Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Health care programs are available now

For many, there is no need to wait for the major Health Care Reform changes coming in 2014; programs are available now.

Recently, much attention has been paid to the federal Health Care Reform legislation passed earlier this year. While a lot of information is coming out about what changes will be happening, when, and how they will affect each of us, it’s still pretty murky for most to understand.

One important fact being overlooked is that publicly funded health care programs are available NOW to those who qualify. Many are eligible for these programs and could have coverage in a relatively short time if they had more information and help with the application process.

MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance are two low-cost and free programs currently available to families and individuals. They are designed for moderate to lower income households who do not have insurance offered or cannot afford the cost of family coverage through an employer, have experienced job loss, or have significant on-going medical expenses.

The good news is that FREE help is available locally through the Health Care Access Office to determine which programs people may qualify for and assist with the application process. The friendly staff can also help apply to other health coverage programs, such as assistance with past medical bills, prescription medications, eye exams and glasses, as well as provide referrals to other local resources.

The Health Care Access Office is located in the Lake Superior Community Health Center at 4325 Grand Avenue in West Duluth (call 218-722-9650). Formerly located at Lake Avenue and 5th Street in Central Hillside, the Health Care Access Office continues to serve ALL area residents from the Grand Avenue location. It is on the bus line and open Monday through Friday. A second site at 3600 Tower Avenue in Superior serves Wisconsin residents (call 715-392-1955).

In addition to helping with health coverage, the Lake Superior Community Health Center provides sliding fee medical, dental, and counseling services to all ages looking for affordable care. Those without health insurance are most welcome. If insured, that will be billed.

Staying healthy and having insurance coverage to take care of your family’s health needs reduces stress and leads to a happier life. Kids who have their health needs met are better learners in school.

For many, there is no need to wait for the major Health Care Reform changes coming in 2014; programs are available now. Call to see how the Health Care Access Office and Lake Superior Community Health Center can help you or someone you know.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant brings jobs

Greener and cleaner for all generations

by Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff

On October 19, three Duluth area agencies were named to receive $1.2 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants. The GLRI is a $475 million fund announced by President Obama in early 2010 to target the most serious threats to the Great Lakes, including invasive species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) was awarded $411,680 for cleanup and restoration of toxic hot spots in the St. Louis River Area of Concern. The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) received $193,432 for restoring 200 acres of moose foraging habitat near wetlands in the Lake Superior Uplands. Community Action Duluth was awarded $636,365 to restore urban riparian zones and implement critical habitat restoration projects in the St. Louis River Area of Concern.

I attended the ceremony beside the lake at the DECC where Cameron Davis of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the recipients. At first I thought he was from our local office, but later realized that the national head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, had appointed him Senior Advisor on Great Lakes issues in 2009. I was impressed that someone that high up in the agency would stop in Duluth to make the announcement.

Davis said there are many ecological and economic threats to the great lakes. “The GLRI is an investment back into the Great Lakes,” he said. “It is a new standard of care to proactively leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation.”

Congressman James Oberstar, who also attended the announcement, said, “Duluth is the personification of the Great Lakes.” He added, “Minnesota has a unique responsibility to protect the water. We owe it to the next generation.” It is good to hear politicians connect the health of the environment to the health of current and future generations.

While I think all of the organizations receiving the grants are doing important work in restoring and protecting Lake Superior, for me the organization with the most intriguing use of the grant is Community Action Duluth. Angie Miller, executive director, said the grant will be used to create green jobs for six unemployed or underemployed people. Community Action Duluth will be partnering with the St. Louis River Alliance to combine work on anti-poverty and environmental issues in Duluth.

In part, I may be intrigued by this use of the grant because I am a recent graduate and know how difficult it can be to find a job. But I also believe that in order for our world to be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, we need to kick-start the shift from large numbers of unemployed people to people employed in green jobs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Buy your gifts locally this year, attend these there fairs

GET IT LOCAL Gift Fair Dec. 4 (Sat) 10 - 3 p.m.
Peace Church, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E.
Over 30 Twin Ports artists & nonprofits. *Please Bring to Donate: New or
gently used Children’s (picture) books (Red Book Shelf /United Way) and/or
Hygiene products (Salvation Army)

GET GREAT STUFF Gift Fair Dec. 7 (Tues) 4 - 8 p.m
Duluth Cong. Church, 3833 E. Superior St. Over 20 wonderful artists.
* Reading s by Lake Superior Writers

NEIGHBOR-MADE Gift Fair Dec. 11 (Sat) 10 - 3 p.m.
St. Michael’s Church, 4901 E. Superior St. Come to this new GLOCAL fair.
Mostly local with some items from our global neighbors. (fair trade,
supporting villages around the world in need)

FMI– Local art & gift fairs throughout the year.

Mark Engebretson hired as CHUM employment case management program manager

Mark Engebretson is CHUM’s new Employment Program Case Manager. CHUM’s Employment Program began in 2007 as a pilot project, and the success of the program led to the extension of the Duluth At Work Collaborative. For the past three years, CHUM has quietly worked with employers willing to hire entry-level workers who would be extensively supported by a CHUM social worker.

The program has seen tough times as the unemployment rate has risen, but with the addition of Mark the Employment Program team is now poised to begin working even more closely with employers.

The Employment Program uses a variety of teaching and mentoring techniques to help those seeking CHUM services become work hardened and enter the workforce successfully. “We have adults willing and able to work,” Engebretson explained, “but they need help learning interviewing skills, completing applications, and just generally being supported.

To those who have had difficult life journeys, confidence-building is important as they begin to apply for jobs.” Currently Engebretson is visiting employers, explaining how the CHUM Employment Program works and how the program can assist them in meeting their goals. CHUM not only assists through the hiring process but over the long term to ensure successful employment.

Traditionally, CHUM fills its own entry-level positions with former clients. “We believe in a living wage and promote the employment of our neighbors who live in poverty and have been homeless. Employment is a critical step towards becoming self-sufficient,” explains Jim Soderberg, CHUM Executive Director.

Mark has worked in programs with youth and as a homeless advocate for 15 years. Having explored poverty from every angle, he has the perfect set of skills and interests to fulfill his new role at CHUM.

For more information on the CHUM Employment Program, contact CHUM at 218-720-6521.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sunny Helbacka, West Duluth Neighborhood Hero

Described as a neighborhood visionary, Sunny Helbacka’s investment of time, energy and resources in West Duluth led him to be recognized as West Duluth’s 2010 Neighborhood Hero.
Helbacka’s contributions to the community have promoted healthy lifestyles, especially for children. He retired from the City of Duluth in 2007 after 31 years as a recreation specialist.

From helping to establish West Duluth’s soccer program, the Duluth Community Sailing program, and Duluth Table Tennis Club to promoting hockey, speed skating and the Special Olympics, he’s had a hand in it. He has spent many hours championing these events and fondly shares how he spent many evenings chaperoning neighborhood children. Through a community service program for minors, Helbacka mentored kids and supervised their required hours of restitution to the community.

As an avid bicyclist, he worked on a comprehensive plan for new bike trails throughout Duluth, including the Western Waterfront Trail. Mayor Fedo presented him an award recognizing his dedication to the bike trails. Helbacka was involved in the design and the implementation of the Far West Collaborative.

This brought together the City’s park department, Duluth Public Schools, nonprofits, St. Louis County social services, UMD recreation sports program and the community clubs to form programs in environmental adventure recreation. He also played a significant role in the development of the Valley Youth Center/Copeland Community Center’s expanded programs.

“From the time I was 15, Sunny was a mentor to me,” says Angelo Simone, West Duluth resident and Site Director of Valley Youth Center at Copeland. “He gave me a chance, taught me how to respectful and kept me on the right track; I would not be here today without him.”
Sunny and his wife Michelle live in lower Smithville on the St. Louis River surrounded by beautiful gardens they custom designed. Their gardens are listed on the registration for Monarch Butterfly Wayside. They have three grown children and two Newfoundlands.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Duluth’s Very Own Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

left: Sign for the museum right out front of the Duluth location on 1st Street, which is right next store to St. Luke's.

By: Sam Elmquist

The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum can only be found in six states: They have two locations in New York, one in California, one in Washington, one in Florida, another in South Carolina and finally one in our very own Duluth, Minnesota. The museum was founded by David Karpeles, a Duluth native who graduated from Denfield High School. It was after he had moved away and founded a few other Karpeles museums that he decided to bring one back to his hometown.

The museums are committed to the preservation of original hand written drafts, letters, and documents from important persons in history, which are then kept as references for scholars and students. At their web site you can find their entire collection of manuscripts, including such things as the proposal draft of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution of the Confederate States of America.

Its address in Duluth is 902 E. 1st Street and it is open Thursday through Sunday from 12-4pm, always free of charge. Since Karpeles does not live in Duluth he leaves the museum responsibilities up to others. The director is Lee Fadden, the curator is his wife Karen Fadden, and the associate curator is Don Pinther. Right now at the museum they have an interesting collection of documents relative to Darwin and the Theory of Evolution.

The exhibit started in September and goes on through the rest of November and December. The museum is unique in the fact that all they exhibit are their preserved handwritten documents of Authors, Scientists, Philosophers, Statesmen, Sovereigns and Leaders from various periods in World History. Particularly for the Darwin exhibit, there are documents by Darwin and other scholars of his time concerning his discoveries in evolution and natural selection, including his grandfather’s early works in evolution.

The writings you see there are not purely limited to scientific works relating to Darwin and his theories, but also include personal letters of Darwin that talk about his thoughts concerning his critics and his inspirations. The location is small but filled with information and we are fortunate here in Duluth to have direct access to the Karpeles Museum and its wonderful exhibitions.

Check out their website for more information, not only regarding their manuscript collection, but their art collections, information about their other locations, programs that the museum offers, and links to other sites like the National Archives website (

left: Layout of one side of the exhibit, each display has an original handwritten document illuminated and described.

Carl Nelson, Morgan Park Neighborhood Hero

A proud and dedicated member of the Morgan Park community, Carl Nelson moved from across the St. Louis River to the Riverfront Community in 2003. He, along with his wife, Debbie Isabell Nelson, participates in nearly every community event and program. His infectious smile, love for the community, open arms to new community members, and quiet leadership have made him a pillar of the community. While his selfless commitment often goes unnoticed, Carl has never been one to seek praise or recognition.

Carl is a diehard Packers fan, poet, and author of Packers “Verses” Vikings, a collection of his football-related poetry. Carl also spent 24 years working at St. Luke’s Hospital as a Staff Nurse and Staff Development Facilitator. Often a behind-the-scenes worker in the community, Carl ensures that events run smoothly and takes initiative to get things done.

He often writes articles and songs about Duluth and Morgan Park, and creates photo displays for the Community Club, NHS, and Duluth LISC. Whether he is mowing neglected boulevards, working with his close personal friend Santa Claus at the annual Breakfast with Santa, Citizen Patrolling, picking up litter, or inspiring Morgan Park Middle School students, Carl goes the extra mile every time.

Carl has been involved with the “Mini Makeover” in Morgan Park, the U.S. Steel landmark gears project, the new playground initiative, Morgan Park Service Learning, the Disc Golf course, and “Everybody Outside”, a partnership with UMD.

Carl’s enthusiasm, hard work, and kind spirit has inspired countless Morgan Parkers to help clean up Morgan Park, improve community gardens, plan for the future of the neighborhood, and inspire the next generation to take hold of their futures. He’s a firm believer in Morgan Park and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sandy Winklesky, Lincoln Park Neighborhood Hero

“Most of us have to run to keep up with her,” Pam Kleinschmidt, Captain of the Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol, said of Sandy Winklesky, “She is always engaged in community service projects.” A member of Harrison Community Club, Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol, and Asbury United Methodist Church, Sandy is always on the go. Whether she’s picking up litter, reading to the visually impaired at Lighthouse for the Blind, helping coordinate Lincoln Park’s Funfest at the Community Center, or citizen patrolling the community.

For nearly 45 years, Sandy and her husband, Gary, have lived in Lincoln Park, hosting National Night Out block parties for over 30 years in their large yard. Recently retired from a 27-year career at St. Louis County’s Public Assistance and Child Support divisions, Sandy is busier than ever volunteering at her church, helping first graders every Thursday at Lincoln Park School, delivering Meals on Wheels each Wednesday, and simply helping out her neighbors whenever she can.

Sandy has taken it upon herself to refurbish many of Lincoln Park’s fire hydrants. Usually buying the paint herself and working in her spare time, Sandy has repainted over 80 fire hydrants to spruce things up and convey a positive image of the community. She brings a cart of supplies with her as she paints, picking up litter all the while.

Beyond maintaining a Caring Bridge website for her disabled daughter, Sandy makes time nearly everyday to visit her. She also volunteers regularly at her church’s events. By her own admission, Sandy “likes everybody”. She steers conversations in a positive way, stressing workable solutions, and bringing out the best in everyone - and she follows up with action.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Over 800 Thanksgiving meals packed for the homebound

Scott Yeazle... Serving the Twin Ports

One of my favorite events of the year as I advocate for those in poverty and at risk of homelessness is volunteering for the DECC Thanksgiving dinner.

This will be the 21st Thanksgiving buffet at the DECC and my third year volunteering to help serve. It is a wonderful time to celebrate the year with good people. A group from Twin Ports Action Coalition gathers on Wednesday to assist with food preparation. We pack nearly 800 meals for the homebound. It is satisfying to know that people who are in need and not able to come down to the DECC will still be able receive a meal.

Friday, Nov. 19, brings another event I love, as the annual Christmas City of the North parade goes through downtown. This is a parade where coffee and hot chocolate are more important than pop or lemonade. Bands come out to play, clubs and organizations create awesome floats, and all kinds of folks come out to watch and sometimes freeze. Duluth is an amazing city and it is nice to live in the heart of it.

Now, after the election is over and you have cast your vote, don’t forget to call your newest elected officials and tell them what you would like to see happen. The elected officials work for you; if you don’t talk to them then they will not know your feelings. Voting is only the first step.

The holidays are coming quickly, along with a change in the weather. It’s time to button up the jackets and remember the mittens and hats. Remember, the Damiano Center and the Salvation Army will take any extra mittens, coats and hats to distribute to people in need.
Stay warm and safe when the snow comes and even before.


Yeazle is active in many community-based organizations. He is the chair of TPAC, a board member of Duluth Neighborhood Housing Services, vice-president of the Hillsider board, treasurer of the Central Hillside Community Club, serves on the Human Rights Commission, and is active in many other committees working to eradicate poverty and injustice.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sunday, November 07, 2010

MCCU Duluth-Central Branch Closure

Members Cooperative Credit Union Closes Duluth-Central Branch
By: Sam Elmquist

The Members Cooperative Credit Union is a credit union with character and personality, for us in Duluth it is a bank that you can trust but unfortunately its branch in the hillside has closed down. On October 28, the President and CEO of MCCU, Tammy Heikkinen, issued a press release announcing the closure of there Duluth-Central branch, which was located on Fourth Street next to the Whole Foods Co-Op.

Apparently, says the press release, their had been problems with the building in the past that were dealt with as they arose, but last week Heikkinen said in the press release, “The recent rainstorm caused substantial water damage, to the point that the building is now beyond repair. We will not risk the safety of our staff and our membership.” The staff from this branch thankfully got to keep their jobs and were dispersed among there other branches in Duluth. Their location at Miller Hill, 1600 Miller Trunk Hwy, and there location in Spirit Valley, 216 N. 40th Ave. West, are still open to there members despite the inconvenience of losing the Hillside location.

I attempted to get in touch with MCCU in an effort to get some more information about the credit unions previous infrastructure issues, but was unable to get much from them in time for this blog post.Fortunately though I was able to get in touch with Mona Cheslak, an East Hillside resident and Community Club President.

As a member of MCCU and advocate for the Hillside she had some concerns about the credit union's closure. The loss of MCCU in the Hillside means more then just a loss for the members of the credit union it also means another closed-down building in our area left to stagnate, which does not help Cheslak and those concerned for the improvement of the Hillside. “There has been a movement to rebuild the Hillside for years.” says Cheslak. People are concerned for the feeling of the Hillside, not just for the MCCU.

She spoke about the comfortable feeling of the credit union, for instance the fact that the credit union had no drive-through and that you had to go in and talk to the bankers, meant something to her and to the other Hillside members. “Were a part of that membership,” says Cheslak. The credit union offers something more personal then other banks and the loss of the central branch will be felt. Cheslak thinks that “It’s a great loss to the Hillside.” It is going to be difficult for members of MCCU, like Cheslak, to remain committed to the bank because of its removal from the Hillside, which is too bad because of what the bank means to its members and to the Hillside as a community. The other locations range so far from the former Duluth-Central branch that it is easy to foresee its inevitable affects on its members, hopefully things remain positive for MCCU and its members.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Perspectives from the Lincoln Park Patrol

The Internet is a valuable tool, but parents and other adults need to be aware of its hazards so that they can help children and teens to stay safe

By Pam Kleinschmidt

At the City Wide Crime Prevention Meeting at Holy Family Catholic Church last month, Sgt. Nicolas Alexander from the Superior Police Department provided a riveting presentation on the dangers the Internet can pose to children as they explore the cyber world.
Alexander said that children and teenagers are sometimes interested and curious about sexually explicit web pages on the Internet.

According to the FBI Parental Guide on Internet Safety, “They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs.

Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by on-line offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.”

To illustrate the reality of this danger, Alexander went online in an Internet chat room posing as a 14-year-old girl. Chat windows, calling cards from predators, began to pop up, filling the computer screen. Each new chat message window that opened warned of a hungry wolf appearing to prey on an unattended lamb.

The reality was terrifying and left many of us talking about the experience for weeks afterward. It took less than 10 minutes of online chat for a child predator fully aware of “Autumn’s” age to expose himself to “her” via web cam.

The Internet is a valuable tool for us all. Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook provide all of us with marvelous opportunities to exchange information and reach out and connect with others. The information highway is safer to navigate when aware of the hazards, but it is challenging to stay ahead of the criminals who wish to exploit us.

Below you will find some online resources provided by those dedicated officers from the Superior Police Department and the FBI.

Internet Safety Web Sites
A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety, US Department of Justice, FBI-Publications

Kleinschmidt is a member of the Lincoln Park Citizens Patrol. To learn more about the LPCP phone 218-722-7178 or search for Lincoln Park Citizen Patrol on Facebook.

Rainbow Center hosts open house and art show Tuesday, Nov. 9

Join the Rainbow Community Center for refreshments and prize drawings throughout the day on Tuesday, November 9 as they host an open house and art show. The event will take place at 211 N. Third Street from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Locally made arts and crafts, pottery, and jewelry will be available in time for holiday gift-giving. Jewelry and art demonstrations will be held all day long, and local musicians will perform at 1 p.m. Patrons can also visit the Treasure Chest Store to find hidden treasures at low prices.

The public is encouraged to visit and use the many activities the Rainbow Community Center has available, including a computer center, an art therapy room, and the AEOA dining program. For more information please contact Cathie McGovern at 218-727-8147.

Sandy Robinson, East Hillside Neighborhood Hero

For over 30 years, Sandy Robinson has been an involved member of the Hillside community. A founding member of what became the Hillsider newspaper, Sandy is also a member of the East Hillside Community Club, a founding leader of Campus Neighbors, a member of the Hillfest Planning Committee, past President of the Board of Directors at Neighborhood Housing Services, and a participant in countless neighborhood planning initiatives and studies. Overall, Sandy is well known and respected throughout Duluth as a strong leader of the Hillside community.

Sandy moved to the East Hillside in 1979, renting an apartment overlooking Portland Square. A single parent and licensed foster parent, she worked part time and received partial public assistance. After a few years, Sandy began working full time, bought the triplex she was renting in, and got involved with Hillside community efforts. She operated the Portland Square water fountain for years, resolving conflicts in the park and handing out ice cream cones on hot days. After 25 years, Sandy moved four blocks away with her husband, Paul. She recently retired from a long career as a St. Louis County social worker.

In an effort to beautify an East Hillside park, Portland Square, Sandy coordinated a Community Development Block Grant application and arranged for the trees that now tower above this revitalized park, as well as a “Tot Lot” playground for young children. As landlord of several Hillside properties, including her original triplex, Sandy has worked to set an example of excellence in rental properties.

Over the years, Sandy has served on the School District’s Desegregation Advisory Committee, the Hillside Business Association, the East Hillside Community Club, the Head Start Policy Committee, the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, the Planning District 6 Neighborhood Coalition, and the Neighborhood Moms Potluck Club.

Gene Johnson McKeever, Central Hillside Neighborhood Hero

“Kids have always been in my life,” Gene Johnson McKeever says and her decades of service to Duluth’s youth have certainly shown that. As one of Duluth’s longest serving volunteers, Gene is always eager to help bring art, life, and laughter to the community she loves.

Raised in North Dakota, Gene moved to the Hillside and has lived here for over 40 years. After sending her six children to college, she decided to go herself, graduating from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Gene worked for Duluth’s Parks & Recreation Department for many years, coordinating youth programs from across Duluth and often bringing her grandchildren to help. She finished her career at Neighborhood Youth Services, retiring three years ago. Herb Bergson, then Mayor of Duluth, proclaimed June 18, 2007 as Gene McKeever Day in honor of her many years of service.

Gene has volunteered with the Central Hillside Community Club, Duluth Head Start, the NAACP, Life House, St. Mark AME Church, and several block clubs over the years. She formed the Hillside Garden Society, organized many National Night Out celebrations and a support group for fellow parents, advocated bringing the Washington Studios Artists Cooperative to the Hillside, organized cleanups, and has mentored several young mothers over the years. One year, Gene even gave Christmas lights to all her neighbors on Lake Avenue to light up the hill.

Growing up with parents that were always volunteering, Gene feels their civic engagement rubbed off on her. An avid photographer, she enjoys capturing the many beautiful moments of the Hillside and often displays her work in the Central Hillside Community Center and the Damiano Center, both focal points of the neighborhood. She thrives on the diversity of the Hillside and feels connected to Lake Superior. Loved and respected by generations of Hillsiders, whose lives she has touched over the years, Gene continues to teach, mentor, and live.