2009 end of year letter

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Summary of the block club's activities in 2009.


  • Margaret Rec Center Block Club798 East Seventh Street

    Saint Paul, MN 55106

    January 18, 2010

    Dear Friends of the Margaret Rec Center Block Club,

    Thank you for your continued partnership with our Block Club. As you know, the Margaret Rec Center Block Club is comprised of community-minded members who actively engage with one another to promote a positive, healthy environment for all residents. Despite the dismal economy and miserable housing market, we remain steadfastly hopeful about the very tangible, very positive changes we see taking shape all around us. As we close 2009's chapter, join us as we reflect on our collective efforts over the last year and look to 2010.

    Margaret Rec Center Block Club members and neighbors served by the Margaret Rec Center were asked to participate in the process of vetting a suitable partner for the rec center property. After months of conversations, Hmong Youth Education Services (HYES) was selected as the best partner for the rec center. HYES focuses on mentorship and education, which is right up our alley. We look forward to building a strong relationship with HYES, and we're honored to welcome our new neighbors.

    We pulled off another well-attended National Night Out event last summer. We're proud that our efforts contributed to St. Paul's number-one ranking for 2009 by the National Association of Town Watch Organization. We also organized an ice skating party last winter on the flooded Margaret field, but the weather proved too mild to keep the rink naturally frozen. Thankfully, fast-thinking Assistant Director Will Xiong transformed the outdoor party into an impromptu pizza/hockey party in the Margaret gym.

    Last year, we submitted an official Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) project proposal requesting funding to assess the health, safety, and functionality of the current Margaret Rec Center building. Our efforts concluded with Co-Chair Jennifer Herman delivering a phenomenal presentation to the CIB Facilities Task Force. Although our proposal didn't make the city's final budget, we were proud that our project ranked tenth out of more than 50 proposals.

    Co-Chair Chris Newton continues to document graffiti in the neighborhood. We're happy to report that there is noticeably less graffiti in general. Thank you, Chris, for tirelessly volunteering your time and technical expertise, rain or shine (or with wind chills in the negative double-digits). Your persistence is paying off.

    A group of Block Club board members and concerned neighbors have been meeting semi-regularly with members of the City Council, Mayor's office, and a variety of city agencies to find strategies for more efficiently and effectively addressing persistent community-degrading issues that plague our neighborhood. We look forward to more conversations in the year ahead.

    Board Member Tim Herman has been a driving force behind the formation of the Dayton's Bluff Business Association, which is scheduled to launch in early 2010. This group will strengthen and celebrate our local entrepreneurs, as well as draw traffic from other areas into our neighborhood to conduct legitimate business. Tim also continues to serve as the District 4 Business Representative with the advisory committee for the 3M redevelopment planning team.

    Regrettably, our neighborhood has played weary host to several murders in the last year, in addition to other types of crime. Neighbors know firsthand how corrosive these events are to our community as a whole and also how alienating they are to each and every individual within our community. We continue to share firsthand experience and personal impact by submitting Community Impact Statements for consideration by Judges presiding over cases involving crimes in Daytons Bluff. Co-Chair Chris Newton and Treasurer Jennifer Marcus Newton are now serving as facilitators with the newly formed East Side Restorative Justice group, which works with first-time, non-juvenile offenders of non-felony crimes committed within our community. This is another method for addressing the far-reaching impact of crime upon our community, as well as a rare opportunity to directly repair the harm done.

  • Block Club members continue to lend a hand in the development of Skidmore Park Community Garden located at 1085 Fourth Street East. After a few years of what seemed like endless paperwork, we officially broke ground this year, planted the long-anticipated front row of native beds, built a center bed using vintage pavers, and got a water hookup. Youth and teen groups from nearby recreation centers have provided hours of help by digging, clearing, weeding, planting, and watering. The best part of working with neighborhood kids is the moment when we get to say: This belongs to you and here's how you take care of it. And for the third consecutive year, the St. Paul Hotel generously passed along its early spring pansies to the Margaret Rec Center. In a cold climate, pansies serve as a powerful message of hopehope that spring will eventually arrive and that winter's grip will weaken. And every year, these pansies bring neighborhood kids, rec center staff, and Block Club members together in a frenzy of weed pulling, hole digging, flower planting, and general merrymaking.

    And as we all know, idle hands often lead to trouble, so our Block Club got busy as soon as spring arrived by organizing monthly street cleanups. Some of our most intriguing finds: $20 (which quadrupled our Block Club bank account), a bevy of used and extremely personal items (e.g., diapers, tampons, and condoms), about 40 lbs. of cigarette butts, and a dismembered superhero action figure. We'll resume these efforts again next spring.

    In addition to our current routine of delivering recycling bins and Dayton's Bluff welcome bags to new neighbors, we plan to focus our efforts in the coming year on growing our Block Club membership core and increasing our pool of community volunteersidle hands might lead to trouble, but many hands make light work.

    We thank you for your continued support, partnership, and interest in our Block Club and community. We hope youll join us for a meeting when youre in the neighborhood. We meet the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 PM at 1109 Margaret Street (Margaret Rec Center). You can also follow us on Facebook (Margaret Rec Center Block Club -and- Skidmore Park Community Garden).

    Heres to positive change for the benefit of all in 2010 and beyond.

    Best regards,

    The Margaret Rec Center Block Club