There was a lot going on in the neighborhood this past year. Some highlights included having LNA leading the charge on Nicollet Votes, the continued growth of the ESL Program, graduating two cohorts from the Women’s Leadership Program, and the beginning of some interesting work on renters’ issues.
A highlightfor the year was LNA’s continued work in the Building the Field Initiative, which is a partnership of six organizations in the Twin Cities who are working to develop a framework for and to elevate community engagement on a national level. Being a part of this work has given LNA a chance to talk about the importance of neighborhoods and place making on a much larger stage and has been helping us grow as an organization.
A major highlight included LNA taking the lead on Nicollet Votes, which was an effort by four neighborhoods along the Nicollet corridor to increase voter turnout during last year’s election. In a very tough year for turnout the project was still able to have over 700 conversations with community members who contributed over 350 hours of volunteer time to the project. This work was a major step forward for the neighborhoods to engage their community members in the electoral process.
The ESL Program continued its growth going from 8,402 student contact hours in 2013 to 11,006 student contact hours in 2014. The growth included implementing a three-class schedule, holding Ready to Work: A Jobseekers Workshop, and starting to add more field trips and outside speakers.
Something that came to the forefront and became a focus of LNA’s work this year were issues that renters are having with their landlords. The main problems involve Spanish speaking renters who are having issues with their landlords who are adding extra fees and charges to their leases without clearly communicating the details of the changes in Spanish. This is causing a lot of confusion and consternation for some long-term community members whose apartment buildings have changed hands in the past few years and is starting to force some people to find new housing outside of Lyndale.
To work on these issues LNA has been convening renters every other week to learn about their rights, meet with landlords, work with other neighborhoods, and develop strategies to help people overcome these issues and find stable housing. This whole issue is being exacerbated by the tight rental market in Minneapolis, which is squeezing people who don’t have a lot of options.
This past year LNA’s full plate of community events grew significantly with the addition of Nicollet Open Streets. On a beautiful sunny day in September Nicollet Open Streets brought over 9,500 people to hang out, eat, walk, listen to music, and have fun along a two-mile stretch of Nicollet Avenue. In many ways the event was the culmination of years of work by the Lyndale and Kingfield Neighborhoods to revitalize Nicollet Avenue South of Lake Street.
Another highlight was being able to pull together the first indoor/outdoor Fish Fest at the Lyndale Community Center. With major storm clouds gathering and heavy rain in the forecast the only option for the event was to move everything indoors. To our surprise people came and had a great time eating delicious fish tacos and watching the World Cup on the big screen in the conference room.
Other events included the Open House and Dia Del Nino in the spring, a great garden tour in July, the Fall Fundraiser in September, and La Posada this past December.
A lot of time and energy this past year was spent on improving LNA’s internal systems and raising money. It was a good year for raising funds from foundations with grants coming from McKnight, Nexus Community Partners, the Minneapolis Foundation, MRAC, and the Beim, Marbrook, and Carolyn Foundation. This also included expanding our efforts to raise money from community members and local businesses, which is critical for LNA to continue to maintain our capacity over the long-term.
The internal systems work is being driven by the growth in the ESL program, which is increasing the size of LNA’s staff and an effort to better engage people around issues. As the staff and work expands its meant thinking differently about how we communicate and work with each other; while not very exciting these efforts are really important to ensuring the organization continues to operate at a high-level.
Looking back its clear that LNA was able to accomplish a lot of what we set out to do at the beginning of the year.