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Non-profit boards and rotting fish

“A fish rots from the head down,” according to an old saying. The state shut down Community Action of Minneapolis (CAM), and executive director Bill Davis needs a good defense attorney, but the “head” of this and other non-profit organizations includes the board of directors. Even though CAM is dead, the problems that brought it down continue in other non-profit organizations. Continue Reading

Priscilla Aung, Hsajune Dyan, and other members of the Karen community in Minnesota eating dinner at the Karen Organization of Minnesota's 2nd Annual Gala on October 11, 2012. (Photo by Michelle Tran)

Minnesota Karen community celebrates warm St. Paul welcome

“Minnesota may be cold, but the hearts are warm,” said Priscilla Aung, one of the first Karen refugees to arrive in Minnesota more than ten years ago. Now, approximately 6,500 Karen live in the state, making St. Paul home to the fastest growing Karen population in the United States.The Karen are an ethnic group from the mountainous border region of Burma and Thailand, where they are the second largest ethnic group in each country. The community has suffered a tragic history of being persecuted by the Burmese military junta for over 60 years. Several hundred refugees from other ethnic groups in Burma, including the Kachin, Mon, and Shan, have also made Minnesota their home. Continue Reading

MAD DADS volunteers prepare food for people at the Hue-MAN's "Boys to Men" Health & Resource Fair (Photo by Michelle Tran)

Minneapolis MAD DADS make a difference

You might notice them first by the bright green t-shirts they wear on the bus, but the MAD DADS do more than just ride the Metro Transit lines. “We have a lot of programs,” said V.J. Smith, founder of the MAD DADS Minneapolis chapter, “We do street outreach, men’s empowerment, transition out of prison, community service projects, intervention programs, parent-youth relationships, and Boy Scout mentorship.”Smith founded the Minneapolis chapter of MAD DADS, or Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder, on October 3, 1998.“In 1996 and 1997, I was going through a lot of negative things in my life—abusing drugs and alcohol. But then I got connected to God and I wanted to give back to the streets because I came from the streets,” Smith explained, “So we started a chapter of MAD DADS in Minneapolis and hit the streets.”The original MAD DADS was founded in May 1989 by a group of concerned African-American men and parents in Omaha, Nebraska who were tired of seeing their community plagued with gang violence and illegal drugs. The founders presented themselves as positive role models against the negative forces destroying children, families, and neighborhoods.Last year, MAD DADS founder and national president, Eddie Stanton, died of cancer. Smith, who has received numerous awards for founding an exemplary Minneapolis MAD DADS chapter, was appointed to succeed Stanton as president of the national organization. The Minneapolis MAD DADS chapter was formed to mobilize strong, drug-free men of faith to reclaim their neighborhood, one child at a time. They have expanded to include a “Mom’s Division” as well.MAD DADS mobile outreach unit (Photo by Michelle Tran) “It’s been a beautiful thing. Continue Reading

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Untangling the web: Taxable business and tax-exempt land

The for-profit Tin Fish operates on tax-exempt Minneapolis parkland near Lake Calhoun; it will pay $7,983.44 in property taxes this year. The for-profit Kelber Catering operates in the tax-exempt Minneapolis Convention Center; it does not pay property taxes. The for-profit Sea Salt Seafood restaurant operates on tax-exempt parkland near Minnehaha Falls; it will pay $7,471.09 in property taxes this year. The for-profit Wolfgang Puck runs the upscale 20.21 Restaurant & Bar at the tax-exempt Walker Art Center; it will not pay property taxes. Confused? Continue Reading

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SNG looks to rebuild after financial collapse

Staff laid off as NRP penalty and financial problems surface
After apparently pulling itself out of debt in 2003 after the mismanagement of Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds, the Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG) once again finds itself in the red. Since July 2003, when recently resigned Executive Director Lori Stone took the helm, SNG has raised roughly a half million dollars in foundation grants, employed full- and part-time staff and managed a number of community programs.
The success has proven unsustainable, however. By mid-September — less than a month after Stone left the organization — the group’s checking account was overdrawn by $1,000, said current Board Treasurer Kevin Brown, and there was no money to meet payroll. On Sept. 14, the SNG Board of Directors was forced to lay off all its paid staff, as more and more evidence of financial trouble began to surface. Continue Reading