I found this great article on front porches and community. It is excellent.  I’ve been passing it along to lots of people.  It is especially fresh in my mind as spring is starting to finally show up.  This past weekend I actually sat on the front porch (in a folding chair) and read for a bit.  Yes, 46 is a little chilly to be just sitting in the shade of the porch, but it felt nice.  I noticed some kids I hadn’t seen before and observed neighbors and guests wandering around.

This paragraph is a great summary and alone makes some great talking points:

This intermediary social nature of the porch is its strongest asset. The porch is a physical space that is both personal to its owner and hospitable to guests and strangers. It is a threshold of community: neither a place of anonymity, nor of complete intimacy. It is a place where new connections are wrought and old connections are strengthened. One can be invited onto a front porch even as a passerby; it provides opportunities for welcoming the stranger.

What are your thoughts on the front porch?  Why has most of our culture move to the back porch?

It also brings to mind the Alan Jackson song, “Where I Come From.”

Technorati Tags: , ,

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My hometown was recently featured by National Public Radio‘s All Things Considered. It was a discussion about the economy. The story Ohio Town Weathers Recession is a good look at how smaller towns are dealing with the recession and how industry is still a major engine of our economy.

Technorati Tags: , ,

This is a video preview of an upcoming MPR project. The stats are sad, but it is the reality of our neighbors.

Here is a link to the entire project: Civil War Kids

The Immigration Policy Center published a report entitled New Americans in the North Star State in October that looked at the economic impact of immigration on Minnesota.

The summary shows that immigrants are having a positive impact on MN:

Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for large and growing shares of the economy and population in Minnesota. Immigrants make up 6.6% of the state’s population, and 42.5% of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. “New Americans”—immigrants and the children of immigrants—account for 3.5% of all registered voters in the state. Immigrants are not only integral to the state’s economy as workers, but also account for tens of million of dollars in tax revenue and consumer purchasing power. Moreover, Latinos and Asians wield nearly $10 billion in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $2.2 billion and employed more than 21,000 people at last count. At a time of economic recession, Minnesota can ill-afford to alienate such a critical component of its labor force, tax base, and business community.

The last line shows the organization and the reports bias, but here are some more numbers:

  • In the Twin Cities metro area, 138 immigrant-owned businesses created 386 new jobs and spent $5.6 million on payroll, rent, and supplies in 2002, according to a study from the University of Minnesota.
  • More than 1,000 Mexican-American businesses operated in Minnesota, generating an estimated $200 million in sales; while Latino workers employed in south-central agricultural industries added nearly $25 million to the local economy, according to a 2004 report by the Minneapolis Foundation.
  • More than 16,000 Asian-Indians living in Minnesota accounted for $500 million in consumer purchasing power, paid $5.2 million in real estate taxes and $2.3 million in rent, and owned 400 companies that employed more than 6,000 people, according to the same report.
  • Minnesota was home to 60,000 Hmong, whose businesses generated an estimated $100 million in revenue, according to the same report.
  • Minnesota is home to the country’s largest Somali population, which numbered roughly 15,000 people as of 2002. Somalis in Minnesota accounted for $164 million in buying power and owned 600 businesses as of 2006.

Can you read this sentence? Probably.  That is in part thanks to an educational system that you spent at least 12 years in.

What about your neighbor who is new to this country?  Many of our neighbors in Minneapolis struggle to read and write in English.  They have arrived for many reasons – but that isn’t important.  Despite stereotypes to the contrary, many are trying to learn English.  English is important for their survival and sense of well-being.  Actually a surprising number of “regular Americans” those who are native born with a multi-generational presence here struggle with literacy.

The Minnesota Literacy Council recently posted some statistics from a 2003 study.

The highly-regarded National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) study of 2003 reports nearly one third of Americans need help in reaching their literacy goals. The study broke literacy performance into four performance levels: below basic, basic, intermediate, and proficient. More than half of the U.S. population tested at basic or below basic proficiency levels in quantitative literacy tasks such as balancing a checkbook or comparing item process per ounce. In written literacy,

  • 14% of the population tested at below basic proficiency, meaning they had minimal to no reading and writing skills.
  • 29% tested at a basic level, meaning that they are minimally prepared to decode information in a simple pamphlet or medicine bottle.
  • 44% of adult can perform intermediate tasks, such as determining facts from reference material.
  • 13% of the U.S. population tested as proficient, meaning they are capable of reading and comparing editorial viewpoints.

As a state, Minnesota outperforms national averages; however, many Minnesotans are still tragically left behind in reaching their literacy potentials. For example,

  • 12% of Minnesotans over the age of 25 (381,345 adults) lack high school diplomas or equivalents according to the 2000 U.S. Census.
  • 8% (254,230 individuals) of Minnesota’s adult population is at the lowest of five levels of functional literacy.

With approximately 200,000 Minnesotans needing ESL classes we are happy to be able to make a small dent in that number with our Somali neighbors.

Technorati Tags: ,

For 24 hours, starting at 8:00 am on November 17th, every donation made through www.GiveMN.org will be eligible to receive a portion of the $500,000 match. These funds were contributed by the Minneapolis Foundation, St. Paul Foundation and Bush Foundation.  Also, generous funders are defraying donation processing fees on this site, so 100% of your gift goes straight to the organization!

In addition to the matching funds, the three nonprofits that receive the most individual donations will receive cash prizes: $5,000 for first prize, $2,500 for second, and $1,000 for third.

Over 36,000 organizations have a profile on the site.  So I helped narrow it down for you.  Below are 21organizations that I’ve had some interaction with and would support with my own money if I had lots and lots of it.  I threw in a random 22nd for diversity’s sake!

Youth Development

  • Longfellow United for Youth and Family have played a huge role on my work here in MN.  LUYF is a coalition of community members and churches that provide a free tutoring program and strongly support the work of the Sanford Job Corps – one of my primary responsibilites at Sanford.
  • Elpis Enterprises has been another great partner for my work in MN. Elpis or Hope provides teenagers the opportunity to gain work-related skills and leadership through screen printing and other businesses.  My first encouter with Elpis was with their bird feeder program.  We bought kits and Paul brought out one of his employees and they helped my kids build 20 bird feeders in 1 hour!
  • Achieve Minneapolis is more or less a foundation that supports programs within the Minneapolis Public Schools.  They provide grants for classrooms, teacher professional development, field trips, host career fairs, and much much more.
  • Urban Ventures is a youth leadership program located in my neighborhood that provides youth opportunities that might not otherwise get.  This includes tutoring, mentoring, family support, entrepreneurship programs and much more.
  • Best Prep does a lot of things surrounding financial education, including supplying classroom volunteers to talk about their career paths. I used them to bring in entrepreneurs to talk about their businesses and ventures they supported.
  • Junior Achievement is a better known cousin of Best Prep.  JA is best known for their Biz Town program where students visit their city and apply themselves in different roles such as CEO, Mayor, barista, etc. JA also does classroom volunteering programs in partnership with corporations.
  • YWCA provides a variety of services to pretty much every population.  They focus primarily on racial justice and empowering women and girls.  In Minneapolis they also operate 3 fitness facilities.  We are a member of the YWCA.
  • YMCA also provides a variety of services and operates a lot of fitness facilities around Minneapolis and the West Metro.  Some of our friends work for the YMCA, though none of their facilities are conveniently located for us.
  • CommonBond Communities provides affordable housing and supportive services in the Twin Cities.  I put CommonBond under youth development because I volunteered with them during the summer of my Americorps*VISTA service.  I served as a program assistant in a summer program that combined fun and learning during the afternoons for children residents of the Seward Towers.  They provide many more services to their residents.
  • Cookie Cart is an innovative teen led and run business venture in North Minneapolis.  Teens make, bake, and sell the cookies out of the West Broadway store front in the midst of a tough part of the city.
  • Search Institute is a nationally recognized leader in youth development.  Most famous for its 40 Developmental Assets I worked alot with these principles while in Indiana.  They provide resources to enable every adult to have a positive impact on the youth in their lives.
  • Bolder Options is a great youth mentoring program that connects youth and mentors through running (and biking) activities.  I would highly recommend volunteering as a mentor with Bolder Options.

Refugee Services

  • World Relief helps refugees adjust to life in Minnesota and America. This is the umbrella organization for the English literacy site that Christy and I co-coordinate.  They also provide job training, initial welcoming services, housing assistance and much more to refugees as they walk off the plane and into the sometimes harsh tundra of MN.
  • Center for Victims of Torture helps refugees and other immigrants who have been tortured in their home countries or at any point in their journey. They are a great advocate of human rights and the dignity of all peoples.
  • MN Literacy Council is probably the largest provider of literacy services in the Twin Cities and around the state.  We have attended their trainings and they are excellent.  They work with refugees, immigrants, children, adults, and families.


  • Books for Africa sends used books to African partners who have a need for books! My school donated a bunch of textbooks that we never used last year.
  • Minnesota Public Radio is a great news source for both local and national issues.  They also have a rocking music station that plays a lot of local bands.
  • Feed My Starving Children is a well-respected Christian organization that pre-packages food here in MN that then gets shipped to over 60 countries.
  • Second Harvest of the Heartland is a large food bank that is helping to end hunger in MN.  It is affiliated with the national Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest Network) and does some great work here in the Twin Cities.
  • Somali TV of MN is my random organization.
  • Citizens League is a nonpartisan grassroots organization that focuses on a civic action for policy change. Think League of Women Voters with a younger group and a focus on grassroots advocacy and information sharing.
  • Team USA – MN is a post-collegiate training center and group for runners to be coached and supported while they strive to fulfill their athletic goals.

This is part of a recent ad campaign from World Vision. It came to me via Christianity Today’s daily news e-mail.  I thought it was thoughtful and though provoking.

What are your thoughts?

Next Page »