Archive | NOKOMIS

Going solar: Southside ramping up renewal energy output

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Iric Nathanson

Eric Olson with with Sarah and Wren (4 yr-old) and Hazel (blonde 2-yr-old)

Eric Olson is thinking long term when he looks at the financial benefits of his investment in in a solar energy system. “If my only goal was seek the largest possible return, I could have found other places to put my money,’’ Olson says. But the South Minneapolis architect, who lives on E. Minnehaha Parkway, knows that his $20,000 solar investment will eventually pay for itself in terms of reduced energy costs.
Olson’s rooftop system is one of more than 70 solar installations in Greater Longfellow and Nokomis East. Cumulatively, these projects are able to produce over 2.2 megawatts of renewal energy, enough to power a 30-square-block swath of South Minneapolis.
Olson is doing his part with his 20 photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on the roof of his house and his garage. He is financing his system with a five year loan at a 2% rate from the non-profit Center for Energy and Environment. While his monthly loan payment of $345 is roughly twice as much as his pre-solar electrical energy costs, his first two years of payments are offset by the subsidies he has received through federal tax credits and Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards program.
“We may be paying double initially, but the loan will be paid off in five years.

Eric Olson holds four-year-old Wren while his wife Sarah holds two-year-old Hazel. They put 20 photovoltaic panels on the house and garage with help from a five-year loan from the Center for Energy and Environment. (Photos by Terry Faust)

After that, our solar collectors will generate pure cash flow in terms of lower energy costs over the 30-year life of the system. Since we installed our system last November, it has produced six million kilowatt hours of renewal energy. In terms of our carbon footprint, we’ve planted the equivalent of 72 trees and saved 9,500 pounds of CO2 emissions.
“That’s not a bad investment in the future of the planet,” Olson noted.
In late 2019, when Olson’s solar system was put in place, his contractor, TruNorth, was able to mount the 20 PV panels over a single weekend. But that installation represented the culmination of a multi-month process that began when Olson had his initial consultation with TruNorth’s project manager, James Drummond, earlier in the year as they began working to determine the optimum size of rooftop system for the Minnehaha Parkway bungalow.
Their analysis took into account the family’s past electrical use, the bungalow’s roof configurations and any potential obstructions, including tree canopies, that might limit solar gain. Finally, the analysis factored in weather data provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. TruNorth crunched the numbers to produce a cost and savings projection that incorporated renewable energy subsidies and tax benefits Olson was able to obtain.
“Installing a solar system is not a cookie cutter operations,“ said TruNorth’s Drummond. “You can’t go to the local building supply store to buy your solar panels off the shelf and install them, yourself. A lot of analysis goes into sizing each system. Each one is unique.”

Arun Hejmadi
Across Minnehaha Parkway on 40th Avenue South, Arun Hejmadi has one of the area’s largest residential solar installations. Earlier this year, Hejmadi‘s 45 panels were mounted on the roof of his home and his garage. The Nokomis resident had not wanted to wait this long for a solar array to complement the geothermal system he uses to heat and cool his home. But when Hejmadi received his initial solar assessment several years ago, a local solar developer discouraged him from installing a rooftop system, saying that a large tree shading the southside of his house would limit of the efficiency of the system. More recently, Hejmadi needed to remove the tree, which substantially increased the roof’s solar gain potential. With the tree gone, he was able to install his 14-kilowatt solar array early in 2020.
“I may be spending more for electrical energy now, but I am more than offsetting costs by reduced my annual natural gas bill,” said Hejmadi.

Minnehaha United Methodist

Minnehaha United Methodist Church opted for solar panels to fulfill its social mission. (Photo by Terry Faust)

Down 50th St. at 37th Ave., Minnehaha United Methodist Church’s 40-kilowatt rooftop system was installed at the end of 2018. The church financed its system with a low interest loan from the St. Paul Port Authority through a program known as PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy).
“We have about 18 months of data, which shows us how our system is performing,“ said Chris Kramer, a former chair of the Minnehaha’s solar committee. “A year and half out, the numbers in terms of production are slightly under our projections but they are close. The congregation believes we have made a smart investment at the same time that we are fulfilling our social mission.”

Nokomis Hardware
A half mile away, on 34th Ave., Nokomis Hardware’s 75 solar panels have been in place for over eight years. Nokomis’s owner, Carolyn Faacks, used All Energy Solar to install her system. She was able to arrange financing through “a pay-as-you-go” lease that eliminated the need for an upfront outlay on her part. Faacks leased her system from a developer who was able to take advantage of federal tax credits and a subsidy from the state of Minnesota. Now that the eight-year term of the lease has been completed, Faacks owns the 14-kilowatt solar system outright.

Minnehaha United Methodist Church opted for solar panels to fulfill its social mission. (Photo by Terry Faust)

All Energy’s Brandon Charboneau has helped Faacks monitor the performance of the 14kW installation.“The monitor enables us to check the system to make sure it is operating properly. Over the past 10 years, there have been no real maintenance issues. The system takes care of itself,” Charboneau explained.
“I’ve always been interested in ways to reduce my consumption of resources. Renewable energy is the end game and the sooner we get there the better the outcome is for everyone,” Fraack said.
While Nokomis Hardware’s 14kW system may be one of the area’s largest solar installations on a free standing retail businesses, it is dwarfed in size by a mammoth system three miles away at 28th St. and 31st Ave. The building at that intersection houses a local renewable energy business, Greenway Solar, and several other tenants. When Greenways system is completed later this fall, its rooftop and a freestanding structure in its parking lot will be covered with 400 PV panels capable of generated 120 kilowatts of renewable energy.
Greenway’s CEO, Paul Krumrich, expects that the 120 kW system should cover the building’s total electrical needs on an annualized basis. Krumrich notes that his solar installation will generate more electricity than the building uses during summer, enabling Greenway to sell back its excess production to Xcel’s energy grid. But during the colder months Greenway will need to draw from the grid to supplement its solar production. “Over 12 months, that should even out,” Krumrich said.

Tangible step
Pete Lindstrom with Clean Energy Research Teams (CERTS) says that the increased interest in solar in Longfellow and Nokomis reflects a trend that is occurring throughout the state.
“Not that long ago, back around 2010, Minnesota did not show up on the solar map. The number and output of solar installations here were miniscule. But that has changed dramatically. In the last year, alone there have been more than 1,000 new installations all over the state. Solar is now generating a gigawatt of power and it is making a real difference. The power is distributive. It is coming from the Methodist church down the street and the family that lives across the alley.”
Lindstrom says that Minnesota is undergoing a solar boom because it is a “win-win” for people who use it. “Costs are coming down so solar makes more sense from a strictly financial perspective,” he explains. “At the same time solar represents a very tangible step that people can take on their own to promote environmental sustainability. Solar development is going to keep building in Minnesota. That’s a very good thing.”

Solar Energy Resources
-Clean Energy Resource Teams:
Renewable energy training
and assistance,

-Center for Energy and the Environment (CEE): Low interest loans for residential solar installations,

-Minneapolis Green Cost Share:
City of Minneapolis solar subsidies,

-Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light: Faith community partnerships to promote climate justice,

-MinnPACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy): Low interest loans for commercial, institutional solar project,

-SunShare Community Solar:
Solar benefits without rooftop

-Xcel Solar Rewards: Solar
incentives for Xcel customers

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Nokomis East Neighborhood Association update October 2020

Posted on 02 October 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Becky Timm, NENA Executive Director

Executive Director

Home security rebates back by popular demand
Due to the popularity of this program, NENA is opening a second round starting on Oct. 1! Home Security Rebates are for homeowners, renters, and residential property owners in the four Nokomis East neighborhoods of Keewaydin, Minnehaha, Morris Park, and Wenonah. This is a first-come, first-served program, so sign up soon.
Eligible participants can apply for up to $500 in matching grant funds. This is a one-to-one matching grant and a rebate project. Examples of eligible improvements may include, but are not limited to doors, motion lights for your home, garage and alley, alarm and camera systems. Ineligible expenses include window bars, ongoing maintenance and cost of security systems, and landscaping. Visit NENA’s website at for more program information and to apply.

Food distribution
Please join NENA on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month for our free food and supply distribution. We offer a wide selection of fresh produce, dairy, meat, staples, clean supplies and personal care items. The site is located at 5734 Sander Drive from 2:30-3:30 p.m. All are welcome!

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

Upcoming meetings
10/3/20: NENA Neighborhood Clean Up at 10 a.m.
10/6/20: NENA Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee at 6:30 p.m., Via Zoom
10/14/20: NENA Pop-Up Food Distribution, 2:30-3:30 p.m.
10/15/20: NENA Green Initiatives Committee, at 6:30 p.m., Via Zoom
10/28/20: NENA Pop-Up Food Distribution 2:30-3:30 p.m.
10/28/20: NENA Board Meeting, at 6:30 p.m., Via Zoom

Phone: (612) 724-5652

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‘Nightwatchers:’ New mystery novel by local author Vincent Wyckoff coming in September

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Catch former Nokomis mail carrier Vincent Wyckoff talking about his new book during a virtual interview on Saturday, Sept. 19, noon to 1 p.m. It is hosted by Once Upon a Crime. Signed copies of “Nightwatchers” are available at Nokomis Shoe Shop and Nokomis Beach Gallery and Frame Shop.

Get ready to see Minnesota’s North Shore in a new light – or rather, in the dark – in Vincent Wyckoff’s new novel, “Nightwatchers,” to be released on Sept. 8.
The sequel to his first novel “Black Otter Bay,” “Nightwatchers”returns to the same fictional small town on the big lake with the same cast of characters – Sheriff Marlon Fastwater, Postmistress Mrs. Virginia Bean, Café Proprietor Marcy Soderstrom, and more. Lake Superior, in all its mist and majesty, forms the backdrop.
The story opens with the shadowy intrigue of something, someone, slinking through the forest in the early light of dawn. The mystery unfolds as residents seek to find what, or who, is out there and intensifies as a legend is revealed.
In keeping with its prequel, “Nightwatchers” is crafted as a non-violent mystery. Asked why, Wyckoff explained:
“It seems every mystery thriller now pushes the boundaries on violence; especially against women. My thought is, Why not [tell] a thrilling story with engaging characters without all the violent, vulgar blood and gore.” The heroine in “Black Otter Bay,” for example, is a 13-year-old girl, who returns in “Nightwatchers” and again in the third installment of the series, which Wyckoff is currently writing.
Readers can expect more of a “thriller” in this installment. The term “Nightwatchers” comes from Wyckoff’s mother.
“When I was a child and playing outside with my friends, she’d call for me to come in after dark, and of course I didn’t want to,” explains Wyckoff. “Finally, she’d say the Nightwatchers will be out soon. I didn’t actually believe her, but when you’re a little kid your imagination takes over. I’d conjure up all sorts of monsters lurking around and eventually head inside.” A poem written by his mother is included on the dedication page.
Wyckoff is familiar to many Nokomis area residents as their former mail carrier and author of “Beware of Cat,” which chronicles his experiences delivering the mail. Black Otter Bay, his first work of fiction, was published shortly after Wyckoff retired from the postal service. The novel was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award and won runner up for the Midwest Independent Booksellers Award. His short story, “Lemonade on a Parkside Bench,” which takes place at Lake Hiawatha, is included in an anthology entitled, “Home.”
Signed copies of “Nightwatchers” will be available at Nokomis Shoe Shop and Nokomis Beach Gallery and Frame Shop on Sept. 8. Once Upon A Crime is hosting a virtual interview with Wyckoff on Saturday, Sept. 19, noon-1 p.m., and will have signed copies at the store. Books are also available for preorder on the Moon Palace Books, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Barnes & Noble and Amazon websites.
Follow the release schedule on Wyckoff’s Facebook page. He also welcomes you to contact him at for socially-distanced book clubs, virtual book clubs, and personalized signings for gifts.

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How are seniors adjusting to COVID-19 pandemic?

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Local organizations offer various resources

Tanya Welch of Hiawatha Suites Senior Living

Seniors at Hiawatha Suites Senior Living, 4140 Dight Ave. S., watched as Irish dancers performed in the parking lot. The seniors enjoyed the dancing from a safe distance in the dining room or outside on the patio. Hiawatha Suites Executive Director Tanya Welch mentioned that this had become the “new normal” for seniors. Families, other visitors, or performers all need to keep their distance.
Hiawatha Suites Senior Living is a care facility that houses seniors in order to provide their care. However, their aim is still to make seniors feel independent and dignified. They focus on community life and memory care for seniors, and also offer 24-hour care. These ways of helping seniors have all been challenged due to COVID-19.
Many seniors have underlying health conditions, which adds to the complications of living through COVID-19. Seniors’ health is often already fragile but contracting COVID-19 would create many new challenges. Welch believes that a senior without a community supporting them would make even the simplest of tasks difficult – especially, if they did not have access to electronics or know how to utilize apps like Zoom or Skype.
“Encountering COVID-19 could be a death sentence for the elderly,” Welch said.
Residents at Hiawatha Suites are allowed to go out for essential healthcare visits only. Even though Hiawatha Suites provides Metro Mobility, seniors want to go out and shop, eat or visit friends and family. Hiawatha Suites has tried to encourage video chats and phone calls with family, but they understand that these are not the same.
“We have begun outdoor patio visits. This has brought much joy to residents and families,” Welch said.
These visits must still be outdoors, with all visitors and residents wearing masks and standing six feet apart. These visits are monitored and the families are asked to provide Hiawatha Suites with a 24-hour notice before they visit. Families are also screened and asked to sign an outdoor visit policy in order ensure that guidelines are followed. To call for an appointment, Hiawatha Suites Senior Living’s phone number is 612-351-6060.
For the seniors that don’t get visitors, there is a full-time activities director who spends time with all residents. But, Hiawatha Suites still encourages the community to reach out and help. Sending letters to seniors can be done by using their main address listed above.
“We strive to keep residents safe, secure, happy and entertained on a regular basis. Just having personal connection and conversation is good for anyone’s soul,” Welch said.
Because Hiawatha Suites Senior Living is a care facility that directly houses seniors in order to get their care, their COVID-19 safety plan can be more challenging because of closer living quarters. Hiawatha Suites has a strenuous process of screening all visitors. They encourage hand washing more regularly, sanitize the building daily and staff wear masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). They also test residents and staff often.
“It’s very important to me that seniors are well cared for. My own mother went through the various phases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Welch said. “She lived in a skilled nursing facility for the last three years of her life.”
In preparing for the future, Welch believes that it is important for the community to keep reaching out to seniors they know, not just seniors living in Hiawatha Suites. She encourages people to reach out to seniors for a conversation, to show support or even just to share a smile.
“You would be surprised at what you could learn from seniors. They were once young, too. Some of their life stories would amaze you. I have worked with seniors who were airline pilots, nurses, doctors, teachers, writers, published authors and more,” Welch said.
Welch acknowledged that the pandemic has been hard on everyone and is continuously so. But, seniors are more susceptible to getting COVID-19 and compromised because of their health and age. She encourages people to still visit and check in with one another in a safe manor.
“Everyone loves getting a visit from time to time. It makes us feel remembered and appreciated,” Welch said.



Larvel Bunker

Larvel Bunker, the co-owner of Comfort Keepers Twin Cities, (275 4th St. E., Suite 345 in St. Paul), believes that loneliness is a big struggle for many seniors during the pandemic. Socially isolated seniors have a greater risk of mental and physical decline while socially engaged seniors have higher levels of physical, mental and cognitive functioning according to a study done by Forbes. Social interaction may even slow Alzheimer and Dementia patients’ decline, according to the National Institute of Health.

Comfort Keepers Twin Cities provides in-home, non-medical care for seniors and other adults in need of assistance with daily activities. They have more than 700 offices nationwide, and serve the local communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Along with daily assistance, Comfort Keepers Twin Cities provides 24-hour home care, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease care and end-of-life care.

“Feelings of isolation are universal and far reaching, especially during the statewide Stay at Home order. Some seniors found themselves walled-off even from residents within their own buildings, which although necessary for safety, could not have been easy on seniors and may have lasting effects on some,” Bunker said.

Longfellow Seward Healthy Seniors
provides many services to help area seniors live healthy, independent and socially connected lives. They serve 600+ seniors and caregivers annually. Although their office in the U.S. bank building was destroyed during the civil unrest, they are still providing essential services (although they have temporarily suspended in-person classes and events due to social distancing requirements).

Food insecurity is a pressing need for many seniors now. “Our community became a food desert practically overnight when Target, Cub and Aldi’s closed due to significant building damages,” said Executive Director Mary Albrecht. “Our staff and volunteers are doing grocery shopping and delivery for our clients, and are delivering food from local food shelves, as well. We recently received a Hunger Solutions grant for food distribution and delivery to lower-income seniors. Older adults age 60+ who live in the greater Longfellow and Seward neighborhoods are encouraged to contact us to see if they’re income-eligible for free food distribution and delivery.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers to help us in our work. Contact us by calling 612-729-5799 or email us at”

Nokomis Healthy Seniors
is now able to deliver food from the Minnehaha Food Shelf to your home every Tuesday, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you could benefit from this service, call the NHS office at 612-729-5499. Staff is working remotely, and will respond to voicemails as soon as they’re able.

“With the advent of Covid-19 and its impact on our community, we’ve all been very concerned for our friends and family, especially our elders. We also know how difficult it is to be a caregiver during the pandemic, when we are asked to stay at home. One of the ways that we are going to help is by making memory boxes that can help those with dementia to relive favorite memories and stories of their past. Please call the office for more information,” said Executive Director Megan Elliasen.

“Social distancing means that most of us have had to rely on electronic means to stay connected with others, and many of our participants are not comfortable with, or don’t have access to, technology. Similarly, the stress of living during this unprecedented time of a world-wide pandemic and the uncertainty and disruption it brings will likely worsen existing mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Even before the pandemic, there was evidence that substance abuse has been rising among the older population, and the fear and panic many feel during this time of Covid-19 may very well result in more men and women struggling with substance abuse.

“On another note, NHS participants have experienced further stress and fear in their neighborhoods this spring and summer due to the rioting, violence, and mayhem in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, putting many of us on edge.”

Nokomis Healthy Seniors (NHS) is not offering in-person programming until further notice, such as in-person events/programs, including bingo, lunch and a movie, support groups, Nurse is in Blood Pressure Clinic, educational presentations, and foot care.

Virtual Program Offerings:
« Exercise with Becky, Nokomis Healthy Seniors’ Exercise Instructor. She is creating several different videos with tips on exercising at home using items you probably have on hand. Visit our Facebook page ( for a link to the video, or leave a message at the office (612-729-5499) and Becky will send you the direct link via email.
« Exercise: Juniper Program – The Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA) offers its Juniper program classes online. Call 855-215-2174 or visit
« Friendly Phone Visitors – Volunteers and staff are happy to call seniors who would like to chat with a friendly visitor.
« Rides – NHS is still coordinating rides, provided by volunteers, for essential services such as picking up prescriptions, grocery store runs, and doctors’ appointments.
« Book Club, via Zoom – Call the office for details.


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Why they love homeschooling

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

24 authors of all walks, including Standish resident, talk about how homeschooling works for them in new book


As COVID-19 forces educational changes, some parents are considering whether online schooling through their district or homeschooling on their own will work better for their families.

Kathy Oaks

To help families decide, Midway-Hamline resident Kathy Oaks has co-edited a new book with Brynn Steimle titled, “Why I Love Homeschooling.” In it are essays written by 24 people on how homeschooling works for them, including an essay by Standish resident Theresa Redfern-Hall. The book is currently available on Amazon.
“For everyone, those homeschooling and those not, I’d like to reiterate that what most people did this spring isn’t homeschooling,’” stated Oaks, who has been homeschooling her three boys ages 8 through 16 since the beginning of their education. “For the majority, it was way harder, for the students, the parents, and the teachers. Our hearts went out to you, watching the struggle. Whatever your choice in the fall, we all wish you an easier time, and joyous learning.”
The Messenger spoke with Oaks and contributor Theresa Redfern-Hall, whose children are current 24, 23 and 20. She and her partner homeschooled from the birth of their first child in 1995.

“The book can be useful for those people who are considering homeschooling and for those homeschooling. There are reflections from 24 different people, all different backgrounds, lifestyles, and types of homeschooling,” said Redfern-Hall. “The essays show that there is no one correct way to homeschool and that even seasoned homeschoolers have questions and bad days. It also shows that homeschooling is a wonderful opportunity to watch, learn and grow with your children.”
What makes homeschooling different from crisis schooling?
Oaks: Crisis schooling is just that, throwing together a way to keep regular school going during a crisis. It’s not meant to be long-term, nor is it an ideal way to learn. School teachers did not go into education to do online school, and have been scrambling to make things fit into a different format and many are ill prepared and certainly underpaid for this extra work.
Homeschooling, on the other hand, is intentional. The best part of homeschooling is that it isn’t one size fits all. Families get to find ways that work best for them, instead of trying to squeeze into a more rigid system. Some kids love online learning, but it would work better for the family if it wasn’t at a set time. Other kids do poorly with online learning, and would benefit from having more hands-on instruction. And sometimes those kids are in the same family! With homeschooling, everyone can be accommodated.
There are plenty of places that are already set up to do online learning, and do it well, for any income level, and home-schoolers have been taking advantage of them for years.

The Redfern-Hall family of Standish started homeschooling after the birth of their first kid in 1995. Left to right: Sophia, Joni, Zoe, Zane and Theresa.

Redfern-Hall: I’d have to say that homeschooling is a lifestyle choice. The parent is the one making the choices on how learning will proceed and what type of materials or programs their students will follow. Crisis schooling is just trying to keep things as much like a normal school day as possible – still following along with the school-mandated lessons or materials. Making sure that the kids will keep up with all the classes and subjects in school so they don’t fall behind.
What questions have you heard from people who are thinking about switching to homeschooling and what are the reasons driving this discussion?
Oaks: I have seen all kinds of reasons for switching to home-schooling. For some, the stress of dealing with online public school was just too much, and they hope to see happier kids (and parents) through home-schooling. Others are worried that their kids won’t be safe and are intending only to home-school until the pandemic eases. Still others have said they were already considering homeschooling and are taking this opportunity to jump in.
Many of the questions I’ve seen have centered around finding the “right” curriculum. Honestly, there is no “right” curriculum. Sure, there are all-in-one box sets you can buy, for quite a lot of money. But what if your family ends up hating it? Many homeschoolers draw from a variety of resources rather than using one set curriculum.


Zoe Redfern-Hall stands by her science project.

What is your advice for those who would like to transition from homeschooling to crisis schooling?
Oaks: The best advice I know of is first, to deschool. That is, take time off. Fortunately, the summer is helpful for that! But also spend some time thinking about what you and your family like and don’t like about school. The people most likely to give up on homeschooling are those who try to faithfully reproduce school at home instead of fitting homeschooling to their unique needs. Start slowly with one subject – ideally your favorite or your child’s favorite subject – and add in another as you get your footing. Adjust as you go along. Most people are surprised at how little actual instruction is needed; much of the public school day is taken up with things like moving from classroom to classroom, waiting for students to all be ready, and busywork to make sure the slowest students have enough practice.
Redfern-Hall: My first suggestion would be to let go of what you think you should do to teach your children. Don’t plan to re-create a school environment. Let you kid do some unschooling. (There are lots of books and info on unschooling.) Unschooling is particularly useful for students who have suffered from bad situations in school – anxiety, bullying, depression and so on. Just let them be for a period of time. You don’t have to have everything figured out all at once. I know homeschoolers who change curriculum more than once a year because it’s just not working for them or their kids.
Don’t feel tied down to a certain way of doing things. Reach out to the online homeschooler community. There are so many folks out there now who are homeschooling. When COVID-19 was not an on-going issue, the opportunities to meet other homeschoolers at events and get-togethers was amazing. Often, we laughed about the socialization issue. We wanted less socialization. There was so much to do. Hopefully, this will be available again in the near future.

Zane Redfern-Hall took a rocket launch class. Homeschooling enabled the students to pursue their interests through various classes.

Does homeschooling have to be all or nothing? What are some other options for people?
Oaks: Anyone with more than one child has noticed they’re not the same. I know a number of homeschoolers who send one child to school and work with another at home. In Minnesota, depending on the school district, homeschoolers can participate in classes and sports through their local schools, as well. There are also local homeschool co-ops, including secular ones, that meet weekly to cover academic needs. We participate in Planet Homeschool, which is online for the fall semester. Through our co-op the kids have taken math, creative writing, history, language, fencing, ballroom dance, and theater classes, which are just a small sample of the options that have been offered over the years.
Redfern-Hall: No home-schooling does not have to be all or nothing. I have known some families who have utilized some online learning programs that were perfectly okay with students having outside learning activities. Some kids have taken classes at co-ops while attending the online schools. My kids attended a project-based high school, Avalon, and still took classes outside of the classes there. They received credit for those classes and projects. Even while not homeschooling, I tended to put an educational element into most of the things we did as a family. We enjoyed and learned.

Sophia Redfern-Hall stands in front of painting at an art show. It was created in one of the many classes she took.

Highlights from book contributors:
“Our goal with ‘Why I Love Homeschooling’ is to show parents the various ways that people from all walks of life homeschool,” stated co-editor Kathy Oaks. “We hope it will give confidence to those who are ready to give it a try, and those who feel it’s the best option for them right now, even if they don’t feel ready yet. We reached out to 24 authors to get their perspectives on the joys and challenges of homeschooling and why they love educating their kids at home. Lots of people only talk about how great homeschooling is, without addressing the challenges, and leave parents unprepared. There are always challenges, but managing them can in fact become part of the learning process, adding emotional intelligence to education.”

Some quotes from the book:

Carrie Pomeroy (“The Art of Knowing When to Push,” Home School Life Magazine) – ”Above all, homeschooling requires the patience to trust that even when my kids spend most of their time on pursuits that aren’t conventionally academic, there is often important learning, development, or rest and gestation happening, even if I don’t see it right away.”

Mary Jo Tate (Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms)—“There will never be a perfect time or place for homeschooling. Life will always present challenges, whether big or small. Instead of being disappointed and paralyzed by what you can’t do, focus on what you can do and how you and your family can best use each day’s opportunities.”

Melissa Calapp (Homeschool Adventures: Learning Through the Power of Field Trips) –“Homeschooling can be examined and designed to fit your particular child and family. It can include all the things that you thought were missing and all the pieces you think they will need. There can be room to pursue individual passions. And for parents who are new to homeschooling, you can start slow.”

Michelle Huddleston (Just for Today’s Homeschooling Mom) – “Being an ex-school teacher, I had many hurdles of my own to jump. Not only did I have a teacher mindset, but I also had a public school system mindset. It was embedded in me that school looked like waking up at a certain time every morning, starting school work by a certain time every day, and having subjects taught separately according to what was in the lesson plans…. Now our homeschool doesn’t look much like school at all. When it comes to home-schooling, the possibilities truly are endless.”

Faye Badenhop (Help Me Homeschool!)— “Lest you think you do not have it in you to give and give with nothing in return, let me remind you that you get to pick what you teach! Have you ever wanted to learn to decorate fancy cupcakes, do yoga, excel in a certain art or craft, or start an herb garden? Add it as a subject and you get to learn it too!”

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Lola’s Superpower: Book by Nokomis resident features resilience of girl who loses a leg – echoing her own life after amputation at age six

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Elena Vaughn

Leslie Pitt’s life changed forever on the first day of summer vacation when she was six years old. After playing with her best friend, she hopped onto her bike for a short ride but before she could make it to her New Ulm home, she was struck by a dump truck. The impact completely crushed her left leg, forcing her to have it amputated. On a day that would otherwise conjure up bitterness and negativity, it’s a day that Leslie celebrates. Living with limb loss taught her that our greatest losses are the pillars of our greatest strengths. (Photo submitted)

Leslie Pitt Schneider doesn’t take any pity.
The 52-year old Irondale High School alumna lost her leg just after completing first grade. She spent her entire summer in the hospital, but was determined to get back to school. “I was not going to miss the first day of second grade – thank you very much,” said Schneider.
She was run over by a dump truck hauling gravel, and the weight of the tire crushed her left leg so severely that a life-saving amputation was necessary.
The Nokomis resident has written a children’s book called “Lolo’s Superpower” echoing her own life with one leg.
The character Lolo’s name is an acronym for Love Ourselves, Love Others. Schneider explains, “The concept behind Love Ourselves, Love Others is my belief that we must truly, madly and deeply love everything about ourselves, first… When we love all that makes us individually unique, then we can be accepting/tolerant/loving of others.
“LOLO is OLOL, in reverse; and OLOL represents my One Life with One Limb that has made me stronger. It’s how I pay homage to my life’s experience in losing a leg at the age of six and the amazing life that has ensued, in spite of being “differently abled,’” said Schneider .
Her familiar classmates and teachers helped her adjust smoothly to a new normal. “It was because my peers didn’t treat me as anything different or teased me for being ‘disabled’ that I quickly adjusted to life with a prosthetic leg,” remarked Schneider. But the bullying and teasing started in junior high. “We had moved to a new town and a new school with new kids who didn’t know my story. I was confused as to how my peers could be so cruel. It made me less shy since I had to advocate for myself in proving that I was just like everyone else.”

Dreaming big dreams
Schneider hasn’t let anything get in the way of her education. Her “education ‘itch’ every eight years” has led her to three degrees – in law, nursing, and global health and human rights. She was pre-med in college and obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology and planned to attend medical school. After graduating from Sr. Olaf, she moved to Colorado to ski on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team and to “have some playtime” before applying to medical schools. However, she decided that obtaining a nursing degree would be a good interim step until deciding on medical school. Schneider explained, “I ultimately decided to obtain my Juris Doctor degree as it fit more with my personality of always trying to prevent crises.”
She completed her graduate degree at the University of Geneva, studying how proper care is “a non-reality for too many kids living with differing abilities.” She describes it as “the educational cornerstone from which I created Project Lolo.”
Schneider told her younger self “to always hold on to your larger-than-life dreams; to dream BIG dreams; and to always believe that the right dreams do come true.
“I’d also say to never lose your childhood perspective that good people always exist; that goodness always prevails; and that better times will always come with a blessing of a lesson learned.”
Schneider pointed out that “Lolo steadfastly believes that being different is a ‘superpower’ and finds strength in this core belief… Lolo teaches us to embrace everything that makes us amazingly and uniquely different from everyone else, and to return to that perspective when we’re being teased or biased against because of our ‘difference’.
“I truly believe we are given our life paths or purposes, often for a greater good… It gives me perspective as to the amazing strength we get when life challenges us as I have never, never, never considered myself as ‘disabled’ or as an ‘amputee.’ Instead, I am a human who has been given an amazing gift in using my experience to make the world a little kinder place.”
“Lolo’s Superpower” is available on, as well as Amazon,, Barnes&, and Locally, it’s available at the “I Like You” stores Minneapolis and St. Paul. Schneider is also working on a prototype companion doll for the book that will be ready in time for the holidays later this year.
An advocate for those with limb loss for decades, she founded Project Lolo: (Love Ourselves Love Others) a non-profit organization that helps children around the world who need orthopedic care or assistive mobility devices. More at

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Nokomis East Neighborhood Association September 2020

Posted on 28 August 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Becky Timm, NENA Executive Director

Executive Director

Food resources
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were swift and continue to unfold for our Nokomis East residents and businesses. The Civil Uprising and the destruction of local stores utilized by many of our transit-dependent community members make food insecurity even more challenging. Our community is served by two nonprofit projects helping local families put food on the table. The resources are available to all:
• Minnehaha Food Shelf – Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Located in the Minnehaha Methodist Church at 3701 E 50th Street. Phone: (612) 721-6231. Website:
• Nokomis East Pop-Up Food Distribution – 2nd and 4th Wednesdays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Located at 5734 Sander Drive. Outdoor event, dress for the weather. Phone: (612) 293-9683. Email:

Monarch Festival re-imagined
For the past 12 years, NENA and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board have hosted the Minneapolis Monarch Festival. This year the festival looks a little different as we move online. The festival is organizing cultural, artistic, and educational virtual activities to keep the spirit of the festival alive and promote our core message of protecting the Monarch Butterfly.
We are hosting a pop-up pollinator plant sale on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lake Nokomis Community Center. Pollinator plant kits are available for online pre-order and payment. Order ahead, pick up, and plant in your yard!
Visit our festival website at and on Facebook at @MinneapolisMonarchFestival to see what is new!

Housing resources
Housing concerns are also on the rise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its sixth month. NENA works with government agencies and nonprofits to keep you informed of available resources:
• Hennepin County Community Resources – Food, rental assistance, business assistance, health and mental health resources. and more at 612-348-5139 or
• Foreclosure Prevention Nonprofit Organization – Minnesota Homeownership Center at
• Renters Rights Nonprofit Organizations – Tenant Resource Center at HomeLine Legal Hotline at 612-728-5767
• NENA Programs – Low-interest home improvement loans; Staying In Place Grants for seniors, veterans, residents living with disabilities, and low-income households; home security matching grants (October); and renters rights support at under “Projects”

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

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Homeless encamp in city parks, MPRB policies shift and adapt

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

For more than a century, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB) has not allowed camping or other overnight activity in the parks between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. This changed on March 27, 2020, when Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-20.
The original Shelter-in-Place order restricted local units of government and law enforcement officers from removing people from public spaces because of COVID-19 risk.
The order stated that encampments should not be subject to sweeps or disbandment by local officials, as such actions increase the potential risk and spread of COVID-19.
MPRB Communications and Marketing Director Dawn Sommers said, “The Executive Order greatly changed the dynamic in our park system, though the full effect wouldn’t be felt for months.”
On May 17, Executive Order 20-55 was issued, stating that there could be exceptions to people being allowed to shelter in city parks. It said, “If a local government entity is providing sufficient shelter, or if an encampment has become a threat to the health, safety, or security of residents, state or local government may restrict, limit or close encampment spaces.”
Prior to June 12, there were scattered tents throughout the park system. On that day, 100+ people experiencing homelessness were evicted from temporary shelter at the Midtown Sheraton Hotel. They moved themselves to Powderhorn Park and other locations throughout the city.
On that morning, there were approximately 25 tents set up in Powderhorn Park, and MPRB Superintendent Al Bangoura said they had to go. Based on Executive Order 20-55, he felt the encampment was too large. Bangoura was contacted by the state with concerns that he had violated the executive order, and by dozens of Minneapolis residents demanding that he let the people stay.
Five days later, MPRB commissioners approved a resolution that the parks be declared refuge space – because that was already being done with the support of the state and residents of the Powderhorn neighborhood.
Jeremy Barrick is the Assistant Superintendent of Environmental Stewardship for the MPRB. He said, “In hindsight, we see that housing people experiencing homelessness in city parks is not a solution. The MPRB charter does not include housing people. We have a $126,000,000 budget this year. We have the smallest budget of any department in the city of Minneapolis. Most of our budget is designated for human resources and salaries.
“To give an example of an unexpected expense, and this is just one line-item of many, we’ve spent $38,000 on hand washing stations and portable toilets since the park homeless encampments began. That’s the equivalent of paying 12 seasonal part-time park employees for the summer. We can’t both manage our parks for the homeless and staff our parks adequately.”
Barrick continued, “The park board just wrapped up our master redevelopment plan, in which we set forth a vision to guide long-term development and improvements for all of the city parks. Our months of planning engaged individuals, groups, other community partners, and government entities.
“None of the planning and visioning included having homeless encampments in the parks. The core function of the MPRB is to separate the park land use from city politics.”
Encampment permits required
At the last bi-weekly MPRB board meeting on July 15, park board commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that will reduce the number of parks with temporary encampments for people experiencing homelessness to 20. At its highest point, there were encampments of various sizes in 39 Minneapolis parks. The resolution will limit the number of tents per encampment to 25, and establish a new encampment permit requirement for each encampment.
The resolution provides direction for the design and facilitation of temporary encampments in parks that supports the health and safety of individuals experiencing homelessness. Any given encampment may occupy no more than 10% of available parkland, with reasonable access to recreational features of each park for visitors.
MPRB acknowledged that it will take time to de-concentrate tents across the park system. It will likely be a fluid situation while outreach continues, encampment permit applications are processed, and park spaces are delineated. The priority for the MPRB will be first addressing sites with a documented threat to the health, safety, or security of residents. Toward that end, the encampment on the east side of Powderhorn Park was removed on July 21.
The locations of the 20 refuge sites for encampments is yet to be determined. MPRB is not pre-selecting the sites, but rather is allowing those who apply for a temporary encampment permit to request the park they want to stay in.
Like other MPRB permit applications, the temporary encampment application will be reviewed by staff and the site will be approved or rejected based on staff’s analysis of the park’s capacity to support an encampment and other guidelines outlined in the resolution. If approved, the MPRB will provide restrooms or portable toilets, hand washing stations (as vendor supplies allow), and trash/recycling containers to a permitted encampment within 48 hours of issuing a permit.
To view the video from the July 15 board meeting, start at 1:51 (one hour and 51 minutes into the meeting) to hear Commissioner Londel French state concerns for MPRB taking on encampments in the parks; see video on City of Minneapolis YouTube channel. For more information, including regular updates, visit

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Being the bridge: South High Foundation helps students in financial crisis

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Judy Ayers, South High Foundation

The South High Foundation, 3131 19th Ave. South, was started in 1983 with only $75.
Their goal was to provide financial assistance to students and school programs in order to enhance the students’ ability to learn. It’s come a long way since then. In the 2017 school year, the South High Foundation funded more than $62,000 in grants for athletics, academics, fine arts and extracurricular activities.
When asked how many students were impacted by grant money, foundation president Judy Ayers said, “I would tell you that every student at South High is.”
Normally, students and teachers would be able to meet with Ayers or another member of the foundation’s board in order to request a grant. But now, COVID-19 has changed the way they are able to meet people’s needs. Staff are only allowed in the school once a month to get their mail, all meetings are done remotely, and challenges of the pandemic brought on more families with financial needs. They had to think of a way to continue giving money to South High families in crisis.
The South High Emergency Relief Fund was created. This fund is for families who have gone through financial crisis or homelessness during the pandemic and Uprising. Sheri Harris, a social worker who has collaborated with the South High Foundation for 20 years, works with a team made up of other social workers in order to run the fund.
“We problem solve to take care of whatever the need might be,” Harris said.

Sheri Harris, South High social worker

How this helps
A family that particularly stuck out to Harris was one whose members all contracted COVID-19 at the same time. They were too ill to get up and cook. They were unable to see anyone outside the family or have someone they knew come help as they needed to remain quarantined. But, they reached out to Harris and she gave them an e-gift card. This way, they were able to order in food until they were strong enough to cook for themselves once again.
“What everyone knows is the full impact but seeing it on an individual level – the challenges of COVID-19 – made the difference,” Harris said.
The South High Emergency Relief Fund serves many families like this. Donations can be made through PayPal or GiveMN on the South High Foundation’s website,; specify relief fund. Families can reach out if they are in need by contacting Harris at After families reach out, the foundation transfers money to gift cards or e-cards for rent, insurance or groceries. Harris and the social work team then work with families to see if there’s anything they can do in the long term to help them through the crisis.
“Being able to help with this [rent] just one time means that they aren’t looking at eviction. They’re looking at another month when unemployment could kick in or when the stimulus could come through,” Harris said.

A united community
Even during the challenges the pandemic and the Uprising have brought on, both Harris and Ayers mentioned that the community has still been incredibly helpful and banded together for a greater cause. Normal fundraisers for the South High Foundation like the pancake breakfast or the golf tournament were cancelled, but donations have still been coming in. Teachers at South High held a food drive and graduates, even those who now live in other states, have continued to donate to both the Emergency Relief Fund and the Foundation itself. But, they still hope to grow even more.
“With all of the cuts that schools seem to face every year, there’s more and more need. I see the Foundation being able to fill those needs,” Ayers said.

Moving forward
Looking toward the future, the foundation wants to be able to fill more of the gaps between families or students in financial need and how to help them get an education. They want to get to the root of what causes struggles for families. Ayers is aiming to get more donations from outside companies to pay for bigger programs students may need. Ayers works as a volunteer and does not gain any money from donations, but believes that if people are able, then they should be helping.
“My goal is to continue doing this until I can’t anymore,” Ayers said.
The foundation also aims to create more relationships with students, teachers, staff, and families. They want to directly ask the community what it needs and will do whatever they can to meet those needs in order to give students access to a better education. They don’t want to let the gaps of a financial crisis impact how far a student can go.
“The needs are there and the needs have always been there; the goal is to be the bridge and support in order to help students be the best student that they can be,” Harris said.

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Athena award winners honored in shortened school year

Posted on 29 July 2020 by Tesha Christensen

High school sports evaporated with the spring thaw due to COVID-19 but recognizing top student athletes didn’t.
Three area seniors received Athena award honors, capping their high school careers in May. Named by the Minneapolis Athena Awards Committee, the annual honor goes to a female senior student athlete at each participating high school. The committee considers athletic achievement, volunteering in the community and other school extracurricular participation in addition to academic success.
Awards went to Emily Mulhern of South, Marie Peterson of Roosevelt and Kate Pryor of Minnehaha Academy.

Emily Mulhern
Emily Mulhern had a duffel bag of supplies handy for teammates in addition to being a strong competitor for the Tigers.
“Each athlete plays a different role on the team, and I was known as the ‘team mother,’” Mulhern said. ”I was the one who had the extra pair of gloves, the bottle of sunscreen and a huge bag of trailmix to share. If someone was having an off day, I could be counted on for moral support.”
Mulhern led Nordic skiers as team captain her junior year and made a splash as rookie of the year for Tigers cross country in the eighth grade. She also helped the ultimate frisbee club team reach nationals.
“For me, the (Athena) award itself acknowledges the important role participation in athletics can play in girls’ lives,” Mulhern said. “I am also very grateful to my coaches and teammates who helped form supportive communities for all of the athletes.”
Outside of athletics, Mulhern volunteered at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital and environmental service projects in Central America. She also performed with Project Opera and played flute in wind ensemble.
Her academic achievements included being the valedictorian, an AP Scholar with Distinction and National Honor Society treasurer. She also earned a certificate of recognition for the Academics, Arts and Athletics Award.
Mulhern will attend St. Olaf College to study psychology and play for the Ollies ultimate frisbee team.

Marie Peterson
Marie Peterson excelled at sports with Roosevelt, but her biggest success came in club wrestling.
She won a state club title in 2017 and took runner-up in 2018. She also competed on a national level.
“To win state was one of the proudest moments of my high school athletics career,” Peterson said. “Competing nationally was definitely eye-opening because I was introduced to so many amazing wrestlers.”
Peterson also succeeded in tennis and track and field for the Teddies as she won Minneapolis City Conference all-conference awards in both sports. She helped the Teddies rugby club team take runner-up in state.
“I have been dreaming about the Athena award for my whole time at Roosevelt, and so it means everything to me as an athlete,” Peterson said.
Her volunteer involvement included serving as president of the Asian Club at Roosevelt, math team captain and as a student ambassador. She also volunteered with the National Honor Society.
Peterson also received the Smith Book award, academic all-state, academic achievement award and made the honor roll. She hopes to major in biology for college and play rugby but hasn’t decided on a major yet.

Kate Pryor
Kate Pryor went from losing a baby tooth in her year of high school softball as a seventh-grader to holding school records in home runs, RBIs and hits.
“I don’t even remember the play I made at third,” Pryor said about the game. “But apparently people were impressed by it and one of my teammates yelled from the dugout, ‘she just lost her last baby tooth today’ and everyone started laughing.”
Her softball prowess will lead her to Boston University next where she will also study health science, but she leaves Minnehaha Academy as being much more than a softball star. She helped the Redhawks girls basketball team win a state title as a junior and won Independent Metro Athletic Conference all-conference honors twice. In volleyball, she also earned all-conference honors and all-section honors once.
“I feel really honored to be selected as the Athena Award winner because there are a lot of really talented female athletes at Minnehaha,” Pryor said.
Outside of sports, she volunteered as a retreat leader for Minnehaha’s middle school. She also served as a camp counselor for Covenant Pines Bible Camp.
Academically, she earned AP Scholar and Academic Letter honors. She also participated in the National Honor Society.

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