Posts Tagged ‘ Home ’

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

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.

Summer of Peace

At peace pole

Community elder, Ms. Bertha Givins, and Dan Kravetz, who came up with the idea for Summer of Peace two years ago.

For the third straight year, the Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, partnering with the Summit-University Planning Council and District 7 Planning Council, co-hosted The Summer of Peace celebration, a series of events that was the brain child of former ASANDC staffer Dan Kravetz. This “traveling block party” with events happening each Thursday, provided an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other and participate in activities benefitting the entire community. Thursday events included clean-up efforts, community gardening, live entertainment, cook-outs and the general spreading of goodwill and summer cheer.

We spoke with Irna Landrum, Executive Director of the Summit-University Planning Council, who shared some highlights from the Summer of Peace.

How did it go? It seemed like there was such a good feel to the events.

It definitely was a success, bigger than what we had done before, a bit overwhelming, but it went very well. We tried to do it a little differently, in the past it was more about getting out, seeing people and giving them information — more of a here’s where you go, here’s what you do, the food is over there kind of thing. We wanted it to be more interactive and thought it would be more successful if people could contribute and be engaged.

What were some of your favorite events?

The kickoff event was phenomenal. It was held on a vacant lot on Victoria and Concordia that had an interesting story: On that corner was a really dilapidated home. The neighbors wanted to buy and rehab it but that didn’t work out and the home was demolished. But they were able to buy the lot and wanted it to be an asset to the community. So we held the kickoff event there and did a peace pole planting and worked with a landscape designer, neighbors brought seeds and plantlings and we did a small vegetable garden right in the middle of the lot. Police officers, political candidates from the district, and lots and lots of neighbors came out to the party. It was just so awesome. The owners wanted everyone involved and asked for ideas about what could be done with the lot — they made a list: What I like to see is… and people voted.
Another great event was the forum in July with candidates from the Minnesota House of Representatives District 65A. When people start talking about politics it is easy to discount this neighborhood — people don’t turn out to vote — it seems easy to count out a community like ours. But that night we set out 50 chairs and we had to get more — nearly 60 people came out to ask the candidates questions. That was really rewarding

Also, we had a block party on Fuller Avenue at Chatsworth and Milton. We work with a group called Hearts and Hammers who help elderly and disabled homeowners rehab their houses. At that point Hearts and Hammers had done five houses on that block — now it’s up to seven.

How rewarding to see all that progress in one place.

It really was. And there was one event that just SWELLED. It started with an idea — our community organizer met this neighbor who drums, he plays the bongos and congas, and she asked if he would lead a drum circle. He said sure and then spread the word to his friends. It turned into multiple drummers, a stage and sound systems, it became a little block concert. It was a bit overwhelming, but all the neighbors had so much fun. And the original neighbor said he needed some work done on his house, and I handed him a Hearts and Hammers brochure and they ended up doing work on his house. It all fits together.

What do you see for the future? I mean after you rest up from this!

There are three community gardens all along Victoria Street in several different neighborhoods. We want to see what kind of community identity we can build along Victoria. It seems like some of the physical barriers are really big psychological barriers — the neighborhoods are very different, but it will be good to focus on what we have in common.

It seems we need a fresh perspective, it is easy to say, “Here are the challenges and difficulties,” but it is good to hear a fresh perspective of, “This is what’s beautiful!”

Brotherhood Inc.

Brotherhood-Inc

Nekima Levy-Pounds at Brotherhood Inc. gathering

The hustle and bustle on University Ave. on a Friday afternoon this summer was nothing compared to the buzz going on inside the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. The office was hosting University of St. Thomas associate law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds and the new local anti-gang initiative she is spearheading in the community.

Levy-Pounds, along with four University of St. Thomas law students and law clinic fellow Artika Tyner, is proposing a center in St. Paul devoted to serving African-American youth. The facility would act as a one-stop shop for social services and business enterprises that keep young people out of gangs. They are calling the initiative, Brotherhood Inc., and are targeting youth who have been involved in gangs or criminal activity who want to make positive changes in their lives.

The project is modeled after Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries. The St. Paul initiative has named the project Brotherhood, Inc. with “Creating Change, Transforming Lives” as its tagline. Their mission statement is just as enterprising, setting forth the goal “To enable African-American youth and young adults to envision and achieve successful futures.”
Behind the press releases, community meetings and mission statement is a real energy to get things done. UST Law’s Community Justice Project, led by Levy-Pounds, is taking a leading role in making Brotherhood Inc. a reality. Tyner and Levy-Pounds have been moved by the gang activity, educational achievement gap and high incarceration rates that plague African-Americans in St. Paul.

“It has been an awakening for me, and I now have to bring the students along,” Tyner explains. She puts stock in the unique family feel that Brotherhood Inc. is designed to create. After learning about the commitment and connection among the people at Homeboy Industries, Tyner knew the same model could make a huge impact in St. Paul.
Levy-Pounds visited Homeboy Industries in 2007, and came back with a vision of starting something similar in St. Paul. Tyner said Levy-Pounds’s enthusiasm was infectious and got her to start looking at issues in the St. Paul community.

Getting dedicated students from the CJES program was an important part of creating the momentum this project needs to get off the ground.

“We don’t teach students just to ‘think like lawyers,’” Levy-Pounds emphasizes. “I think that is a shallow definition of legal education.”

Tyner and Levy-Pounds use the classroom to get to the bottom of race and class issues that affect disenfranchised youth.

Tyner explains that instead of being overwhelmed into inaction by these large social questions, “with these students, we can change the world.”

ASANDC has been an outspoken supporter of the Brotherhood Inc. project. Executive Director Nieeta Presley says that with focused action from diverse members of the St. Paul community, Brotherhood Inc. can be a reality sooner rather than later.

Homes for All 2010

You’re invited to the Homes for All 2010 policy conference to affirm the belief that all Minnesotans deserve a safe, affordable place to call home; connect resources and stakeholders; and create sustainable communities. Homes for All 2010 features vision-setting keynote and plenary sessions, dynamic workshop sessions, and a special Governor’s Reception inviting the new Governor-elect to give his first major policy address.

Homes for All 2010 will:

  • Mobilize housing and community leaders to influence the new Governor to pursue policies that will support a vibrant and diverse Minnesota where everyone can afford to live.
  • Explore fundamental connections between housing and healthy lifestyles, school success, jobs and economic development, financial stability, transportation, and the environment.
  • Demonstrate how Minnesota can learn and gain from new federal initiatives that integrate the activities of diverse agencies to more holistically create sustainable communities.

Homes for All 2010 builds on the success and momentum of the past two conventions, held in 2002 and 2006 respectively. By bringing together Minnesota’s business community, faith communities, government agencies, nonprofits, philanthropic community, elected officials, and concerned citizens, Minnesotans can take action on solutions that will achieve homes for all throughout the state.

Register online (get the Early-bird rate) and view a detailed conference agenda. Don’t delay—prices increase on Oct. 9. (Registration Fee: $50 on or before Oct. 8; $65 after) Please note: Limited scholarships are available. Click here for more information.

Homes for All 2010 is co-hosted by Minnesota Housing Partnership and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, and supported by a strong network of housing and community building organizations throughout Minnesota.

Energy Bill Savings Coming to Your Doorstep

Public domain photo of solar meterThe Neighborhood Energy Connection, a local nonprofit agency, will be door-knocking in Frogtown this week. Between August 4th -10th, they’ll be signing up residents for their Home Energy Squad program. A visit from the Home Energy Squad is the easiest, fastest and most effective way to start saving on utility bills. The Squads will install key energy-saving products in your home, such as exterior door weather stripping, a programmable thermostat, a new showerhead and bathroom and kitchen faucet aerators. Residents who schedule a Home Energy Squad appointment will receive a discounted Home Energy Squad visit. You can save money on your bills and save energy resources for the planet!

For more information on the Home Energy Squads and the Neighborhood Energy Connection, visit them on the web. Or watch the campaign roll out on the Neighborhood Energy Connection’s Facebook page!

Energy Smart Homes

City of St. Paul LogoThe City of Saint Paul has launched the $550,000 Energy Smart Homes loan and rebate initiative that will provide Saint Paul residents with the tools to lower energy consumption and cut costs.

By renovating our homes and replacing old appliances, a person will save money and decrease energy usage in Saint Paul. This is one more way the City is improving building efficiency, lowering energy costs, and protecting our environment while solidifying Saint Paul as a national leader in environmental sustainability.

This initiative is made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Energy Smart Homes will provide funding for energy-saving improvements to houses and apartment buildings, thereby lowering monthly utility bills to residents, strengthening the City’s tax base, and reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Energy Smart Homes will also create jobs, a key component of ARRA, by creating a need for contractors, including heating and insulation contractors.

Energy Smart Homes is a two-pronged initiative. $500,000 will be used to make no-interest loans up to $6,500 to homeowners to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. These funds will also leverage Xcel Energy rebates. Prior to making the improvements, each home will undergo a home energy audit to identify the greatest needs.

Eligible expenses may include furnace replacement, insulation and air sealing.

Saint Paul homeowners of all incomes are eligible to apply, though incomes will affect the loan amounts and other initiative requirements.

Another aspect of the initiative is “Cool Cash for Cold Clunkers,” which consists of cash rebates for owners of apartment buildings in Saint Paul who replace old inefficient refrigerators in their rental units with new ENERGY STAR refrigerators.

By replacing a refrigerator from the 1980s with an ENERGY STAR refrigerator could save as much as $100 each year on utility bills.

Energy Smart Homes will provide up to ten $200 rebates to owners of apartment buildings. And while the building owner will benefit from the cash rebates, many tenants will realize the monthly savings resulting from lower utility bills.

Pre-applications must be postmarked by June 11. Individuals will be selected by June 17. Selected homeowners seeking funds for energy-saving improvements will be invited to complete a full application and selected apartment building owners seeking refrigerator rebates will be notified and informed of the process for receiving their rebates.

If you would like more details, including eligibility conditions and other requirements, go to www.stpaul.gov or call 651-266-6655 for a pre-application.

On a related note, if you are a non-profit, neighborhood or business association, you may be able to take advantage of our new Energy Challenge Grants initiative. The initiative will give non-profit organizations, neighborhood and business associations the opportunity to receive Federal stimulus funds for projects that will assist Saint Paul residents and businesses in reducing their energy use and climate change impact.

Organizations must utilize the funds for projects that promote either the Neighborhood Energy Connection’s Home Energy Squads, Center for Energy and Environment’s One-Stop Efficiency Shop Program, the Minnesota Energy Challenge or other successful cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation programs.

Eligible applicants may request up to $5,000 for projects completed by June 30, 2011. Applications for the Energy Challenge Grants must be received by June 14, 2010.

For profit businesses are not eligible.

If you are interested in this initiative, visit the Sustainable Saint Paul website at: www.stpaul.gov/sustainability or call 651-266-8520.