Relocating to a new city can be overwhelming as new residents try to learn their new whereabouts. In Worthington, new residents are introduced to the Worthington Concierge. The Concierge is, “a friendly face to the community that…shows you what we’ve got in our assets and how they align with the lifestyle that you envision for yourself,” explains Jason Brisson, Director of Community and Economic Development. The concierge can help with housing, education, jobs, and even hobbies, and then when residents arrive, they are taken out to lunch and are given a personalized tour of the community. This feature of Worthington helps new residents feel more at home and is a way to get them involved with the community early on. The information is also provided in Spanish as 35% of the city’s population speaks Spanish.
Multigenerational living is common among immigrant populations and the city of Eden Prairie now has over 24% people of color, many of whom are new immigrants. As a way to engage the immigrant senior population, the city uses city buses to transport older immigrants to the Senior Center after hours so they could experience it on their own pace. Once seniors felt comfortable in the space, they felt more confident in attending activities during regular hours, participating with fellow seniors of diverse backgrounds in woodworking, card games, trips, tours, health and wellness classes, and much more. This initiative aligns with new discourses around ageing that have redirected policy discussion from economic or welfare issues to social inclusion, and engagement (Lui, Everingham, Warburton, Cuthill, & Bartlett, 2009).
Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) is a non-profit that focuses on hunger relief for children all over the world. Community volunteers typically pack meals at one of their warehouse locations. However, FMSC also goes “mobile” as part of the MobilePack event where supplies and staff move closer to communities. An example is the HealthEast Sports Center’s 90,000-square-foot indoor field house in Woodbury, where over 25,000 community members will prepare 5 million meals to combat global hunger. “We can mobilize volunteer groups and partners and come together to build community around this social need, and it really started from…. how do we build community,” reflects Janelle Schmitz, Assistant Community Development. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 35.4% of Minnesota residents volunteer, ranking Minnesota 2nd among the country for its volunteer rate.
Little Earth is a planned urban housing development that includes apartments, townhomes, and other amenities, located south of downtown Minneapolis in the East Phillips neighborhood. Founded in 1973 with the intent to offer affordable housing for the city’s Native American population, it is the only Native American preference project-based Section 8 rental assistance community in the United States. The Little Earth Urban farm uses community gardens to foster interaction among community members as well as increase access to healthy food choices for the entire Little Earth community.
The Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis offers an indoor atrium and an outdoor plaza, equipped to host gallery exhibits as well as performances. The Summer on the Plaza series runs June through August with musicians, dancers, education workshops, etc. The Hennepin Gallery exhibits are part of the county’s commitment to serve the community with a variety of fine arts and educational displays. Examples range from the Celebrating Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month to the “8030 Project,” a photograph installation that was created as a community participatory public art project to raise awareness of the estimated 22 U.S. veterans and soldiers who commit suicide every day.
Hennepin County Government Center
Photo credit: Hennepin County Communications
One of Saint Paul’s most historic neighborhoods and a thriving African American community, the Rondo neighborhood was severed in the 1950’s due to the construction of Interstate 94. Currently, Rondo is part of the Summit-University Neighborhood and is home to approximately 17,002 residents, two-thirds of whom are renters, many below poverty levels (Minnesota Compass, 2014). Residents believe that increased social interaction between youth and elders can aid youth advancement. Front porches can act as intergenerational building blocks that help foster community connections and keep youth out of trouble.
Phrase Books are used by city inspectors to help break down language barriers and facilitate easy communication between residents and the city. In 2016, 65.8% of Hopkins’ residents were renters. Of those renting, many were first generation immigrants. “The phrase book contains commonly used phrases in various languages and allows effective communication between a resident and the city when there are issues in inspections,” explains Mayor Cummings. “In addition to the phrase book, the city of Hopkins offers community mediation services to help with culturally sensitive problem solving between neighbors and property owners.” The phrase books help bridge often difficult gaps between residents and city staff, allowing relationship-building in a way that acknowledges immigrants as independent adults with access to information and guidance can decide for themselves which services can help them meet their goals (Sakamoto, 2007).
Previously hidden from public view and crime-prone, Cottageville Park is now integrated into the community and features a garden, trails, and recreation facilities. “The process for building that park was very unique and we did tons of community outreach,” reflects Mayor Molly Cummings, who partnered with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District and the Metropolitan Council. “We had lots of neighborhood meetings and one thing that we have found in communicating with some of our diverse population is that verbal invitation is better than putting something on your website or sending something via the mail.” Another innovative tool the city used to cultivate engagement was the use of pictures to bridge language gaps. As gardens have been viewed as unique “participatory landscapes” that connect immigrants to their cultural heritage (Saldivar-Tanaka & Krasny, 2004), the renovated park can become a gathering space for all.
In 2005, the Hopkins Chief of Police turned to the community for assistance to improve the quality of life in the Blake Road neighborhood. Although the crime rate in Hopkins is lower than Minneapolis, “There was…a disproportionate amount of crime and police calls along the [Blake Road] corridor,” remembers Mayor Molly Cummings. Residents, landlords, business owners, faith leaders, school officials, representatives from non-profit organizations, and local and county government officials formed the “Blake Road Corridor Stakeholders Group.” This group raises funds to add sidewalks, lights, garbage bins, and potted flowers on Blake Road; recreation facilities like basketball courts and soccer goal posts to Cottageville Park, and youth summer programming in city parks. As of 2010, the total number of crimes in the Blake Road area has decreased by 25% since 2006.