Connect: Exploring ways to get involved in your community

On a mission to promote green jobs

A coalition of community organizations has banded together to form HIRE Minnesota — a group dedicated to promoting the expansion of green-collar jobs in the state.

HIRE, which stands for Healthcare, Infrastructure and Renewable Energy, is led by Louis J. King, president of Summit Academy OIC, a job training program in North Minneapolis, and Will Steger, the noted polar explorer and founder of the Will Steger Foundation, a South Minneapolis-based nonprofit working on raising awareness about climate change.

The coalition has been holding a series of community meetings to spread the word about the HIRE campaign. At a Feb. 17 meeting at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, King said the mission is to get people back on their feet. "The best social service program in the world is a job," he said.

Dozens of local organizations have jumped on the HIRE bandwagon and hundreds turned out for the town hall meeting, including members of Linden Hills Power & Light, the neighborhood group devoted to engaging the community in creative ways to reduce energy consumption.

Some of the other groups involved in HIRE include the African American Men Project, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, American Indian OIC, Asian American Press, Catholic Charities for Social Justice, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, the Minnesota Baptist Convention and the Women’s Environment Institute, among many others.

The campaign is pushing for opportunities for low-income and minority workers, in particular.

The next HIRE town hall meeting is planned for March 10, 6:30–8:30 p.m., at the Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th St.

HIRE organizers are heading to St. Paul on March 31 and the Mille Lacs Reservation on April 7. A special event at the state Capitol is planned for April 20.

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Tackling poverty, financial literacy and education

The Citizen Leagues Action Groups recently held a kickoff event at the FIVE event center in Southwest, coming away with an ambitious agenda for the year.

The St. Paul-based Citizens League is an independent and nonpartisan group that engages citizens in studying public issues and encourages them to help develop policy solutions to the problems.

More than 70 young professionals and college students have formed into groups to tackle some pressing community issues — poverty, financial literacy and education, said Diane Tran, a member of the Citizens League board of directors.

The Action Groups are self-led by citizen league members who explore the public policy issues and come up with an action plan to tackle them. In years past, the groups have done a variety of community projects, including building a rain garden for a school and hosting the event Connect for a Cause at the Varsity Theater in Dinkytown last year. The event matched 35 volunteers with 16 Twin Cities nonprofits.

This year, Traci Parmenter, chief operating officer of St. Paul-based Admission Possible, is assisting the group working on education. John Turnipseed, director of the Urban Ventures Family Center in South Minneapolis, is working with members looking at poverty, and Ruth Krueger, Dakota County’s employment and economic development director, is helping the financial literacy group.

"The Actions Groups project advances the overall mission of the Citizens League and gives younger members an opportunity to build civic leadership skills," said Sean Kershaw, executive director of the Citizens League, in a prepared statement. "In the process of taking a public policy issue head-on, the groups form connections with other civic-minded adults, learn from and interact with established civic leaders, and gain valuable skills to nurture their careers and to add to the vitality of their communities."

The Citizens League is hosting a happy hour March 11, 5:30–7:30 p.m., at Sweeney’s Saloon in St. Paul. It’s for members and for anyone interested in learning more about the organization.

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Do you know of good ways for Southwest Journal readers to get involved in the community? Let us know. E-mail tips to [email protected].