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Protestors mourn George Floyd

Posted on 28 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Protestors started at the site where George Floyd was murdered (Chicago and 38th), walked down 38th, Hiawatha and Minnehaha, and ended at the 3rd Precinct at Minnehaha and Lake on Tuesday night, May 26, 2020. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

From Ward 12 Council member Andrew Johnson on May 28:

Andrew Johnson, Ward 12 Minneapolis City Council member

On Tuesday morning, like many of you, I watched the video of George Floyd being killed in what I believe is murder at the hands of police. It was horrifying and gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. I called for justice that morning and supported the immediate firing of the police officers involved. I also support the call for criminal charges to be filed immediately by County Attorney Mike Freeman, as I personally believe the evidence we have publicly available is clear enough.

When protests began, I advocated for de-escalation, and like many of you I have been deeply concerned by what appeared to be disproportionate use of force by police that I believe only inflamed the situation. I continue to advocate for de-escalation. I support protesters in exercising their right to free speech, and I also support non-violent civil disobedience which has historically proven necessary at times for change.

Like many of you, I have also been heartsick to watch the destruction that has transpired. I am heartbroken that it has resulted in loss of access to food, medicine, services, jobs, and even housing that so many families relied on, particularly low-income and transit-dependent members of our community. Families living above some of the burned commercial buildings are now homeless and several local independent small businesses have been devastated.

I have been in contact with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Mayor, and many of my colleagues on the Council. There is work underway to help provide emergency access to food and services for those impacted by these losses. There is work underway to help ensure non-violence and achieve peace as people continue to exercise their right to protest, and that must start with de-escalation of the use of force by law enforcement. There is ongoing work to clean-up and there will be work to rebuild our community assets.

It cannot be lost on anyone that the killing of George Floyd is not an isolated incident. Black men in particular, but also indigenous people and people of color (BIPOC), are being disproportionately killed by police in both our city and across our nation. The murder of George Floyd is another horrifying trauma in a wound that is centuries deep and spans immeasurable lives. As a white person I will never know or experience this in the way that so many BIPOC members of our community have. For those of us who are white, we need to listen to BIPOC communities and be allies now more than ever so that we can help achieve a just, safe, healthy, and thriving community for everyone.

In the days and weeks ahead, as we collectively process what has happened and discuss how to proceed, there will be difficult decisions over the future of the Minneapolis Police Department. There are calls for defunding or abolition, as many do not feel that reform is enough or even possible. I believe all options are on the table. Whatever direction we collectively decide to go as a city, we all have a right to safety in our community and to feel safe with those we choose to help protect it.

Not surprisingly, my inbox is flooded and voicemail filled. As I continue to push for justice and peaceful resolution, and as I work to get information and answers, I also read these messages and respond to many, despite being unable to keep up. I am struck by the thoughtfulness of what I am hearing from so many of you. The personal stories. The emotions. The ideas you share. It is humbling and a privilege to read these deeply private and vulnerable thoughts, and to be trusted with your candid and raw feelings. It gives me hope in all of this. It gives me hope because our city is filled with such loving, passionate, and beautiful people. And I know that with all of you, we can get through this difficult and traumatic moment and emerge better.

From Ward 11 Council member Jeremy Schroeder on May 2

Ward 11 Minneapolis City Council member Jeremy Schroeder

7:

I woke up today still heartsick over the dehumanizing death of George Floyd at the hands of MPD officers. These public servants did not serve and protect this community as they are sworn to do. Instead, they took a life from it without any need whatsoever to do so – the exact opposite of their duty. I stood in community last night at the peaceful protest at 38th and Chicago, just a few blocks north of the ward I represent. I saw people come together and care for each other, volunteers pass out hand sanitizer to keep folks safe, and a shared grief that has become too familiar. Later, from home, I saw the same reports as you: dramatic clashes between police and protesters at the Third Precinct, young people and journalists hit by police projectiles, teargas sprayed. I heard from my colleagues who were there that they felt they could not work with officers to deescalate the situation. These reports are alarming, to say the least.

As I’ve said already, I remain committed to doing everything I can to ensure transparency and accountability in this case and going forward. Public information will be posted on the City’s website as it is made available. But justice means something more. The decision yesterday to fire the four officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death was the right first step, but it’s only the first step. The community needs and deserves a comprehensive, swift, and fair investigation. The community needs prosecutors to look long and hard at the evidence and do what’s right. City leadership needs to examine the role of the MPD in this death and others, and not simply admire the problem but move toward real solutions. This is about systemic change, not one-off fixes.

The City Council has very limited oversight of MPD operations, but my colleagues and I do have a platform to elevate the voices of community members demanding better, including in the City’s budget process. Those of us in positions of power need to be held accountable. I’m committed to doing better for you, Minneapolis. The reforms we’ve made have not been enough. It is our responsibility to continue working relentlessly to unravel generations of injustice toward our BIPOC neighbors.

I am a public official. I accept your criticism, feedback, input, and outrage. I am grateful to have heard from so many Ward 11 residents demanding more from the City they love – the City that, over these past few days, has let them down. We must move forward together, with tenacity. I invite you to join me in this work, and in remembering Mr. Floyd.

 

Governor activates National Guard on Thursday, May 28

Today, Governor Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard to help protect Minnesotans’ safety and maintain peace in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Local leaders have requested National Guard resources after extensive damage to private property occurred and peaceful protests evolved into a dangerous situation for protesters and first responders.

 

It is time to rebuild. Rebuild the city, rebuild our justice system, and rebuild the relationship between law enforcement and those they’re charged to protect. George Floyd’s death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction. As George Floyd’s family has said, ‘He would not want people to get hurt. He lived his life protecting people.’ Let’s come together to rebuild, remember, and seek justice for George Floyd,” said Governor Walz.

 

As Governor, I will always defend the right to protest,” Governor Walz continued. “It is how we express pain, process tragedy, and create change. That is why I am answering our local leaders’ request for Minnesota National Guard assistance to protect peaceful demonstrators, neighbors, and small businesses in Minnesota.”

 

The National Guard Adjutant General will work with local government agencies to provide personnel, equipment, and facilities needed to respond to and recover from this emergency.

 

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. The Walz-Flanagan Administration is committed to addressing the systemic inequities and discrimination that led to this incident and seeking justice.

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Business along E. Lake St. hit hard by protestors

Posted on 28 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Midday along E. Lake St., Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

From Daniel Kennedy at Kennedy and Cain Law (4103 E. Lake St.):

I took a walk this morning after verifying that my building is OK.  Almost all the damage is west of 34th Avenue, starting with broken glass at NAPA, Soderberg’s, TCF, Walgreen’s, US Bank, the library, Cash ’n Pawn, Hamoudi Sabri’s building, the Coliseum, Odd Fellows, and Minnehaha Liquor.  All bus shelters had been smashed.

 

Auto Zone and Wendy’s had been completely burned.  Firefighters were still spraying 7 Sigma, the residential building under construction in front of Aldi’s, and the mixed use building between VOA and Holy Trinity Apartments.  But those three looked irreparable, unless the building by Aldi’s concrete structure can be salvaged.

The row of buildings with Target was heavily damaged.  Target had been looted.  MPR said this morning that there were flames on the roof of the Target building, and when I walked by there was water pouring out of the charter school and dollar store.  All glass from Target to Planet Fitness was broken.
Even at 10:30 am, people were still looting G&M Tobacco and Sally’s Beauty Products in the Minnehaha Commons residential building next to Cub.
Geek Love was boarding windows, as was Urban Growler.  I don’t know if that was due to broken glass or as a precaution in case of future violence.  The post office had already been boarded.
I did not see any damage at Northern Sun, Migizi, or Wilson Law.  Gandhi Mahal looked OK, but the owner reported two broken windows.  Many businesses bore signs saying “Black Owned” or “Minority Owned.”  It may have helped some businesses, but others with signs suffered damage.
There was lots of graffiti on walls and windows.
Looking out my window today, I’ve seen three businesses with intact windows boarding up as a precaution.  I just have too many windows to make that feasible.  I’ll just have to hope there is no more violence on Lake Street.

View full gallery on Facebook by clicking here.

From the Longfellow Business Association:

We have been hearing from many of you in our business community today after the murder of George Floyd, protests, rioting and the complete devastation of Lake Street, especially at Lake and Minnehaha. We are working with partners to develop a coordinated response for advocacy, leadership and safety. We want your input. Please reach out and tell us what you are feeling, seeing, hearing and how the LBA can support you. We will need you all to help us as we move forward.

Right now, here are a few resources and ways to gather support:

Boarding Windows: Mortenson Family Foundation is donating plywood and some labor for boarding windows. If you have small businesses that would have trouble taking care of boarding themselves and need help, give their info to ZoeAna zmartinez@lakestreetcouncil.org.

Financial Support: Lake Street Council has set up a fundraising platform and all donations will go to go to small businesses that have experienced vandalism. Please share.
https://www.welovelakestreet.com/

Thank you all and please reach out to Kim with any specific ideas, needs and concerns: 612.298.4699 or kim@longfellowbusinessassociation.org

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‘The only time I felt threatened was when I was near police’

Posted on 28 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Photo by Terry Faust

Letter from photographer Terry Faust, written after being at the 3rd Precinct on Wednesday, May 28 at 9 p.m.:

You know, despite the fact I was amongst angry people, and not many of them had the same skin color as me, I only felt fearful when I was in front of the police barricade where officers were setting off flash-bang bombs and teargas. They were trying to break up a crowd that was big and mad. It did not work. In fact, I don’t believe I’m off base in thinking their actions only made the crowd bigger and madder. I initially moved in front of the police station barricade to see what was going on. Suddenly, people near me started ducking and saying the police were shooting. Shooting? It sounded crazy, but something pinged a lamp pole behind me and something else ticked off the pavement at my feet. I moved away. Today, I discovered they were shooting “marker rounds,” a kind of paintball on steroids. I looked them up online and the manufacturer says: “Training with UTM Man-Marker Rounds requires approved safety goggles, protective face mask, protective gloves, and two layers of clothing.” Needless to say, firing into a crowd that does not have protective clothing and face coverings isn’t wise, and more to the point, the officers’ targets returned to their positions angrier than before when the shooting stopped. It didn’t clear the intersection. My objective take-away from the protest is this: The police, or at least many of them, are their own worst enemy, and it doesn’t seem to bother them. If you take this insight to its extreme it explains why when they kill people, especially people with dark skin, it is of so little concern to them. Some of them have accepted violence, especially violence towards blacks, as a way of doing their job. Today, there are news photos of fires and protesters leaping and cavorting like mad. The media is great at capturing drama. There were a few protesters like that, and I’m sure readers look at those pictures and see crazy people to be feared. I was there and those weren’t the people I feared. The only time I felt threatened was when I was near the police.

Photo by Terry Faust

Photo by Terry Faust

Photo by Terry Faust

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Games, music & art >> Connect

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

Kristi Anderson, at right holding Barney, appreciates seeing her neighbors at least once a day from a distance while they come together to sing. With her, from left to right, son, Josh (holding Boomer, the white dog); daughter, Taylor; and husband, Scott. One day, Caitlin Nightingale, whose parents live on Isabel Ave. and who is without a studio due to COVID-19, offered to snap photos of families on their front steps, part of her #frontporchproject. (Photo courtesy of Caitlin Nightingale Photography)

Play a game together with your neighbors when you join in the LoLa Scavenger Hunt. “Walks outside are still allowed, and are good for your physical and mental health. I intended this scavenger hunt to bring an element of novelty and excitement to an ordinary walk in the neighborhood, and also encourage neighbors to walk farther and longer,” observed local artist Jinjer Markley. “Also, it’s a game that we can play ‘together,’ and even check on each other’s progress by following the hashtags. My hope is that more frequent distance-greetings with our neighbors will make us all feel more like part of a community.”

Markley has lived in the Wonderland Park area of Longfellow for over six years with her husband Presley and her 13-year-old daughter. She was inspired by a similar activity in Lexington, Ky. where her mother lives. As Longfellow already has an established group of artists, it was easy to replicate the neighborhood game here.
She got enough volunteers to run two concurrent scavenger hunts – one in upper Longfellow, and one in lower Longfellow. The hunt started on April 15 and will continue through May 15.
“Go on walks in your neighborhood, looking in windows for art. Don’t forget to say hi from at least six feet away if you see a neighbor – even if it’s just with a wave. If you find art in a window, take a selfie with the art in the background – try to find all of the artworks on the scavenger hunt flyers, visible at www.jinjermarkley.com/lolaqac. If you post the selfie on social media, tag it #lolaquarantineartcrawl or #lolaqac. You could follow the tags to see who else is out and about in your neighborhood!”
The maps are also available online at the League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) Facebook page or www.LongfellowNokomisMessenger.com.

Neighborhood sing
Each night at 7 p.m., neighborhood join in the Seven Oaks Front Porch Sing.
Kristi Anderson, who has lived on Isabel Ave. for three years, was inspired by news reports of Italians singing on their balconies, and people singing in Spain and Israel. When she heard about the local idea of singing “Imagine,” she pulled out the email list from National Night Out and suggested they step out onto their front steps or yards, sing and dance together.
“We have a pretty enthusiastic group of people,” said Anderson. “It’s nice to see your neighbors out there.”
The sing started with Isabel Ave. homes and stretched out from there. Anderson sends out an email each day with a list of 3-4 songs, lyrics and links to song videos. Fellow resident, Phil Hide, who also lives in the middle of the block, has taken over setting up a speaker to share the songs via Spotify each evening. They’ve done the Beatle’s “Here Comes the Sun” a few times, knowing it is a song some hospitals play when patients are released or removed from ventilators. In mid April, they sang a song from local musician Nachito Herrera, who returned home after COVID-19 hospitalization. For fun, they’ve also done the Hokey Pokey.
At the end of each Sing, they clap together in gratitude for frontline workers.
Anderson is glad to have an updated email list of neighbors. Sophia Kim used the list in April to put together a care package of prepared food for her friend – a single parent of a 12- and 14-year-old who has been working double shifts at the Hennepin County Medical Center emergency room. More than a dozen neighbors contributed to that effort. Neighbor Ann Prosser used the list to get the word out that Blue Cross and Allina were seeking homemade masks and to share other resources for making them.
Anderson includes a bit of art in her emails, as well: a photo of the painted rocks she sees while out walking her dogs. She began attributing them to the Rock-Painting-Artist Fairy – who turned out to be neighbor Gina Jorgensen.

In related news:

 

Lola Art Crawl Cancelled for 2020 as Alternative Formats Explored

Uncertainties and safety concerns around COVID-19 inform tough decision

On Tuesday, April 14, the steering committee for the League of Longfellow Artists (LoLa) notified artists
and supporters that they are cancelling what would have been the 12th annual LoLa Art Crawl originally
scheduled for Sept. 19–20, 2020. Given the high likelihood of a fall resurgence, or simply a continuation,
of COVID-19 infections, they felt that it would be risky and impractical to invest time and money in preparing for the crawl as usual. Instead, they will be exploring other ways to share the creative output of
LoLa artists with the community.

Artists have been understanding of the decision as they are coping with the effects of the coronavirus and
physical restrictions in their own lives. “I am disappointed and heartbroken,” said Maya Brown of mayamade.“I do however understand and think it’s the best decision for everyone.”

The crawl has been an annual event since its founding in 2009, and the committee members—Steve
Clark, Lisa Anderson, Sharon Parker, Sue Romain, Chris Miller, and Ken Wenzel—came to the decision
to cancel it with a degree of disappointment and resignation.

The decision was informed by a few realizations: (1) Public health concerns around welcoming strangers
into close proximity inside artists’ yards, homes, studios and small businesses; (2) Uncertainty about what
lies ahead and the likelihood that it would have to be called off as we got closer to the date; (3) The financial
hardship faced by our neighborhood businesses, which provide a significant portion of the funding
that makes the crawl possible. “Frankly, we didn’t even want to ask,” said Parker about soliciting sponsor
donations.
Normally, if the crawl were to go forward as in the past, volunteers would need to start preparations now.
“Spending thousands of hours of volunteer time between now and September only to cancel is not the best
use of our resources,” said Bob Schmitt in response to the announcement. Schmitt is past administrator
and co-founder of LoLa along with Anita White.

LoLa artist Megan Moore stood next to her mural on the Minnehaha Scoops building earlier this year.
The artwork wraps around the building, see it at 3352 Minnehaha Avenue.

This spring and early summer, the organizers will be communicating with LoLa artists and other stakeholders in various ways, using technology that has become increasingly common in these days of coming together while distancing, as well as phone calls, email, and other means. The group’s goals remain to showcase and promote LoLa artists in their art-making, exhibiting, and sales; involve local businesses in ways that are mutually beneficial; and connect with the community.

They expect to employ a mix of social media, the LoLa website, and home and business activities throughout Longfellow for community members to explore and enjoy the richness of our artist community and small independent business partners in appropriate physically distanced ways. The forms this will take are yet to be determined and will be informed by the networking and communications described above.
Among the projects in the works are a series of art “scavenger” hunts, with flyers made available via Facebook and NextDoor. Please watch for announcements and news from LoLa in The Messenger and other media in the coming months, and on social media via the handle and hashtag LoLaArtistsMN.

When you go on walks and bike rides in the neighborhood, look for art all around you—on buildings and utility boxes, in the windows and front yards of artists’ homes, and even on top of Little Free Libraries (one LoLa artist, Terry Faust, makes “Wee Weather Vanes” for LFLs)—as we continue to make and share our art in sometimes surprising ways.

“We will grow out of this setback. And we will flourish,” said Schmitt.
“We move ahead with courage,” said White.

LoLa is the League of Longfellow Artists, which is a volunteer-driven community organization that showcases, nurtures and supports Longfellow art and artists. It began in 2009 as a small grassroots effort to raise the visibility of artists living or working in the Greater Longfellow Neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

The annual LoLa art crawl started with 42 artists at 20 sites and has grown ever since, with 119
participating artists in 2019 exhibiting at 56 sites. LoLa looks forward to meeting with the public again
next year.

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COVID-19 – Small businesses: ‘It’s all personal’

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
Local restaurants are adjusting to the Stay at Home order while other businesses are considering how to reopen under Governor Walz’s most recent guidelines.

More and more customers are heeding the warnings and wearing masks in stores. Here, Doug Flicker purchases items from Assistant Manager Colleen Burke at the East Lake Ace Hardware. Workers wipe down the counter, card machines and barriers after customer purchases. (Photo by Terry Faust)

Hi-Lo Diner (4020 E. Lake St.) closed the Sunday night before the government shutdown of restaurants. It was a hard decision, but co-owners James Brown and Mike Smith were worried about the safety of their staff members and wanted to take some time to evaluate things.
Thanks to a PPP loan, the diner reopened for take-out last weekend, starting with dinner on Saturday, April 25. “We had 32 employees before the pandemic and will be able to bring a lot of them back on,” stated Brown.
They are excited to be reopening, even if it is just for take-out, and Brown pointed out it is a huge help to be able to offer beer and wine to-go. They plan to also offer Bloody Mary and mimosa kits, in addition to brunch Saturdays and Sundays.
“I think the future of small business – and specifically restaurants – is to make it personal,” observed Brown. “Small businesses give our community a third place, not home or work, but it is a part of the community. We are swiping left on ‘It’s just business, it’s not personal;’ it is all totally personal, and that is how we can make it through this.”
Brown is concerned for the undocumented workers in America right now. “They can’t get unemployment, or federal stimulus money, It’s really hard for them during this time,” he said.
Hi-Lo will be open Thursday and Friday 4-8 p.m. Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-8 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. “The best way to support us is to call in and order food,” he said.

Fun City Dogs reopens for 10th anniversary
Fun City Dogs (2200 E. 25th St.) will reopen this week, just in time for its 10th anniversary on May 1, although its big party has been put on hold.
The doggy day care temporarily closed on March 23, 2020, when they had no boarders for the first time in five years. “Our daycare numbers had dropped significantly with people working from home,” explained owner RyAnne Quirk. “My mother, 83 years, lives in my house and I was very concerned about bringing home the virus. We were all worried about getting sick. It seemed right to close for a few weeks and help flatten the curve.”
Most of the other doggy day care operations in the Twin Cities remained open. Fun City Dogs sold dog food online with home delivery in the neighborhood.
A day after Governor Walz’s new guidelines were released, Quirk was busy planning safety protocols. “There will be a gated area outside our front door for dog drop offs. That way the customers and employees will have limited contact. The customer will remove the collar and leash, again to limit contact. The staff will then open the front door and bring the dog into the center. Going home will operate the same way; the customer will call for pick up, we will bring the dog to the front gate and the customer will put on the leash and collar to go home.
“Inside, the staff will have masks and continue our normal cleaning regimen. We already clean, sanitize and have air purifiers set up to combat canine parvovirus.”
She added, “I feel like now is a good time to reopen.”

34th Ave. businesses band together
Nokomis Tattoo owner Mike Welch has banded together with other 34th Ave. business owners as they are not only dealing with COVID-19 related closures, but also road construction for the second summer.
The group released a promotional video, and started a new Instagram account (34thAveNEBA). Six business take turns posting photos and information, including Paddlesculpt, Berrysweet Kitchen, Grand Sunrise Mexican Restaurant, The Workshop,Replace and Nokomis Tattoo.
Welsh, who also serves on the board of the Nokomis East Business Association and the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association, closed his tattoo shop on Tuesday, March 17. He’s grateful for his wife’s teaching position with the Mounds View School District as his business income has taken a hit. He is doing some pet portraits on commission, and is thankful for a supportive clientele.
“This is completely uncharted territory for my business plan,” he said.
Welsh pointed out that the biggest worry for businesses along 34th Ave. is rent payments. ”None of us have extra money,” he said. “It’s a very scary time.”
He encouraged residents, “Reach out to businesses and find out how you can support them.”
The group has also released a new Nokomis t-shirt designed by Jeffrey K. Johnson from Replace, and all the profits go to a business of choice. Shirts are American-made and cost $25-$28. Pre-orders end May 8.

WRBA focuses on helping neighborhood businesses
The WRBA (West of the Rail Business Association) is focusing its efforts on offering programs free of charge that will be helpful for local, small businesses right now, and has put its other initiatives on pause. “We have capacity to help our community now, and we believe that is the right thing to do,” said WRBA and Standish Ericsson Neighborhood Association Program Director Emerson Sample, who started in July 2019.
He observed, “Our team is distancing from each other, which has made communication and getting things done harder. Now some of our best conversations are around how to re-define success for a day at work, and what things we can do to have a positive impact as quickly as possible.”
WRBA is focusing on sharing information through social media and other online options. Sample said he has two goals: to let as many businesses as possible know about the resources out there for them, and to help people know how to stay connected in the community by supporting area businesses.
“The WRBA has not officially re-launched yet, so it feels like trying to jump start a car while you’re rolling down a big hill.,” said Sample. “I’ve accepted that this is a powerful virus that we have to respond to, that we don’t have the tools to tell it what to do. I’m just trying to control what I can and play my role to the best of my ability to flatten the curve, and help people come out on the other side in as good of shape as possible.”

Messenger offers free listings on What’s Open page
The Longfellow Nokomis Messenger has added a free self-serve What’s Open page to its web site to help businesses connect with community members. Go to LongfellowNokomisMessenger.com and click on What’s Open.
After creating a free account, businesses can quickly post their current hours, what they’re offering, and contact information, and then update the listing as needed.

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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

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

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 www.freeforestschool.org or or email info@freeforestschool.org.
“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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Rooftop prairie: Nokomis family doesn’t have to go far to relax

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Home & Garden

“Water quality and stormwater management are really big values for us,” observed Nokomis resident Steffanie Musich as she drinks a glass of water on her rooftop garden. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN

When Steffanie Musich sits on her green roof looking out over the rooftop prairie and the tree canopy, it’s hard to remember that she’s in the city.
That sense of peace and relaxation without having to get in the car is exactly what she was aiming for.
The 11-year Nokomis resident, her husband Matt and son live within blocks of Highway 62 and Cedar, surrounded by the constant hum of traffic and roar of airplanes. They’re also close to Lake Nokomis, and have dedicated years to the intricacies of water quality and sustainability issues.
The green roof is an extension of those values, and a way to demonstrate how it can work in a neighborhood.
When Musich read about the green roofs being installed by Omni Ecosystems of Chicago, Ill. they resonated with her. She didn’t want the type of living roof that merely had a sedum tray of close-to-the-ground plants. Instead, she envisioned a prairie.
The problem is that a roof with 1.5 to 2 feet of soil material is heavy – and gets even more so with a load of snow on it. Plus, the costs of a roof like that are typically beyond what a homeowner can pay.
But Omni Ecosystems offered an innovative system using a new lightweight growing medium with a higher capacity for stormwater management, which allows them to build lighter green roof systems that require less structural capacity. Omni’s projects include the O’Hare Terminal 2 Concourse, Harvard Business School, Chicago’s Wild Mile, and McDonald’s corporate headquarters.
The 300-square-foot green roof at the Musich residence cost about $17,000. That doesn’t include the cost of replacing the garage or the flat roof that is underneath.
While the initial cost is higher than a regular roof, the Musich family believes the positive impacts on their mental health, the extended life of the flat roof beneath it, and the environmental impacts are worth it.
It was 2015 when they began envisioning the project. The couple hired Craft Design and Build from Uptown Minneapolis as the general contractor, and Jody McGuire of SALA Design as architect. Steffanie and Matt saved on costs by doing much of the construction themselves, including all the painting, stucco, and finishing work, putting in time in the evenings and weekends. For the rest, they refinanced and rolled the cost in.
It is important to them that the living roof will last 50-100 years, 3-5 times longer than a traditional roof.
The green roof doesn’t heat up as much in the summer, and it provides insulation in the winter. “Green roofs help with urban heat island effects,” observed Musich.
Bonus: brewery space and sauna
The two-car garage on the property was rotting and didn’t have footings under the cement slab. So they tore it down and started from scratch. The new three-car garage uses three sets of three tri-lam beams made of manufactured wood to distribute the weight. A room in the center helps support the load of the roof. As an added bonus, they moved their longtime home brew operation into the new space and got it out of the house.
The garage is connected to the house via a main floor breezeway and a second story deck. An upstairs door offers the only way to access the green roof. Near the plants is a beehive decorated by local artist Jamie Anderson.
Nestled in the prairie is a sauna that’s been a great way to pull the neighborhood together in the winter months.

Green roof part of system of rain gardens and more
When the house needed a new roof eight years ago, Steffanie and Matt opted for a “cool roof.” The steel roof reflects sunlight and heat away from the building, reducing roof temperatures by 50–60°F over a typical shingle roof and helps the house stay cooler inside. The material is also a lifetime product.
“Water quality and stormwater management are really big values for us,” observed Musich. She started Friends of Lake Nokomis, and has served on the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board since 2014.
Given their proximity to Lake Nokomis, Musich wanted to replace an impermeable surface with one that would hold water in place and not flood the city’s stormwater system. “Part of what we’re trying to do is keep stormwater on our property for a longer period of time to reduce the volume of water the city infrastructure needs to manage during a storm event,” she explained.
Their green roof can hold a one-inch rainfall. More than that runs off the backside where they’ve done some regrading. They added a raingarden for Steffanie’s birthday last year that holds more water and keeps it from flowing immediately into the street. They plan to add another in the front in an effort to hold as much water as they can on site.
Over the years, they had also overseeded the backyard grass in favor of plants (such as clover) that help capture water and provide habitat for pollinators. They mow at 4 inches to allow for a deeper root system, which in turns means the plants are able to take more water into the ground than if the lawn was mowed shorter – a tip she learned through her master gardener training.
The best practices guidelines have been to hold a one-inch rainfall, although Musich foresees that may change as the state has been experiencing more and more high rainfall events. “One inch was unusual and on the high end, but now we’re seeing 2-3-4-6-inch rainfall events,” she said.
Musich pointed out it’s important to keep raingardens 10 feet from a building foundation to avoid basement flooding. Using a French drain between homes helps the water move and protects both homes.
Due to the way their home sits on their corner lot, their backyard is essentially their neighbor’s front yard. The new garage and green roof helped them carve out a private space.
“Plus we’re up in the canopy,” said Musich. “We get to see the birds and the squirrels in their element.”

‘Cathartic to care for natural space’
Initially, they planted 24 plugs with six different sedges, forbes, and grasses that were overseeded with a mix of annuals and perennials. Not everything was native.
White asters, white yarrow, black-eyes susan, mountain mint, purple coneflower, bachelor buttons, baby’s breath, columbine and more grow on the roof. The rooftop prairie starts blooming in April and continues through fall.
“The first thing that starts to bloom is the baby’s breath, which is self seeding. We’ll get a field of white which is beautiful at night,” said Musich. The first year, many poppies bloomed but they haven’t seen any since, and the wild indigo bloomed just the first two years. Meanwhile, the purple coneflower was elusive until the summer of 2019.
“It’s been very interesting to watch the evolution of the plants and the way they cluster and change,” said Musich.
The maintenance of the roof each year is minimal. “I’ll come out here and weed a couple times a month,” remarked Musich. “If I’m having a particularly stressful week, I’ll be out here more frequently. It’s very cathartic to care for a natural space.”

Benefits of green roofs
>>CLEAN WATER
Ordinarily, rainwater picks up contaminants and heat as it rushes across roofing and other hard surfaces on its way to lakes and rivers. Green roofs hold onto much of the rain, reducing the runoff that would otherwise cause water pollution and decreasing the need for additional (and expensive) stormwater treatment infrastructure.

>>LONGER-LASTING ROOFS
Because the waterproofing membrane is underneath the other layers of the green roof, it is protected from factors that can cause roofs to fail: extreme heat, UV radiation, and thermal swings. In general, green roofs last longer than conventional roofs, reducing both consumption and waste.

>>COOLER BUILDINGS AND CITIES
The plants on a green roof shade the building, and further cool it through the natural process of evapotranspiration. If enough roofs in a city are greened, they can combat the urban heat island and help mitigate the effects of global warming.

>>HABITAT CREATION
Green roofs create green spaces in the built environment that birds and beneficial insects can use as habitat. Green roofs also beautify cities, creating better habitat for humans as well.

>>CLEAN AIR
Green roofs improve air quality by taking up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, and by filtering airborne particulates.
~ Information from mngreenroofs.org

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Envision community: A model for tiny homes, big community

Posted on 04 May 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Sherry Shannon is one of five formerly homeless community members leading the Envision Community. Behind her is an architectural drawing of the project. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Dewayne Parker became homeless in 2017. For lack of a better option, he ended up sleeping for months on the Green Line train. One winter night, that sleeping arrangement very nearly got him killed.
Parker said, ”Everybody knows it’s dangerous living on the streets. What I want the broader community to understand is that anyone can end up homeless. Some of the most intelligent and resourceful people I’ve ever met lost their housing. It doesn’t take much for things to fall apart.”
Parker is one of five homeless or previously homeless community members serving as leaders on a new housing model called Envision Community. After meeting for more than a year, the group has embraced the idea of starting a community of “tiny homes” for the poor and homeless to be built somewhere in South Minneapolis.

“There’s a terrible housing shortage, but that’s just part of it.
The headline, and one of the things that’s really different with our model, is that we’re creating an intentional community – one where residents feel a sense of belonging. This movement has to be led by people who have experienced homelessness, and we have to be certain that
what we’re building is desirable for those same people.”
~ Dr. William Walsh, Envision Community advisor

Tiny, deeply affordable homes
Envision Community is a proposal to build and operate a two-year live demonstration of an intentional community made up of 15-30 people living in tiny homes, with the goal of creating health equity.
The tiny homes, just a few hundred square feet each, would be deeply affordable – appealing to the growing number of low-income people shut out of the metro area’s housing market. They would be part of a cluster development centered around a larger, shared community house for meals and other gatherings.
What does it mean to be shut out of the housing market? For starters, many people with low-wage jobs simply can’t afford the high cost of rent in the Twin Cities. Other barriers to housing are having a criminal record, a poor credit score, a past eviction, or a chemical dependency problem. Landlords can easily avoid renting to someone with any one of the above.

Envision it
The Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved an intentional community cluster development ordinance last November. This allows for a new type of affordable housing for people transitioning out of homelessness. A collaborative made up of representatives from 17 different organizations, and led by members of the Twin Cities homeless community, are working together to plan what the Envision Community will be.

Working full-time, single-parenting two kids and homeless
When there is nowhere else to go, people without a safety net may quickly end up living on the street.
Sherry Shannon did. Born and raised in South Minneapolis, she first became homeless while working full-time and single-parenting two children. It was a long road from homelessness, to living in a shelter, to transitional housing, to the apartment where she now lives in Roseville.
Shannon is also an Envision community leader; she is candid about her struggles, which include a PTSD diagnosis, and her successes. She said, “Once I got into stable housing, I could finally start working on my disability. Things came together pretty quickly then. I started talking about my situation, and trying to help other people move forward too. Last year, I won the Dorothy Richardson Award for community leadership.
“After I gave my acceptance speech in Chicago, a couple of ladies came up to me and asked, ‘How did you ever get through all this?’” I told them, ‘I couldn’t have done it without a place to call home.’”

Costly medical problems, homelessness go hand-in-hand
The Envision Community, if approved by the city of Minneapolis, would be the first community of tiny homes in the Twin Cities Metro.
Another first would be forming a strong collaboration with the health care system. Doctors also desire innovative housing models after seeing how often homeless patients turn up at hospitals with complicated, costly medical problems – many of them caused by being homeless.
Dr. William Walsh believes that homelessness is a public health crisis. A reconstructive surgeon at Hennepin Health Care and a researcher at the University of Minnesota, he serves as advisor to the Envision Community team. Dr. Walsh said, “Homelessness profoundly affects a person’s health, and puts enormous strain on the health care system.”
He added, “There are moral and financial motivations for the health care system to get involved in ending homelessness, but with the current failure of affordable housing – we can’t fix it. What’s needed is an innovative new model like Envision. We can bring housing costs down without compromising the quality of life for people moving into our housing model. With a strong emphasis on building community, as well as building homes, the quality of life of life for our residents will go up.”
The Pohlad Foundation funded the construction of a pilot tiny house for Envision. It will be set up in the parking lot of Elim Church in Northeast Minneapolis later this summer. Additional funding for Envision Community has come through the Family Housing Fund and the McKnight Foundation.
Two adjacent city lots will be needed to build the project on, with easy access to public transportation and walkable amenities. The property has not yet been found.

If you want people to listen, you have to speak up
Rome Darring is also a community leader on the project. When he first got involved with Envision, he found it hard to share his story of being homeless. He said, “I’ve gone through a lot of changes since this started. As an advocate for the homeless, I was at the State Capitol today participating in a press conference. I was so nervous about it that I couldn’t sleep at all the night before. But I’ve learned that if you want people to listen, you have to be willing to speak – so I made myself stand up and do it.”
Visit the Envision Community website at www.hennepinhealthcare.org/envision-community/ for more information.

 

 

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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.

By TESHA M. CHRISTENSEN
“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: www.saintalbertthegreat.org, 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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If you can sew, you can help

Posted on 24 March 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Michelle Hoaglund, owner of St. Paul’s Treadle Yard Goods, handed out the first of 50 free fabric kits last weekend. Her store made the kits available for people to sew facemasks for health care workers. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

One critical need that has emerged over the past several days is the need for more personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gowns, in hospitals and other health care settings. In recent days, doctors and nurses have warned that they are running out of equipment to stay safe as they diagnose and treat patients.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Allina Health, along with several community partners, have launched a statewide volunteer effort, calling for people to sew and donate facemasks for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.
Michelle Hoaglund is the owner of Treadle Yard Goods, a well-established, much loved fabric store on Hamline and Grand avenues in St. Paul. Partnering with the non-profit Sew Good Goods, Hoaglund and her dedicated staff were able to put together 50 free kits with enough cotton fabric and elastic to make 28 CDC approved face masks.
Distribution of the kits began at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. By 1:05 p.m., according to Hoaglund, all of the kits were gone. The line of people, which had started to form at noon, stretched all the way to the end of the block and around the corner. People maintained a safe distance between one another, and many came to the store to buy their own material once the free kits had been given away.
“It was,” Hoaglund said, “beyond what any of us could have imagined.” She estimated there were between 80-100 people waiting in line and mused, “People who sew are just not the kind to sit around on the couch in a time of crisis.”
Treadle Yard Goods will likely continue to make more kits available and, at least at the time of printing, the store remains open for shopping. Check www.treadleyardgoods.com for updates.
If you would like to use fabrics you currently have in your own stock pile, note the following guidelines: be sure to use fabric that is 100% cotton: tightly woven for the front, flannel or other soft 100% cotton for the back. If you have any doubts about the content of your fabric, don’t use it. Prewash all fabric on hot and dry on high heat to ensure pre-shrinkage. Area hospitals or other providers will sanitize the masks.
Instructions involve the use of elastic. If that is not available, you can make fabric ties (self-made ties or twill tape), one in each of the four corners. Each tie should have a finished length of 18 inches. To make your own ties, cut fabric strips 1 ¼” wide, fold in half and press, then sew both outer edges in to the middle with a single seam. Knot the ends to keep from fraying.
It is advisable to use contrasting fabrics, so there is an obvious front and back side.
In this extraordinarily difficult time for small business owners, Hoaglund said, “I made my peace with all of the uncertainty a few days ago. I thought, we can’t control any of what is happening right now – but it’s how you love your neighbor that counts.”
Instructions and drop-off points for the CDC-approved design, approved by Allina Health, are available at sewgoodgoods.org.
This link contains additional useful information: https://blog.bluecrossmn.com/covid19masks/
Many organizations in addition to hospitals have a need for masks including homeless shelters and funeral homes.

 

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