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City Engagement Day 2019: Connecting Students, Education, and Community

Students sit around tables listening as a woman talks.
Students learn about Trinity Lutheran Congregation from Pastor Jane Buckley-Farlee before beginning their City Engagement Day project.

For over twenty-five years, students have started off their Augsburg education with City Engagement Day. City Engagement Day is the first step on a student’s civic engagement and experiential journey at Augsburg. Along with their professor and classmates from their first year seminar (“AugSem”), students go out into the community for the afternoon to complete projects at community organizations. Each AugSem has a disciplinary focus, and each City Engagement Day site is carefully selected to pair with the discipline of the AugSem. The afternoon serves as an introduction to the communities surrounding Augsburg and the city of Minneapolis more broadly, a key learning aspect for Augsburg students in their First Year Experience. For some students, City Engagement Day is a catalyst to seek out volunteer or internship opportunities with the organizations they visited! The City Engagement Day experience is an important step in student learning as they begin to recognize and articulate their role in multiple communities, and to demonstrate agency to create positive, informed, and meaningful change in the world.

The goals of City Engagement Day have stayed consistent over its long history. The aims of the day include:

  • Students will learn more about the communities and organizations around Augsburg, and practice getting around the city.
  • Students will encounter community engagement and experiential learning as core components of an Augsburg education.
  • Students will build relationships with peers and faculty through shared work.
  • Students will connect with an organization or community that relates to the focus of their course or discipline.

With the arrival of Augsburg’s largest ever incoming class this fall, a significant number of local organizations were engaged to partner with Augsburg for City Engagement Day. While some local organizations have partnered with Augsburg for City Engagement Day from the beginning twenty-five years ago–including The Cedar Cultural Center, Mixed Blood Theater, Brian Coyle Community Center, and Seward Montessori School–a variety of new partners were engaged to participate in City Engagement Day 2019, including Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge, the VOA High School, House of Balls Gallery, Waite House Radio station, the Midtown Greenway Coalition, 826 MSP, and Interfaith Power and Light. 

Organizations who participated as partners in this year’s City Engagement Day reported on the positive impact of the students who came to their organizations. At the Hook and Ladder Theater and Lounge, music students helped clean up gardens, cleaned, painted, filled a dumpster with debris, and helped organize a storeroom. Education students moved thousands of pounds of sand into a new sandbox at Anew Dimension Childcare Center, while another, business-focused AugSem moved the entirety of the West Bank Business Association office to their new location in the Mixed Blood Theater space.

Another aspect of connecting students to the communities surrounding Augsburg was transportation for City Engagement Day. Out of this fall’s thirty-two AugSems, twenty-five were able to walk to the site of their afternoon engagement, while the remainder were able to take public transit, due in no small part to the newly accessible Auggie Pass, an all-you-can ride transit pass for Augsburg students. By walking or taking public transit, first year students began to see close-up what our community looks like and what is available in it.

Each year, Mary Laurel True, Community Engagement Director in the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, organizes City Engagement Day sites. True began City Engagement Day (then City Service Day) early during her 30-year tenure at Augsburg, and each year coordinates the event, carefully pairing AugSem classes with organizations and projects. Noting that the AugSems are paired with sites that are relevant to their disciplinary focus, True emphasized how impactful it has been over the years that students start getting involved right away to see how their potential field of study might be living out its mission in the city in creative and profound ways. 

Student reflections on their City Engagement Day experiences indicated that the day did, in fact, impact their understanding of the connection of an Augsburg education and their current and future change-making in the world. When asked about the most important thing they learned during City Engagement Day, students responded: 

“The way that Augsburg connects with its communities, and how we as students can help our local community.”

“The most important thing I learned was actually how important it is to be a part of your community. This is where I will be living, these are the environments and people I will be surrounded with for the next 4 years. So it’s very important not only to care about but to contribute to your communities…”

“I learned that not only did we help this community center, but I realized that just because we are a University within a community does not mean we are separate from the community. As we continue through the years at this University, we should always recognize and help out the community we are in.”

City Engagement Day may be completed for 2019, but its impact will continue to resonate with students as they enter into the fall semester and beyond. We can’t wait to see how the Class of 2023 will continue to engage with our communities through their time at Augsburg.

Staff Feature: LaToya Taris-James

 

 

 

 

 

GET TO KNOW THE SABO CENTER!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features LaToya Taris-James, Student Leadership Programs Coordinator.

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

I help coordinate student leadership programs in the Sabo Center. Parts of my work include administrative support for Campus Kitchen, and supporting the programming for LEAD Fellows through co-creating leadership development material, providing resources, and connecting fellows to partners in the community.

What’s one social issue that is most important to you right now?

An issue that I care about deeply and that has been very present in my own experience is the imbalance of power and access to opportunity when it comes to narrative, especially in the nonprofit and education sectors. We have a collective narrative in each of the communities we are part of; however, marginalized people groups, who do not hold the same economic power as others, are rarely given the opportunity to tell their own stories. This often results in an unhealthy culture of giving where wealthy people toss money at problems they don’t understand, for people they do not know, based on stories that were not told correctly. This creates a cycle of need that is not sustainable. Much of the work that I do outside of Augsburg centers around the power of narrative and helping under-represented groups use their voice to change unhealthy narratives. Wait, did you ask me to write an entire essay on this? I will leave it at that.

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

The meeting room in the Religion Department area in Hagfors. Very cool natural lighting with a view of the garden outside! I’ve only been in that room once and I decided it was my favorite.

If you could recommend one book, movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

Black Boy by Richard Wright. I became familiar with Wright’s work back in high school, and this was the first book of his that I ever read. The book was helpful to me in my formative teenage years, helping me develop thoughts around what I was experiencing as a black kid navigating different spaces. Reading about Wright’s experiences really validated my own, as I had not been introduced to a lot of literature like that at the time. Reading this book inspired me me to dive into the world of black literature and enriched my life and work in deep ways.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Ride my bike! And read.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Thoughtful. Sensitive. Idealistic.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

Any room where my siblings are gathering. Also North Minneapolis 🙂

What’s the coolest thing you are working on right now?

Right now I am working to further conceptualize a storytelling/social impact initiative that I started a few years ago.

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you would consider a “must-see”?

The Skydeck at the Guthrie Theater.

Who would you most likely swap places with for a day?

Willy Wonka.

Have any last facts/favorite quotes/advice/etc. that you would like to share?

“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”–African Proverb

Fall 2019 Opportunities with the Sabo Center

Join the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship this fall for a wealth of opportunities to learn and connect!

The Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship is Augsburg University’s civic and community engagement center. We connect students, faculty, staff, and community members in the everyday work of learning together to address public issues, make change, and build democracy.  

 

Curious to learn more about what the Sabo Center does? Check out our 2018-2019 Year In Review for highlights from the past school year, and follow us on Facebook!  Opportunities to connect to the Sabo Center in the coming months include:

Sabo Center Open House

September 11, 3;30-5p, Sabo Center (LL Anderson Residence Hall)

Drop in for food and connection! Come learn about the Sabo Center, meet our staff, and eat some delicious snacks. Students, faculty, staff: ALL are welcome!

Sabo Snapshot #1 (bring your lunch!)

September 16, 12-1p, Marshall Room

Faculty and staff, join the Sabo Center for a brown bag lunch while we present a “snapshot” of our work and how you can connect it with your classes, department, or program.

Constitution Day Dialogue: Census 2020

September 17, 9:45-11a, OGC 113

Join us for a dialogue on the 2020 Census and the many interconnected issues that touch this important topic.

Community Opportunity Fair

September 19, 11a-1p, Christensen Center

Looking to get connected to the wider community? Come to the Community Opportunity Fair for a chance to meet with local organizations seeking to connect with students.

Sabo Snapshot #2 (bring your lunch!)

September 24, 11:30a-12:30p, Riverside Room

Faculty and staff, join the Sabo Center for a brown bag lunch while we present a “snapshot” of our work and how you can connect it with your classes, department, or program.

Community Organizing 101

October 16, 3:10-4:40p, OGC 100

Participants in this workshop will gain an understanding of relational power, the difference between public and private relationships, and how self-interest motivates us to act.

One-to-One Relational Meetings Training

October 31, 3;40-5p, Marshall Room

If you want to create change, few things are more important as one-to-one relational meetings. Participants in this workshop will learn and practice one-to-one relationship building for organizing and public work.

Equity & Justice in Environmental Action

November 11, 4:30-6:30p, Room TBD

Join us for a storytelling event around how environmental justice shows up in our lives and on campus. Together we will collectively envision Augsburg’s commitment to environmental action beyond 2019.

Power Mapping

November 19, 3:40-5p, Lindell 301

People interested in promoting positive social change–through public work, civic action, advocacy, and other vehicles–need to be aware of who else cares about their cause, and the political and social power structures in play. Power mapping gives participants a way to think about different kinds of power, and a set of tools to access the power needed to make things happen.

 

Staff Feature: Elaine Eschenbacher

GET TO KNOW THE SABO CENTER!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Elaine Eschenbacher, Director of the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

As Director of the Sabo Center, I design and oversee programs and opportunities that engage a wide diversity of people in public work, community engagement, and civic agency development. No two days are alike.

What’s one social issue that is most important to you right now?

The 2020 Census. It’s nerdy, yes, but it determines political representation for the next decade and provides data that shapes how policymakers and business leaders will invest public and private resources in communities. Watch the Sabo Center calendar for upcoming events related to the Census.

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

Anywhere with a good view of the Catalpa tree on the corner of 22nd and 7th, especially in Spring, when it’s in bloom.

If you could recommend one book, movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

I love the Song Exploder Podcast, in which musicians take apart their songs and tell how they were written. It’s a great window into the creative process and shows how varied and individual creative work can be.

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you would consider a “must-see”?

The Mississippi River gorge from a boat on the river. Many of us cross bridges above the river often, but there is nothing like seeing Minneapolis or St. Paul from the river.

Have any last facts/favorite quotes/advice/etc. that you would like to share?

I believe that we humans need to work, it is essential to our happiness. One of the books I read this summer is Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest County on Earth, which I recommend. She wrote the following passage about work that beautifully captures this idea and its inherent tensions: “Grandpa Arnie loved working the land, not for the price of wheat per bushel but because smelling damp earth at sunrise felt like a holy experience…Work can be a true communion with resources, materials, other people. I have no issue with work. Its relationship to the economy—whose work is assigned what value—is where the trouble comes in.”

Staff Feature: Harry Boyte

Harry Boyte   

Get to know the Sabo Center!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Harry Boyte, Senior Scholar of Public Work Philosophy.

(Pictured above, left: Harry Boyte. Pictured above, right: So Fujieda and Mitsura Fukuhera, staff at Rikkyou University in Japan, showing how they are changing service learning courses into public work and Public Achievement-style courses in the service learning center).

What do you do with the Sabo Center?

I have seen my work for many years as about theorizing about people-centered democracy, a concept that I learned and experienced in the civil rights (freedom) movement. I develop concepts and practices that can translate democratic revitalization for today.

What’s one social issue that is most important to you right now?

Citizenship education, with a political approach.

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

The park (Murphy Square)

If you could recommend one book movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

I’d recommend two books that give a flavor or the people-centered politics that we’ve largely lost today, and needed among young activists: Freedom’s Teacher: the Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Cherron (the best account of Clark, architect of the citizenship schools, whom King called “the mother of the movement”); and Reveille for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, straight out of the culture, spirit, and politics of the popular movemen tof the late 1930s–and a radical contrast, in crucial ways, with his much more pessimistic and cynical Rules for Radicals, the book most people have read.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Walking

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Public intellectual, populist

What’s your favorite place in the world?

Right at the moment, Japan.

What’s the coolest thing you are working on right now?

Creating platforms for an international movement on “Civic Studies,” or the theory and practice of people-centered democracy.

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you would consider a “must-see”?

Speedy Market on Como.

Who would you most likely swap places with for a day?

Chief policy adviser for Pete Buttiegieg (his campaign could soar if he deepened his democracy theme to include Obama’s often repeated insight that real change in America comes to Washington not from Washington). “We the people” is the foundation of democracy and politics; this is what I’m currently talking about with students in Japan, giving a couple of lectures. You can view the PowerPoint for one of my lectures via this link.

Have any last facts/favorite quotes/advice/etc. that you would like to share?

Japan, like the U.S., has some amazing philosophy and traditions of public work-related politics and creation. See, for instance, the Japanese Folk Craft Museum.

2018-2019 Year in Review

The Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship had a whirlwind 2018-2019 school year. From workshops and lectures to community-based collaboration, campus-wide initiatives, and hosting a national conference, in addition to our day-to-day programs like LEAD Fellows, Campus Kitchen, and Public Achievement, this past year was full to the brim. We are thankful for all of our partners and collaborators in this ever-changing and exciting work. As we look ahead to the new school year, we are proud to share some highlights from 2018-2019:

Democracy Augsburg: During the fall of 2018, the Sabo Center hosted 18(!) workshops and teach-ins on topics ranging from community organizing basics to the opioid epidemic, democracy in South Africa, citizenship and community agency, and more. Sabo Center staff invited candidates from across the political spectrum to campus for tabling and outreach prior to the 2018 midterm elections, and significantly increased our center’s visibility with students, staff, and faculty.

Student Employment Pilot: Led by Sabo Center Director Elaine Eschenbacher, the Sabo Center initiated a student employment pilot program that worked closely with supervisors and students to make on-campus student employment more meaningful and useful, both for departments employing student workers and for students in their own career preparation. Twenty students and their supervisors went through orientation, training, and structured reflection throughout the course of the school year, and a report on the results of the program are forthcoming.

Environmental Stewardship: The intern team of three undergraduate students, one graduate student, and a MN GreenCorps member hosted several events throughout the school year exploring the intersections of equity and sustainability, including a “Sip-Sustain-Stories” discussion series and a “Sustainability is No Joke” storytelling event facilitated by RFTP. In collaboration with Campus Kitchen, students began work to set up a campus “Share Shop”–a space created by and for students to reduce consumption, mitigate student costs by providing access to things like tools, and creating a community space where students can take part in informal learning around sustainable practices and skills sharing. The Share Shop and Campus Cupboard (student-run food shelf) are excited to co-locate in the basement of the Old Science building in the fall of 2019.

Campus Kitchen: Campus Kitchen saw the exciting addition of two new staff members, LaToya Taris-James and Natalie Jacobson. The Campus Kitchen student leadership team deepened the Campus Kitchen partnership with the Brian Coyle Community Center youth program, beginning weekly cooking sessions in the Augsburg Food Lab and in the Brian Coyle kitchen. Another highlight of the year was a garden party event featuring local food activist La Donna Redmond and storytelling facilitated by Mixed Blood Theater.

Place-Based Justice Network Summer Institute: The Sabo Center was thrilled to host our colleagues in the Place-Based Justice Network for the network’s annual conference. Read more about the PBJN Summer Institute it the blog featuring highlights of the conference. 

Undoing White Body Supremacy Pilot Project: In partnership with Augsburg’s Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, staff at the Sabo Center are leading a pilot cohort of white faculty and staff learning to undo the ways white supremacy shows up in our bodies, not just in our minds. Selected applicants will meet and learn together throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. This is body-based racial justice work, informed by Somatic Experiencing®  and Interpersonal Neurobiology. You can read more about this exciting project on the Sabo Center Blog. 

LEAD Fellows: The 2018-2019 LEAD Fellows cohort had innovative programming, including a session about radical self-care, a vocation panel of recent graduates, and leadership styles exercises, including a town hall meeting simulation. New community partners hosting LEAD Fellows this year included OutFront MN and Inquilinxs Unidxs. And, best of all, we welcomed LaToya Taris-James, an amazing new staff member who brings a wealth of experience in youth and leadership development to supporting both the LEAD Fellows program and Campus Kitchen!

Interfaith @ Cedar Commons: Once a month, Interfaith Scholars and community members meet together for food and interfaith conversations on a variety of topics. Topics for 2018-2019 included Wellness and Faith, Intersection of Culture and Religion, Religion as a Tool for Oppression and Liberation, and Interfaith Perspectives Post-Election.

Community-Based Learning: Director of Community Engagement Mary Laurel True collaborates with faculty across the University to connect their classes to community organizations and projects. Some highlights from 2018-2019 included co-hosting a national conference on Cuba with faculty in the Spanish department, and bringing Spanish classes to the Mexican consulate in St. Paul to learn about their work with immigration and new immigrant communities in Minnesota. In collaboration with Religion department professors, students completed 12 visits to diverse places of worship (mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples), connecting their visits with study of interfaith topics.

 

Interested to join us for 2019-2020? Check out the Calendar and Events page, and be sure to like the Sabo Center of Facebook (@sabocenter) for all the latest on workshops, events, and ways to plug in!

Staff Feature: Allyson Green

Get to know the Sabo Center!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Allyson Green, Chief Sustainability Officer.

 

What do you do at Augsburg?

I help Augsburg live out our call to care for the world around us and the people, plants, and animals who live, work, play, grow, and depend on each other here. The daily reality of that looks different all the time but includes moving Augsburg forward on its climate commitment and other sustainability goals, supporting the Campus Kitchen program, and managing the community garden.

What’s one social issue that is most important to you right now?

Student loan debt and climate change (yes, that’s two, and I’m okay with that!).

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

“The Loveliest of Trees”

If you could recommend one book, movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands! It’s been foundational to anti-racism work I’ve been part of outside of Augsburg that’s not just about changing how we think about white supremacy but recognizing how it shows up in our bodies and learning to navigate it differently and with less harm to the people around us. Read it in community with other people!

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Currently, sitting on my front porch and chatting with neighbors while the sun goes down!

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Curious, adventurous, and usually hungry.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

The bonfire pit that sits between my aunt/uncle’s house and what what used to be my grandparents’ (and is now my sister’s) house in my hometown of Baraboo, WI!

What’s the coolest thing you are working on right now?

Answering these questions! And…evaluating our “Green by 2019” climate commitment and collectively envisioning how we want to continue to live up to this in a way that reflects the urgency of climate change and how it intersects with all of our individual, communal, and systemic experiences and structures.

Name one spot in the Twin Cities that you consider a “must-see.”

There’s a big old Cotttonwood tree that goes sideways out over the Mississippi River just north of White Sands Beach that’s a “must-climb.”

Who would you most like to swap places with for one day?

A kid! Any kid, I think, because it would be good to be reminded of what that feels like while also bringing all my adult self to that experience.

Have any last facts/favorite quotes/advice/etc. that you would like to share?

I once got to spend 3 hours with Wendell Berry on his porch, swapping stories about the circus and the woods, and also learning that he’s very cynical about giving advice, so I’ll take his lead and say no thanks to giving advice (though I’m sure he had a poetically snarky way of saying it).

Place-Based Justice Network Summer Institute Highlights

Three people sit on stage as a panel, while an audience sits at round tables listening.
Panel discussion with Avi Viswanathan of Nexus Community Engagement Institute and Tyler Sit of New City Church.

On July 10-12, 2019, the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg University hosted the Place-Based Justice Network for its annual Summer Institute. 

The gathering is an essential learning and networking opportunity for the Place-Based Justice Network, a group of twenty member institutions that are committed to transforming higher education and our communities by deconstructing systems of oppression through place-based community engagement with a racial justice lens.

Place-based community engagement is a focused approach to university-community engagement that emphasizes long-term, university-wide engagement in community partnerships in a clearly defined geographic area, and focuses equally on campus and community impact. Engaging with stakeholders from across the university and neighborhood community, a place-based approach aims to enact real and meaningful social change through partnership and co-creative work.

While the PBJN has held annual Summer Institutes since 2014, 2019 marks only the second year that the Summer Institute has taken place at an institution other than Seattle University. In 2018, the Summer Institute was held at Loyola University Baltimore, and in 2019, it was held at Augsburg University.

The two-and-a-half-day conference was packed with opportunities for learning and networking with local and national leaders and scholars in place-based community engagement. Some highlights included:

  • Welcoming remarks by Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow, and an introduction to Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside with Jaylani Hussein, Executive Director of CAIR-MN.
  • Keynote address with Dr. Tania Mitchell, Associate Professor of Higher Education at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Mitchell’s scholarship focuses on service-learning as a critical pedagogy to explore civic identity, social justice, student learning, race and racism, and community practice.
  • “Nothing About Us, Without Us, is For Us,” a panel discussion with Avi Viswanathan of Nexus Community Engagement Institute and Tyler Sit of New City Church, moderated by Rachel Svanoe Moynihan of the Sabo Center.
  • Site visits to community partners in Cedar-Riverside, including Sisterhood Boutique, the Cedar Cultural Center, Brian Coyle Community Center, and Health Commons.
  • Workshops with presenters from participants on topics ranging from community voice, local purchasing and hiring, school-university partnerships, and more!
  • Racial healing discussions and group circles.
  • A wonderful evening reception sponsored by the McKnight Foundation.

The Institute was a rich opportunity for learning and connecting with our colleagues from across the country. Some of the Augsburg team’s takeaways included:

  • The importance of centering community voice. This work takes constant attentiveness and intention.
  • Every institution is in a different place with this work–and that’s ok! There is so much to learn from where different universities and communities are in the partnership building process, and all of the successes and failures they’ve experienced. Learning from our colleagues from across the country has allowed us in the Sabo Center to view our place-based work in Cedar-Riverside with fresh eyes.

Interested in learning more about Augsburg’s place-based community engagement? Visit the Engaging Community page on the Sabo Center website, and contact us to learn more.

Special thanks to the McKnight Foundation for their support.

 

 

 

Staff Feature: Green Bouzard

portrait of Green Bouzard

Get to know the Sabo Center!

In each Staff Feature installment, we ask members of the Sabo Center staff to share about what they do, along with some fun facts. 

This post features Green Bouzard, Program Coordinator.

What do you do at the Sabo Center?

I get the opportunity to collaborate with everyone in the Sabo Center and to be a part of much of what the Sabo Center does! I am a project manager for strategic initiatives, evaluation, grants, community collaboration initiatives, and communications.

What’s your favorite place on Augsburg’s campus?

The lobby of Hagfors. I love that Martin Luther’s hymn “A Mighty Fortress” is etched into the window so that the score is “projected” via its shadow onto the wall at the right time of day!

If you could recommend one book, movie, or podcast, what would it be and why?

The Daily podcast from the New York Times. They dig deep on a current event or investigative story for 20-30 minutes every weekday–I feel more informed about important national and global news than I would be otherwise!

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Play and create original music.

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Curious, creative, determined.

What’s your favorite place in the world?

Golden Gardens Park in Seattle.

What’s the coolest thing you are working on right now?

The Sabo Center just finished up hosting a national conference for the Place-Based Justice Network, a group of colleges and universities from across the country who do intentionally place-focused community engagement work with a social transformation and racial justice lens. I coordinated a lot of the details for the conference, and it was so satisfying to see everyone come together for 2.5 days of learning and networking!

Inter-generational Connections: Campus Kitchen and Ebenezer Tower

By Alana Goodson

Students dish out food while others sit around a table.
Students serve food at Ebenezer Tower.

Ebenezer Tower on Portland Avenue in Minneapolis is a place that many senior residents call home. The residents are diverse in age, ethnicity, and history. Ebenezer Tower and Augsburg Campus Kitchen have a partnership that involves building community through sharing food together. Campus Kitchen students deliver lunches to seniors on Thursday afternoons, and on Fridays we serve and eat dinner at Ebenezer. This partnership has allowed many young college students like myself to build relationships with senior residents.

I have led many Ebenezer Tower meal shifts over the past three semesters. In the beginning, it was difficult to establish relationships because there were so many residents to talk to and many names to remember – but as time went on, I became more familiar with the regulars and began to remember their names as they began to remember mine.

Although I lead most shifts with the assistance of volunteers, I have led a number of them alone. It was during those shifts that I received a large amount of gratitude from the residents, and they were truly grateful for the effort and persistence that I displayed so that we could share this weekly dinner. On March 9th, 2018, Kat and Rita, two residents, told me, “We can help you as much as you need, we appreciate you coming before your spring break, all by yourself.” That is not the only time they have expressed their gratitude. On April 13th, 2018, Bruce came up to me after his meal and said, “Thank you for coming even with the weather conditions.” From these comments, and many others, it is evident that the relationship Campus Kitchen and Ebenezer Tower have built together is appreciated.

The residents have not stopped with their meaningful expressions of gratitude. This semester, they donated five large boxes of non-perishable foods and over one hundred dollars to support Augsburg’s Campus Cupboard, a food shelf available to all students. It has been amazing to see the continuous reciprocal relationship that has been built between the Augsburg and Ebenezer community. We continue to bring food to them every week, and every couple of weeks they donate a couple more dollars or food that they have been keeping in stock just for our cupboard. 

The residents at Ebenezer have been so supportive towards Campus Kitchen at Augsburg University and myself. I will forever be grateful for their clapping and cheers that I receive with my volunteers as we walk in at 6pm. I believe this is because every time that they welcome us in, I can feel the community coming closer together–and it feels a little more cozy, like home, every time.