Archive for the ‘ Featured ’ Category

U7 Newsletter Debuts

We present to you U7’s Quarterly Newsletter! Our first edition!
We hope to keep all of our colleagues, partners, small businesses owners, business supporters, and the general public abreast of the small business support services we provide and how the project is progressing. Each quarter, the newsletter will be highlighting a Central Corridor small business owner and providing small business tips, advice and resources.

This is our way of showing our appreciation for your continued support of the small businesses that dot the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit Line.
If you have any ideas of a business to highlight, information you want to know more about, or have business tips or advice to share that we can add to future editions, please drop us a line.
Sia Lo, U7 Small Business Consultant, was the lead on the creation of the U7 Newsletter and with Steve Olson’s assistance (U7’s Graphic Designer), they have provided us (and you) with a great first edition.
We would also like to take the opportunity to thank our funders: Central Corridor Funders Collaborative, St. Paul Foundation, Bigelow Foundation, City of St. Paul STAR Program, and Federal Funds provided through Congresswoman Betty McCollum. The majority of our funders have supported the U7 project since April 2009, and due to their early support we have been able to get U7 services on the ground a whole two years before construction begins on University and Washington Avenues. THANK YOU!
Find out more about U7 here.

Health Disparities

Doctor and Xray

Join us for “Place Matters,” a film on health disparities as related to ZIP code, followed by a panel discussion and community dialogue, at 6 p.m. Dec. 2 at Open Cities Health Center, 409 N. Dunlap Street, St.Paul.

Seating is limited. Parking available in Central Medical lot.

Presented by: the Twin Cities African-American Leadership Forum Health & Wellness Work Group The charge of the AALF Health & Wellness Work Group is to promote healthy living; mind body and soul in the African-American community and to practice behavior, systems and environmental health change.

Building Hope

Zambia trip

Eight women — four from the Twin Cities and four from Cleveland — flew halfway around the world this summer to build a hopeful future for vulnerable children.

Habitat for Humanity International Mission is working in Lusaka, Zambia, in Southern Africa, and putting together a program to assist children and their caretakers. Many of these children are affected by HIV/AIDS; they may have it or have lost parents and family to the disease.

The four volunteer builders from Cleveland have backgrounds in city planning and medical care; the four from the Twin Cities have backgrounds ranging from architecture and economics to city planning.

Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corp. employee Marilyn Porter and Bonita Martin were part of the Twin Cities team. During the day these women worked on building a three-bedroom home for a family of eight, that replaced their former windowless, two-bedroom home. While working alongside the local contractors, lifting blocks and digging holes, these women drew a lot of attention from local villagers, as well as some of Lusaka’s own city planners, including the Minister of Land, While in Zambia, they were even able to meet with First Lady Thandiwe Banda for an hour.

“The First Lady was on our schedule at first, but then our meeting with her was canceled because something else came up; however, when she found out we were a team of eight women of color who had come to help her people, that changed,” said Martin.

Once the house was finished, the entire village had a celebration with singing and dancing, and the women gladly joined in as they were invited to be a part of everything. Martin described the celebration in a humbled way, how the home injected the entire village with joy for the family who had received this new home. “That is something I will never forget!” said Porter.

Porter, being the architect of the group, was watching the women in the village cook the food on small, single grills. Porter took some of the left-over building blocks and, after a run to the hardware store to get some old refrigerator shelves, designed a larger open fire grill for the family. The family was so excited about their new grill that they insisted that it be set out where anyone in the village could use it to cook.

When asked if they would do this again, both Porter and Martin replied, “I would go again in a heartbeat.”

“We learned from then and I think they learned from us,” said Porter. “The local contractors were not sure what to expect with a group of eight women coming to help, but they were pleasantly surprised at the end.”

Check out the rest of the photos from the Zambia trip on our Flickr photostream:

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival

On Saturday, October 23, residents and volunteers gathered at the Rondo Victoria Peace Garden, located at Concordia Avenue and Victoria Street, to celebrate the hard work they did this summer on the new community garden. There were pumpkins to be carved, cider to be sipped, and plans to be discussed on this quiet fall day.

In June, the garden first opened with a peace pole dedication as the kick-off to Aurora/St. Anthony NDC’s Summer of Peace celebrations. On Saturday, the garden was put to bed as folks cleaned, raked and prepared for the future. This ending also was a beginning as the group planted garlic sent to St. Paul from AfroEco — a group out of Detroit, Mich., focusing on urban community gardens. The bulbs that had traveled all the way from the Motor City were aptly named Motown Garlic.

All summer long, the owners of the lot had asked residents the question, “How would you use the space?” The top answers were revealed at the Harvest Festival and included:

  • Meditating/thinking
  • Vegetable garden
  • Flower garden
  • Neighborhood events

Future conceptual plans were also shared for the garden, with landscape design ideas including mixed planting beds, apple, cherry and plum trees, plus a sitting area with benches.

With the burst in popularity of community gardens — a wonderful way to bring residents together — the Rondo Victoria Peace Garden is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. It will be very exciting to see what the future holds.

Check out the other photos from the Harvest Festival in our Flickr photostream here:

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649

Brewing Enterprise

Rondo Cafe rendering

Rondo Cafe rendering by Leetta Douglas

Rondo’s Coffee Café is the name of the new coffee shop that will be making its home in on the first floor of the Frogtown Square project at University and Dale in St. Paul.

The idea of having a coffee shop at this busy corner came from two women who grew up in the neighborhood and now work with Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. Executive Director Nieeta Presley and Board Chair Leetta Douglas also share something else in common: They both love their coffee.

Both women are also highly passionate about their neighborhood and don’t want the history of Rondo to be forgotten. In that hope they are planning to develop the coffee shop as a history lesson for visitors and walk down memory lane for locals. With few coffee shops in the area, the vision of one that the locals can call their own, and a gathering place for the seniors taking up residence in Frogtown Square, seems to make sense.

Helping Presley and Douglas get the shop up and running is Golden Thyme’s owner, Mychael Wright. Golden Thyme is a coffee shop and neighborhood gathering place on Selby Avenue. Wright has the experience and connections they are looking for to get it off the ground. The women are also looking forward to creating a few more jobs in the neighborhood.

Frogtown Square is a mixed-use development, combining commercial and residential spaces for seniors. Greater Frogtown CDC, Model Cities, Neighborhood Development Center and Aurora/Saint Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation have partnered on the project. The work at this important intersection, including the adjacent Rondo Community Library, has been funded in part by Twin Cities Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which has made a two-decade commitment to the neighborhood.
Fundraising has started for the inside décor for Rondo’s Coffee Café, with the dream of this being a place people come to either learn about Rondo or remember Rondo.

That’s where the organizers need your help. You can name a coffee, decorate a table with old photos, or have photos mounted on the 14-foot walls. The displays will tell the story of how Rondo used to be and bring back sweet memories to those who gather there over a cup of coffee and to reminisce.

“This will be a community coffee shop, and we are working to build community ownership of it,” Presley said.

To find out more about how to get involved with this project, check out Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation’s website, or call 651-222-0399, ext. 100.

Toni Carter

Toni Carter

Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter

In 1971, Toni Carter moved to Northfield, Minn. to attend Carleton College — a liberal arts school located near the Twin Cities. Upon graduating, she moved to St. Paul, where she became an active member in the community.

“As a young person coming here from Carleton, I was active in a lot of ways,” Carter said of her beginnings, “I was an artist and a performer who became very involved with theatre.”

Upon entering her mid-twenties, however, her lifestyle began to shift. “My activities changed as I grew up and had children,” Carter said, “and I became involved with business and the community in a much deeper way.” Now, after more than 30 years of service to Ramsey County, this deep involvement has not gone unnoticed.

Carter is currently the Commissioner of District 4 in Ramsey County and has been since 2005. In the years since her term began, the Commissioner has dedicated herself to a variety of issues and hopes to continue doing so through re-election in November.

One of the Commissioner’s top priorities is the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line — the transportation corridor that will link downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis. While the construction continues on this project, the Commissioner plans to focus on support for local businesses and neighborhoods, and resolve outstanding issues such as parking.

“The Light Rail Transit is really good for a number of reasons,” the Commissioner said. “We know for sure that it will create jobs — at least for a period of time.”

Other county projects that will allow for job expansion include the restoration of the Roseville Library and the creation of new buildings around the city. “We hope to have a continual flow of work in order to ensure jobs for years to come,” she said, “we want to create living wages for the people in our community.”

The Central Corridor Light Rail will also create new opportunities for quality, affordable housing — a change that can already be seen in many areas of the community. “People can see the structures being built and they get amped up because of it,” she said.

The Commissioner believes that new jobs and more housing will have a positive effect on youth in the community. “Making jobs available is key to creating a vibrant home environment,” she said. “We need to work together in order to provide the best for our children.”

One program the Commissioner uses to reach youth is the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative — a systems reform that reduces the number of detained youth in detention centers in Ramsey County. Since 2005, the number of detained youth has decreased by 70 percent. The Commissioner plans to continue building support and spreading the initiative statewide.

Along with her duties as Commissioner of District 4, Carter also serves as chair of the Association of Minnesota Counties Human Services Policy Committee, and of Ramsey County’s Legislative, Human Services and Workforce, and Juvenile Detention Alternatives Stakeholder Committees. Commissioner Carter also serves on the leadership teams of Ramsey County’s Workforce Investment Board, the Saint Paul Children’s Collaborative and the Ramsey County Children’s Mental Health Collaborative.

Twin Cities RISE!

Twin Cities RISE! St. Paul location

Twin Cities RISE! St. Paul location

About Twin cities RISE!

460 Lexington Parkway N., Saint Paul
(651) 603-0295

Open House

Twin Cities RISE! will host an open house in St. Paul Nov. 4 from 3 to 6 p.m.

As a result of extreme poverty and negative self-image, many struggle to find suitable employment. Since 1994, Twin Cities RISE! has helped to end the cycle of failure for individuals lacking education, resources and self-esteem, especially those battling with criminal histories or patterns of substance abuse. The belief at RISE! is that every person deserves a chance to soar. With a program that is free for participants, RISE! trains clients in job skills, helps them get GEDs, and places them in internships in the areas of office support, warehouse operations, and construction, with the goal of achieving permanent job placement.

Where RISE! differs from other job training programs is its focus — not strictly based on technical or “hard” skills, this program is rooted on teaching empowerment, meaning the cultivation of the “soft” skills of self-esteem, respect for self and others. Participants work one-on-one with a coach, learning skills for permanent placement in a career that pays living wages, benefits and offers opportunities for advancement. The goals are set by the clients, who learn they control their own destiny.

We spoke with both Shelly Jacobson, Chief Operating Officer, and Cynthia Micolichek, Director of Human Resources and Special Projects. Jacobson said the biggest challenge has been the time and commitment it takes to complete the program. “When you are hungry and need a job, you need a job. It is a real commitment to wait six, eight, or 18 months [clients choose from several options]. We do encourage participants to work part-time and offer day and evening classes for this reason. But people get nervous and scared,” she said. To make the program more accessible, RISE! partners with other agencies to deal with issues of transportation, childcare, housing, health and psychological care. “We want to bring positive things and be an anchor to help the community thrive,” added Micolichek.

RISE! serves those facing many obstacles with 58 percent of their clients having a criminal history. Many of the women have come from abusive relationships and are single parents. But the success rate has been astonishing with 82 percent of graduates still holding their jobs after one year, and 72 percent after two years. Graduates of the program also have an extremely low recidivism rate of 12 percent — compared to the national average of 61 percent. Even with the recent layoffs and economic downturn, RISE! steadily placed graduates in jobs in 2009 and 2010 with an average yearly income of $24,488.

“We strive to develop leaders in the community and in the marketplace. The graduates really stand out — we look for problem solvers, team players, people who seek solutions and have internal reflection,” said Jacobson. The most rewarding moment, both women agreed, is when a client achieves final job placement — a large bell rings in the hallway at RISE! to mark the occasion. “Everyone stops what they are doing and goes to celebrate,” said Jacobson, “and that is the most satisfying moment.”