St. Paul celebrates positive impact from neighbors

Ahmed Hersi, middle, is pictured with St. Paul City Council president Russ Stark, left, and District 1 Community Council president Paul Sawyer, right.

Delena Zekarias, right, poses with St. Paul City Council president Russ Stark, left, and District 1 Community Council president Paul Sawyer, middle.

The Rev. Melvin Miller, middle, accepted the award on behalf of his father, the Rev. Earl F. Miller. Melvin Miller is pictured with St. Paul City Council president Russ Stark, left, and District 1 Community Council president Paul Sawyer.

Members of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council board joined the founders of ANEW BAM and the Love Grows Here Wellness Center during the Jan. 27 Neighborhood Honor Roll celebration.

On Friday night, Jan. 27, St. Paul residents gathered to celebrate neighbors and organizations that had been nominated by St. Paul’s 17 district councils for the annual Neighborhood Honor Roll. 

The district councils nominated individuals or organizations that have made a positive impact in their neighborhoods. Those nominated will have their names added to a list of past nominees featured on the St. Paul City Council Chambers’ walls in City Hall.

This year’s celebration included three people from the District 1 Community Council, which represents the neighborhoods of Eastview, Conway, Battle Creek and Highwood Hills, and the founders of two organizations from the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council neighborhood.

The other East Side district councils — District 2 (Greater East Side) and District 5 (Payne Phalen) — did not have any nominations this year. To be nominated, residents from each district council send recommendations to their district council and the council chooses three.


District 1 Community Council:

• Ahmed Hersi — Hersi is one of the founding members of the East African Community Link, a group of neighbors working to “build trust across ethnic lines and income levels.” He has led the group as it developed a survey of apartment dwellers to assess their needs and interests. He also led the group as it planned and held large community gatherings the last three years. In the district council members’ nomination of Hersi, they said, “ Ahmed is a strong spokesman for and a leader of his community.”


• The Rev. Dr. Earl F. Miller — Miller is the founding pastor of Progressive Baptist Church, which the district council described as a “community centerpoint for District 1 and St. Paul for 25 years.” Miller has been a pastor for 48 years and is retiring this year. He has led the church in advocating for education, promoting civic involvement and supporting those in need. 

• In the district council’s nomination, it said, “We will miss his leadership and we celebrate his many contributions.” While Earl F. Miller was unable to attend the evening’s celebration, his son, the Rev. Melvin Miller, accepted the award on his behalf.


• Delena Zekarias — The district council said, “Delena is the quiet engine of much of the youth work in District 1.”

She was a founding member of both the Young Mentors Group and the District 1 Youth Council. She participated in the district council’s youth voting project, is a member of the Natural Leaders program at Sun Ray Library, and is “the backbone” of the East Side Pride Open Mic series. She is also a poet, student, and “a good friend to many and a sterling example for us all.”

Dayton’s Bluff Community Council:

• Kevin Robinson and Vanessa Young — Robinson and Young founded ANEW BAM “with a dedication to advancing the academic success of youth and families through culturally responsive arts education, social emotional learning and African American history and culture,” according to the nomination. They promote education through tutoring, teaching history, fostering artistic expression and encouraging pathways to academic success. The founders’ goal is “to teach youth how to be successful through academic achievement. 

• Love Grows Here Wellness Center — Chris Olson Bingea, Brenda Olson Bingea, Kristin Wolla and Allie Tunseth started The Love Grows Here Wellness Center at First Lutheran Church. The center has grown from providing a breakfast to 25 people, to serving over 200 people with 40 volunteers on Wednesday nights. Founded in 2008, the wellness center offers support to underserved community members, providing “camaraderie” and services at no cost. The district council said the Love Grows Here Wellness Center, under the leadership of the four women, has “improved the community of St. Paul” by providing wellness checks, health education, referrals to health providers and pastoral support through a collaboration of providers. 


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