GA-goers get a little dirty for a good cause

It has become customary that participants at General Assembly contribute to a fund to support a particular social service project in whatever city GA is held in. This year, in Minneapolis, GA participants are also getting a chance to get their hands dirty in the service of others.

The local cause this year is the Hope Community, a south Minneapolis neighborhood. In the mid-1990s many residents abandoned it because of drug-dealing and violence.  But when a homeless shelter for women and children stayed put, it led to a renaissance. A local group backed by residents began buying up abandoned houses, sometimes for a dollar each, and driving out the drug dealers.

Painting hallways in The Dundry

Today the neighborhood, eight blocks from the Minneapolis Convention Center, includes housing for low-income families and provides a number of community services, including classes for immigrants.

Around 30 GA participants walked to the neighborhood Friday where they painted hallways in a multi-family building and did landscaping. Another 25 to 30 will work in the neighborhood Saturday morning.

Judith Siers-Poisson, of First Unitarian Society, Madison, Wisc., pulled weeds and planted perennials. “It was great,” she said Friday afternoon. “I’ve been doing a lot of this at home but this has a totally different feel, knowing that you’re doing it for people you’ll never meet but who will enjoy the fruits of your labor. And doing it with like-minded people. This is a way to create something that will stay after we’re gone.”

Franklin-Portland Gateway Project gardening

Lydia Porter, 11, of Valparaiso, Indiana, helped with the painting as part of a group from the Young Fun program for children from 8 to 12 whose family members are attending GA. “It feels good to have done this,” she said. “When we got done it looked really good.”

Daniel Hopkins, who works as a youth and family outreach coordinator for the Hope neighborhood, said the project is all about residents working together and helping each other. “Most people find power when they’re allowed to have some type of ownership of what they want to be a part of. We know that change is only going to happen if we get up and do it ourselves. This is all about people coming together around common values. We’re happy to have all of you working with us.”

Tim Wilson, coordinator of the “Hands on Hope” project for the General Assembly, said, “I hope people feel good because we helped this community in some small ways to become a little better.” GA participants will have an opportunity at the Sunday morning worship service to contribute financially to the service project as well.

Wilson said that after most of the volunteer slots were filled Friday a youth group from First Unitarian Society, Madison, Wisc. volunteered. Wilson quickly found them another opportunity. They spent part of the day helping out at a homeless shelter not far from the convention center.

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