Love Your Love Duluth volunteers unite for neighborhood improvement

DULUTH – Volunteers have come together to solve problems in the Lincoln Park and Central Hillside neighborhoods, boasting small, resident-led projects.

This year’s final round of small grants were awarded in August. The program is halfway through its two-year duration, with $17,400 in grant funding awarded to 13 applicants in three rounds.

“Residents and city staff have focused resources on cleaning up public and private spaces, adding garden beds to gathering spaces, fixing fences and steps, resurfacing playgrounds, painting murals, and encouraging neighbors to envision the future together. In addition, communication and collaboration have occurred.” .. in a new way between city divisions, neighbors and nonprofit organizations,” according to the City of Duluth website.

Eligible projects include waste disposal; maintenance of structures; planting or removing plants; installation of public art; and activating open spaces for community use.

Duluth is one of eight cities to receive two years of funding, training and mentoring from the Johns Hopkins Center. Funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropy Center for Innovation, the Your Block model encourages innovation and experimentation by partnering with resident and government partnerships with grants of up to $1,500 each.

A grant selection committee made up of Lincoln Park and Central Hillside residents reviews the applications and awards. The Love Your Block team reviewed applications to identify ways city services, community organizations and individuals can further support the success of the proposed activities.

“It’s a great program to help community members solve problems and improve their common space,” said Annika Fraser of AmeriCorp Vista. “I think this program is really beautiful because it helps residents do great things that benefit the community as long as they do it. It definitely shows that with a little support, our community can do really amazing things.”

Lincoln Park Community Garden

Volunteers restored the site at 2832 W. Third St., Duluth, by planting crops, planting fences, rebuilding the nearby sidewalk and building sheds and shelving.

Contributed by JohnRae Reeves

Freedom Farms has been awarded $1,500 from the 2022 Love Your Small Gifts Program.

Contributed by JohnRae Reeves

Cleaning up the former vacant lot at 2832 W. Third St. began years ago in an effort to stop illegal activity, littering and crime on the property. With funding from Your Love’s Block, volunteers planted crops, planted fences, rebuilt the nearby sidewalk, and built sheds and shelving, putting people back in the comfort zone year-round.

The Lincoln Park Community Garden is designed to promote social health and encourage community building while improving access to nutritious food, said John Rae Reeve, program coordinator for the Lincoln Park Duluth Organization.

“Our hope is to make the community a safe environment for everyone to enjoy the benefits of this community garden. The garden program is to provide a beautiful and welcoming place for people to enjoy free food in the Lincoln Park community,” Reeves said.

A grand opening program was held on September 24.

Cascade Park neighborhood cleanup

Cascade Park, located at West Sixth Street and First Avenue West, is one of Duluth’s oldest parks. It was formerly known as Cascade Square when a 4-acre plot of land was laid out for public use in the 1850s, and Clarkhouse Creek ran through the center. In 1895, it saw improvements, including a stone-lined channel that included Clarkhouse Creek and sliding waterfalls, in addition to a large covered pavilion, sidewalks, benches, and landscaping.

In the years that followed, hurricanes wreaked havoc on Cascade Square. Maintenance became expensive. As cars became more accessible, people began visiting the various parks nearby, and Cascade Square became a lower priority in the city’s budget.

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Cascade Park in Central Hillside overlooks Duluth on a recent rainy day.

Contributed / Richard Thomas

A century later, the square’s remaining structures were demolished and the Clarkhouse Creek channel covered, and the western half of the park became Mesaba Avenue. In the year Following the 1972 flood, the city installed sidewalks and picnic tables as part of the park’s restoration.

Mesaba Street was wide, claiming more of the space. Parts of the original structures still remain, including the sandstone foundations and stone walls that supported Mesaba Street.

Although Cascade Park’s unique landscape, history and Lake Superior views continue to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, it has seen years of neglect and residents have been tirelessly advocating for improvements.

“The grants give people a way to make a small, impactful change in their neighborhood and help build relationships in our community,” said resident Rachael Kilgore. “It is clear that the city has lost funding for some of the larger projects and even routine maintenance that our geography requires. That lack of funding, coupled with the slow pace of the city’s bureaucracy, has left members of the community feeling helpless and frustrated, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”

For $1,000 of your loved one’s money, a group of community organizers in Central Hillside hosted a neighborhood cleanup day on September 18th around Cascade Park. Afterward, volunteers gathered at the park for pizza and a community visioning session led by a local artist to identify future neighborhood goals.

“Our Central Hillside neighborhood is home to a wide range of residents: families, seniors who live alone, homeowners and renters, college students, Black, Indigenous and people of color, and queer Duluthians, people who rely on county assistance and self-employed people who own successful businesses.” Kilgore said. “In a society that tends to separate itself by class and culture, our diversity is a rare strength. We hope that our project will create connections and pave the way for future collaboration and growth in our community.”

Hillside Full Moon Circle

An ornament in the garden of Spiritual Elder Millie Richards, where the Hillside Full Moon Circle ceremonies are held.

Contributed / Millie Richard

Millie Richard.

Contributed / Millie Richard

The Audison Company is located at 515 W. Fourth St. She plans to decorate the grounds of resident Millie Richards to allow First Nation and Anishinaabe/Ojibwe women to share their strength, hope and encouragement through trials and tribulations. They faced rebuilding their lives in recovery.

Since the fire-damaged property next door to her yard has been vacant, Richard has struggled with vandalism and theft.

“The residents come and throw trash in the yard. Every time we pile things up, they come and tear them apart and scatter them all over the yard. Sometimes when we have the Hillside Full Moon Circle bonfire, someone comes and destroys it. Firehouse: We had our garden ornaments and garden art stolen,” she said.

As a spiritual elder, Richard is the founder, owner and director of ODZEO, an Ojibwe term for “spiritual visions from heaven to bring life to earth.”

As an Aboriginal child growing up in Canada, Richard was removed from her family, community and tribe and placed in government foster and foster homes. She says this has resulted in a spiritual wound called intergenerational trauma or pathological grief. This experience led her to enter the field of mental health to provide counseling and healing to others.

“I work to educate people about this, and some of the creativity and innovation that you can do,” Richard said. “I have other ways and options to work with my tribesmen and these are tribal ceremonies. When people start hearing about the good work that is being done, although I do tribal work, I work with all peoples, including two – people with a spirit of non-judgment and criticism.”

Resident Millie Richards is repairing her front porch and landscaping. In her backyard, Richard works with First Nation and Anishinaabe/Ojibwe women and provides a space for healing and community.

Contributed / Millie Richard

Every calendar full moon, a group of women meet in Richard’s backyard for the Hillside Full Moon Circle ceremony. The next meeting is October 9th from 7:30-9pm. Each meeting includes prayer, fire offerings, food and social time.

“In our culture, we have this purification ritual to purify their emotional, spiritual, mental and physical selves and help them become more in tune with their bodies and become more self-aware to discover their purpose and gifts,” Richard said.

Richard serves four returning women in the ceremony, but she has met more than 20 women in the six years she has lived in the Hillside neighborhood. While the club focuses on working with individuals from traditional ethnic backgrounds, she also works with people from other backgrounds in her practice.

Love the block gift recipients

The 2022 Love Your Block Small Grants were awarded in three rounds to the following projects:

$1,500 gift recipients

  • Family Freedom Center and Freedom Farms at 500 E. 10th St. to install a mural on Sixth Street East to reduce noise pollution and beautify the garden and program space.
  • Harbor Highlands and DW Jones Management Co. to improve playgrounds, flower planting and graffiti removal in common community spaces in Harbor Highlands through a mural project.
  • A Central Hillside resident for tree removal and fence maintenance to improve the functionality and curb appeal of the property on a block of West Fifth Street.
  • The Duluth Children’s Museum’s paved parking lot will be transformed into a safe, green and functional community gathering place for all ages on Superior Street.
  • Lincoln Park property owner’s Landscaping, Yard Maintenance and Trash Removal appeal to block and prevent dumping of trash on West Third Street.
  • The Duluth Art Institute’s invasive species removal and treatment has been carried out to maintain the integrity of the Lincoln Park area and spread into the neighborhood.
  • Kirsten Aune, a small business owner in Lincoln Park, is looking for flower plants to add beauty and pollinator habitat to a block of 21st Avenue West.
  • Lincoln Park Resource Center and Charles OBJ mural alongside food and books in the community garden on West Third Street.
  • Central Hillside resident Millie Richards for porch and front-level repairs to the West Fourth Street property, along with cleanup and a local community gathering space for American Indian and First Nations heritage people in recovery.
Outdoor community garden
The garden of Freedom Farms was shown on September 21, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Duluth.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

1,000 dollar gift recipients

  • Spirit of God Lutheran Church at West Third Street and Lincoln Park for a neighborhood cleanup and party, including food and environmental information sharing.
  • Central Hillside resident Rachael Kilgore at a picnic and community viewing session for the Cascade Park neighborhood’s litter and abandoned trash cleanup.

Recipients of the $950 gift

  • Story Taxidermy, James Hagstrom, to repair and replace damaged windows and doors to improve appearance and prevent future damage.
  • Original artwork of the Hillside First Ladies on a vinyl wrap on a needlepoint box in Central Hillside, materials to raise awareness of addiction and needle exchange resources, and a neighborhood cleanup.

Residents interested in volunteering at a project site are encouraged to contact Annika Fraser, your Love AmeriCorps VISTA, at or 218-390-5415. Learn more at

Outdoor community garden
Program coordinator JohnRae Reeves, Duluth, picked tomatoes at the Freedom Farms garden on September 21.

Clint Austin/Duluth News Tribune

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