as meat, dairy and fresh produce to eligible seniors soon. We’re always looking for more volunteers to help us in our work. Our temporary phone number is 763-458-0484.

What remained of GM Tobacco on June 12. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“Now, more than ever, we need the community’s support. We’re asking for financial support from individuals, organizations, businesses, churches and community groups. Donations can be sent to our temporary mailing address at P.O. Box 17133, Minneapolis, MN 55417 or by donating online through our website: (click the ‘Donate’ tab.)”

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Q&A with Bruce Axelrod

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Bruce Axerod (photo by Elena Vaughn)

Interview conducted by Elena Vaughn

On the back of Bruce “Uncle Bubba” Axelrod’s shirt reads a Cesar Chavez quote: “The people who give you their food give you their heart.” A self-described “Buddhist Jew-boy who loves Jesus” from the Bronx, Bruce has been a resident of Trinity Apartments (2800 East 31st St.) for five years, but has loved Holy Trinity Lutheran Church for thirty. On June 3, Bruce gave the Messenger an inside look at life in the immediate aftermath.

What has your experience been during this time?
“I love our community, the diversity and people and struggle, We’ve been at ground Zero with the fires, and we support the Black Lives Matter (BLM), a lot of us, and we believe that there’s been perpetrators from the outside setting the fires. We don’t believe BLM would destroy the community. We love all the energy and people coming in and helping us. It’s been very healing.”

What have been some of the harder parts of this experience?
“It’s been traumatic being here, we’re still afraid at night. We’ve been afraid every night for our building burning, but we’re here to stay. We’re about struggle and peace and justice and making the world a better place for everybody, no matter who you are.”

Where are most of the volunteers from, to your knowledge?

“A lot of people getting the food and things are in the general vicinity of the Southside. Some might be a few blocks away, but they[‘re] coming from all over, maybe a half-mile, mile. I think everyone is in the general vicinity, and if they’re not, it don’t matter. All the food that got looted and ruined from the stores. In my heart, I believe this is God returning the food to us. The source of our blessings is God, whatever you wanna call God. There’s an abundance for everyone and love always rules over evil. Whatever your spirituality is, it don’t matter, as long as you act right, respect your elders and the children and the mas..and the people and our property. We love you, that’s what we’re about here.”

How does your personal experience affect your view of the recent uprisings?

“I’ve been in the streets against the United States Government…since I’ve been 17 years old. I wanna see systemic change. I wanna see the racism treated in this country. I ain’t against the police, I ain’t against no one, but when you’re hurting people and killing people, that’s no good. I wanna see our tax dollars used for something besides making war. I wanna see it being used for education, for roads, for better lives, for affordable housing. We work so hard and we ain’t got time for our children or ourselves cuz we’re so busy, and it shouldn’t be that hard to make do…. It’s gonna stop, it’s done.”


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Church adapts

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

In touch through video calls, telephone, email, and postal mail


Joy and Randy Nelson keep in touch online with their fellow members at Holy Trinity Church. (Photo by Terry Faust)

Randy Nelson participated in a recent congregation-wide meeting, along with nearly 100 members of his church, Holy Trinity Lutheran (2730 E. 31st St.), but Nelson could only see 30 fellow congregants at a time. Those 30 were on his computer screen in his apartment.
At a time when church buildings in Minnesota are closed and gatherings with more than 10 people are banned,* Holy Trinity and religious groups all over the state are using computer technology to bring their congregations together. By necessity, church members like Nelson, a retired Lutheran pastor, are becoming computer savvy.
“Before the pandemic, I had never heard of Zoom,” he said. “Now I seem to be using it almost every day.”
At Holy Trinity, church meetings are conducted on Zoom, but the Longfellow Lutheran congregation uses a different technology known as Vimeo for video broadcasts of its weekly church service.
“The service is recorded so we can watch it anytime,” Nelson said. “The videos do help to bring the church into our home but they are no substitute for being there in the pews with our fellow congregation members. For me, at least, videos make the services seem like a spectator sport.”
While they can watch the Holy Trinity service anytime during the week, Nelson and his wife Joy have decided to watch it at 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. “That is a traditional worship time for us, so when we watch the service at 11 it does feel like we are part of a larger group, even though there are only two of us in our apartment,” Nelson noted.

Maintaining connection virtually
At St. Albert’s Catholic Church (2836 33rd Ave. S.), the 9:30 a.m. mass on Sunday is livestreamed on Facebook. “We can see there are at least 110 households present for that service,” said Mike Vitt, a longtime member of St. Albert’s parish. “We are together virtually, so that way we can maintain some connections. We can feel each other’s presence even if we are not together physically.”
Greta Gantriis, a member at St. Peder’s Lutheran Church (4600 E. 42nd St.), said she misses being with long-time friends on Sunday morning. “The online service does keep us connected, but it is not the same as being together in person. So many of us are part of a long-standing community of people with a Danish heritage. St. Peder’s has done so much to maintain that sense of community.”
Like Gantriis, Rita Juhl, another St. Peder’s member, wishes she could be together with fellow congregants on Sunday morning. “But that is not possible now. We have to adapt to this new reality,” Juhl said.

Volunteering in the community
At a time when so many people are finding themselves quarantined at home, churches in Longfellow and Nokomis have made a special effort to stay connected with the members of their congregation.
“With the shutdown in place, many of our members have rediscovered the telephone,“ said Holy Trinity’s senior pastor, Ingrid Rasmussen. “When the shutdown occurred, we contacted everyone in the congregation by phone. We continue to keep in touch that way – particularly for the small group of people who don’t have access to reliable computer communications. We also have a newsletter that goes out every week, by email and by postal mail.“
Rasmussen said that Holy Trinity has maintained its connections with people in the neighborhood who may not be church members. “We know that many neighbors are suffering financially as a result of the pandemic. They may have lost their jobs or been furloughed. We have an emergency fund that can help in special situations.”
Even with the shelter in place orders in effect, Holy Trinity members continued their community outreach efforts. “A number of us are involved as volunteers at Longfellow School, the education center for mothers with children and pregnant mothers,” Joy Nelson explained. “Earlier this month, we were able to participate in an event at the school. We brought gifts over for the graduates. They came outside one at a time.
“With proper social distancing, we stood in the school yard with bells and signs congratulating them. We volunteers were able to see each other in person and even talk to each other through our masks.”

Joint church food shelf busy
At Minnehaha Methodist Church (3701 E. 50th St.), a group of four area congregations jointly sponsor the Minnehaha Food Shelf. The four include Minnehaha Methodist, Nokomis Lutheran, St. James Episcopal and Living Table. George Gallagher, the food shelf’s director, said he has seen an upswing in food shelf use as the pandemic has taken hold in Minnesota.
“Our demand surged in April when we served 880 client, a 22% increase over the previous month,” Gallagher said. “Right now, we are able to keep up with the demand. But our biggest concern is whether we will be able to keep doing that as more people are laid off and furloughed. People in the community have been very generous. Our contributions are up. That is a good sign that we will be able to meet the need in the months ahead.”
“Our church buildings may be closed, but that doesn’t mean that our churches are closed,” noted Minnehaha United Methodist Pastor Becky Seachrist. “We continue to fulfill our mission. Now, we have to do it in new ways.”

* 25% of capacity
*Gov. Tim Walz has issued a new executive order enabling places of worship to hold indoor services, starting on May 27, at 25% of their capacity, as long as they follow public health guidelines. Churches and other places of worship must provide six feet of separation between attendees. Indoor and outdoor events are limited to a maximum of 250 participants.

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On the watch for raptors in river gorge

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

14 species of raptors in the neighborhood

A bald eagle surveyed the Mississippi River from high atop a white pine. There are at least 90 active bald eagle sites in the Twin Cities.(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Mississippi River Gorge runs right through the most densely populated, highly-urbanized part of Minnesota. The gorge is part of the Mississippi River Flyway, through which more than 300 species of birds pass every year on their spring and fall migrations. Of course, not everyone is just passing through.
Longfellow bird expert Dave Zumeta said, “We have identified birds of all shapes and sizes in the gorge. Some of the easiest to see without binoculars belong to the family of birds called raptors. We know of at least 14 species of raptors that migrate through, and/or winter in the gorge: the turkey vulture, the bald eagle, nine kinds of hawks, and three kinds of owls.”
What makes a bird a raptor? All raptors have hooked beaks, sharp talons on their feet, and very keen eyesight. The raptor’s beak sets it apart from other birds. All raptors have the same beak design, curved at the tip with sharp cutting edges to rip and tear apart their prey.
Bald eagles, which were on the U.S. Threatened and Endangered Species List until 2007, are now frequently seen soaring above the river gorge. Their numbers have been restored by the banning of the pesticide DDT and better habitat protection.
There are two bald eagle viewing spots along West River Parkway. One is between the RR bridge at 27th Street and the Lake Street Bridge, and the other is below Fairview Riverside Hospital. Both viewing spots are near nest sites. With West River Parkway closed indefinitely to cars, the bird watching is better than ever.
Zumeta is encouraged by the rise in population of bald eagles. He said, “When I moved to Minneapolis in 1981, I think there were about 200 breeding pairs left in the state. Now that number has climbed by a factor of almost 10. Minnesota has among the most breeding pairs of bald eagles of any other state besides Alaska. It’s a huge success story.”
Adult bald eagles are recognized by their white head and tail feathers, and their brown-feathered bodies. Their wing span averages 6-7.5 feet from tip to tip. Nests are constructed in large white or red pine trees, aspen or cottonwood, near lakes and rivers. There are an estimated 90 active eagle nests in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, according to the Minnesota DNR.
Eagle nests are built of sticks, commonly 6-8 feet across, and added to each year by the returning resident pair. Females lay up to three eggs beginning as early as January. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch in about 35 days. Eaglets start flying at three months of age, in late May through early July. Four weeks or so after they learn to fly, young eagles leave the nest for good.

Peregrine falcons: fastest birds
Another spot to see raptors is near Lock and Dam #1 at the Ford Dam site. Zumeta said, “There are great opportunities to see peregrine falcons here. The Observation Deck is closed due to COVID-19 but when it’s open, I think it’s one of the best place to see peregrines in the whole Twin Cities. For the second year, a pair is nesting on the underside of the Ford Bridge. Last year, they successfully reared four young there.”
Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world. Zumeta said, “They are extremely territorial, and have been clocked dive bombing at 180 miles per hour. Several years ago I was walking across the Ford Bridge and I saw a Cooper’s hawk flying by. All of a sudden, a peregrine falcon dropped out of the sky like a shot. It must have been defending its nest. The Cooper’s hawk barely got away with its life.”
The Ford Dam site is also a likely spot to see great egrets. These spectacular white birds ply the waters of the gorge quietly looking for fish, frogs, snakes, and crayfish to eat. Great blue herons frequent this area as well. In flight, the great blue heron curls its neck into a tight “S” shape, and its legs trail distinctly behind its tail. Both the great egret and the great blue heron are big, showy birds – not raptors – but fun for new birders to identify.
Of three species of owls that are seen in the gorge, the barred owl is the only permanent resident. It is a large, stocky owl with a rounded head, no ear tufts, and a handsome horizontal striped chest plumage (the bars that give the owl its name). The barred owl nests in cavities in pine, spruce, fir, and cedar trees. It has a signature call that sounds like, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all?”
Whether listening or watching for raptors, be patient, and be willing to be surprised. Zumeta said, “With birds, there’s always more to be seen. Eagles, ospreys, most of the hawks, vultures, and peregrine falcons are all more common in the gorge than they used to be. Here we are in the middle of a major urban area, with the chance to see least 14 species of raptors in our own neighborhood.”

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Educators retiring

Posted on 26 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Gbai Gutknecht

Jan Bauer

Jane Fischer

Kim Berg McGowan

Lillie Pang

Nancy Hofschulte

Community Schools


This year the Hiawatha/Howe Community Schools will be losing educators with 201 years of combined experience. Four teachers, Kim Berg-McGowan (grade 2), Gbai Gudnecht (grade 1), Nancy Hofschulte (Special Education), Jan Bauer (music), Jane Fischer (speech pathologist) and Lillie Pang (principal) are retiring moving on to a new phase of life. Like other rites of passage this spring, their send-off celebrations have been put on hold, but our gratitude remains.
Daily joy and greeting the unexpected with students is what these educators say they will remember. Special events and traditions such as musical programs and Howe Drama Club, Field Day, Field Trips and Spirit Week will be special memories. There were funny memories along the way. This one comes from Principal Pang:
“It was time for recess as I was giving directions to the class. I picked up a volleyball from the corner of the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something black on the volleyball. I grabbed it and threw it on the floor. All the students gasped. What I had thought was a big clump of dust was really a big black spider. I gained a lot of respect that day from my students.”
And this one is from Ms. Fischer: “I was working with a student in front of the speech mirror on the /gr/ sound. I said, “/gr/, like the color green.” The student said, “Yeah, kind of like your teeth.” I replied, “Really? I never noticed that.”
What will they miss? Seeing “The spark,” when students have that moment when the learning comes together. They will miss the fun of the children, support of families, colleagues and volunteers like Mr. Eddie Speers, and the wonderful atmosphere of Hiawatha/Howe Community Schools. The word “joy” was used many times when describing what will missed.
Grandchildren and family came up most often when inquiring about plans for the next chapter. Mrs. McGowan has moved to Fergus Falls to be closer to her grandchildren. The move came sooner than expected because with Distance Learning she can teach from there. For some, transitioning out of their current roles is a process which will include volunteering to teach in other capacities. Mrs. Hofschulte plans to teach reading to immigrant adults. Friends, and travel are also in the future for these retirees.
With over 200 years of experience, there are most certainly a few parting words of wisdom and advice they would like to share. Mrs. Bauer says, “Be kind and keep growing.” Ms. Fischer says, “Enjoy each day. It goes by fast.”
And Principal Pang says: “There is a saying: Give me a fish, I eat for a day. Teach me to fish I eat for a lifetime.
“I believe an education is the ticket out of poverty. Teaching will give students skills to reach their dreams. I enjoy running into former students and learning about their careers which range from being a manager, to a daycare director, to a nurse. Teaching is a very rewarding career. It is not for the faint hearted. I have a coffee mug on my desk that reads: What’s your super power? I teach. It is time to pass my cape on to the next generation of educators and watch them soar!”
Saying good bye to these retirees is hard especially at this time.  We hope we can celebrate with them in the fall. In the meanwhile, if you’d like to send them warm wishes, you can email them before school gets out for the summer. Connect with them through Hiawatha Community School website.
Hiawatha and Howe have been very lucky to have had such dedicated staff members. As they move on into retirement, we wish them well.

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<< 6 feet apart >>

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

(Photos by Terry Faust)

West River Road is closed to northbound traffic to allow trail users more space to maintain social distancing. Sections of Cedar Lake Parkway, Lake Harriet Parkway, Lake of the Isles Parkway, Lake Nokomis Parkway, and Main Street S.E. are also closed. Because residents are still congregating in groups, playgrounds, skateparks and athletic fields have been closed. Tennis court nets have been removed and basketball court rims blocked. Gatherings are limited to 10 people or less, and trail users urged to stay six feet apart. (Photo by Terry Faust)

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Kids learn through play

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

While you’re at home during this extended break from school, try these ideas from Free Forest School


Free Forest School Executive Director Anna Sharratt said, “This idea started as an outdoor play group. It has turned into a river I’ve been riding for several years now.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Let them be kids, outdoors. Let them learn through unstructured play in nature.
That’s the cornerstone belief of Free Forest School, a volunteer-led program that operates in 200+ cities across the country.
Right now, their weekly outdoor gatherings are, of course, suspended, but it’s easy to put the principles of Free Forest School to use during this extended break from school.
Longfellow resident Anna Sharratt developed the idea for the program five years ago, when her young family lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. She and her husband had signed their four-year-old up for a pre-K learning program, and the kids didn’t set foot outdoors for a whole month.
Sharratt, who grew up alongside Minnehaha Creek and camping in the BWCA, was stunned. She said, “In my way of thinking, learning and nature are inseparable. I had hoped to meet other families in the neighborhood, thinking we could get together outside of school, chill out, and play. I found parenting in New York City to be very competitive. The idea for Free Forest School grew out of that longing for non-competitive, quality time spent outdoors with other families.”
Two months after Sharratt started the first chapter of Free Forest School in Brooklyn, her family moved to Austin, Texas. Once seeds were planted in those two places, people started contacting her from around the country asking, “How can I start this up in my town?”

“There is no such thing
as bad weather,
only bad clothing.”
~ Scandinavian saying

Focus on supportive communities for parents and kids
The Free Forest School model is straight forward; it focuses on creating supportive communities. Parents can parent in different ways while encouraging child-led, unstructured play.
Sharratt said, “There are so many people who attend our play groups. Adults say they forge a deeper relationship with their kids through unstructured play, because so many of their usual power struggles disappear. There is less adult talking and explaining, there are fewer rules.”
The suggested age range for children is 0-6 years, but the majority of kids are 1-4. Every Free Forest School chapter has a director. It’s that person’s job to recruit parent facilitators from the community and to train them.
One of the ongoing Minneapolis sites is Theodore Wirth Park, where a Free Forest School chapter has met on Monday mornings at a certain trailhead for the past four years.
Sharratt explained, “We have a strong emphasis on place-based learning, so we go back to the same place throughout the seasons. Kids love to explore in the rain and mud of April, the heat and humidity of June, the snow and ice of January.”
Place-based learning might come as something of a relief during this time of staying at home, or close to home. According to Sharratt, young children are just as happy, maybe happier, going back to the same place over and over again.
Now that even playgrounds are closed or discouraged, here’s the best news yet. Find a scrappy patch of woods near your house; any nearby nature spot will do. Take the kids there and, after making sure it’s reasonably safe, led them take the lead in their own unstructured play.
Sharratt encourages parents to think back to their own memories of childhood, asking, “What places in nature were most meaningful for you? It’s probably not the trip your whole family took to a national park, though it could be. It’s more likely a tree you loved to climb by yourself, or a vacant neighborhood lot where you built a fort with your friends. These are experiences that give kids a sense of autonomy, which is especially important in this time of ‘helicopter parenting.’”

“Kids are hard wired to learn through play in nature, but parents can get in the way with too much structure and over-scheduling.” ~ Anna Sharratt

Every day outside
It is unlikely that Free Forest School playgroups will be meeting this summer, given the current health emergency.
In the meantime, the website is resource rich, and includes a COVID-19 inspired initiative called Every Day Outside on the blog. It’s a place to share ideas, play prompts, inspirations, and ideas for child-led activities. There are also weekly emails that dive deeper into the value of unstructured play for the whole family. For more information, visit or or email
“It may look like we’re educating children, but we’re really educating adults,” said Sharratt. “Kids are hard wired to learn through play in nature, but parents can get in the way with too much structure and over-scheduling.”
So, even though Free Forest School isn’t formally meeting right now, Sharratt said the emphasis hasn’t changed one bit. Today is the perfect day to get outside with your kids. Let them cross a stream on rocks or climb a tree. They might look like they’re “just playing,” (and what’s wrong with that?) but they’re also developing their sense of spatial awareness, large and small motor skills, balance, critical thinking, and much more.

In a nutshell
Free Forest School ignites children’s innate capacity to learn through unstructured play in nature, fostering healthy development and nurturing the next generation of creative thinkers, collaborative leaders, and environmental stewards.

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Brighten somebody’s day with a kind word

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Belle’s Tool Box will stamp and mail letters to local seniors

39th Ave S, a neighbor donates food during the “Stay Home” pandemic cycle.

The crew at Belle’s Tool Box has wrestled with how to best use their “tools” at this time, and has reached out to a senior center in the neighborhood.
They are encouraging children to draw and write messages to an elderly person confined to their home. Place in a plastic bag and leave in the box located on the Belle’s Tool Box gate on 34th St., just south of 42nd Ave. Owner Lucy Elliott will see that the messages and drawings get to homes of folks who could use a little cheer!
Regarding concern about handling items, Elliott said, “I will handle the items appropriately, and am confident the staff of Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors will, as well. Connections between old and young seem especially poignant right now.”
Contact Lucy Elliott with questions or suggestions at

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Community response to a global situation

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Coronavirus Pandemic

Neighbors got outside and built community near Brackett Park on Sunday, March 22, 2020 for the Corona-Cautious Classic biking extravaganza. Above, Hans, Ann, and Eve Thorkelson cheer on the participants. Below Ellen Sharratt participates. One child at a time, at 10 minute intervals, vied for Fastest Lap or Most Laps in 10 Minutes and competed for costume/spirit awards. Drinks, snacks, signs, bells, bullhorns were encouraged.

“We are continuing to bake bread because we believe in the power of such a basic food,” said Christopher MacLeod of Laune Bread, a microbakery and bread delivery service in South Minneapolis. “To our subscribers it carries a lot of meaning – it is a weekly ritual for many of them, but it is also nutrient dense and life sustaining.”
As restaurants closed to sit-down customers and with it their pick-up sites, MacLeod and his partner, Tiff Singh, asked themselves what they should do. Should they continue baking and delivering bread? Is it safe and smart?
“We are healthy, but that isn’t a guarantee, and it is scary. It gives us a lot of anxiety,” they admitted. “We have both been sitting in front of our computers hours on end every day corresponding with our subscribers and others who ask for bread, watching the news rapidly change, and trying to develop new logistical systems and also health and food safety procedures.”
They decided to discontinue pick-up locations and do delivery only. They dropped the $1 bike delivery fee, moved to car delivery, and narrowed their delivery area. They made some changes to reduce risk, including heavily cleaning and sanitizing surfaces and their hands during the bake, and wearing food safe gloves and face masks at all times after the bread comes out of the oven and during the delivery.
Their business is flexible because it is relatively small and operates without a storefront.
This week they added a second bake to keep up with demand and to offer people a chance to purchase bread at whatever price they could afford. “In 24 hours, 51 loaves of bread have been donated through our subscribers and the community at large,” observed MacLeod.
“We want to keep offering sustenance, but beyond our regular members – last week we donated 20 loaves (we donated 10 and our members paid for 10) through our members to people who needed them: school teachers, elderly neighbors, hair stylists, and families. It’s a language of humanity – the meaning of our bread spreads beyond the bakery to those who buy it, to those who are gifted it.”
Of those donated loaves, five went to a subscriber who shared them with others.
“Your bread fed: me, my partner teacher who is caring for her mother as she recovers from having her gallbladder removed, a friend of our gym teacher who was in need, the teacher I did student teaching with who just had to adopt the younger (half) sibling of one of her kids, and a teacher who is in treatment for breast cancer,” wrote the woman. “Thank you, from all of us.”
MacLeod and Singh recognize the situation is precarious and at some point they may discontinue baking bread, but right now they’re focusing on supporting their community and are being supported in return.
“We are a small business, but the ingredients we bake with make a big difference to many people,” they said.

Annual fish fry attendance drops, church works to
encourage parish family
Each year, hundreds of people line up at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Longfellow for the Friday night Fish Fry during Lent.
But not this year.
As Governor Walz declared a peacetime emergency on Friday, March 13, church volunteers debated whether to continue with that night’s fish fry. “We did go ahead and do the dinner on March 13 because it’s a little like stopping a locomotive on a dime to try to cancel at the last minute,” observed Erin Sim, the church office and communications manager.
“Gallons of coleslaw were ready, and many pounds of fish thawed. We served about 425 people that night, as opposed to the 1,100-1,350 we might have done on a regular third night. But even Archbishop Hebda came, as he hates to miss our Fish Dinners (which one of the local radio stations called ‘The Vegas of Fish Fries!’).”
The loss of revenue will have a huge impact on the church’s budget, as it is one of two major fundraisers held each year, according to Sim. “We miss the ‘fun raising’ as well, because we have such a good time showing our guests a warm welcome and feeding them well.”
The church is considering doing some variation of the dinners when it is safe to do so, perhaps tying fish ‘n’ chips in with its annual Bingo-Rama nights in July.
“Meanwhile, as with all the faith communities, we have cancelled our masses (daily and weekend) and all other gatherings until it’s safe to offer them again. We are live-streaming our Sunday morning 9:30 a.m. mass using Facebook Live on our St. Albert the Great Facebook page and then archiving the result on our website:, under the Worship with Us tab.
“Our small staff will take turns spending a day in the office, Tuesday through Friday, but otherwise will work from home to keep publishing the Bulletin and trying to keep our parish family informed, encouraged and together in these days when we can’t interact in person.”

Kennedy Transmission offers home pick-up and drop-off
Kennedy Transmission CVT & Auto at 3423 E. Lake St. typically has appointments scheduled one to two weeks out as they are one of only a handful of shops in the U.S. that specialize in repair of CVT (Constant Variable Transmission) and Hybrid Drive systems. Their appointment calendar has dropped off dramatically the week beginning on Monday, March 23.
“I know a number of repair shops that have closed or are expecting to close very soon and this makes me very nervous. I have a small staff of very talented people who very much want to keep working as normal,” said owner Matt Johnson. “At this point we are classified an ‘essential’ sector of the economy to facilitate transportation and as such plan on staying healthy and working through the duration if at all possible.”
He has walled off the customer area from the front desk area with plexiglass, and employees are using the shop service door instead of the customer entrance. They are disinfecting door handles, countertops and hard surfaces throughout the day and doing a thorough bleaching at night. They are wiping down customer’s steering wheels and gear shifters after completing work.
“Although some of these measures slow our workflow a bit, I think we need to do everything practical to mitigate the risk of virus spread,” remarked Johnson.
“I have always said that we have the best customers and this has really been evident the past week,” said Johnson. ”I have received a lot of calls and visits just to check in on us and make sure things are going well. Our hope is that people are able to work and stay safe at the same time; and we can continue to maintain their vehicles. I think it is generally imperative that anyone showing possible symptoms of COVID-19 quarantine themselves to limit potential spread.”
To help those with underlying health issues as well as those who simply want to limit their time in public spaces, Kennedy Transmission has begun picking up customer vehicles and dropping them back off.
“We have also decided we would do whatever we can to provide basic help to our customers at no charge,” said Johnson. “In particular, if someone in the neighborhood needs a tire aired up or a jump-start, I will try and be there in a timely manner and get them back on the road. Although it may be a little thing, I think if everyone helps a little here or there, we will weather this better together.”
He is also making a few supply runs for neighborhood residents who need something from Target or Walgreens, fitting them in between his work responsibilities.
“If Italy, Spain, etc. have any parallel to the U.S. then things will get a lot worse before they get better,” observed Johnson. “Minneapolis is a wonderful community and I think basic best hygiene, social distancing and common sense practices as well as supporting our neighbors will be the key to weathering this crisis.”

Business organizations,
neighbors support each other
Businesses in the neighborhood are facing the challenge of adjusting to the new information and restrictions that are coming out daily, observed Kim Jakus of the Longfellow Business Association. Those without direct contact with the public are taking precautions for their employees and workplaces. Restaurants and retail locations are being hit harder, reducing hours, laying off workers, transitioning to online orders, implementing pick-up or delivery options, and offering gift cards for later redemption. They’re trying to figure out how to manage expenses, pinpoint which can be delayed and which still need to be paid.
“I see a lot of generosity from the community on Next Door encouraging neighbors to still support local businesses,” Jakus said.
Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson has taken the lead on creating a Google spreadsheet listing all local businesses and whether they are still open or not. Find the link on his Facebook page.
The LBA, Lake Street Council and Redesign are partnering together to provide small businesses with information on resources available to them. They list items on their web sites and share them through regular email updates. Highlights include Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available for small businesses and monthly sales taxes have been deferred a month.
“We’re connecting on how we can work together to support businesses in our geographic scope. Probably a lot of that will come on the tail end of this crisis and figuring out what recovery looks like,” observed Jakus.

Trying to manage life
in a pandemic
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Longfellow resident Don Hammen became selective about when he left his house. On March 15, he took a tape measure to church to ensure there was over six feet between him and others.
He decided to skip the Neighborhoods 2020 meeting the next day, although it pained him. But he was still planning to pull together Elder Voices (Telling Our Stories) at Turtle Bread as usual the fourth Friday of the month.
He stocked up on frozen foods and canned goods, and continued to use Meals on Wheels. As the week went on, he discovered that buying groceries through Cub Home Delivery was becoming harder. He could no longer place a delivery in the morning and get it later that day; instead, a Thursday order wouldn’t come until Sunday.
Being dependent on mass transit, Hammen was confident he could continue to use it to get around. Things changed later in the week when Mass Transit announced new guidelines on how many people could be on a bus and restricting non-essential travel. “I can live with this but if they ever did a complete shut down I would have a real problem,” said Hammen.
Complicating things is that his refrigerator appears to be dying.
He’s wondering how “we are in this together” is actually playing out at the neighborhood level. Will social distancing mean social isolation?
“The fact of the matter is I’m still trying to figure out how to manage my life in this COVID-19 situation,” Hammen said.

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