SENA’s 20 years of accomplishments

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This is the Standish-Ericsson Neighborhood Association’s 20th year. An article in the last issue told how SENA was formed and how it developed neighborhood plans so as to get money from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. During most of those years, SENA had paid staff, but most of the work was done by volunteers working together and with other community groups on issues that residents had indicated (at meetings and through surveys) were important to them. This article looks at various activities that improved the neighborhoods and helped foster a feeling of community

One area that residents and other stakeholders (e.g., people who work or own property in the neighborhoods) have really cared about is the environment. The neighborhoods contain Sibley Park, Lake Hiawatha and its park, and a section of Minnehaha Creek—people wanted to be sure that these resources were cared for. SENA contributed to and sent representatives to the Blue Water Commission, a group that developed policies for the watershed area of the creek all along its length. The Parks and Environment Action Group educated residents about water flows in the neighborhoods and how to keep from polluting them. The group also funded the planting of native plant species next to the lake for shoreline stabilization. SENA contributed to the updating of the Lake Hiawatha playground and the remodeling of its park building. (SENA donated funds for the windows facing the lake.) For several years, a Garden Club met regularly.

Another neighborhood concern was for safety. The first action group organized around this issue was called Crime and Livability, which meant that it worked to prevent crime not only directly but also indirectly by building a sense of community that would make crime less likely. One of its early subgroups was the SENA Walkers, groups of neighbors (wearing yellow hats) who met at various times during the week to walk in the parks and along the streets picking up litter and generally keeping an eye on the neighborhoods. In 2000, the action group sponsored a program that offered small grants to homeowners to buy home and car security hardware. Over the years, when necessary, SENA has sponsored community meetings to discuss problems in the community. It also continues to have a Problem Properties group that meets with city officials about vacant or uncared for houses. To encourage neighbors to know one another and work together, SENA has helped to sponsor events such as the Lake Hiawatha Festival, the Hiawatha Heart Warmer, the Neighborhood Garage Sale, and activities at the parks. It has also joined with groups from the wider community to sponsor the Youth Opportunity Fair and the Southside Housing and Home Improvement Fair, fight airport noise, establish the Midtown Farmers Market, and, most recently, create the River-Lake Greenway for cyclists and pedestrians.

Housing is important to SENA stakeholders. An early project gave the Roosevelt Community Library money to buy books on home improvement. SENA has sponsored yearly housing grant programs, including matching grants, deferred loans, and firsttime homeowner grants, depending on the money available. Some of these grants enabled homeowners to make repairs, and others were for larger improvements (roofs, windows, sidewalks, etc.). SENA has also supported its business nodes, for example, by financially encouraging the formation of node business associations, by offering business improvement grants (for awnings, signage, and painting, etc.), and by maintaining a business directory. The West of the Rail Business Association is also a SENA-supported project.

As the financial resources available to neighborhoods decrease, SENA will not be able to directly sponsor as many projects and programs as in the past. It will still be there, however, to listen to the community and support projects and activities that arise from individuals or groups who continue to work on making this a vibrant and welcoming area.