A New Beginning for Neighborhood House, Wellstone Mission

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“We all do better when we all do better” Those words resonated on April 29 when Neighborhood House was officially designated as a Congressional Memorial to Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife, Sheila, and renamed the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building. On April 30 the center opened its doors to a community celebration.

As speakers at the memorial event recalled the Wellstones’ lives and contributions to the community, they also described how connected their vision is to the vision of the neighborhood house. The vision of Neighborhood house is to “Be the community-building resource for an increasingly diverse Minnesota.” Over and over again the audience heard about the Wellstones commitment of community building.

Those who spoke during the dedication described a couple who were sincerely dedicated to each other and to making the world a better place. Several times during the dedication Sheila Wellstone was called the “co-senator.” U. S. Representative Jim Ramstad was the main speaker and he indicated that Sheila Wellstone was always by her husband’s side. She was an active participant in his work. Sheila Wellstone took up the cause of battered women while her husband was in office. She assisted her husband in the drafting and passage of the Violence Against Women Act. She also was involved in creating and passing other legislation focused on protecting women and children from domestic violence. On another note, on the home front, Representative Ramstad said Sheila Wellstone made ‘the best’ Lasagna.”

U.S. Representative Ramstad recalled the optimism and dedication of Senator Wellstone. Ramstad quoted some encouragement Wellstone had said to him, when they were working under a stressful situation to pass legislation, “It took 40 years to pass the civil rights act, we will get it done.”

Paul Wellstone won the congressional election, defeating political incumbent Rudy Boschwitz, in 1990. Wellstone wrote and passed reform legislation to ban gifts from lobbyists to senators and limit the influence of special interests. In his second term, he won important victories in the areas of health care reform, economic security, environmental protection, and children’s issues. He developed a national reputation for his work with veterans and mental health advocates.

The Neighborhood house facility is 93,000 square feet. It is adorned with beautiful works of art specifically commissioned to reflect the values and mission of the Neighborhood House organization.

The space will be used for meeting and gathering space for cultural, artistic, social, educational, performance, recreational, and civic activities for people of all cultural and economic backgrounds. The facility will also serve as an education and training center through on-site programming and distance learning, and will afford shared space for other organizations to provide increased access to their services.

Neighborhood house received initial funding support for the new building from the City of St. Paul through a $5.47 million commitment during then-Mayor Norm Coleman’s administration. In November 2002, they received a $10 million commitment from the federal government as a living memorial to Senator and Mrs. Wellstone. In recognition of this generous grant and the mission shared with the Wellstones to serve people with limited resources, the facility was renamed The Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building.

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