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Mighty fine studio sale

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

The annual tradition at a local pottery studio will feature 14 artists in multiple mediums



Passing the green facade of 1708 University Ave. W., you would never know there’s a thriving pottery studio inside.

There are no signs, nothing to draw your attention. But this building, owned for years by potter Gary Crawford, will house one heck of a studio sale on Fri., Dec. 12 from 4-9pm and Sat., Dec. 13, from 10am-5pm.

This annual sale is something Crawford and fellow resident potter Mike Norman have been hosting together since 1993. Customers can easily find parking along Aldine and Herschel streets. Substantial refreshments, including what Norman called, “A feast of hors d’oeuvres,” will be served in the “Hospitality Room,” and the working studios will be turned into galleries.

Crawford and Norman have invited several of their artist friends to join them, including Jan Davies (specializing in old beads from around the world), painters Beth Joslyn, Hjordis Olson and Elizabeth Clay, weaver Julie Arthur, printmaker John Clay, paper artists Bridget O’Malley and Amanda Deginer, and fellow potters Willem Gebbon, Monica Redquist, Colleen Riley, Donovan Palmquist and Kelsey Rudulph.

This type of studio sale has been a long-standing tradition in our state. Warren MacKenzie, an internationally celebrated potter who has made Minnesota his home for more than half a century, greatly influenced both Crawford and Norman. MacKenzie had a tradition of an annual sale at his studio near Stillwater, featuring his work and that of his friends. Many of his former pottery students, like Crawford and Norman, continue to conduct business in this collaborative way.

Crawford started making pots in 1972 when he was a young attorney. He owned a farm near Cannon Falls and created his first pottery studio in the barn there. Crawford’s most frequent studio visitors in those early days? He says it was the cows who were most curious about his work as a potter and, for all purposes, were very supportive. He practiced law full-time for 12 years and part-time for more than 40 years, while he pursued his love of clay.

Peter Leach, already an established potter, had a neighboring farm in the Cannon River Valley. Using his knowledgeable of non-profit structure and ceramics, Crawford joined forces with Leach and MacKenzie and started the Northern Clay Center (NCC). The NCC, located at 2424 E. Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis, has been a nationally recognized center for clay arts since 1990.

Norman took his first pottery classes from MacKenzie at the U of M. Norman was in his last year as a forestry student and, following graduation, joined the navy for a two year tour. He’s been making pots ever since.

Norman uses the same treadle wheel he started on, kicking the treadle with his left foot while his hands steady the spinning clay. The style of Norman’s pots is very recognizable. He says, “I probably spend as much time drawing on the pots as I do throwing them.”

Each of Norman’s cups, plates and bowls tells a story. The characters in his stories are often dogs, cats and rabbits on an adventure. Images of boats also appear frequently in his work, representing, Norman says with a smile, “the passage through life.” Norman also does sculptural work, notably his signature candle sticks (see photo above of unglazed rabbits), which are an extension of his surface drawings.

Ceramics is both a science and an art. While Crawford uses a high-fire gas kiln, Norman uses a low-fire electric kiln. The glazes used at different temperatures have varying colors, textures and sheens. With so many talented potters showing their work at the studio sale, it’s a great opportunity to ask questions about firing techniques, glazes, clays and more.

Neither Crawford or Norman were ever interested in being production potters (making the same forms over and over again without variation). “My pots come off the wheel and right away I start to think about how I can modify them by carving or scraping or pulling them into a different shape,” Crawford explained. “I don’t feel my pots are finished until I hear them sing.”

Come on down Dec. 12 and 13 to enjoy the work of Crawford, Norman and their many artist friends. Visit early for the best selection of pots, paintings, weavings, art papers, beads, prints and hors d’oeuvres!

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Como Dockside selected to manage Como Lakeside Pavilion

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

New operators to take over Jan. 5, re-open in late spring


Mayor Chris Coleman and Councilmember Amy Brendmoen announced last week that Como Dockside has been selected as the new management partner for the Como Lakeside Pavilion – with plans to open a newly renovated venue as soon as the spring of 2015. The tentative agreement will head to the St. Paul City Council for final approval on Dec. 17.

“Como Regional Park is one of the state’s most popular destinations,” said Mayor Coleman. “This proposed new venue will not only take full advantage of the unique space situated on the edge of Como Lake, but it will also offer services, food and recreation activities that will make it a vibrant destination for residents and visitors alike.”

Following a lengthy competitive bidding process and community-based evaluation, the selected proposal reflects significant public input and includes a full-service restaurant, catering services, outdoor summer recreation options on the lake, a summer concession stand with direct access from the adjacent walking trails and at least 100 events at a newly renovated outdoor promenade performance area and stage overlooking the lake.

“The Como Lakeside Pavilion is a beautiful and beloved public facility,” said Councilmember Amy Brendmoen. “Launching off the feedback of nearly 1,500 community members, these proven St. Paul proprietors bring the business acumen, creativity and positive energy that will help bring these visions to life.”

Under the tentative agreement, Como Dockside – whose owners also operate Amsterdam Bar in St. Paul and the 331 Club in Minneapolis – will be responsible for operations and day-to-day maintenance costs. Como
Dockside will also make capital investments totaling $200,000 by June 1, 2015, meet or exceed a series of performance expectations established by the city, and guarantee a minimum $500,000 commission to the city through 2020 – with conservative commission projections surpassing $780,000. With the capital investment and the commission projections combined, the City stands to gain more than $1 million over five years.

“This venue offers incredible potential, and the city successfully negotiated a solid deal in a competitive marketplace,” said Vice President/General Manager of the Saint Paul RiverCentre Jim Ibister, who was asked by the City to review the key tenets of the deal. “There are always two sides to every agreement, and the city has structured the agreement in a way that should allow both Como Dockside and the city to be successful.”

Deal highlights

The following are basic deal points that take effect following an initial start-up period:

  • Initial capital investment of $200,000 by June 1, 2015
  • Monthly revenue commission payments to city totaling nine percent of monthly gross revenue, with guaranteed minimum annual revenue payments of $100,000
  • Responsibility by Como Dockside for all day-to-day interior maintenance costs of facility (City retains responsibility for all exterior maintenance)
  • A capital investment fund that receives three percent of monthly gross revenue above $150,000 during peak summer months
  • Full evaluation of Como Dockside’s performance by the city prior to any potential agreement renewal
  • Expanded minimum hours
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner options
  • Enhanced focus on community amenities and public access
  • New recreational amenities – including bocce ball courts, rental equipment and picnic tables
  • A summer concession stand with direct access from the adjacent walking trails
  • At least 100 events at a newly renovated outdoor promenade performance area and stage overlooking the lake
  • Therese Kelly, a former Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Commissioner and member of the 14 person review committee who helped select Como Dockside added, “We have seen the venues like Tin Fish and Sandcastle take off in Minneapolis and to really become destinations. As a community member, I am excited to see a similarly dynamic entity take hold in this unique setting.”

Como Dockside will take over the facility beginning Jan. 5, 2015, with its grand opening tentatively scheduled for late spring of 2015. Como Dockside will announce plans in the near future for how new event bookings can be made starting in 2015.

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Co-op remains optimistic despite financial challenges

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

The great recession, road construction on both University and Raymond, contribute to struggle

In 1979, the nonprofit St. Anthony Park Foods (SAP) acquired Green Grass Grocery, located at the 938 Raymond site. Green Grass was renamed SAP TOO and then became Hampden Park Foods in 1990. In June 1993 Hampden Park Co-op was legally formed and in 2009, the Co-op purchased the building it had been renting since 1978.

In 1979, the nonprofit St. Anthony Park Foods (SAP) acquired Green Grass Grocery, located at the 938 Raymond site. Green Grass was renamed SAP TOO and then became Hampden Park Foods in 1990. In June 1993 Hampden Park Co-op was legally formed and in 2009, the Co-op purchased the building it had been renting since 1978.


Although the first consumer cooperative was founded in 1844 on Toad Lane in Rochdale, England, its code of principles are still followed today by most co-ops. Hampden Park Co-op at 938 Raymond Ave. is no exception.

Voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, cooperation among cooperatives, concern for community and education, training and information are still the principles that govern the Hampden Park Co-op.

And following these guidelines has continued to make the Co-op stand out in the neighborhood, even as mainstream groceries are beginning to go organic.

Greg Junge, general manager of Hampden Park Co-op since August, said that the Co-op currently has three full-time employees and 20 part-time staff. There are 200 participating volunteers, and a membership base of 4000. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Greg Junge, general manager of Hampden Park Co-op since August, said that the Co-op currently has three full-time employees and 20 part-time staff. There are 200 participating volunteers, and a membership base of 4000. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“We listen to our members, and we adhere to our values,” General Manager Greg Junge explained. Junge took over his position in August of this year, at a time when Hampden Park Co-op has been struggling financially.

The recession, followed by light-rail construction on University and additional construction work on Raymond Avenue have all been contributing factors to the economic struggles of the store, but drawing on its strengths as a co-op is helping to turn Hampden Park Co-op around.

“We have seen a 6.5 per cent sales increase since mid-October,” Junge said. “We have had a very good response from the community, and our sales are growing.”

The store has been asking its members to voluntarily donate their discounts, and the 15 per cent senior discount is being considered for possible restructure.

“We have spread the word to our membership base,” Junge said, “telling our situation and what we need to do. We’re restructuring and listening to the voice of the community as to the direction we should take.”

“The community is responding; they truly want us to be here,” Junge said.

He said that co-ops continue to be a strong presence in their communities based on their history and values.

“As conventional stores step into the role of organics, I think that’s actually helping the co-op through exposure to these products,” he noted. He said he believes people have learned how buying locally helps sustain the local farming community.

Junge said the Hampden Park Co-op has also combined its efforts with those of local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms. For many years, CSAs have been a popular way for consumers to buy local seasonal food directly from a farmer.

“We see CSAs as an advantage, and we support them,” Junge said. “We’re a drop-off unit for five CSAs right here in the Co-op. We put them in the front.”

Junge said a co-op relies on collective efforts.

(l to r) Volunteers Alex Newby, Mikaila Dahlseng and Mel Seeland spend an evening at the Co-op cutting cheese. (Photo by Jan Willms)

(l to r) Volunteers Alex Newby, Mikaila Dahlseng and Mel Seeland spend an evening at the Co-op cutting cheese. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“We conduct our business through the relationships we’re making,” he said. He emphasized the importance of the products the store buys and the joint action it takes. The store has started carrying items created by Soluppa Soups and Fred’s Bread, both local suppliers.

“We’ve always been a green institution,” Junge added. “We’re not just putting a fresh tomato in a salad to make it better—that’s always the way we have operated.”

The Hampden Co-op has two kitchens. One is more of a deli operation, where volunteers gather to learn and perform tasks such as cutting cheese. The other kitchen is a produce kitchen, where in-house soups are created.

“We serve as a source for a lot of local chefs,” Junge continued. He said the Co-op puts a guarantee behind the products it sells.

The roots of the Hampden Park Co-op began with St. Anthony Park Foods (SAP), a nonprofit that opened in 1972, across from the St. Paul campus at the University of Minnesota. In 1979, SAP acquired Green Grass Grocery, located at the 938 Raymond site. Green Grass was renamed SAP TOO and then became Hampden Park Foods in 1990. In June 1993 Hampden Park Co-op was legally formed and in 2009, the co-op purchased the building it had been renting since 1978.

Junge said the Co-op currently has three full-time employees and 20 part-time staff. There are 200 participating volunteers, and a membership base of 4,000.

Becoming a member requires purchasing a share of stock at a cost of $30. A member can volunteer or participate in the governance of the co-op and share in the distribution of allocated profits at the end of the fiscal year.

“The Co-op is a culture we have created,” Junge said. “People feel at home.“

He said the Co-op is considering better ways to open up the building and use it, possibly looking at adding a café. There is also room for office space and meetings.

“We want to become more of a community asset,” Junge noted. “We are leveraging ourselves to become a better steward of the area.”

He added that Hampden Co-op is exploring ways to create and grow, add to its product offerings and make people aware of its existence.

“We are still the small engine that could,” Junge said. “We have been here a long time and will continue to be. People truly believe in what we are doing.”

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Packing up Leonardo’s Basement

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

One-of-a-kind learning program leaves Midway after losing its lease



Leonardo’s Basement, a one-of-a-kind learning environment for “kids” of all ages, is packing up and leaving the Griggs Recreation Center at 1188 Hubbard Ave. They have offered classes and workshops there for the past five years in all areas of hands-on engineering, art and technology. Effective mid-January, the space will be leased to a new tenant by the City of St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department.

In 2009, the City of St. Paul embarked on an experiment, re-partnering some of their park buildings because it was too expensive to maintain them all. Non-profit organizations were able to apply to use existing park buildings for their own purposes at reasonable rents.


Founder and executive director Steve Jevning in front of the emptied out piano cubby. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

According to Brad Meyer, Public Service Manager for Parks and Recreation, “Similar to other facility agreements, we didn’t contractually address performance measurements with Leonardo’s Basement to ensure that community needs were being met. We focused more on eliminating some of the budget pressures we were facing at the time.”

Steve Jevning, founder and executive director of Leonardo’s Basement explained that “the experience with Parks and Rec has not been without problems.” In his view, the lack of a transparent leasing process has worked to everyone’s disadvantage. Neighbors were unhappy that his non-profit charged a fee for their programs (despite the fact they gave away more than 100 scholarships annually). Jevning and his supporters were frustrated that Parks and Rec changed the terms of their lease and the leasing process.

In a nutshell, Jevning said, “We learned last spring that Leonardo’s Basement would have to submit a proposal to have our lease re-considered, along with any other interested non-profits. The rent at the Griggs Recreation Center would have increased to a point where we couldn’t afford it. We opted to not file a proposal for the site, hoping that no one else would either – and that the original terms of our lease would stay the same.”

From Meyer’s perspective, “We opened up every facility with existing agreements to give interested non-profits an equal opportunity to apply. Included in the application would be a statement of their ability to meet minimum performance measurements. Unfortunately, even after multiple attempts to get Leonardo’s Basement to submit an application stating their interest, they declined. Therefore they could not be considered based on public procurement and bidding laws.”

Leonardo’s Basement took a bet, and lost.

So what comes next?

“Since we started running classes 16 years ago, our program has tried to be all things to all people,” Jevning said. This move from St. Paul will bring us back to operating out of one workshop, our Minneapolis site at 4301 Nicollet Ave. It’s okay that we’re leaving Griggs. The move will encourage us to re-define our focus, and to concentrate on strengthening our relationships with school partners.”


A student uses design and construction skills to help with a summer festival project. (Photo courtesy of Leonardo’s Basement)

The non-profit has cultivated strong relationships with several schools in St. Paul, including College Prep Elementary, Maxfield Elementary, LEAP High School and Gordon Parks High School. They hope that some of those connections, especially Maxfield Elementary where the teachers really value kinesthetic learning, will continue despite the move.

Leonardo’s Basement is an unusual name, and one that was chosen for several reasons. Leonardo Da Vinci remains one of the very best examples of a curious and observing mind—a mind capable of integrating engineering, art and technology. The basement is where tinkering occurs that leads to creative discovery and experimentation of an informal nature. Instructors with this program are partners with students, helping them learn by doing while developing personal and technical skills. The methods of instruction used in classes and workshops respect all learning styles.

There are a lot of materials to pack up in the next few weeks: art supplies, electronic parts, tools and all the stuff needed to make an organization work.

An instructor assists a student in completing a plexi-glass project of the student’s design. (Photo courtesy of Leonardo’s Basement)

An instructor assists a student in completing a plexi-glass project of the student’s design. (Photo courtesy of Leonardo’s Basement)

When everything is said and done, Jevning would like to thank those who made it possible for Leonardo’s Basement to come to St. Paul in the first place. “We couldn’t have done it without significant help from Philanthropy Partners, formerly the St. Paul Foundation,” he said. “Their contributions were crucial to getting us up and running. The Midway Men’s Club was fantastic. They have a beer and burger stand at the State Fair every summer, and give all the proceeds to support kids programs in the neighborhood. They donated to us so generously that we were able to create a substantial scholarship fund. A grant from the City of St. Paul’s Neighborhood STAR Program enabled us to host three major neighborhood festivals, which we thought really brought people together.”

According to Jevning, the new tenant, as of mid-January, will be the offices of the St. Paul Urban Tennis Program.

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After 120 years, Episcopal Homes on cutting edge of senior living

Posted on 10 December 2014 by robwas66

New apartments almost filled; anticipation builds for first Greenhouse model of care in Minnesota to open next month


Wade Tobin takes time out from unpacking to pose with Deborah Veit, director of community relations at Episcopal Homes. (Photo by Jan Willms)



A major project is taking place on the campus of Episcopal Homes at 1850 University Ave. A seven-story building that is being constructed in three phases has already opened to residents and should be completed by January 2015.

“An important reason we looked at this is that it allows people to age in place,” said Deborah Veit, the director of community relations who has been with Episcopal Homes for the past eight years.

“We broke ground for this project in May 2013,” she said, with the land being purchased about a year earlier. But conversations began long before that about bringing a Greenhouse model of care to the campus.

The Greenhouse model, called the Gardens, opens the second week in January, the first to be offered in the state of Minnesota in a skilled nursing setting. “We’ll have home-based care, with six households, one on each floor,” Veit explained. “Our new building is a seven-story building, so there will be one house per floor, starting with the second floor. And each house, just like in your home, will have a living room, dining room, kitchen, four-season porch and reading nook. There will be 10 residents per house, and all will have their own private room and bath. They will be lovely nice-sized rooms where they can bring in their belongings and make it very homey.”


Kay and Ken Kistler recently moved to The Terrace at Iris Park after selling their home of 42 years. “We are where we should be,” Ken said. (Photo by Jan Willms)

The first phase of the project opened Nov. 1. The Terrace at Iris Park features catered living apartments. “This is a model for folks who are independent seniors all the way through seniors who need home health services,” Veit explained. “We will cater to whatever the needs of the residents are, so that they can stay in their homes and not have to move to a different level of care.” These apartments have nearly all been filled.

Dave Girard, 91, is one of those individuals who have just moved into Terrace at Iris Park. A former Marine officer who worked at IBM for 20 years, he moved to Minnesota in 1972 to install an air traffic control system. He has been living in Iris Park Commons but decided to move into the new complex.

“I really like it so far,” he said recently, after eating dinner out at one of the local restaurants. “It’s small, but cozy.” Girard has several volumes in his apartment of a family history he has completed.

Another new resident at the Terrace at Iris Park is Wade Tobin, 91, who moved in after recently selling his home. He was able to choose an apartment that is in a corner and right under a rooftop garden.

“I’m still unpacking,” he said, “but I like it.”

Ken and Kay Kistler recently moved to the Terrace after selling their home of 42 years. “The snow just kept getting deeper every year,” Ken joked.

Kay said she had never realized how much work was involved in selling a house and its belongings, and she is happy to be settling in at their new location.

“We are where we should be,” Ken said. Although it is different going from a house to a three-room apartment, the Kistlers said they were impressed by their surroundings. And both are looking for an exercise group to join at Episcopal Homes.

The second phase, which opened Nov. 28, is called Midway Pointe and is affordable housing, independent living. “Those are 50 independent living apartments, and seniors pay based on their incomes,” Veit said.

She said the $45 million project has three completely separate buildings under one roof. “We’re basically building three separate entities, which is unique,” Veit stated.

She said a project of this nature has involved a lot of researching of the models that are being brought into Episcopal Homes. “It means training a lot of staff,” she noted. “The majority of staff will be in the Gardens, and an extensive amount of training goes into bringing the Greenhouse model on campus.”

She said there has been hiring of new staff, training, the actual construction and the planning and implementing of programs.

“We want to make sure we are developing new programs that will benefit our residents,” Veit explained. “We looked nationwide to research ideas and top-of-the-line models of care.”

Episcopal Homes, which first began offering senior living options 120 years ago, has been at the University Avenue site since 1916. Its campus already offers independent living, independent living affordable housing, assisted living, assisted living memory care, nursing home care and transitional care for short-term rehab.

“We will now have two independent living, affordable housing on campus and two offsite,” Veit said. “And we will have a second nursing home building.”


Dave Girard checks his email as he settles in to his new apartment. He had been already living in Iris Park Commons, but decided to move into the new complex. (Photo by Jan Willms)

“When our new building is done, we will have seven separate entities on campus,” Veit said. “It is so beautiful, and it is fun to see people moving in and enjoying life. Lots of community is very important for seniors, and there are dangers to being isolated.”

She said she enjoys watching people making new friends. They can also hop on a campus bus and go to the store or a theater.

“Being on the light rail is good, too,” she added. “Many have made the decision to move here based on our excellent reputation, but also based on the light rail being right outside the door. It offers a lot of independence and freedom without having to drive a car.”

She said the current 350 residents on the campus will increase to 500 when the rest of the new building project is completed, and there will be 350 employees.

“We’re looking at a progression of things we have already done,” she said. “The catered living is a progression from our assisted living model. And we are looking to provide a level of care that is higher than assisted living if folks require it, so they can stay in their homes and not have to move to another building or level of care. We have already provided top-of-the line model of care, but this is just taking it up a notch.”

She said that people appreciate that.

“When people make a move like this, it’s a big change. Many have lived in their homes for 45 years before they decide to downsize from a large home to an apartment, and to be in a community where there are other seniors and social activities,” Veit said.

“When they make this move from home to apartment, they would like to be able to stay there for their life, with services brought to them so they can avoid a second move,” Veit continued. She said that besides looking at this project as a way of people being able to age in place, all their current residences have waiting lists. “Even our campus residents sometimes have to wait to be able to move,” she said. “By bringing in catered living and adding an additional nursing home, we’re hoping to avoid those waits for our campus residents, so they’ll be in a place where they can stay.”

She said that resident participation, no matter at what stage a person is at in his or her journey of life, is important.

“If someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s, or if they are physically not capable of doing some of the normal household things, there are still ways for them to be participating and be engaged. Those with dementia still have memories of many of the tasks they can do in their home and still enjoy that. How we help them be able to fulfill those enjoyments is very important.”

Veit is excited about the new models of living that are going to be offered at Episcopal Homes.
“Getting older has enough challenges,” she said. “Whatever we can do to make it pleasurable and engaging and fulfilling for people is good. We want to be able to make a difference in their lives, and it’s fun to see that happen for people.”

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100 Years Young!

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66


Lois Knowles – guest of honor (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)


The “LOIS” banner where guests honored 100-year-old Lois Knowles. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Lois Knowles celebrated  her 100th birthday on Nov. 3 at the Midway YMCA on University Ave. The party room was full of balloons and flowers, four different types of cupcakes baked by YMCA executive director David Dominick, laughter and love. Lois has been going to the YMCA, “since forever,” she said. Apparently that has been long enough to make a lot of friends.

Muriel Hinich, now 82, was 57 when she became a YMCA member. She met Lois in the pool where, Hinich said, “she was swimming like a fish!” Hinich was afraid of the water but, surrounded by her new fit friends, quickly came to enjoy swimming and many other types of exercise.

Director of Healthy Living, Cathy Quinlivan, was scooping up reasonable portions of ice cream for the guests. “Community is less about brick and mortar, and more about relationships,” she commented. Quinlivan also heads up the Active Older Adults Program, to which nearly everyone in the room belongs. “Most of these folks have been coming here for decades, enjoying water fitness, stretch and Silver Sneakers classes together. That builds community.”

BJ Zander, a long-time friend of Lois’s and an artist, had made a 10’ long banner and taped it to the wall. On it she had drawn “LOIS” in gigantic letters. Guests wrote words that began with each letter to describe the guest of honor:

L— light hearted, lovely, luminous;
O — outgoing, oh so gentle, original;
I — inspirational, irresistible, incredible;
S — superb, swimming beauty, sababa (Arabic for awesome)


Lois is greeted by one of her many YMCA pals. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Another friend, Carol Sanders, said that Lois not only exemplifies the qualities people wrote down, but exemplifies them consistently. Consistency matters, in individuals and in organizations.

The Midway YMCA has been a consistent gathering place for members since it opened in 1952. In those early days, the space now dedicated for cardio exercise was a smoking lounge. And no one in St. Paul had even heard of yoga or tai chi. But, time rolls along. As La Donna Keljik, a YMCA member for fifty years said, “The YMCA is a big part of what our lives are all about.” The circle of friends gathered around Lois to help celebrate her 100th birthday was certainly proof of that…­

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Snelling construction project takes aim

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66

After years of headaches over University Ave., now get ready for Snelling construction


Warning and closed signs have been popping up recently near, and on, Snelling Ave. and the I-94 interchange. Get used to seeing them a lot in 2015 as Snelling Ave. will be under construction between Selby Ave. and Pierce Butler Route.

Getting around in area neighborhoods will be challenge next year, as the Snelling Ave. bridge replacement and street reconstruction projects will be underway. Work this fall has already snarled traffic on east-west detours and north-south streets, as motorists have been unable to use the Snelling off and on-ramps.

Snelling between Selby Ave.  and Peirce Butler Route will be under construction from May through November 2015. The project includes the Snelling Ave. bridge over Interstate 94, which will close for three months.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials hope to have the street and the bridge reopened before the start of the 2015 Minnesota State Fair. The project has an estimated $9.5 million cost.

The bridge is currently under lane and ramp restrictions for electrical line work, Kirsten Klein of MnDOT’s public affairs staff said that MnDOT is working to meet with community groups and get the word out about the project. An open house will be held before year’s end.

MnDOT recently sent the St. Paul Department of Public Works its requested detours, which are likely to be Cretin Ave. and Lexington Pkwy.  While there are other north-south routes over and under the freeway, including Fairview, Pascal and Hamline avenues, none of those have full freeway interchanges.

“We know this will have major impacts,” Klein said. MnDOT will work closely with city officials to make sure the impacts are addressed as much as possible.

While the bridge is still considered to be safe, it needs to be replaced, said Klein. It was built in the 1960s when the freeway was built.

Street reconstruction will bring a safer, smoother and longer-lasting Snelling Ave. The street is in a deteriorated condition in places. It will allow for improvements at crosswalks, including new curb cuts in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Drainage improvements will be made.

It will also allow the addition of wider sidewalks on the bridge itself. The bridge will also be more attractive as St. Paul typically adds lantern-style lighting and decorative railings whenever any bridges are rebuilt. This will tie into a current project to make Snelling more walkable.

But it will mean detours, not just for motorists but for those who use public transit. Several bus routes will have to be changed to accommodate the project.

The project will be done in cooperation with Metro Transit and Metropolitan Council as bus stops are rebuilt for the launch of the Snelling bus rapid transit line in late 2015. Bus stops will extend into the street for easier boarding. New, heated stations with ticket kiosks and other amenities will be built. This isn’t part of the $9.5 million street price tag.

Nor is the city’s request for street and bridge improvements included in the project totals. The city wants to add new street lighting, new sidewalks and median landscaping.

Motorists will have to watch for street and land closings next year. Pedestrians will have to be mindful that sidewalks will be closed from time to time. Motorists who use I-94 will have to watch for the weekend when the freeway itself is closed, to allow the bridge deck to be removed. The changes will also affect transit schedules and transit stops, so riders need to watch for updates and changes.

It’s not clear yet how much of the street will be under construction at a time. More will be known as plans are developed and after bids are let.

In September some detours and ramp closures began near the bridge. Xcel Energy has critical sections of its electrical transmission system beneath the bridge. MnDOT recently asked Xcel to relocate the system, which will be moved to a point just east of the bridge. This work involves boring beneath the freeway. According to John Marshall, manager of community relations and economic development for Xcel, the relocation work will be completed by Dec. 23, 2014.

Motorists need to watch for frontage road, ramp and lane closures, Marshall said. He added that Xcel will try to get the work done as quickly as possible.

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“Work is love made visible”

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66


Beverly Frarck working the switchboard, as she has done for 41 years. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Beverly Frarck is living proof of the quote by Kahlil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.” She has worked as a switchboard operator for 41 years, answering the phones and putting people’s minds at ease at the former Midway Hospital site (1700 University Ave. W.) – now part of Health East. Frarck, a spunky blonde with deep brown eyes, is 83 years old and has absolutely no plans to retire from her full time job.

If her boss, switchboard supervisor Kathleen Farrell, could use only one word to describe Frarck, it would be dependable. What else would you call someone who starts their shift every morning at 4:30am, rarely misses a day of work and gives most of her PTO (paid time off) to co-workers in need?

“I love my job because of the people here,” Frarck says.

Considering herself from “the old-fashioned school of switchboard operators,” Frarck applied for the job she has today in 1973. She had raised her five children and was eager to begin work at St. Joseph’s, wearing a crisp, white hospital-issue uniform. Things have changed quite a bit since then! The Health East merger in 1986 combined four very different hospitals: Lutheran St. John’s, Catholic St. Joe’s (Minnesota’s first hospital), Swedish Lutheran Bethesda and Woodwinds Medical Center. Health East aims to respect all religions and traditions. People call the central switchboard, where Frarck works, with questions about all four hospitals, 14 clinics, medical transportation, outpatient/ambulatory services and emergencies.

Switchboard operators do much more than just forward calls. They are really communication coordinators, getting calls to the right places, but also in the right format, so they can be acted on immediately. Speed is of the essence; Frarck estimates she has more than 300 work-related telephone numbers and extensions committed to memory. A two inch thick red manual on her desk contains protocols and codes in every color of the rainbow: Code Blue for heart attack, Code Green for security, Code Pink for baby in distress, etc.

In addition to being fast, Frarck believes it is important to be kind. The switchboard operator is the first point of contact for someone calling Health East. People are often surprised to hear a human voice answer the phone. “Are you for real?” she’s often asked. Frarck’s compassionate style of communication is something she has learned by doing over the years. She especially tries to reach out to sons and daughters calling to inquire about their parents in hospice care. Frarck cared for her own mother during the last month of her struggle with cancer. “Do you have someone there with you?” she always asks them. Frarck understands how it feels to watch a parent die.

St. Joe’s is the only hospital in the Health East system that still broadcasts live prayer, and Frarck is the voice of the 7am prayer, reading it out loud in segments because the public address system can only broadcast in short bits. She’s been reading the same prayers (a different one for each day of the week) for the past 15 years since her predecessor, Sister Florence, died. The sound of her voice is familiar and comforting, as is the sight of her reading wearing her pearl lanyard and angel brooch.

Frarck suffered a heart attack herself 1.5 years ago and was expertly cared for by a team of doctors, all of whom she knew. Her only frustration was that they made her take a whole week off from work. Her health challenges, and those of her husband, make flexibility and patience essential in their marriage of 39 years. Between the two of them, they share 7 children, 15 grand children and 10 great grand children. Frarck goes to cardiac rehab twice a week and can be seen working out vigorously on the tread mill. Greg Urtel, a security officer for Health East, said, “She runs circles around every single one of us. What is her secret?”

To hear Frarck talk, it seems that the secret to her long, happy life is creating a sense of family where ever she goes. She has a large, loving family with her husband Stan, a close-knit group of co-workers, and a real camaraderie with the other patients and their relatives in the dialysis clinic where Stan goes for treatment three days a week. She is a genuine “people-person,” and has been fortunate to find work that supports and rewards that. Recently a man called the switchboard inquiring about his brother. Frarck looked him up in the patient register, and commented that the patient’s birthday and her own were only days apart. The caller was incredulous. “You,” he said, “were born in 1931 and you’re still answering the telephones?”

“That’s right,” Frarck answered calmly. “I’m still here.”

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Local author receives literary awards for children’s book

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66

Conversations with his daughter led to 13-year project to create a children’s book, “When God Was a Little Girl”


What began as conversations between a father and his daughter has resulted in an award-winning book written by Hamline Midway resident David Weiss, who teaches a religion class at Hamline University. The book was recently awarded a nationally recognized 2014 Nautilus Award in the category “Children’s Picture Books (grades 2-6). It has also won a Gold 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award for Religion and Spirituality.

“When God Was a Little Girl” did not derive from one specific conversation he had with his young daughter, according to Weiss. But, when she was small he told her stories about himself when he was a little boy, and stories about her brother and herself.


Joan Hernandez Lindeman (left) who illustrated the book “When God Was a Little Girl” and author David Weiss (right).

“Eventually, we began to tell more fanciful tales that we made up together, and these were often ‘creation’-themed,” Weiss said. And so a story, depicting God as little girls of different ethnicities, was born.

“The book was first written with my daughter in mind,” he said. “I wanted to offer her an image of God as a five, six or seven-year-old girl.”

“The story is one that I first created back in 2001,” Weiss explained. “The final edited version is 90 per cent of that.”
Weiss said that although he wrote it as a story for his daughter, as he shared it with friends many of them said they thought it would make a great picture book.

“I talked with Joan Hernandez Lindeman, who had been one of my students,” Weiss explained. “She connected with the story immediately, being a strong feminist herself.”

But at the same time she was working as an elementary school teacher, and what she had thought would be a three-year painting of illustrations for the book ended up taking eight years.

“Then we spent close to three years researching and sending the manuscript off,” Weiss said. “When we couldn’t find a publisher, we decided it was an important enough project to us that we would self-publish.”

The two created a Kickstarter campaign and raised over $9,000. “Most of the money came from classmates, former students, family and friends,” Weiss noted. “But at least $1,000 came from friends of friends or people who had just found our Kickstarter page.”

Raising enough to cover all editorial expenses, the book went to press in November 2013.

“With a Kickstarter campaign, you have to offer something to funders, and so by Dec. 6 we had the first 371 copies going out to donors in over 30 different states,” Weiss said.

They have just finished selling out the first printing, and the book is now on its second printing.

Weiss said he described God as female both for his little girl and for feminist reasons. Trained as a theologian, he said he had the opportunity to study feminist theology in school. “My personal beginning place was feminine theology for grown-up women, but when I became the father of a little girl, my question was how do I take this feminine theology with all the big words and theories and explain what that theology would mean for her,” Weiss said. And the book describing God as a little girl who loved to sing and create art projects and use her imagination was the result.

Although written as a children’s book, “When God Was a Little Girl” also appeals to adults.

“I have heard so much from women who wished they had this book as a child,” Weiss said. “Especially women who are 70 or 80 years old and have spent their whole lives swimming against the current. They told me they shed tears of joy and release on reading it.”

Weiss’ role as a theologian expresses his strong belief in diversity and a welcoming God.

“Most of the time the image of God that is brought into politics or public discourse is that of a fist-pounding God who says ‘This is what God has said, and the conversation is over,’” Weiss stated. He said that what he really has tried to capture in his book as well as his classes, and the Adult Ed forums he presides over, is a different way of thinking about God.

He emphasized that the book is a creation story, not literal fact. “It does what myths do best; tell us the truth about the world we live in.”

In the book, Weiss depicts God as creating “humus beings out of humus.” He describes people being created from what is under their feet, showing a kinship with the earth and the need to take care of it.


The artwork for “When God Was a Little Girl” was created by Joan Hernandez Lindeman, a former student of author David Weiss.

The book also shows bunches of human beings, in all shapes and skin colors.

“Diversity has been with us from the very beginning,” Weiss said, “and it is what God considered very good about creation.“

His desire to see religion as a welcoming experience was impressed upon him as a child. “I think as a kid, I was aware that I grew up in a family that had hospitality as a family motto,” he explained. “And as a college senior, I became keenly aware who wasn’t receiving this hospitality, the LGBT population.”

In his work as a “free-lance” theologian, as he calls himself, Weiss has reached out to the LGBT community both in this country and abroad, during recent travels to Uganda.

He said in his Hamline class on intro to religion, he doesn’t teach names, dates and history. But he focuses on religious diversity in the world, and he hopes his students leave the class more religiously literate and knowledgeable.

Weiss said his life is sometimes like a mad dash from one paying project to another, but he could imagine doing other writings, similar to his first children’s book. “I do have another biblically-based picture book in mind,” he said. He also is considering drawing on his family’s history for a book. He writes hymns and blogs, as well.

Winning the Nautilus award for “When God Was a Little Girl” has meant a great deal to Weiss and Lindeman. The award is given to “books that inspire and connect our lives, offering spiritual growth, green values and positive social change.”

Weiss said he hopes the readers of his book can derive a sense of a God they can feel close to and joyfully celebrate. “The book doesn’t pretend to be fact, but the message is one you can really feel good about sharing with a child,” he said.

The book is available online at www.whengodwasalittlegirl.com, HWY North (the new local arts shop at 719 Hamline Ave. N. at the corner of Hamline and Minnehaha) and at Ten Thousand Villages at Grand and Victoria.

NOTE: Weiss will have a book reading on Sat., Dec. 6, at 1pm at the Hamline Church United Methodist, 1514 Englewood Ave. during Hamline Church’s Last Chance Christmas Sale. The book will also be available during the sale: Dec. 6 (9am-3pm) and Dec. 7 (10:30am-2:30pm).

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Public meeting scheduled on Dickerman Park Dec. 4

Public meeting scheduled on Dickerman Park Dec. 4

Posted on 12 November 2014 by robwas66

Public feedback on Dickerman park exceeded 350 comments


Dickereman Park is a 2.4 acre stretch of land along University Ave. which runs for 2 blocks. Hundreds of comments have poured into the committee looking at developing the park, and it is proposed that $3 to $4.4 million be spent to develop the parcel.

One of St. Paul’s most obscure parks may finally get the makeover area residents and business owners have clamored for. But redoing Dickerman Park isn’t likely to have the $12 million price tag envisioned several years ago. Instead, Mayor Chris Coleman is proposing park improvements in the range of $3 to $4.4 million, as one of his 8 to 80 Vitality Projects.

If all goes as planned, park design will take place into 2015, with construction in 2016 and completion in 2017. A community task force began its work on park plans this fall and St. Paul City Council members reviewed the proposal in October.

The park has drawn a lot of public attention and hundreds of online comments and ideas. Design advisory committee members and folks who commented on Open St. Paul have already brought forward 357 comments and ideas, including public art, event and gathering space, play space and potential for year-round use.

It will be the topic of an open house, 6-8pm on Thur., Dec. 4. A location has had not been determined as of press deadline. Check the project website at http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=5517 for details and place. The public can attend and weigh in on ideas for the park and priorities for its redesign.

The city’s 8-80 initiative is inspired by a community development movement that calls for streets, public spaces and amenities to be useful for users ranging from ages 8 to 80. Restructuring of RiverCentre bonds is providing $42.5 million to jump-start major projects. Coleman said that redoing Dickerman Park will provide needed green space along the Green Line light rail route.

“It’s rather invisible at this point,” said Ellen Stewart, Department of Parks and Recreation project manager for the Dickerman Park redesign.

The 2.4 acre park starts at the northeast corner of University and Fairview avenues and extends to Aldine St. A parking lot is on part of the property. Parts of the park appear to be part of the front lawns of Midway businesses.

The park was given to the city in 1909 by the Dickerman Land Company. But it was never developed and for many years wasn’t even included in inventories of park property. In the 1990s members of the Dickerman family asked that the land be properly developed. Several years ago a coalition of groups led by University UNITED and Friends of the Parks and Trails also called for developing the park.

“I was at the last Dickerman Park design meetings,” said Jun-Li Wang, a Hamline-Midway resident who works for Springboard for the Arts and is on the current design advisory committee. “We saw a beautiful award-winning design that would have cost $12 million. And then discussion pretty much ended.”

Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark is a strong proponent of developing the park. He has heard requests to do something with the park since he took office. Stark cites the strong interest in seeing something done with the park as impetus to move ahead.

Design advisory committee members said the space presents many opportunities. Steve Johnson represents Midway Chamber of Commerce on the committee. “It’s a very unique opportunity to build a beautiful and unique park in St. Paul, that could serve businesses as well as residents,” he said.

Adjoining property owners and managers also see potential. Park land has been used by the adjacent Midway YMCA and by charter schools as play space. They spoke for improvements that all can share.

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