By Stina Jacox
The West 7th Community Center is alive with activity. The Center, at 265 Oneida Street, is a bustling hub for neighborhood youth, seniors, library patrons, volunteers, and everyone in between. According to 2010 statistics, several thousand people benefitted from services ranging from social and legal advocacy to movie nights, special events, and nutrition and food programs.
West 7th Family & Youth Programs, led by Director Julie Murphy, “are designed to strengthen families, promote success in school, and build a healthy community.” Julie describes herself as part of an orchestra, in which every person plays an integral role. “We have a supportive team; one with the same mission in our hearts and minds. We want people in this community to think of us as the first place you can come for help: neighbors help neighbors; people volunteer; people from many countries rely on the Community Center as an extension of family.”
Two women central to the success of Julie’s department are social workers Sarah Granger and Azeb Gebretsadik. Sometimes, when people fall through the proverbial cracks, the West 7th social workers are the advocates who open doors and empower clients. Sarah assists people with finding programs and resources when “life happens.” “We help people locate assistance for things like rent, heating costs, car repairs, food, and similar basic needs. I meet with people and guide them through the process.” Sarah, whose love of social work and advocacy stems, in part, from her upbringing, says the West 7th Community Center is a great place to work, a place where “the staff is community and you really have a chance to build relationships, not just with co-workers, but with people who come for programs and support. Having the library and activities and social services for youth and seniors all in one building really promotes this larger sense of community.”
For Sarah, who has a teenager, teens are a special interest. “They are pretty real about things — they tell you what they really think. I like working with them as they figure things out — what they are passionate about. They need people in their lives who care and want to listen to them.”
Azeb Gebretsadik attributes her career choice to a school social worker who helped her acclimate to this country when she moved here from Ethiopia nine years ago. After high school, Azeb went on to study social work and will begin the Master of Social Work program at the University of Minnesota this fall. At the West 7th Community Center, she works with specific programs, including Bridge to Benefits and Circle of Parents, both of which aim to stabilize and support families in the community. Azeb feels that access to affordable housing and employment are the two most challenging hurdles for her clients. “I will do whatever I can to help a family; I keep going until the last minute.” she says. “I feel great joy in getting something done, accomplishing something for people, for my clients.”
When she is not working and busy with family, Azeb volunteers once a week with Ethiopians for Ethiopians (EFE), a community outreach project. She explains that many Ethiopian orphans are adopted into non-Ethiopian families. EFE offers cooking lessons, language classes and hair styling, as well as exploring topics like trans-racial parenting, and diversity in the community. Azeb teaches Amharic, the language spoken in Ethiopia, to children ages six and up. To learn more about EFE see ethiopiansforethiopians.org.
Julie, Sarah and Azeb are three of many dedicated professionals and volunteers who share their time, expertise, and friendship with West 7th neighbors, clients, and visitors who pass through the doors of the Community Center on a daily basis. The West 7th Community Center is truly the heart of the neighborhood.
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SUMMERTIME: A Garden Tour of Detail and Delight
Community Thank You:
On behalf of the West End Gardeners and the Fort Road Federation I would like to thank all of the neighbors who gave so generously of their time and energy to put our best forward for the fifth annual West End Neighbors Garden Tour on June 16. Many people, too numerous to mention, offered wonderful gardens for the tour, worked to greet visitors, dug and sold plants, including many donated by Mississippi Market. We also noticed an effort by homeowners, businesses and public works to do a little extra to make the neighborhood appealing for the tour and the coming summer weeks. We especially want to thank our advertisers in the tour booklet, which represents the neighborhood so well and makes it possible to offer the tour for free to all.
— Kent Petterson for the West End Gardeners
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Community: Roosters Grills Best Barbecue for 25 Years
by Jerry Rothstein
Rooster’s BBQ-Deli and Blue Ribbon Catering has been serving prize-winning barbecue from its original location on Randolph at Chatsworth for a quarter century. Owner and creator of many sauces and rubs, Rich Gapinski, learned from his father and uncle, who were in the business and shared their main sauce recipe—which Rich soon modified while experimenting with other sauces.
More than a business, barbecue has been an avocation and major hobby. Growing up in South St. Paul on the river and near the stockyards, he loved the whole social and family involvement and the great networking that occurred around barbecuing. In his 20s he traveled to Mississippi River towns that all had their barbecue “shacks,” and has learned from the Kansas City, Memphis and New Orleans circuits, each with its special sauces and methods. In 1998-2000 he took a judging class at Dakota Tech and has worked nearby contests. He has made Rooster’s like a traditional Ma and Pa family place
When Rich started Rooster’s in 1987 he was one of a few in St. Paul doing barbecue. There have been ups and downs in the business, but now he notes that many of his young staff people are learning the trade with the goal of opening their own places. He likes having these apprentices, and remembers the importance of two of his own mentors — one who taught him what to do right, and the other who taught him what not to do.
In the late 80s, his in-town catering work from major St. Paul companies grew, and in the 90s he was entering and winning contests. Corporate business declined in the late 90s and business through smaller catering jobs throughout the Twin Cities increased, helped by the website roosterbbq.com. In fact, weekend catering has grown so much that Rich rarely has time now for contests — either as a contestant or a judge. He does love to cook, and at home he has become skilled in vegetarian cooking to meet the needs of his daughter, who gave up meat some years ago.
Roosters BBQ-Deli, 979 Randolph, 651-222-0969. Tues.-Sun. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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