By Maria Ortiz
Created in 2004, Leadership in Support of Neighborhood (LISN) was a joint venture of the Hamline Midway Coalition and Hamline University. The project was designed to develop the talents of emerging community leaders committed to enhancing the Hamline Midway neighborhood and/or organizations and groups that serve the neighborhood. A lack of funding forced the program to end after just two cohorts of LISN Fellows, but its impact is still evident in the neighborhood today.
The vision of the LISN program was to create a dynamic, progressive, and nurturing Hamline Midway neighborhood, benefiting from and supporting an ever-expanding cadre of diverse individuals and organizations contributing their distinctive talents and energies as leaders. LISN operated with a broad concept of leadership defined as involvement in bringing about positive new visions and changes through various means, including organizing power and resources of people in a given constituency, as well as artistic, journalistic, spiritual or other work, that addresses and/or expresses community spirit, themes, issues, and values, and thereby contributes to the common good in the community.
Like many inner-urban neighborhoods, Hamline Midway works to address a variety of challenges. The neighborhood also recognizes that it has a great many assets to work with to face those issues, including the busy commercial corridors, multi-cultural population of workers and residents, schools, block clubs, community organizations, faith communities and a private university (Hamline University).
Audrey Matson-Lies a LISN fellow was instrumental in forming the Mighty Midway 4-H Club. Audrey believed that an urban 4-H Club could help to bring the community together. During her LISN year, Audrey interviewed leaders of other urban 4-H clubs, publicized and held a meeting for interested parents and created a planning committee to organize an initial meeting, which was held in January, 2007. During the spring, 10 families participated in a project to raise chickens for the University of Minnesota’s Student Organic Farm and 12 children participated in a project to learn Shakespeare and stage combat, which culminated in a performance at the Ramsey County Fair in July.
The club participated in several community service projects, including the Snelling Avenue Cleanup event and tending three planters at the corner of Englewood and Snelling. Adult members of the club hosted meetings on biking, theater, cooking, gardening, and maple tapping. Five club members submitted projects to the Ramsey County Fair, one of which received a purple ribbon and went on to the State Fair in August. The Mighty Midway 4-H Club continues its good work today.
Another LISN-initiated project that continues to have an impact in the neighborhood is Paint the Pavement, which promotes community building and “placemaking,” like traffic-
calming and neighborhood identity through creating neighborhood art.
In December of 2008 Margaret Shields a Hamline University undergraduate student began the student organization SPROUT, which stands for Students Proposing Real Options for Underutilized Territory. The organization focuses on issues of environmental sustainability and food justice. She described the LISN program as a positive experience where she learned a lot about organizing and leadership.
Shields joined the LISN program with the goal to unite the assets of SPROUT with the assets of the neighborhood in order to plant gardens that could be enjoyed by the entire community. During the first year of the project, SPROUT established three growing sites: one at Hamline United Methodist Church, another along Minnehaha Avenue, and 10 on-campus “ornamental edibles” container gardens. The produce grown at these sites was distributed by Hamline Midway Elders to seniors at the Hamline High-Rise assisted living facility and to the Second Harvest food shelf. SPROUT also hosted several community events including: documentary film screenings; a community meal; and garden work days. SPROUT is still active in its commitment to food issues and to the neighborhood.