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Longfellow resident finds challenge and fulfillment in puppets

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin


Paul PaintingFor his third career, Longfellow resident Paul Eide (photo right) has turned to puppet making. Specifically, he is creating the heads of puppets.

Creativity has been a part of his work ever since he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in education. He was involved with puppetry even back then, and he was hired to make two puppets for a public service announcement.

“This was a time when there was a lot of worry about nuclear war,” Eide recalled. “These public service announcements were designed to teach farmers how to protect their cows from nuclear fallout by stacking bales of straw around them. This was to protect the cows from Strontium 90. I doubt too many farmers were up watching TV at 1am when these PSAs ran.”

When that project was finished, a job became available in the film department. “I intended to stay there for a couple of years, and I stayed there for the next 35,” Eide said.

“We did 15-millimeter films, educational movies on all sorts of topics: the arts, medicine, and anthropology. It was a wonderful job. I realized looking back how lucky I was to have that job,” Eide added. He retired from that job in 2000. “That was the end of my first career,” he noted.

While still working at the U, he combined his interest in puppetry and writing and became editor of the Puppetry Journal, a quarterly magazine produced for Puppeteers of America, a national organization. “I did that for the next 15 years,” Eide said. “It was a one-man production thing. I did some of the writing, all of the layout and graphic design, for better or worse.” He said that over a year ago, he decided to turn it over to somebody a couple of generations younger. “By then, I was 76,” Eide reflected. “I enjoyed this too, but I didn’t want to keep somebody else from doing it, so I stepped aside.”

Eide was at loose ends last year. Even though editing the Puppetry Journal had been a part-time job, he said it consumed him all the time. “I was constantly tracking down people to write articles and planning the next two issues,” he said. So when he retired from it, he was used to putting in a lot of working hours.

Paul Eide PaintingPhoto left: “It is one of those things that you can think about when you wake up in the middle of the night,” said puppet-maker Paul Eide. “It has been very much fun, and a good use of my time.” (Photo by Terry Faust)

“Around that time, last winter, a very, very talented puppeteer in Toronto, Ronny Burkett, was making puppets,” Eide said. “Burkett is one of those talented people that makes you shake your fist at the heavens and say ‘Why did you give him all the talent?’”

Burkett looked like a movie star, had a great voice, built these puppets, and wrote award-winning plays that would sell out. “He would perform all by himself to great acclaim,” Eide added. “He’s a Facebook friend, and he started posting pictures of puppets he was making for shows.”

Eide said Burkett was undertaking making 100 hand puppets to hand out to his audience to use and return them. He would post pictures of a lot of the puppets as he was making them. And as a Facebook friend, Eide viewed these different puppets.

“I thought ‘What would that be like?’ It made me think of my old high school art teacher when she was instructing us in watercolors. She told us the first 100 are the hardest, which implied that by the time you made 100, you would know what you were doing. Or not.”

Oliver Mudge Drawing by Paul EidePhoto left: Paul Eide first sketches the puppet in front and side views to understand its individual “personality.” (Photo by Terry Faust)

“At that time I was looking at a project for post-retirement. What if I set out to make 100 puppets?” And so Eide began working on his third career.

He said that the head is the most important part of a puppet because that is where the personality lies. So that is the part he concentrated on.

“I had made puppets off and on, all my life, and they were good enough. But I would like to make puppets that were really good. So I started experimenting with methods and materials of all sorts.”

Eide said the kind of puppets he likes to make are rod puppets. “Hand puppets are controlled by the hands, and marionette puppets are controlled by strings. In between, there are rod puppets, which have a rod for the head and rods on hands. They don’t have legs, generally, but you can get quite a bit of expression out of rod puppets with sweeping gestures.”

Buster Paul's CatPhoto right: Buster the cat watches over the work in Paul Eide’s workshop. Eide gives every puppet a name to fit its personality. He created one that looks like his grandmother’s sister. One developed from a Sherlock Holmes story he was listening to on the Internet. (Photo by Terry Faust)

“Every puppet had to have a mouth that opened and closed,” Eide explained. “I tried various construction methods and materials to cover them with and finish them with. I am now on puppet number 12, so I am just embarking on this.”

He claimed the puppets he has made so far all have a defect or some inadequacy. “By the time I get to 30 or 40, I might be reasonably good at it,” he chuckled.’

Eide said a puppet is like a musical instrument and a puppeteer like a musician. “A puppet comes to life when you move it,” he noted. “The instrument a musician picks up has to not only sound good but has to be built, so there are no impediments.” He aspires to make a puppet that works as well in the hands of a puppeteer; that is so reliable and smooth it feels good to hold it and make it come to life.

“I am experimenting with different finishes with the puppets,” Eide said. “There are little things, like a mouth that doesn’t close as it should, that I have to master.” He gives every puppet a name to fit its personality. He created one that looks like his grandmother’s sister. One developed from a Sherlock Holmes story he was listening to on the Internet. “There was a character who was a slightly deaf bell-ringer, and I imagined what he might look like,” Eide said. He draws front and side views of every puppet, making sketches of them at different stages.

Paul PaintingPhoto left: Longfellow resident Paul Eide was looking for his “third career” when he was inspired by the work of Toronto puppet-maker Ronny Burkett. Eide has set a first goal of making 100 puppets. (Photo by Terry Faust)

He works on more than one at a time. He said the structure is wood. He uses installation foam that comes in 4×8 foot sheets, cutting up and shaping with electric wire. Paper clay is used to complete the head, which can be sanded smooth and painted.

He has a workshop in his basement where he creates the puppets. “I try to go there while the cat is still sleeping,” he joked. His cat, Buster, likes to supervise while Eide works.

“I am enjoying this a lot. It is one of those things that you can think about when you wake up in the middle of the night. It has been very much fun, and a good use of my time.”

Eide reflected that puppetry is growing and changing. “The kind of puppets people are using change over the decades,” he said. “You could have made a living building marionette shows and touring schools. Now the school funding has dried up. But puppetry is going as strong today as ever. The main difference between now and fifty years ago is that contemporary artists don’t feel constrained by traditional forms and formats and puppetry styles. They experiment with any and all methods of giving objects the illusion of life, intelligence, personality, emotion–-which is what puppetry is.”

“Today a puppet can be anything, and it can be made to move by strings or rods or multiple puppeteers standing behind it in full view, making it move,” Eide continued. “There are many young puppeteers who are doing very good and very adventurous work–-just look at our two permanent puppet theaters in the Twin Cities: Heart of the Beast and Open Eye Figure Theater.”
And puppetry is a long-lasting career. Eide said that puppeteers from the age of four who knew what they wanted to be are still practicing the art of puppetry in their 80s.

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Soup for You! is building community one bowl of soup at a time

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

soup-for-you-04Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Chef Judah Nataf creates two different and tantalizing vegetarian soups five days a week, all year long, at the Soup for You! Café. The café is located in the basement of Bethany Lutheran Church at 2511 E. Franklin Ave. A modest wooden sign marks access to the café on the west side of the church building.

soup-for-you-17Photo left: Former server Sarah Matanah (pictured right) said, “I liked working in the kitchen, but my job kind of got in the way. Now I just come back when I can. I feel happy when I’m here; I think it’s the combination of being in a community space and eating good food. There’s little money involved in anything that happens at Soup for You! and somehow that makes everyone feel happier too, more generous. It’s like zucchinis in the summer. The more you have, the more you want to give away.” Friend Pam Burrows is pictured left.

Nataf is a masterful soup maker who once spent a year living under the Franklin Ave. Bridge. He and his team of volunteers are clear that they aren’t running a soup kitchen—they’re offering a community meal. The two-hour lunch is served from 11am-1pm, Monday through Friday. It operates café-style with servers taking orders and delivering meals to each table with a smile.

The made-from-scratch soups feature organic ingredients and real cooking wizardry, the kind of food typically not available to people in search of a free meal. The recipes are determined by what ingredients there are to work with. In warm months, much of the produce is donated by local gardeners. Chef Judah usually arrives at 6:30am to start preparing the day’s meal.

soup-for-you-20Photo right: John Harkness put finishing touches on the day’s lentil-cranberry soup and said, “We serve about 70 bowls a day, around 1,000 bowls each month. We also sell quarts of soup at $9 per quart, or $7.50 with a punch card. The actual cost of making a bowl of organic soup is about $1.

The soups are so tasty that people that work or live in the neighborhood regularly come for lunch, generating revenue that can be used to cover the cost of meals for those who can’t afford to pay.

Diners pay whatever they feel is a fair price, whatever they’re able to, or nothing at all. The program’s goal is not to draw new members to the church, but to build community across ethnic, racial, educational, and economic lines. A hand printed sign outside the kitchen proudly states, “Over 20,000 bowls of soup served since Feb. 2, 2015,” which was opening day.

Long-time Bethany church member Brad Laudert said, “I’ve been part of this congregation since I was three years old. We’ve got the whole spectrum of customers down here sharing soup together—everyone from people experiencing homelessness to Augsburg College professors. There’s no separation.”

“This congregation has a long history of partnering with the community,” Laudert continued. “Soup for You! Is an extension of that. Our next project, building a shower and laundry facility for people experiencing homelessness, will be another extension. Thanks to a generous donor, the construction costs for that have already been paid. We’ll need volunteers to help build and paint, as well as donations of sweats for people to wear while their clothes are being laundered, towels, soap, and shampoo. In addition, we always accept donations for our clothing exchange. Cold weather items for men are especially needed.”

soup-for-you-15Photo right: Dannie Drinkwine Jr. said, “This place is about relationships. If you’re on the receiving end of services like having to stay in a shelter or receiving economic assistance, you can feel dehumanized. What Judah and all the others have created here is a beautiful food program where everybody is welcome.”

Laudert noted that “you don’t enter into a project thinking, ‘I’m going to help the whole world.’ You enter into a project thinking, ‘I’m going to help someone.’ Then that person helps another, and that person helps another, and before you know it, you’ve got something good going.”

Chef Judah said that “The Soup for You! Cafe would never have happened without Bethany Pastor Mike Matson’s help, enthusiasm and support. In many churches, establishing a cafe like this would have taken months of committee meetings and miles of red tape.”

To make a donation of money, clothing or time to the cafe contact Judah Nataf at 612-978-7974.

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East Lake Street White Castle restaurant closes after 60+ years

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

Story and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The White Castle outlet at 36th Ave. and East Lake St. served its last slider at 6am on Sun., Dec, 10. The store has anchored the northeast corner there for more than six decades.

white-castle-closing-08According to district supervisor Marjorie Derolf, “Many of our team members and customers knew each other by name, but this was a corporate decision.” Though the property has been sold, Derolf declined to comment on who the new owners are.

White Castle has long been known for its signature small, square hamburgers called sliders. The restaurant chain was founded in Wichita, Kansas in the 1920’s. At the time, a slider cost only five cents. In 2014, Time Magazine named the slider, “the most influential hamburger of all time.”

White Castle developed its prefabricated architecture of white porcelain over steel exteriors, stainless steel interiors, and employees in bright, white uniforms to convey a sense of cleanliness. The chain of restaurants was America’s first foray into fast food.

white-castle-closing-01Photo left: Garrett Humphrey and Anna Loweth visited the familiar White Castle one last time.

According to their website, there are currently about over 420 White Castle outlets across the country. By comparison, there are more than 14,000 McDonalds restaurants in the US and thousands more around the world. The next closest White Castle outlet is at 100 W. Lake St.

Garrett Humphrey stopped in for one last meal on Saturday night with his wife, Anna Loweth. “ To tell you the truth,” Humphrey said, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for White Castle. My Dad managed another outlet in South Minneapolis when he was a young man. My Mom turned up one day and applied for a job; he hired her, and they ended up getting married. I grew up on this food.”

Customers talked across tables on the last night, speculating on the future of the corner location. The unsubstantiated rumor was that a Canadian donut and coffee franchise called Tim Hortons would soon start construction.

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Wishing for a large grocery store on south side of Longfellow?

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

Developers eyeing city-identified ‘town square retail site’ near 46th and Hiawatha for grocery store and apartments

Are you going out of the neighborhood to grocery shop? You’re not alone.

“Third-party grocery consultants estimate that 85% of the available food dollars leave the Longfellow neighborhood—resulting in more traffic and road miles traveled,” according to Drew Johnson of Oppidan Investment Company.

In fact, parts of south Minneapolis are classified as a food desert by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) because of low access to grocery stores.

grocery-store-img_5409snelling46thsmPhoto left: A grocery store and 140 to 160 apartments may be constructed at Snelling and E. 46th in 2017. The investment in phase one will be $38-$44 million. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Oppidan hopes to change that by building a new grocery store near the 46th and Hiawatha intersection.

Construction may begin soon.

“Despite grocery options along Lake St., across the river, or further west of Highway 55, a market analysis reveals the area as a ‘food desert,’ so having a grocery store there would serve the community well,” said Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson. “What will be important, though, is which particular grocer moves in. For it to be most beneficial to the community, I believe it has to offer something differentiated from what we already have nearby.”

grocery-store-urbandesignconcept5.7-acre site
Oppidan owns the 5.7-acre site with a 75,000-square-foot warehouse that Creative Kidstuff leases for its corporate office at 3939 E. 46th St. A landscaping company uses the southern portion of the site near the Dairy Queen and Nawadaha Blvd. The long, triangular-shaped parcel abuts a railroad track that is no longer used.

Illustration right: Oppidan’s plan for the site fits with the city’s transit-oriented development strategy for the area, which places a town square retail site at Snelling and 46th Ave. E.

Oppidan has been working on plans for a mixed-use project in the northern part of the site, with the grocery store fronting 46th St. Snelling Ave. will be extended south into the development and likely curve over to the area between Burger King and the mall.

“This store will bring grocery goods and services not currently offered in the trade area, and what consumers have come to expect in a grocery store: hot food bar with seating areas, grab and go options, large fresh bakery and large deli, floral, and organic offerings, as well as standard ‘center isle’ items,” said D. Johnson.

Early phase one concept plans show between 140 to 160 apartments, and around 50,000 square feet of retail, the majority for the grocery store. The investment in phase one will be $38-$44 million.
D. Johnson pointed out that the plan for the site fits with the city’s transit-oriented development strategy for the area, which places a town square retail site there.

Development challenges include barriers to development such as the high-voltage lattice towers, the cost of new public streets, and managing traffic on 46th and Hiawatha. Additionally, there will be environmental clean-up from some of the former uses at the site, including a coal/fuel company, a lumberyard, a gas station, and diesel storage.

Oppidan was drawn to the parcel because of its large size and location with great transit connections.
“Done right, this project will offer positive features to both new and existing residents/neighbors: additional housing options in a market that has an extremely low vacancy rate, multi-modal access to grocery, cleaning-up impacted soils from historical uses, treating stormwater before it leaves the site, and public trails and plaza areas connecting to other redevelopments in the area,” said D. Johnson.

“Despite being located across the street from Minnehaha Falls, a block from the 46th St. light rail station, and on a bus-rapid-transit line, the property today is mostly a giant asphalt lot… they even pile wood chips out back!” said council member Johnson. “I believe there are much better uses for such an excellent location.”

The sheer size of the property may be its biggest challenge. “This makes a strong vision and good urban design essential, as it is all too easy for most developers to pursue the biggest, easiest, and cheapest project possible to maximize profit and move on. I have seen firsthand Oppidan’s willingness thus far to focus on the details and make the redevelopment of this property a good fit for the neighborhood,” said A. Johnson. “They are also planning ahead for the future so that this site could be combined with others nearby to make a little village for shopping, living, and entertainment that’s integrated with green space and paths to the park and transit.”

When A. Johnson first saw the plan, he suggested some revisions to activate the public realm on 46th St. with commercial spaces and pedestrian-friendly features.

“They broke up the long and bulky building into two separate buildings, and they made some other tweaks to fit better with the site and neighborhood,” observed A. Johnson.

“Moving forward, the city will play a pretty big role in helping make any development of this site a success, as there are some public infrastructure changes to consider, such as extending Snelling Ave. and converting the abandoned railroad tracks into a connection with Minnehaha Park,” added council member Johnson.

Min Hi Line: a linear park
The Min Hi Line Coalition envisions a linear park traversing the space now unused by railroad tracks, of which the area within the grocery store development is the southernmost link to Minnehaha Park.

Since 2001, the city’s master planning guiding documents have also promoted the old rail right-of-way being turned into a linear park. A bike/walk trail in this area would create a protected connection between the Midtown Greenway and Minnehaha Pkwy, and complete the Longfellow Grand Rounds, as noted in the Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan.

The Min Hi Line Coalition ( aims to incorporate park space with public art, trails, streets, historical markers and storm water management. Successful precedents from across the country, such as the Atlanta Beltline, New York High Line, and Minneapolis Midtown Greenway serve as models and guide the work.

Share your comments
The developer’s next step is to engage with community stakeholders.

Learn more on Tues., Jan. 3 at the Longfellow Community Council’s Neighborhood Development and Transportation Committee meeting at the Longfellow Recreation Center (3435 36th Ave. S.), at 7:30 p.m.

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What would happen to Lake Hiawatha if dams in creek were removed?

Posted on 21 December 2016 by calvin

Park Board, City enter phase two of investigation and hope to find preferred solution to water issues at golf course

If the level of Lake Hiawatha were lowered, would that keep the golf course playable and stop water from entering nearby basements?


While dredging the lake wouldn’t help lower the level of the lake, planners are studying what would happen if the existing weirs at 28th St. and Hiawatha Ave. were lowered and the creek dredged between the two. (A weir is a low dam built across a river or stream to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow.) The outlet of the lake would also need to be modified.

A plus side to a lower lake is that it would offer more flood storage in the area. When there is a large storm and the area around Lake Hiawatha floods, that’s flood storage, pointed out a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board FAQ on the issue. The bigger the area, the more flood storage there is. A lower lake level would not only provide more flood storage but also might lower flood elevations. The exact impact is not yet known because it hasn’t been studied.

Recently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adjusted its 100-year flood zone maps, affecting some properties in South Minneapolis. Nearly the entire golf course itself is within the FEMA 100-year floodplain. The level of the golf course could be raised by filling in the low areas.

steffani-ekatrina-michaePhoto right: The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and city of Minneapolis are working closely on a solution to the water issues around Lake Hiawatha and the golf course. Park Commissioner Steffanie Musich (at left), Minneapolis Director of Surface Water and Sewers Katrina Kessler, and MPRB Assistant Superintendent of Planning Michael Schroeder answered questions together at the public meeting on Tues., Nov. 29, 2016. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

While that might reduce the need for pumping groundwater, it would also reduce the flood storage, which increases the chances of roads, buildings and houses flooding.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Assistant Superintendent of Planning Michael Schroeder stressed that neither the park board nor the city have the authority to make any alterations to Lake Hiawatha or Minnehaha Creek. Permits and approvals would be needed from regulatory agencies that include the Department of Natural Resources, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, FEMA, and the Army Corp of Engineers.

“This is a big problem, and this will take a big solution,” said Schroeder during a public meeting on Nov. 29.

Phase one: water being pumped in a big circle
During the first investigative phase, planners gathered data to understand the scope of the problem.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has been evaluating what to do at the golf course since the large amount of pumping was discovered last fall while planners were working to restore the golf course with $100 million from FEMA.

jeanne-roxannePhoto left: Jeanne LaBore lives near the golf course. She commented that the planning so far seems predicated on the notion that a golf course will be maintained. She questioned the cost of that and suggested that remediation for the homes, such as the installation of sump pumps, might be cheaper. “What’s the best use of that land?” LaBore asked. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

The volume of water being pumped from Hiawatha Golf Course is far greater than allowed by a permit issued by the DNR in 1993 for 36.5 million gallons.

The golf course is currently pumping 263 million gallons of groundwater annually, the amount of water used by a small town in a year, said Schroeder.

Of that, 105 million gallons a year are being pumped in a little circle, seeping from the ponds into Lake Hiawatha and back into the ponds. Of the rest, 17 percent is stormwater run-off, and 50 percent is shallow groundwater. Tests determining this were done from Dec. 31, 2015, to Jan. 4, 2016.

If pumping were to stop, most of the course would be underwater, and it would be shut down.

Planners also realized that turning off the pumps might flood 9-18 homes nearby in the area of 19th Ave. and 44th St. They began meeting with homeowners in June to better understand how deep their basements are and the water issues they face. They also question whether homes farther upstream might also be affected.

Update on investigations 29 March 2016Analysts estimate that some nearby basements are at an elevation of 811.3, which falls below the 812 elevation of the lake. The street is at an elevation of 816.3, while the ponds are at 808.6.

Illustration left: This graph shows the elevations of the land and water of Lake Hiawatha. The dark blue shows existing open water, while the light blue shows the area that falls below the 812.8 elevation of the lake, and would be under water if the pumping were to stop altogether. The white area shows the portion of the golf course that is at 813.8. (Photo submitted)

The elevation of nearby Lake Nokomis, which is separated from the creek, is 816. Planners acknowledge that anything done at Lake Hiawatha will affect Lake Nokomis, and plan to take that into account, as well.

Phase two: what’s next
MPRB is now ready to move on to phase two and pinpoint the best answer for the long-term future of the park land.

“We’re going to move through this process deliberately,” promised Schroeder.

He did stress that the property would remain parkland even if the golf course goes away.

MPRB is working closely with the city. “We know that the park board can’t solve this on our own. We’re going to find a solution together,” said Schroeder.

The solution will not just deal with the golf course, but also the trash flow and ecology of the creek.

“This is a very broad and complex issue, and we want to find a good answer to it,” said Schroeder.

Investigations will evaluate what will happen if the park board continues pumping, reduces pumping, or stops pumping.

“If we’re going to do this for another 100 years, we want someone to say it is good for 100 years,” said Schroeder.

Della Young of Young Environmental Consulting Group has been hired to provide expertise, and another technical consultant is expected to be hired.

A preferred scenario with a clear direction forward and costs will be identified by July 2017.

Jeanne LaBore lives near the golf course. She commented that the planning so far seems predicated on the notion that a golf course will be maintained. She questioned the cost of that and suggested that remediation for the homes, such as the installation of sump pumps, might be cheaper.

“What’s the best use of that land?” LaBore asked.

“We think it’s really important that before you get to that preferred concept, you address the ethics of trying to keep a wetland a golf course,” said resident Connie Peppin.

According to Schroeder, the next community meeting will be in March in order to get more input from residents.

How will the trash issue be solved?
The trash that flows directly into the lake without a filter from a stormwater pipe on the northwest side continues to remain an issue for residents. One attendee encouraged the city to put the stormwater somewhere else, not in the lake.

There are only so many options for stormwater, pointed out Minneapolis Director of Surface Water and Sewers Katrina Kessler. There are hundreds of storm drains in the city. “Ultimately, we are responsible to what is flowing off our properties,” she said. She urged residents to consider other alternatives to salt sidewalks this winter to keep that from entering the watershed.

Roxanne Stuhr remarked that much of the trash pulled out of Lake Hiawatha by volunteers has been styrofoam, and she suggested that the city ban these types of containers.
Another resident suggested that the city begin sweeping streets more frequently. Kessler responded,

“We are looking at that.” The parkways adjacent to lakes and creeks are already swept on a bi-weekly basis in the summer.

“This is a problem that takes many hands to solve,” said Kessler, who pointed out that they’re trying to attack it from multiple facets.

The Friends of Lake Hiawatha are encouraging residents to take part in the city’s Adopt-A-Drain program to keep trash from entering the lake. Volunteers commit to clearing leaves and trash from a drain regularly.

The city piloted a floating curtain in an attempt to catch trash entering the lake from the large storm drain last summer. The curtain netted only four pounds of trash. Compare that to the 2,400 pounds kept out of the city’s drains through the Adopt-A-Drain program, said Kessler.
Seventy residents have adopted over 120 drains in the Standish Erickson neighborhood, with 29 of those draining to Lake Hiawatha.

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Shop your community values on Small Business Sat., Nov. 26

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

Shop your values this holiday season and stay local on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26.
“Small Business Saturday supports the growth of our local economy and the individuals that are dedicated to making our neighborhoods thriving places to eat, shop, play, and live,” observed Theresa Swaney of the Lake Street Council.

moonpalacebooks_heiderdrichPhoto right: Heid E. Erdrich speaks to a crowd at Moon Palace Books on Oct. 12 during in celebration of Sun Yung Shin’s new book “Unbearable Splendor.” The first 25 customers at the book store on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26, will receive copies of the Winter Catalog (with a coupon), a free downloadable audiobook copy of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and a free copy of “We Should All Be Feminists.” (Photo submitted)

She pointed out that in 2015, consumers spent over $16 billion on Small Business Saturday.

“While it is not necessarily a reject of big box stores entirely, Small Business Saturday represents a commitment to our neighborhoods and supporting local business owner’s passions,” said Swaney.

At Urban Forage Winery and Cider House (3016 E. Lake St.), the owners live and shop for supplies in the area. Bottles come from Fridley. Labels are printed in Minneapolis. The yeast and various winemaking supplies come from St. Paul.

theresaswaney_0e0d8b8Photo left: There are about 2,000 businesses along Lake St., and the majority are small businesses. “Lake St. is a great culturally diverse mix of businesses and has always been a start point for immigrants and minorities,” said Theresa Swaney of the Lake Street Council. “We have a large percentage of Latino, Somali, and women-owned businesses on Lake St.” (Photo submitted)

“People should shop locally first because we have a really good product!” said Urban Forage Winery and Cider House owner Jeff Zeitler, who opened the facility in December 2015. “There’s no reason to ship cider from England or New Hampshire or Oregon to have a really good quality cider. We make it right here! Minnesota produces wonderful apples, and our cider shows it.” He suggested giving their apricot cider or strong mead as a local, artisanal gift this holiday season, and keep money in the community.

What is Small Business Saturday?
First there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday.

Nov. 27, 2010 was the first ever Small Business Saturday, a day earmarked to celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.

More than 200 organizations have joined American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday. Shop small and earn big with an enrolled American Express® card this holiday season. Through Dec. 31, cardholders will earn 2X rewards when they Shop Small.

Find qualifying American Express Card-accepting neighborhood merchants featured on the map at

Local small businesses also support important policies
hub_shagamaw_blue_detail_1Main Street Alliance is also encouraging people to patron the local shops, restaurants, and service providers that create local jobs and invest in their community.

Photo right: The Hub (3020 Minnehaha Ave.) is partnering with The Official Intergalactic Surly Regional HQ on a special demo ride on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 26 from 3-7pm. It will feature fat/plus mountain bikes from Surly, Heller, Jamis, and Felt. (Photo submitted)

The Main Street Alliance works to lift up the voices of small business owners on important policy issues, many of which benefit the communities they serve. In Minnesota, the MSA is fighting for a common-sense, practical approach to earned sick and safe time as a new baseline standard.

“Offering paid sick time is a workplace practice that acknowledges and makes room for managing the sometimes unpredictable needs of other human beings. Paid sick time also helps create protection for employees whose managers may lack the skills, training, authority, or empathy to have created an environment where illness or emergency can be managed more collaboratively, and having a clear paid sick time policy provides people managers with a consistent starting point for initiating absenteeism-related conversations with employees in circumstances where such discussion is warranted,” remarked Julie Kearns, owner of Junket: Tossed and Found (4049 Minnehaha Ave.).

2,000 businesses in the Lake St. corridor
There are about 2,000 businesses along Lake St., and the majority are small businesses.
“Lake St. is a great culturally diverse mix of businesses and has always been a start point for immigrants and minorities,” said Swaney. “We have a large percentage of Latino, Somali, and women-owned businesses on Lake St.”

stringdingersPhoto left: The Stringdingers will be part of the Third Annual Minneapolis Rock Art Experience on Sat., Nov. 26 at The Hook and Ladder Theater (3010 Minnehaha Ave) from 4 to 9pm. The live music begins Live Music at 8pm. Also playing will be Luke Warm and the Cool Hands with Ryan Young (CD release party) and The Gentlemen’s Anti-Temperance League. Arrive earlier to enjoy local artists and their creations for the music world that will be on display and for purchase. It’s Minnesota artists, Minnesota musicians, and Minnesota beer at a new Minnesota music venue. More details at (Photo submitted)

In the Lake St. corridor, many residents are entirely dependent upon the wide range of small businesses—by choice or by necessity. Because of this, pockets of commercial activity have sprung up to support this dependence, including the Downtown Longfellow area at the intersection of 27th Ave and Lake St.

“Not only can you eat, shop, and play but you can also buy your groceries, go to the library, mail your packages and get your clothes dry cleaned,” stated Swaney.

Small business owner Zeitler appreciates how progressive the community is, and how involved people are in their neighborhood.

“Longfellow and Seward have the feel of a small town,” observed Zeitler. “They’re more sophisticated that most small towns, but the neighborhoods are friendly and have a little bit of a Lake Wobegon feel. I also love being a part of the revival of Lake St. There were lots of vacant storefronts—we were one of them—a few years ago that are now thriving businesses.”

Variety of local gifts, events
What sorts of gifts can residents find along the Lake St. corridor? According to Swaney, check out:
• Home goods at Forage Modern Workshop (4023 E. Lake St.) and Corazon (4646 E. Lake St.)
• Pop culture items at Northern Sun (2916 E. Lake St.)
• Outdoor and sports gear at Repair Lair (3304 E. Lake) and The Hub (3020 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Coffee related items at Peace Coffee (3262 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Clothing and jewelry in Lyn-Lake
• Vintage items from the Minnehaha Mile, stores like Junket (4049 Minnehaha Ave.) and Time Bomb (4008 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Garden supplies at Minnehaha Nursery (4461 Minnehaha Ave.)
• Holiday shows at Hook & Ladder (3010 Minnehaha Ave.), Heart Of the Beast Theater and the Jungle Theater
• Norwegian gifts from Ingebretsen’s (1601 E. Lake St.)
At Moon Palace Books (3260 Minnehaha Ave.), the first 25 customers on Small Business Saturday will get a free downloadable audio book copy of Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” and a free copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists.”
The bookshop moved around the corner earlier this summer with the help of a volunteer book brigade that moved 10,000 books. “It took three hours and 60 volunteers, and is why we totally and completely love this neighborhood. So many good people willing to help,” said Moon Palace Books owner Angela Schwesnedl.
Next door, the Trylon microcinema (3258 Minnehaha Ave.) is holding a benefit for its 2017 expansion on Nov. 26. The Trylon has 50 rocker seats, a 20-foot screen and a pair of 35mm projectors that were donated by the University of Minnesota. During the benefit, thousands of used DVDs and Blu-ray discs, many sealed Criterion and rare UK discs (UK BR and DVDs will only play in an all-region player), will be for sale, beginning at 9am.
The Hub (3020 Minnehaha Ave.) is partnering with The Official Intergalactic Surly Regional HQ on a special demo ride featuring fat/plus mountain bikes from Surly, Heller, Jamis, and Felt. Meet at The Hub at 3pm, and ride from 4-7pm. Lights will be provided, and demos of the following models will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis: Surly Ice Cream Truck, Surly Karate Monkey 27.5+, Surly Krampus Felt DD10, Jamis Roughneck and Heller Shagamaw. All bikes are welcome.

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Simple and nature-based playground planned at Nokomis

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

Playground near community center will be redone next year and stand out as a unique park

nokomis-playground-designNeighborhood kids are excited by the plan to redo the playgrounds by the Nokomis Community Center next year.

Photo right: The new design for the playground near the Nokomis Community Center features “logs” for balancing on and “wood” stepping stones made from recycled plastic materials, “tree” poles for climbing, and raised hills. There’s a “birds nest” to play in on one of the three-to-four-foot high raised hills, and a taller structure on another. There will be one tall slide and two smaller ones, a climber, diggers, swings and Willow Thicket. (Photo submitted)

They had the chance to check things out during an open house at the Nokomis Community Center on Tue., Nov. 15.

“It’s really cool,” said nine-year-old Emersen Russell after looking over display boards. Her friend, Annika Clift, agreed, pointing to an image of the multi-user swing. “We love those things!” she said.
Ava Beckett, age 10, is excited to see “those spinning things that I love.”

“Everything looks fun,” stated Gemma Cudd, age 10.

Adults gave the plan a thumbs up, as well.

“I think it looks nice,” remarked longtime resident Scott Beckett.

img_5044chrisgemmaavasmPhoto left: Playground designer Chris Desroches (left) explains the new pieces of equipment that will be installed at the Nokomis playground to Gemma Cudd, age 10, and Ava Beckett, age 10 during an open house. Beckett is excited to see “those spinning things that I love.” (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“It looks like they’re sticking to the spirit of the outdoors and nature,” observed 16-year neighborhood resident Mike Russell. “It looks very interactive.”

After seeing the parks in many other cities while traveling for work, Russell said he really appreciates what Minneapolis has. “The city and nature really blend like no other city,” Russell said. “We have access to a lot of things to do outdoors.”

Additional comments on the plan will be accepted until Dec. 2 either in person at the Nokomis Community Center or online at

It will go the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board for approval on Jan. 4, 2017.

Simple and nature-based
The new design for ages 2-8 has a similar feel as the parks at Wabun and Levine Triangle, but it isn’t meant to be like any others in the city.

“One of the goals is to have each playground be slightly different,” explained project manager Beth Pfeifer. “We want people to have different experiences at different parks.”

To get a feel for how residents use the current equipment, playground designer Chris Desroches observed it in person and then factored in resident comments before fashioning the new design. Comments were solicited earlier this year at three open houses and the Monarch Festival.

“People liked what was existing there and the style of it,” recalled Desroches. They expressed a desire for a simple and nature-based playground.

“This will be a unique space,” said Desroches.

The new design features “logs” for balancing on and “wood” stepping stones made from recycled plastic materials, “tree” poles for climbing, and raised hills. There’s a “birds nest” to play in on one of the three-to-four-foot high raised hills, and a taller structure on another.

“What we wanted to do was play off the nature play area, but not replicate it,” explained Desroches.
The hills will be well-suited for younger kids, who won’t be hurt if they end up rolling down them.
Residents asked for a high slide, so there’s one in the plan, as well as two other smaller ones. They wanted lots of swings, so the plan includes a row of six with another two baby swings on the other side.

People with older and younger kids commented that it is hard to maintain good visibility of all their kids with the current set-up. In recognition of that, a hill will be graded and benches installed that allow parents to view the entire playground area at a time.

Planners intend to tie the existing disconnected play structures into a single playground through the use of a long concrete border (that will double as a balance beam for children) and a single container filled with an ADA-compliant surface. The green portions are a material similar to that at Wabun, and the rest will be a virgin hardwood material made specifically so that a wheelchair can be rolled across it. Plus, it last longer than regular mulch.

Metal equipment to be reused
Some of the existing equipment looks like it is solid and still in good shape, pointed out some residents. Park workers agreed. Two galvanized steel slides, a climber, the chin-up and turning bars, and the diggers will be reused.

Because safety standards are different today than they were 50 years ago, not everything can be reused in the same way. The dolphin with teeth and a bowler hat can’t be used as is, but designers have a plan for it. The dolphin will be buried in the sand so that children can dig it up. Planners think this lends towards the desire by community residents to keep pieces that inspire creativity.

The Willow Thicket that has been at the Rose Garden temporarily will find a permanent home at Nokomis.

It will be surrounded by round concrete billers — sort of like the ones in the front of Target stores, explained Desroches. The bollards can be used many different ways. Children will be able to climb on them. Plus, they allow parents to engage with each other in a way that neither benches nor picnic tables do while also keeping a good eye on their children because they can lean on them and move around as needed. Other bollards will be placed around the concrete border to break it up.

Nature pop-up becomes pilot project
As part of the project, the pop-up nature play area on the south side that was added last spring will be made more permanent.

A natural play area wasn’t included in the Nokomis master plan, but since it was so well-loved, planners didn’t want to remove it, according to Pfeifer.

Instead, the pop-up will become a pilot project.

They’ve asked the forestry department to hold onto specific shapes and pieces next spring that will become key anchors in the natural play area.

The area will be closed for a short time to regarded and place the new wood pieces.

Work likely to take six weeks
Residents commented that they wanted to have a playground to use during the summer, particularly for use by the Rec Plus program that begins when school releases. Planners also recognize that having it under construction during the Monarch Festival would be bad timing.

The current plan is to wait until fall 2017 to begin work, but if there’s an early spring, the project will be done then instead.

Once work begins, it will take about six weeks to complete, depending on the weather.

The large playground structure for ages 5-12 that was recently replaced will remain. However, the existing sand will be replaced with an ADA-compliant surface. The hope is to complete that work first so that this part of the playground will still be usable while the rest is fenced off.
The $300,000 cost of the work is part of the MRPB’s 2015 Capital Improvement Plan and is funded with net debt bonds.

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Community policing, neighborhood safety, topics at LCC meeting

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

The Longfellow Community Council (LCC) convened a four-person panel of experts to address neighborhood safety concerns on Nov. 9.

The panelists were Shun Tillman, 3rd Precinct Community Crime Prevention Specialist; Alyssa Dotson, neighborhood block club leader; Andrew Johnson, Ward 12 councilperson; and Thomas Stiller, 3rd Precinct lieutenant. The event was moderated by LCC Board Member and East Lake librarian Anna Sheppard.

lcc-community-safety-meeting-08Photo left: The panelists for LCC’s Community Safety Meeting agreed that reducing crime in Minneapolis happens block by block—but it takes concerned citizens to get it going. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Before the panel discussion began, LCC’s program manager Ashleigh Walter presented the results of the recently completed community safety survey. One hundred and forty people responded and, overall, the survey indicated that people feel safe in their neighborhood, have faith in their police, and believe that police response times to emergencies are reasonable.

Respondents identified the area around Lake and Hiawatha as feeling the most uncomfortable: the underpass, the light rail station, and the nearby Hi-Lake shopping area all got poor marks for perceptions of safety. People responded overwhelmingly positively to participation in block clubs and related activities.

There has been a recent spurt of home and garage break-ins in Longfellow. What’s the best way to reduce crime on your block? Join an existing block club, or start one from scratch. “There are a lot of advantages to being involved with block clubs,” Dotson explained. “Everything from learning to work effectively with the 3rd Precinct police officers to getting assistance with neighborhood problems and issues. And, the best part, being known in your neighborhood and getting to know others.”

Block Club leader training is held nearly every month, with the exception of December. Contact to learn more or to register for the next training session.

On the subject of community policing, Stiller (a 22 year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department) said, “This is a very busy precinct, and public safety is our #1 priority. Regarding improving community relationships, we are adding more beats and more beat officers.”

Stiller explained that “a beat is a specific area, like 46th and Hiawatha, where the same officers regularly patrol on foot or bikes. The officers assigned to beats are there because they want to be there. Neighborhood residents and business owners get used to seeing them, which makes their relationships stronger.”

“Every Minneapolis Police officer now wears a body camera,” Johnson added.”This took almost four years to implement, and we believe strongly that this is good for the officers as well as the citizens.”
“I’ve pushing for an added layer of transparency for the last couple of years,” Johnson continued, “a quality assurance team that would randomly review footage from body cameras. The team would be made up of volunteers. We could identify officers who are underperforming, and those who are going above and beyond their duties. This kind of QA is standard practice in almost every industry.

Surprisingly, I’m not aware of any other cities that are utilizing it. I hope the idea will be up and running by 2018.”

Additionally, two types of training have been implemented for the Minneapolis Police Department to bridge the gap between officers and citizens.

The Implicit Bias Training helps officers learn to identify their personal biases. The training underscores that every person, no matter how well-intentioned, holds biases of which they are often unaware.

The Minneapolis Police Department is more than half way through its year-long Procedural Justice Training, in conjunction with the US Department of Justice. Procedural justice focuses on the way police interact with the public—and how those interactions shape the public’s views of the police, their willingness to obey the law, and actual crime rates.

Johnson concluded by saying, “We need to continue with these kinds of trainings, and we need to hire more police officers. Our force is overworked and understaffed. The mayor’s budget for 2017 asks for funding to hire 15 more officers. Despite my own healthy impatience, I feel that slowly things are getting better around the issue of community policing.”

For anyone interested in deepening their neighborhood involvement, consider joining LCC’s Community Connections Committee. It meets the first Tuesday of every month at 6pm at the Longfellow Recreation Center, 3435 36th Ave. S.

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Local leaders and Minneapolis stand firm with Standing Rock

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

standing-rock-4179The crowd (photo right) stood hushed as a young Native American child sang out a prayer on the steps of Minneapolis City Hall. As it drew to a close, the several hundred people gathered here erupted in cheers. They were assembled for a rally in late October to demand that Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek bring home the deputies he had deployed to Standing Rock, ND, where thousands of tribal members of many nations have joined in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Carrying signs reading Water is Life – Mni Wiconi, NO DAPL, No Special Ops At Standing Rock, tribal members, students, families and elected officials delivered a strong message: Bring the officers home.
Among tribal elders and other speakers, local Rep. Karen Clark (MN House Dist. 62A) shared a letter to the sheriff from state representatives, signed by herself, Rep. Jim Davnie (Dist. 63A), Rep. Jean Wagenius (Dist. 63B), Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (MN Senate Dist. 63) and 20 others, calling it “grossly inappropriate” to send our officers to North Dakota.

standing-rock-0982Photo left: Rep. Karen Clark (Dist. 62A) reads from the letter being delivered by state representatives to Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek calling his deployment of county personnel and resources “grossly inappropriate.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

An excerpt reads: “The insertion of local law enforcement in a North Dakota issue involving protection of the Standing Rock Reservation Lakota people’s sovereign rights… sends the wrong message to our Indigenous constituents and to others who have deep felt concerns about these issues.”

Sheriff Stanek created a social media firestorm when he first announced his action and people flooded his Facebook page demanding they return immediately. When Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and Ward 12 Council Member Andrew Johnson posted their disappointment in the sheriff’s decision on their respective pages, they drew as many “thank you’s” for standing in solidarity.
Sheriff Stanek brought personnel and equipment home after meeting with representatives but issued a statement defending his action, which was in response to the State of North Dakota’s “urgent” request for 50 sworn peace officers under an Emergency Management Assistance Compact between our two states.

“Law enforcement is not taking sides on this issue,” Stanek said in his statement. “Our decision to help Morton County was operational, not political. We were there to assist maintaining public safety, preserving the peace and protecting the constitutional rights of all parties involved.”

roosevelt-high-standing-rockPhoto left: Students stand with Standing Rock, Native American Involvement Day, Nov. 15, at Roosevelt High School. (Photo by Candida Gonzalez.)

Davnie, who was at the rally with his two teenage kids and spoke later by phone, said it’s good that municipalities have mutual aid agreements so that when they need help, they can get it. When the 35W bridge collapsed, for example, first responders mobilized from around the metro and beyond to help.

“It’s good that Minnesota has an agreement with other states. But it was intended for disaster,” said Davnie. “It wasn’t intended for political problems. And North Dakota and the Dakota Access Pipeline have decided to push forward this project without an environmental impact statement and without fully engaging the Standing Rock Tribe as a sovereign nation. I don’t think Hennepin County has to get in the middle of that.”

standing-rock-0927Photo right: People make their voices heard at a rally at Minneapolis City Hall. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

Davnie also said Hennepin County was under no obligation to participate and that Stanek was “solely responsible” for sending staff and equipment. In fact, sheriffs in other jurisdictions had declined.

Both Davnie and Johnson felt strongly that if the sheriff has extra resources, we could use them in Minneapolis.

“We could have them patrolling alleys and looking for burglars, there’s plenty of need here,” said Johnson. “If he has those spare resources, please put them to work right here.”

Many dispute Stanek’s assertion that Hennepin County deputies were preserving the peace and protecting constitutional rights. Videos from Standing Rock show officers using mace, rubber bullets, and batons against demonstrators. The letter Minnesota representatives sent to Stanek explicitly mentions concerns “about media reports which surfaced on Oct. 27 indicating that Hennepin County personnel were involved in the arrest of an Indigenous elder [and]… used force on a member of the media.”

standing-rock-arlana-omaha-at-campArlana Omaha (photo left, photo courtesy of Arlana Omaha), member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Leech Lake Ojibwe who describes herself as a “1st generation urban Indian born and raised in South Minneapolis,” spoke from Standing Rock via short video clips during an early November trip there. Asked specifically about arrests made and use of mace, she said that’s nothing new.

“We’ve been dealing with that for decades, so it’s not foreign. But unfortunately having [to be] vigilant, from trauma, and… always being scared of cops, and worried about cops shaking us down and all that, that’s continuous,” she said. “I wish there was a way to have a positive impact to change that relationship [between Native peoples and police], but what they’re doing now, they’re just damaging it and tainting and making it worse.”

Omaha welcomed the outcome of deputies leaving but said it’s unfortunate that it took pressure from the inside.

“If it was just our voice it would be very challenging, and take a long time. It may never happen,” she said. She said it’s important for nonnatives to support and stand with them and be there. “It’s power of strength in numbers, and it shows that human beings are all the same and that we need the same resources, and we need to stand up for the same causes and support each other. It’s powerful. It’s moving. It’s inspirational. We need our allies, and we couldn’t do a lot of stuff that we do for our people without our allies and our supporters.”

Support is being felt in schools, coffee shops and neighborhood organizations throughout the community and includes elected officials representing all levels of government for our area. In addition to those named previously, 5th District Congressman Keith Ellison, Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon, and Ward 9 Council Member Alondra Cano are actively engaged.

standing-rock-0953Photo right: Youth were among those making their voices heard at a rally at Minneapolis City Hall. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

The rally at City Hall was just one moment, but there have been countless actions and events that still continue. The City passed a resolution in September “Expressing solidarity with Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline” and another declaring Oct. 10th—Indigenous People’s Day—”Coldwater Springs Protection and Preservation Day” in Minneapolis.

Friends of Lake Hiawatha publicly stated they stand with the “water protectors” at Standing Rock. In November there was A Tipi Signing and The Ave Stands event along the Indian Cultural Corridor on Franklin Ave., as well as a youth rally at U.S. Bank Stadium involving students from around the metro area.

And when a day was announced to hold an international prayer vigil, including one at Wabun picnic area, supporters of Standing Rock numbered in the thousands and posted pictures of their vigils from as far away as Hawaii, Scotland, and New Zealand.

There are reasons this issue is connecting people across all nations and geographic boundaries.
For Omaha, it runs very deep. “I guess it’s almost like a life or death situation because without our water we all know what happens to us. So we need to share our teachings with others,” she said.
It also cuts across some issues Longfellow and Nokomis residents and neighborhood organizations pour their hearts into daily: promoting clean energy, stopping environmental degradation, and justice for all people. The Dakota Access Pipeline would carry as many as 570,000 barrels of fracked crude oil per day for more than 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, going across or under more than 200 rivers, creeks, and tributaries, including the Missouri River, a critical source of drinking water.

Ultimately, Standing Rock is about people. As Johnson pointed out, we have a large population of Indigenous people in Ward 12, and we’re the center of the American Indian Movement.

“We have a responsibility to stand up for… climate justice and environmental justice and Native rights and also to stand up in solidarity with our residents whose very families and their land are affected by this,” he said. And youth, well represented at many events, have been passionately engaged.

“The youth are the ones who inspired this movement, have been the backbone of it since day one,” said Omaha. “So the youth in Minneapolis, standing up and standing strong for Standing Rock? Yeah, powerful.”

It’s also brought people together on a very spiritual level. When 500 Clergy members arrive at a camp in a North Dakota prairie, something very powerful is happening.

Soon after arriving in Standing Rock, Omaha shared this: “All the Lakota and all nations from all over the United States and all races are here speaking up and speaking out for the water.” Asked how that felt, she said, “It’s very inspiring, it’s priceless. There’s a word on my shirt, WAKAN; it means sacred. So that’s how it feels.”
Tribal members and supporters at the camp are preparing for winter. For more info see

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Exodus Lending is breaking the cycle of payday loans

Posted on 22 November 2016 by calvin

Payday loans are getting a lot of attention these days. A payday loan is a small, short-term, unsecured loan taken out to cover an emergency, and it’s meant to be repaid with the next paycheck. However, the interest and fees charged are almost always exorbitant—and can create a cycle of debt that is very hard to break.

Exodus Lending has been helping borrowers trapped by payday lending since it opened its doors 1½ years ago. The brain-child of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (HTLC) in the Longfellow neighborhood, its two-person staff has guided over 100 participants on the path to financial stability.

exodus-lending-01Photo left: Until consumer banks and credit unions offer an affordable, small-dollar loan product, people will continue to use payday lenders like ACE Cash Express at 27th and E. Lake St. Exodus Lending hopes to serve 200+ clients in 2017, seeking lasting change for individuals, financial institutions, and society at large. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

In the words of Sarah, an Exodus Lending graduate: “Even though I worried that it wasn’t the best solution for my money problems, I took out a payday loan. I couldn’t afford to pay back the loan when it came due, so I found myself taking out another loan to pay off the first loan and its fees. I never thought I’d be stuck in the same cycle a year later—but there I was.”

Exodus Lending asks the following eligibility questions: Do you live in the state of Minnesota? Do you have a balance on a payday loan that is less than $1,000? Have you had the loan for more than 30 days? Do you have a job?

Exodus Lending program manager Kathy Dixon may be able to offer financial assistance if the answer to all four questions is yes. She can be reached at 612-615-0067 to schedule an appointment, and the office location will then be disclosed.

HTLC’s parish organizer Megan Olsen Biebighauser explained how Exodus Lending came to be. She said, “My job as parish organizer is to listen deeply to those within this place, and in the larger parish beyond. We use the word parish in the old-fashioned way here, incorporating the neighborhood as well as the church community. With a small army of volunteers, we shared hundreds of conversations about what people found hopeful in our neighborhood, and what they found troubling.”

“Repeatedly we heard that people were bothered by the presence of two payday lending shops in proximity to HTLC,” Olsen Biebighauser said. “Cashwell, at 3018 E. Lake St., relocated a few months ago but ACE Cash Express, at 2701 E. Lake St., is still going strong.”

Most people who come to Exodus Lending have been trapped in the cycle of debt for months, usually originating from a loan of $500-$600. People who fall prey to payday lending are not the poorest of the poor—they’re people who are working paycheck to paycheck and coming up short.

Olsen Biebighauser explained, “Our participants often come in filled with all kinds of shame. It’s quite common for people not to even have told their spouse about their debt cycle. For us at HTLC, it’s a clear-cut issue spiritually. We believe it’s unethical to charge exorbitant interest rates, and most especially to those who are already poor.”

Exodus Lending can work with eligible clients anywhere in Minnesota, though most participants live in the Twin Cities metro. If a person meets the program criteria, Exodus Lending will pay off their payday loan balance if it’s less than $1,000. The participant then has 12 months to repay the loan to Exodus Lending at 0% interest and no fees.

Participants are also referred to three sessions of financial counseling at Lutheran Social Services.
If they’re able to save a minimum of $400 over the 12 months of their repayment term, Exodus Lending will give them an additional $100 as an incentive to keep saving.

The name Exodus Lending suits the program. “Our congregation connected with this image of God’s people moving together out of the bondage of debt,” Olson Biebighauser explained. A circle of generosity has continued to wrap itself around Exodus Lending since its beginning.

A couple of years ago, HTLC applied for a $40,000 social entrepreneurship grant from the Colonial Church of Edina and won. That generous gift proved to be the seed money for starting Exodus Lending, and its coffers have grown steadily with donations from individuals, HTLC, and other congregations, and grants.

HTLC has also provided fiscal sponsorship. Exodus Landing will soon be a separate non-profit organization with its own executive director: Sarah Nelson-Pallmeyer.

“This program has changed the lives of its participants,” Olson Biebighauser said, “and also the workings of our church. People within the church are more candid now about their own financial struggles. They feel safer talking about what their safety nets are—and what they aren’t. We’ve become much more thoughtful about the way we support each other and our broader parish community.

To make a contribution toward breaking the debt cycle of the working poor, visit

Total number of loans refinanced: 124
Total amount of $ refinanced: $61,433
Average amount refinanced per participant: $668
APR participants were paying before Exodus lending: 460%
Fees and interest paid to Exodus lending: $0
Fees and interest saved for participants in 12 months: $240,243


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