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Como Pavilion

Como Dockside closes after three years; search on for replacement

Posted on 11 December 2017 by Calvin

What should replace the Como Dockside restaurant and programming operations at the Como Park Pavilion? More than 70 people weighed in with ideas Nov. 27 during a meeting at the facility. The St. Paul Department of Parks and Recreation is already seeking a new partner and hopes to have a new operation up and running by spring 2018. Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hahm said there had been several inquiries from prospective restaurant operators.

Meeting facilitator James Lockwood said the intent of the meeting wasn’t to place blame but to discuss ideas going forward. Comments were transcribed and will be reviewed, along with online comments.

Any change will be reviewed by Como Community Council, which had an advisory committee in place when Como Dockside was retained. Members of the committee were present Nov. 27 and said they’re willing to serve again.

This is the second park amenity that is being replaced this winter. Parks and Recreation in November closed a submission period for requests for proposals for the park’s miniature golf course, for a course operator or operator of a new amenity.

Those at the Nov. 27 meeting had plenty of suggestions. One point several people agreed on is that they’d like to see more restaurants in the Como area. Having something at the pavilion meets a neighborhood need. Desires were expressed for a restaurant with a more varied menu, some breakfast offerings, and at least some limited winter service.

“I think unless you were walking in the park, you wouldn’t know a restaurant was here,” one man said. He suggested better signage along area streets. But, signage in the park is regulated tightly by the city.

A review of Como Dockside was inevitable. There was widespread praise for the variety of entertainment options, ranging from concerts to family game nights. “I liked that there was a lot of variety and we had entertainment we could walk to,” one woman said. Many people said they liked being able to rent boats and bikes at the park.

But restaurant service and consistency of food got mixed reviews. Several speakers said Como Dockside’s prices were too high and the New Orleans-style menu too limited for those wanting a regular family stop. “I felt the prices were a bit steep, especially for a family,” said one woman.

Minneapolis’ parks food offerings came up during the discussion. Some people pointed to the popular Sea Salt seasonal restaurant there. Others were emphatic that St. Paul isn’t Minneapolis and that anything here needs to keep St. Paul needs in mind.

Some people didn’t like walking into the restaurant space with children and seeing a large bar. Others were OK with that. Many people liked being able to pick up grab-and-go food at a service window and enjoy time in the park.

Como Dockside’s closing on Nov. 22 ends operations that began in 2015. In a statement released by the city, Como Dockside co-owner Jon Oulman said, “We had hoped a year-round staffing model and upscale full-service restaurant concept would be successful at the facility, but unfortunately, due to the seasonality of the facility and competitive labor market we could see that long-term we’d need to adjust—and we felt a different vendor would be a better fit for this space.”

But the space was packed at times, and empty other times. That wasn’t sustainable over the long term, especially with such slow times in the winter.

Como Dockside replaced Black Bear Crossings on the Lake. That restaurant operated for 14 years before getting into a dispute with the city and losing its lease. Black Bear owners David and Pamela Glass took the city to court and won an $800,000 judgment.

City staff said Nov. 27 that no decisions had been made on Como Dockside’s contract for the facility, which runs through 2020. Como Dockside was to share nine percent of gross revenues. Fee estimates were exceeded in 2015 and 2016, and looked to be close if not over estimates for 2017.

Como Dockside owners invested almost $300,000 in facility upgrades, to the restaurant/kitchen space, dock, promenade, dock, and concession stand areas. The city reimbursed the operators for almost $100,000 of those renovations. The contract also required Como Dockside to pay the city nine percent of its monthly gross revenue, or at least $100,000 annually after the first year of operations. This year that amount was expected to top the $150,000 mark. Final figures haven’t been released. But city officials said they expect to clear the $540,000 mark with facility improvements and shared revenues.

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Small Sums 3

Sometimes, a pair of shoes can change a life

Posted on 11 December 2017 by Calvin

Danny Morgan was heading for a normal middle-class life. In the 1980s, he’d spent three years in college studying pre-law then for years, worked raising money for arts organizations like the San Diego Symphony. But, he developed heart and lung problems, and after a bout with pneumonia, he could no longer work. He ran out of money and housing options and became one of the half a million homeless men, women, and children in the United States.

Photo right: For many homeless, entering this door can change a life. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

But, Morgan wanted to get back on his feet. He’d heard about the arts scene in the Twin Cities and thought it would be a place for him to find a job. He arrived and found that the pay at local fund-raising organizations was lower than he expected and that affordable housing options were few. He ended up staying at Catholic Charities Higher Ground homeless shelter, searching for work. Although it’s hard to find work when you’re homeless, nationally, about 45 percent of homeless adults have some form of employment.

Most homeless adults—including approximately 1,150 in Ramsey County and 2,025 in Hennepin County—who manage to find work face another barrier. They need proper clothing or tools to begin their new jobs, things that they won’t be able to afford, at least until after a first paycheck.

That’s where Small Sums comes in. The organization fills a unique niche, assisting homeless individuals who have jobs (or who have been offered jobs) with proper work clothes, work shoes, tools, and bus passes, something no other organization offers.

Photo left: Small Sums Executive Director Terry Thomas has work shoes in every size. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Terre Thomas, Small Sums Executive Director since 2013, says that this year they served 600 clients and is hoping to grow by another hundred each year. “I tell middle-class people that these people don’t get a letter saying, ‘You’ll start in two weeks.’ More likely, they’ll be told, ‘Can you start third shift tonight?’ and getting what they need for the job can be a burden,” she said.

“More than 50 percent of our clients need black non-slip or black steel toe shoes,” she said. So, Small Sums stocks dozens of shoes and boots in every size.

“Clients can also pick up outdoor work clothes, long underwear, casual shirts, and pants—things most working people take for granted.”

The donation center is located in an old building on University Ave., sharing office space with Landfill Books. The space is rent-free, thanks to Cheapo Record’s owner Al Brown. The entrance is through a door in the back of the building.

Thomas hopes to make the process as easy as possible for those who need it. “We don’t make people jump through hoops,” she said. Anyone who walks through the doors of Small Sums is offered a cup of tea or coffee. When they arrive here, we want to make this easy for them. Most of them are terribly tired; homelessness can be a huge burden. We want to turn that around.”

“I see clients trudging up the hill to our door,” said Thomas. “And then when they leave, they are visibly lighter.”

Photo left: (l to r) Sierra Hegstrom, Small Sum’s Outreach Assistant, former client Danny Morgan, and Executive Director Terre Thomas. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

The only requirements to get help from Small Sums is a job, or a job offer, and homelessness defined broadly. Clients do not have to be living on the streets. Couch surfing, living in a homeless shelter, or living out of a car, are all considered legitimately qualified as homeless, Thomas said.

Thomas and her crew shops sales and negotiate with store owners to supply her organization. She went to Payless Shoes and talked to the manager who notifies her whenever there is a buy-one-get-one sale. “If we buy then, they give us a 25 percent discount. Right now we have 240 pairs of shoes and boots in stock.”

“If we need tools, we go to Menard’s. We try to give medium quality tools and shoes. Nothing too fancy but nothing that’s cheap quality, nothing used,” she said. “We’re bargain ninjas,” she said. “We are always hoping to get better prices.”

Everyone who comes to Small Sums also gets a small packet with a few essentials including a toothbrush and toothpaste, a month-long bus pass and a gift card for a meal or two at Subway restaurants. The bus pass gets clients to and from work, but it can also add some normality and dignity to lives, letting the newly employed to visit friends, go to the doctor or the grocery store, Thomas said. The packet also includes a list of food shelves that don’t require a permanent address.

The group also gets support from some congregations, charitable foundations, and corporations. They take donations from individuals as well, including some who once sought out their services. Sometimes, Thomas said, they slip a note in with the packet saying, “A former client has bought you lunch.”

The charity also raises money through special events, including an annual luncheon featuring special speakers. Danny Morgan, the once homeless man who moved to Minnesota for work, is now working in a hotel kitchen. He told his inspirational success story to the crowd. Just last month, he finally moved into a small apartment in St. Paul. Small Sums, he said, helped lead him to a stable life. “The difference is huge,” he said. “It’s a miracle to transition from the helplessness of homeless.”

“My new neighborhood is quiet and peaceful, and I can sleep. I feel comfortable living here in the Twin Cities,” Morgan said. “And Small Sums helped lead me to be in a stable situation to find affordable housing.”

And, Morgan admitted, he’s even starting to think about returning to school.

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German Immersion 1

Twin Cities German Immersion School plans expansion on site

Posted on 11 December 2017 by Calvin

Growing school investigates options, decides to renovate or replace old church building to accommodate future needs

The Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) has outgrown its current building at 1031 Como Ave. and plans to expand on its existing site.

School administrator Gael Braddock told District 10’s Land Use Committee the expansion most likely will require extensive renovation or replacement of the old Saint Andrew’s church building.

No work is likely until at least fall 2018.

School is in high demand
Outgrowing its site isn’t a new problem for the school, but one it has faced consistently as the students who come decide to stay, and more want to attend.

“Our school is in high demand, which points to the great work that our staff does with our children and families every day,” observed TCGIS Executive Director Ted Anderson. “Three hundred plus families trust us with their kids, and that is a huge vote of confidence in this age of school choice.”

Photo right: The Twin Cities German Immersion School has outgrown its current building at 1031 Como Ave. and plans to expand on its existing site. The expansion most likely will require extensive renovation or replacement of the old Saint Andrew’s church building. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

St. Paul residents Jeff and Gita Zeitler have sent both of their children, an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, to TCGIS since kindergarten.

“We love the school for a lot of reasons—parents are involved, and the teachers are wonderful!” stated Jeff Zeitler. “Becoming fluent in German is frosting on the cake. Our kids are already learning Nepali from their mom at home, so they’re on their way to becoming trilingual.”

The Zeitlers’ first choice of school was the closest St. Paul Public school, but the boundaries were drawn such that they couldn’t get in and were re-routed to a school much further away. So they checked into TCGIS and other charter schools and were impressed by what they saw at TCGIS.

Once families enroll, they don’t leave
The tuition-free German Immersion School opened its doors in the fall of 2005 with kindergarten and first grade at the old Union Hall along Eustace Ave. As it grew by adding a new kindergarten class each year, it moved to a larger but 90-year-old office building at 1745 University Ave. In the 2012-2013 school year, TCGIS reached its full configuration as a K-8 school.

The next year, it moved its 370 students to the recently renovated former home of St. Andrews Catholic Church and parochial school in the Warrendale neighborhood along Como Ave.

The charter school’s small class sizes help ensure individualized attention for up to 24 students per class. The school offers full-day immersion kindergarten, English instruction beginning in third grade, and Spanish language in the seventh grade.

In its fifth year on the Como Ave. site, TCGIS is experiencing its first year of being over its designed capacity, according to Anderson.

The Como Ave. site was built for 23 individual class sections and 560 pupils. This year, the school has 24 class sections and more than 525 pupils.

If current student retention patterns hold, TCGIS could have as many as 27 class sections, K-8, by the school year 2020-21.

Anderson says the unanticipated growth is primarily the result of unusually high retention rates; in other words, once families enroll in the school, they don’t leave.

Options explored
Through its strategic planning work, the TCGIS School Board resolved and announced that TCGIS would remain a K-8 school and keep all grades on the same site.

“With these parameters set, the Facilities Committee explored the possibilities of renting space across the street in the long term and acquiring additional property, neither of which have proven possible,” wrote Anderson in a letter to the school community. “In the last months, it has become clear that construction on our current footprint will be our solution to the space issue.”

Photo left: When the German Immersion School moved into the former St. Andrew’s church site, it converted the former church sanctuary into a multi-purpose gym and auditorium, and constructed a new building to connect the existing structures. (Photo submitted)

Before moving into the 60,580 square feet at their current location, Welsh Construction managed a project that included converting the former church sanctuary into a multi-purpose gym and auditorium, and constructing a new building to connect the existing structures.

The School Board’s Facilities Committee, chaired by board member Nic Ludwig, is working to develop a timeline, budget, and plan for expansion of the school’s spaces to accommodate growth.

“In addition to creating more space, the situation also presents the opportunity to improve our existing facilities,” according to Anderson. The conversation includes classrooms, gym, cafeteria, Special Education (office, learning spaces), office/administration, and fine arts.

The School Board’s Facilities Committee meets monthly, and the meetings are open to the community.

School addressing concerns
School staff has also begun meeting regularly with District 10 board members and staff to address parking, noise, and congestion concerns surrounding school activities.

The school has designated Director of Operations Gael Braddock as Neighborhood Liaison and is the go-to person for neighbors’ concerns.

Orthodox Presbyterian Church has agreed to share its parking lot with the school, and TCGIS is also exploring the viability of using the Como Pool lot for parking.

School staff have been asked to leave at least one space per house open on Van Slyke, and encourage parking on Horton and Jessamine in spots that are not in front of residences.

In regards to complaints about noise from the playground, the school is considering installing a new fence to provide some visual and noise protection.

Over the summer, the crumbling playground surface, which is the same used at other St. Paul schools, was fixed by the manufacturer.

“The building TCGIS is in has been a school since the 1950s,” pointed out Zeitler, who is concerned that some neighbors are trying to push the school out of the neighborhood.

“I think there is sometimes a feeling that we own the space on the streets in front of our houses, and I can sympathize since we also live in St. Paul and dislike it when tenants of the apartment buildings across the street park in front of our house. But we live in the city, and that’s one of the trade-offs—tight parking.”

He added, “This has been a school for generations, so any neighbors were well aware that they were going to live near a school when they purchased their house. This is not a nuclear waste storage site. It’s a school—an integral part of a healthy community.”

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Small Biz Saturday 11

Small Business Saturday features local sellers and artisans

Posted on 11 December 2017 by Calvin

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
Small Business Saturday was held at Celtic Junction on Sat., Nov. 26. The event, now in its third year, gave neighborhood shoppers a small-scale, friendly destination on what is historically the busiest shopping weekend of the holiday season.

The event is an initiative of the Hamline Midway Coalition (HMC). Board member Greg Anderson said, “We had 30 vendors this year, and half a dozen volunteers. At HMC, we believe it’s important to give small, independent business owners a chance to showcase their talents.”

Photo right: Sabrina McGraw is an independent consultant for Scentsy, a company that creates products that smell really good. Scentsy’s core belief is that fragrance and memory are inseparable, and McGraw had many of their scented wax cubes, warmers, and diffusers on hand to sell. She has been a Midway resident for 13 years and said, “My neighbors are like family to me.”



Photo left: Photographer Karen McCauley was on-site throughout the day to photograph kids with Santa (played by Mitch Siglowski).








Photo right: The wood and acrylic pens from Uncle Fester’s Pens are crafted by hand, one-at-a-time. 






Photo left: John Morrison of Jowemo Wood said, “I make something for everyone who eats, drinks, or worries.” He held up a bowl full of his biggest selling item, which he calls worry woods: scraps of polished wood from his workshop that will fit comfortingly into the palm of any hand.







Photo right: The term “milliner” has evolved to describe a person who designs, makes, or trims hats primarily for a female clientele. Milliner Karen Morris modeled one of her hand-made hats.







Photo left: Shelby Teal hand rolls every polymer clay bead for her jewelry line called Rolling Vibe Tribe. She is currently a Studio Arts/Religion major at Hamline University.




Photo right: Lucy Schroepfer sews from 5-6am every morning to make products for her business Luce Quilts, before heading off to her day-job. She brought an assortment of quilted products for the home kitchen, as well as quilts, and two-dimensional, quilted visual art pieces. 

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Night Trains 64 B slider

Night Trains is now a winter tradition

Posted on 11 December 2017 by Calvin

The three largest layouts in the museum feature model trains built on the “O Scale.” This is the scale commonly used for toy trains and rail transport modeling. In the “O Scale,” which is pictured here, 1/4’ is equal to 1’. Other museum layouts feature a wide range of scales and gauges, both larger and smaller than the “O Scale.”

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
The Twin City Model Railroad Museum is running its Night Trains exhibit at full speed right now. In its still new location at 668 Transfer Road, Suite #8, the railroad museum will be dimming its lights every Saturday night from 6-9pm through Feb. 24, 2018, to create a winter wonderland. Santa Claus is scheduled to make guest appearances on Dec. 16 and 23.

Photo right: “Train Doctor” Peter Southard used a pair of needle-nose pliers to wire a passenger car. The University of St. Thomas professor said, “I really like fixing things, and it’s more fun doing that here than at home.”

The Night Trains exhibit has been part of St. Paul holiday tradition since the 1990’s. The museum’s large display of vintage trains, period streetscapes, and buildings glow warmly on Saturday nights—creating a sense of stepping back in time. Small-scale holiday lights and decorations adorn the Night Trains exhibit, adding to the festive spirit.

The Twin City Model Railroad Museum has been a proud part of St. Paul since 1934. Current president Oscar Lund, a retired economist and self-described train nut, has a passion for railroad history and train travel. “This event is our main fundraiser,” he said. “We get a lot of repeat customers who enjoy bringing their families to see the Night Trains. The response that we get from visitors is that this exhibit is just magic.”

The Museum settled into its current location on Transfer Road in May of 2016, just south of the former Amtrak Station along the Minnesota Commercial Rail Yard. Before that, it had long tenures in both Bandana Square and the St. Paul Union Depot.

Photo left: Barry Krelitz, one of the museum’s 150+ volunteers, interpreted the Orient Express exhibit for visitors. The non-profit railroad museum could not exist without its strong volunteer base.

According to Lund, the Museum is at a time of critical growth. “We’ve relied on income ‘from the gate’ for so long, and not enough on donors and corporate sponsors. We received a tremendous amount of support from the community when we had to move from Bandana Square, and now we’re in a space where we see even more potential for expansion. We’ve managed to operate for 83 years with a staff of volunteers, but we will soon need to hire permanent staff. This is an exciting time for our museum.”

Volunteer Paul Gruetzman also has a long view of the Twin City Model Railroad Museum. He started building exhibits more than 30 years ago when the museum was housed in downtown St. Paul. Along with his father, his wife, and their children, Gruetzman has made significant contributions of time and talent to the museum over the years. One of his greatest contributions has been completing a scale version of the Stone Arch Bridge across the Mississippi River at St. Anthony Falls. “I like building things and sharing my hobby. The level of fellowship that we enjoy here is something really special,” Gruetzman said.

The museum features more than 11,000 square feet of interactive train layouts. The exquisitely rendered “O Scale” panorama shows railroad life in the Twin Cities during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. This was a time when both steam and diesel engines shared the rails.

To learn more about the Twin City Model Railroad Museum’s regular hours of operation visit www.tcmrm.org or call 651-.647-.9628. The museum is also available on a limited basis for special sponsored events.

Photo below: An estimated 7,500 visitors will come to view the Night Trains this season. The cost is $15 for visitors five years and older, and those under four are free. To make it affordable for families and groups, the cost for the third and subsequent visitor is half price – up to a group size of 10.

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Plating Inc slider

Federal EPA hopes to wrap up Plating Inc. site in early December

Posted on 07 November 2017 by Calvin

Lots of work still to be done as hazardous cleanup tasks and the future of the site passes to state, county, city

All photos courtesy of the US EPA
Weeks of hazardous materials cleanup at an abandoned Hamline-Midway metal plating plant reached a turning point as November began. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is completing its work at Plating Inc. and is handing off ongoing site monitoring and next steps to city, county, and state officials. While neighbors are glad to hear of progress, they have a message for elected officials.

Photo right: Overview of the Plating Inc. exterior at 888 N. Prior Ave.; facing south.

“I hope our state and city and county officials don’t forget us and leave us behind,” said Plating Inc. neighbor Dee Schleifer. “You guys don’t live here. Please don’t forget us.”

Keeping the community informed is a priority moving ahead, said Ward Four City Council Member Russ Stark. His office will take over community outreach centered on the cleanup. He suggested that officials meet again with neighbors in January.

More than 30 people attended an Oct. 26 community meeting at Newell Park to hear from federal, state and local officials about Plating Inc., 888 N. Prior Ave. The property housed plating operations since 1938, but the most recent owners apparently walked away in 2016 for financial reasons. Not only were chemicals left in open vats and trenches, the building was the subject of break-ins and copper theft.

Photo left: At the Plating Inc. site, crew members spray water on insulation bricks that contain friable asbestos to reduce the dispersion of the particles during removal.

Neighbors are concerned about past waste disposal practices, and whether yards, gardens and a pond along Pierce Butler Route are polluted. They asked for help to pay for soil testing in their yards and gardens. Local and state officials will check into those issues.

The EPA went in in late August with a “time critical” removal and cleanup plan. EPA On-Site Coordinator David Morrison described the complex cleanup over the past several weeks. Crews had to deal with more than 80 open vats of chemicals. The building had a blue haze in the air from leaks and chemical interaction with moisture. The building’s plumbing system had frozen. The lack of maintenance meant asbestos pieces had fallen inside. That mess had to be cleaned up before chemical cleanup and removal could begin.

Then the most caustic and dangerous chemicals had to be contained. Strong acids were found in vats. Chemicals had to be tested to see what they were, with samples from every vat and drum.

Photo right: Pooled, liquid waste was removed from under the waste treatment lines.

The EPA secured more than 20,000 gallons of hazardous acids and caustic materials from open vats. About 80 drums of caustic and acidic solids and other industrial sludge were contained from vats and containers. About 9,700 gallons of waste liquids were pumped from open vats into tanker trucks. Lab packs containing 849 pounds of hazardous waste stored in small-volume containers were also shipped off for disposal, along with another 1,400 pounds of non-hazardous waste used metal plating. Overhead lines and processing equipment had to be dismantled and drained.

Efforts were made to recycle some of the chemicals. But some were congealed and couldn’t be pumped out. Those materials were removed manually. The building has had 24-hour security. Air monitors were placed in and around the property.

By early November the EPA and its contractors were shifting from cleanup to disposal. That means taking bids on items and getting them taken away. Once disposal is set, the remaining hazardous materials will be gone. Metal vats can be cleaned and scrapped out. An underground tank containing about 1,100 gallons of diesel fuel will be pumped out.

Photo left: Caustic solution release in floor trench at Plating Inc.

The EPA trailer will be gone. The goal is for the work to wrap up by early December. Congresswoman Betty McCollum said that it’s fortunate that the mess was found before the U.S. was hit by hurricanes in late summer and fall. Natural disasters would have meant a slower EPA response.

“There’s still a big job ahead,” Morrison said. But part of that job will be shouldered by the state, county, and city.

“Once the EPA is done the city, county and state all have roles to play,” Stark said.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Department of Health, and St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health and St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) workers then step in.
The MPCA’s role is remediation, with the property likely going into a state cleanup program. State and county officials’ future work will also include monitoring a 500-foot industrial well in the building basement and determining what to do with a smaller well that is clogged and cannot be checked. Water samples were taken from the deeper well.

Photo right: Crew members pumping fluid from a vat into a sealed tote for proper storage and transportation.

Stark said the city also has jurisdiction over the property as a vacant structure. DSI Deputy Director Travis Bistodeau said the building is a Category Two—meaning it has property code problems that need correction before it could be sold and reoccupied.

Another concern is the fate of the property itself. The current owners are in arrears on property taxes, and over time the site could go into tax forfeiture and eventually be sold to a new owner. Stark and County Commissioner Toni Carter are seeing if that process could be expedited. City officials have heard there is a party interested in buying the property.

Officials haven’t said yet what penalties the current property owners face as an investigation is still ongoing.

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David Wilmes slider

Truly helping troubled kids starts with educating adults

Posted on 07 November 2017 by Calvin

Professional says that the public doesn’t understand that libraries have become part of the current safety net

Working with adults who work with kids sums up in a few words the career of David Wilmes (photo right by Jaan Willms), a professional trainer, program developer and author. He has over 40 years of experience in the field of early intervention with youth whose behavior puts them at risk for being, in his words, criminalized, pathologized or ostracized from the critical community-based resources that promote healthy youth development.

Wilmes began his career in a unique fashion.

“I grew up in rural Iowa during the time of the Vietnam conflict,” he recalled. He was Number 47 in the lottery and drafted out of college in Dubuque. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that, so I started working on my conscientious objector status. I got it, but had to find alternative service for two years,” he said.

Being a math major, he said he was not equipped to do a lot of traditional kinds of service. But he got to know some nuns and Christian brothers who were going to St. Paul to set up a halfway house. He joined them.

“I was a live-in counselor, mostly a handyman,” he said. “I became fascinated with the challenge of working with kids. Being a math major, I probably approached it a lot differently than other staff. I was more interested in how and why things worked, the program structure and design.”

Wilmes became very involved with the program he was working in, moving quickly to a leadership position. He finished his degree at Metro State and completed his master’s in human development at St. Mary’s in Winona, focusing mostly on parent education and family systems.

At the program he was working with, New Connections, Wilmes said he became fascinated with the kinds of staff he was hiring, and how different staff could get such different responses from kids. “I discovered that many families are not so dysfunctional, but that parents are not prepared to parent the kind of kid they got,” he said.

“I started developing a lot of parent education programs.” He said few parent classes were being offered at that time, and he started teaching them in the classroom. “ABC did a special on New Connections, and I started doing a lot of consulting, helping other communities set up programs.”

“In the mid-1980s, we started daytime programs. We had found residential programs were successful while the youths were with us, but not after. There was no transfer of learning. So we coupled parent education with the day treatment. I started doing a little bit of in-home family counseling and providing training for other institutions. My theory was that if we could get ahead of this thing, we wouldn’t have to go through all the misery of treatment. “

Wilmes published his first book with Johnson Institute. He became director of training at Johnson Institute in 1988, wrote a few more books and worked more on the national scene, but based out of the Twin Cities. He eventually started his own training organization but spent much of his time on the road.

A friend offered him an opportunity with a mobile crisis team, and he took it. “She caught me at the right time,” Wilmes said.

Although he had no experience with mobile crisis work, the idea fascinated him. After that work and a three-year stint at Hazelden as director of training and education in the publishing division, Wilmes spent 14 years with St. Paul Youth Services as director of services.

“I’ve been retiring for the past three years,” he said. “Retiring is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.” His “retirement” includes working with libraries in St. Paul, as well as Seattle, assisting their staffs in working with challenging kids. He also works with Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), special education programs, schools, police departments, community activists, tutors, youth organizations and arts media—almost any entity that works with young people.

Wilmes said the St. Paul Public Libraries had called him because several libraries were having to call the police on a regular basis to deal with problems they were having with their youthful patrons. “Libraries have become the new safety net in our culture, and no one even really knows about it,” Wilmes said. He has worked extensively with Rondo, Rice Street, and Sun Ray libraries, as well as many others.

“I hadn’t worked with libraries before, but I create things as I go—I innovate,” he said. “The first library I worked with had called the police 3-5 times a week. That first summer we worked together they didn’t call the police at all.”

Wilmes said he reviewed with the libraries what had helped in de-escalating the problems, which were with kids as young as 9-12, not just teenagers.

“We started understanding who the kids were, and we realized we were supposed to be the adults,” he was told. Working with the staff at the libraries, Wilmes said his basic theory is that it is all about the adults who are supposed to be in charge. “That’s where you get change,” he explained. “Kids need relationships with those adults they see every single day.”

He said a family bond might be strong, but parents cannot always give kids everything they need. “A lot of parents are dealing with a culture that is foreign to them and not very accepting,” he said. “Personal and historical trauma come together. A lot of families have come from places that were laced with racism, genocide, and all kinds of historical issues that have been passed on and transmitted to kids, on top of personal trauma.”

Wilmes said he started developing concepts related to survival orientation. “In the Midwest, we have developed a culture that is extremely stable and singular regarding how it thinks about norms and expectations. We allow hardly any deviation to any of those things,” he said. Wilmes recalled a workshop he had given in a Minnesota community with a large Latino population. The school superintendent had told him that it had taken three generations for the Norwegians and Swedes to communicate. “How long will this take?” he asked. “It has to be a lot quicker,” responded Wilmes.

He said that in the past this country had allowed its immigrants incredible amounts of time to resettle. When he was in college in Iowa and went home for a holiday with his roommate, they were still speaking Czech on the streets of the town.

“I don’t think our social struc­tures have become adaptive to challenges. We have kids dealing with the aftermath of civil war in Liberia, and parents dealing with genocide and ethnic cleansing. Our fabric of culture in the Midwest is extremely conservative in how we think about what is right and wrong, and very moral­is­tic. We put lots of judgments on folks who don’t think the way we do.”

Wilmes has taken a cognitive approach in his work with his professional training for groups and organizations working with youth. “Relationships is where everything starts,” he said. He sees a society where many parents are really struggling, not getting the kind of support they need in their community. He described many who work two to three jobs, and their kids end up looking for places to connect.

“I don’t think the kids are that much different from when I was young,” he said. “But adults have a lot more stressors today.” And that fact affects their children.

Wilmes emphasized that libraries and Parks and Recreation are places where kids go to connect. “We don’t support rec centers enough, and we either end up criminalizing or medicating kids to get what they need.”

“My mission in life has become helping adults to be more effective with kids who aren’t making those connections anywhere else,” Wilmes said.

“I am optimistic about our young people,” he said. “They are just asking for a relationship. We have all needed adults in our lives.”

Wilmes said he is often asked if he has not gotten burned out or cynical after all these years in his field. “The hardest thing for me is not to do this work….it gives me the chance to be upbeat, spiritual and optimistic in ways that nothing else ever has been for me.”

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Food Shelf Michaela Lauer

Neighbors encouraged to remember food shelf in holiday traditions

Posted on 07 November 2017 by Calvin

Consider donating favorite holiday foods or cost spent on gifts to Midway Food Shelf

This holiday season, consider donating the food you look forward to feasting upon yourself.

“The biggest challenge we face during the holiday season is getting the food people want for the holidays,” observed Keystone’s Midway Food Shelf site manager Deb Amacher. “It’s really tough to get.”

Just as the general population does, those coming to the food shelf crave ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberries, bread and rolls, vegetables and pies.

Those who use the food shelf are grateful for what is there, but Amacher can see the disappointment in their eyes when the cherished food items aren’t available.

As the clients thank her and say, “God Bless you,” Amacher responds with a thank you of her own. “I’ll take all the blessings I can get,” she explained.

Some people have found creative ways to incorporate the Midway Food Shelf into their holiday traditions.

“We have a few families who donate the cost of their holiday meals or celebrations to the food shelf, to provide the same for other families,” pointed out Keystone Director of Basic Needs Christine Pulver. “A few other donors give the amount that would have been spent on holiday gifts.”

One of the largest food shelves in Minnesota
The Midway Food Shelf, 1916 University Ave., is one of three brick and mortar sites in Keystone’s Basic Needs Program, and has been operating for over a decade. The other two are in the North End and Roseville. The program originated at the Merriam Park community center in the 1980s.

Photo right: The most popular items include rice, milk, juice, cereal, bread, peanut butter, and produce, according to Midway Food Shelf Site Manager Deb Amacher. “Most people are looking for meat,” she added. “Meat is so expensive.” Keystone aims to give families access to healthy choices and supplemental food sources to keep families on the right track – empowering them to build self-sufficiency and healthy eating habits. (Photo submitted)

In all, Keystone reaches more than 30,000 individuals in Ramsey County through a variety of programming and human services. Its name comes from a central wedge-shaped stone of an arch (a keystone) that locks the parts together and supports the whole, a fitting description for the organization as it serves and strengthens the community.

In 2015, Keystone also launched the Foodmobile, a mobile food shelf that brings food directly to people with transportation barriers. The Foodmobile offers 23 distributions every month, stocking fresh, frozen, and refrigerated food items.

Through its four food shelves, Keystone provides emergency food services to an average of 8,000 individuals each month. Keystone expects to distribute 2.4 million pounds of food in 2017.

“This program is one of the largest food shelf programs in the state of Minnesota,” pointed out Pulver. “This program provides critical support to our neighbors in need.”

Pulver has served in her role for nearly 11 years and has seen the impact of practical services to stabilize individuals and families and help them move in positive directions.

Photo left: Keystone expects to distribute 2.4 million pounds of food in 2017 to an average of 8,000 individuals each month, including folks like Dennis Jacobson. The people who use the Midway Food Shelf most include retirees with limited incomes, disabled veterans, veterans in general, and homeless individuals, according to site manager Deb Amacher. The largest group is single men. Many don’t have access to stoves and instead rely on microwaves at convenience stores to heat up their food. (Photo submitted)

At its basic, the Midway Food Shelf serves as a place where people can get food. “It helps people get through the month,” remarked Amacher. “It helps so many people.”

To be eligible for food shelf services, one must establish a need; have an income within 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines; and live in the Keystone service area, which includes downtown St. Paul to Roseville, Little Canada to the Midway and the North End areas of St. Paul.

The people who use the Midway Food Shelf most include retirees with limited incomes, disabled veterans, veterans in general, and homeless individuals. The largest group is single men. Many don’t have access to stoves and instead rely on microwaves at convenience stores to heat up their food, observed Amacher.

When they arrive, “I think they’re expected to be treated poorly, but they’re not,” said Amacher.

The most popular items include rice, milk, juice, cereal, bread, peanut butter, and produce, according to Amacher. “Most people are looking for meat,” she added. “Meat is so expensive.”

Keystone aims to give families access to healthy choices and supplemental food sources to keep families on the right track—empowering them to build self-sufficiency and healthy eating habits.

Photo left: Volunteers such as Michaela Lauer keep the doors open at the Midway Food Shelf, and welcome clients with a smile on their faces. Neighbors interested in volunteering at Keystone may contact the volunteer coordinator at 651-797-7725. (Photo submitted)

The highest need season for food shelf programs is during the summer when children are not receiving free breakfast and lunch programs—which is usually the lowest donation season. The highest donation season is in November and December.

Keystone receives much of what it offers through the Second Harvest food bank, but sometimes items available are limited.

Recently, the food shelf experienced a few weeks during which some basic items were not available for purchase through the food bank system, including canned vegetables.

Food shelf depends on donations
“Our program is dependent upon community support through donations of money, food, and volunteer time,” remarked Pulver. “Cash donations allow our program to purchase food at prices far below retail and multiply the impact of donors’ gifts. Gifts of cash and non-perishable food can be brought to any of our food shelf sites.”

Donation drop off hours are 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. The food shelf is open to clients from 10–11:30am and 1–3:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Neighbors interested in volunteering at Keystone may contact the volunteer coordinator at 651-797-7725.

“We have a great group of volunteers,” said Amacher. “People leave here smiling.”

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PPL at Hamline Station 05 slider

PPL to host employment services Open House Nov. 28

Posted on 07 November 2017 by Calvin

Project for Pride in Living (PPL) will be hosting a community Open House promoting its new Employment Services at Hamline Station on Tues., Nov. 28 from 3–6pm. Located on the ground floor of PPL’s Hamline Station, 1305 University Ave. W., their services are available to the greater community. All of the services provided there are confidential, free of charge, and tailored to fit individual needs. Participants must be 18 years of age or older.

Photo right: Employment specialist Addriana Her (left) and employment technology manager Angie Willardson (right) outside the office of PPL’s Hamline Station Employment Services. Their organization provides one-on-one, confidential, coaching-based employment and financial services at no charge. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Regular hours of operation for the Employment Services Center are Mondays from 9am-4pm and Tuesdays from 1-8pm. During those times, employment specialist Addriana Her is available to help clients write or update their resume, learn to conduct a job search, and develop better interviewing skills.

Her explained, “We aren’t just about helping you get a job here, we’re about helping you keep a job. We provide retention services for 12 months. That means that at three, six and twelve months, one of us will call or email you to see how your new job is going. We’re able to provide a $10 bus or gas card at the time of hire, and at each of these retention check-ins.”

“People have a lot of questions once they’ve been in a job for a while,” Her said. “Questions like, ‘I want more hours, but my employer isn’t giving them to me. What should I do? Or, I’ve gotten enough experience in this line of work. How do I move on?’ We can help with skills assessments and interest inventories whether you’re choosing or changing a career path. We can also assist in finding resources like child care, transportation, work clothing or needed tools through some of our many community connections.” Her can be reached at 612-455-5291 for more information, or to schedule an appointment.

Employment specialist Rachel Moran manages the WOIA Adult Program. This program provides funding for short-term training leading to certifications in healthcare, manufacturing, construction, information technology, and administrative jobs. These five areas currently have a high demand for employees. Acceptance into the WOIA Adult Program requires income eligibility and circumstances of being either unemployed or underemployed. Moran can be reached at 612-455-.5314 for more information, or to schedule an appointment.

In addition to employment coaching, the Hamline Station Employment Services has a financial coach on-site on Tuesdays from 4-8pm. Dar Sengkhammee can help clients create a personal budget, work on reducing debt, review credit scores, and clarify financial goals. He can be reached at 612-455-5292 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Angie Willardson is the employment technology manager for Hamline Station Employment Services. “There is a docking station here with 12 computers for client use,” she explained. “We have the technology to support a first-class job search, using our ‘Talent Neuron’ database. It can pull from all job-search engines at the same time. We can customize a client’s job-search very specifically and efficiently, but most importantly, we can personalize the process for you. We’re a small staff, and we strive to build rapport with our clients. We want to serve as many people as possible, providing the very best practices of employment and financial coaching.”

There are always two people working during the hours that Employment Services is open at PPL’s Hamline Station. Appointments are encouraged, but drop-ins are also welcome. On-street parking is available just east of Hamline and north of University avenues, and the office is easily accessed by bus and train.

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Bryan Duffey MN soccer coach

Minnehaha soccer coach injured in explosion focuses on recovery

Posted on 07 November 2017 by Calvin

Midway residents grateful for community support as they move, seek larger vehicle, and await birth of first baby

After losing his right leg following the Minnehaha Academy gas explosion on Aug. 2, Midway resident Bryan Duffey is focused on walking again and becoming a father in January.

Photo right: Jamie (left) and Bryan Duffey. (Photo provided)

“Bryan has continued to be forgiving and gracious in all of this, and has been so strong through it all,” observed his wife, Jamie. “There are, of course, frustrations and a great sense of loss, but we work through them together. Right now we are just focused on getting him walking again, and for us to keep moving forward with the changes so that we can focus on the baby when he gets here.”

Rescued from under a column and a wall
After graduating from high school in Nebraska, Bryan earned his degree from Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where he met his future wife, Jamie, who was originally from Perham, MN. The two got to know each other while working for the non-profit Hope for Opelousas in Louisiana, providing after-school programs for grades 4-12. After a stint in Wisconsin, Bryan took a job as an assistant soccer coach and custodian at Minnehaha Academy a year ago. Jamie works full-time for Midwest Special Services providing day training for adults with disabilities.

On Aug. 2, Bryan was working at Minnehaha Academy when the building exploded.

He was fortunate to be found by two responding officers and a third off-duty deputy who lives near Minnehaha. They removed a column that landed on top of him first. Then they took apart a wall brick by brick to uncover Bryan’s entire lower body before they could get him to safety.

Bryan was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center and was released 27 days later on his two-year wedding anniversary.

“I am overwhelmed thinking about how blessed we are to have had these men there and to have Bryan still with us today,” said his wife, Jamie on their CaringBridge page.

Bryan underwent several surgeries that left him with his right leg amputated just above the knee and his left leg stabilized by screws and a nail through his tibia.

Big purchases needed to help Bryan achieve independence
The injury pushed the Duffeys into buying a house earlier than planned. They were renting a home in Minneapolis before the explosion but weren’t able to modify it to suit Bryan’s needs, so they purchased a home in the Midway neighborhood. They were able to move in a week after his release from the hospital, but they are still waiting for workers compensation to approve funding for a bathroom remodel so that Bryan can transfer without pain, and they can have a bathroom door back on.

By the beginning of October, Bryan’s neck brace was off, which was a relief for his wife to know that his neck is good and he could sleep a little more comfortably. Bryan was beginning to bear some weight on his left leg, which means he is getting closer to starting the prosthesis process.
He also graduated from speech therapy, which mostly worked with his brain injury. “This is exciting because mentally he is able to drive again,” said Jamie via CaringBridge. “Unfortunately, physically he is not able to drive until we get a new vehicle that is higher off the ground and will have hand controls put in. We hope to get him driving soon so that he can gain some of his independence back.”

The couple owns two small cars, a Honda Civic and Bryan’s tiny Ford Fiesta. They can’t fit Bryan’s wheelchair and a baby in the Fiesta. And so, they’re on a hunt for a bigger vehicle that is higher off the ground. With his prosthesis, he needs a vehicle that will enable him to keep his knee joint at a 90-degree angle and not have to jump out of, explained Jamie. They also plan to outfit it through worker’s compensation with hand controls so that Bryan can drive independently.

The couple wasn’t planning on buying a house, and they weren’t planning to also replace a vehicle right now just before having a new baby. “Financially, it’s going to be really tight,” remarked Jamie. While they considered moving to a place where the cost of living isn’t as high, they decided to stay in the Twin Cities because of the increased opportunity for employment and access to doctors.

Fundraiser for larger vehicle
Bryan’s in-laws, Wes and Teresa Jeltema have attended Richville United Methodist Church in northern Minnesota where they live for the past ten years. On Oct. 7, the church held spaghetti feed, serving 100 people and raising over $3,500 to date. Fifteen volunteers served, sang, and cleaned up.

If you want to participate, but could not get to Richville, consider mailing a check to Richville United Methodist Church, 130 SW 1st Ave., P.O. Box 67, Richville, MN 56576, or wiring a gift of stock, bonds or mutual funds to TY9146536. “This will help Bryan and his wife, Jamie, who is six months pregnant, maintain appropriate housing and secure transportation for the trying months ahead,” remarked Richville United Methodist pastor Rod Turnquist.

“Bryan and Jamie have inspired all of us by their honesty, their courage, and their resilience,” added Turnquist.

What keeps them going
Their faith and the support of family, friends and the Minnehaha community is helping pull the Duffeys through this difficult time. Plus, there’s the excitement of expecting their first child.
“I think that having a baby on the way helps to motivate,” observed Jamie.

They are grateful for the support they’ve received since the explosion.

“We have been supported by so many families, friends, church community, and work communities,” remarked Jamie. “Minnehaha Academy has surrounded us with love and prayers, and families have been bringing us meals.” Their church, Calvary Baptist, has also brought them meals regularly.

The Duffeys appreciate all prayers and positive vibes sent their way.

Life has become busy once again.

“Bryan coached every regular season soccer game, and we are now moving into playoffs,” wrote Jamie on the CaringBridge site Oct. 7. “This has been such a blessing for him as this created some normalcy, and allowed him to continue to do something that he loves.”

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