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Wednesday August 23rd 2017

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“Turning A Negative Into A Positive….” GI Hi-Jacked at Hi-Lake!… Green Institute dead to South Mpls.

by Annie Young

Last month The Alley printed information about The ReUse Center closing. Now another part of the story unfolds before our eyes, where has the Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center and The Green Institute gone? On Monday, January 25th the Phillips Eco-Enterprise Center’s name came down and Greenway signage was put up. On Friday, January 29th The Green Institute offices moved out of the building with a smattering of files and limited staff up to the other ReUse Center store in Maplewood.

To date, none of us in the Phillips neighborhood know the GI Board’s response to the administration’s malfeasance. We probably never will. That is their business and we probably don’t need to have the dirty laundry hung out for everyone to see. However, it seems we do somehow need to communicate that The GI, ReUse Center and Deconstruction Services are all but gone – or what’s left of them have gone to Maplewood… So be it for grassroots democracy and action.

For years, the Phillips community has been proud of its Green Institute, ReUse Center and DeConstruction Program. It has won awards for its endeavors. The projects were the first of their kind, entering the fight for environmental justice and setting examples that are now almost common day occurrences. Reusing materials and bringing renewable energy initiatives to the community – both lofty goals but leaves us wondering “What happened?” With these gone now and some of the services moved to Maplewood there is no longer a connection to the Phillips community – the home of the roots of these endeavors.

So as one of the Founders, along with Susan, Harvey, Joan and a multitude of others I find myself going through a grieving process about an institution that we created with our NRP dollars and lots of personal blood, sweat, tears and mental anguish… we did this in the hopes of helping build economic, social and environmental vitality along with sustainability efforts to the Phillips neighborhood. The Institute was founded in the Phillips neighborhood as a result of the political struggle with Hennepin County about building a garbage transfer station. Winning that struggle and founding both The Institute and the ReUse Center were great medals of Honor for the community – sure signs of victory and bringing jobs and services to the community.

Over the years the GI Board had gotten further and further away from its roots in Phillips. It even had to survive a By-Laws change in order to keep 2 representatives from Phillips on the Board of Directors. But even with that requirement and Phillips residents serving on the Board it was bigger than just the 2 reps and their 7-10 other members – they had a tough, troubling time keeping up with the tumbling financial demise during the Institute’s past 10 years.

While there are critical questions about managing and taking care of the “company” store the story will probably never fully unfold. But it seems that a good first step in restoring some community and public trust in the past 17 years of The Green Institute’s existence and successful work they did was for me personally to apply the Stages of Grieving.

So when one is grieving, as I am – the stages again are:

1. Denial and Isolation.

Can this really be happening? And the feeling that the Board of Directors built an Institution (a fine one at that, most days people would say) but in isolation from the needs of the Phillips community.

2. Anger.

So yes, now I am angry and working hard to get past this one. Hey, this was supposed to be a community, neighborhood based organization primarily serving the Phillips neighborhood? Creating jobs, cleaning up the environment, and more – what happened?

3. Bargaining.

I know and am sure that there has been lot of bargaining and negotiating to keep things afloat over the last 17 years. No one can deny the GI Board of Directors has ever had a “free, fun ride” as a board member. The issues have been huge for the life of the organization.

4. Depression.

Some of us have seen the organization “go away” after about the first 8-10 years. Since then many of us went in cocoons, went on to other work and got “depressed” but didn’t know what to do to get The Institute back to its roots. Instead it moved into being about being more than it really was and having the money to do many things, and the money became a bigger and bigger obstacle and eventually, the heart of the problem.

5. Acceptance.

So this part is probably going to be lots easier then we think. We have a strong core of neighbors and citizens who love the neighborhood. Whether you live, work, worship or play here, there is a movement arising out in our neighborhood. It is about being and doing everything as local as possible. The arts, celebration of our cultural diversity and future survival right here in our community. People here in Phillips are working on issues such as: urban farming and community gardens, chickens in the backyard, alternative currency, local transportation, energy self-sufficiency, wellness opportunities and it goes on and on as the planning for the next 50 years starts to take hold. And with the Internet, e-mail and Facebook, the majority of people in the community can stay connected.

The Green Institute in the initial dreams was to be a resource center helping Phillips residents start businesses, and take on strengthening the community with the basic concepts of “reduce, reuse and recycle”. Saving the environment with renewable energy and job creation along with our neighborhood support was an even bigger picture for the Institute in helping to build a better Phillips.

So after 17 years it may be time to say good bye to the Green Institute but take the negatives of that experiment and turn them around into a positive resurrection of services and restore it in another way. We all know that Phoenixes do rise in this neighborhood, it is a common occurrence. So maybe we can still have a center that can help pull together “the green economy” right here in our own neighborhood. It will probably have a different name and different people helping to make it happen.

But I believe today as I believed 17 years ago – we don’t have a choice. We must move forward in planning for our future survival.

The people of Egypt just showed us what can be done – it can be done with determination. And one thing I know is in Phillips we have a lot of determination.

Annie Young, East Phillips resident and one of the Founders of the Green Institute

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One Response to ““Turning A Negative Into A Positive….” GI Hi-Jacked at Hi-Lake!… Green Institute dead to South Mpls.”

  1. […] (as previously reported) the ReUse Center. Annie Young, one of the founders of the Green Institute, applies Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of mourning to the environmental initiatives, which had been a part of Phillips for 17 years: The Institute was founded in the Phillips […]

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