Friday, August 13, 2010

The Fixer [Dan, UHW staff]

A few weeks ago Chantal, one of our family residents, was cooking dinner. She had one of her four children in the bathtub and stepped away from the stove to check on her daughter. Seconds later, she came back into the kitchen to find that the pan she was cooking in was engulfed in flames and the fire was quickly getting out of control. Unable to stop it, she grabbed her children and went out the front door. Once safely on the street, she called the fire department who arrived quickly to douse the flames. Much of the kitchen is a total loss. The living room, dining room and hallway are coated with soot from the smoke and fire.

I went to see Chantal and find out how she and her kids were doing. She looked concerned. Her shoulders were heavy with regret. Lightheartedly, I gave her a hug and reassured her that I didn’t care about the apartment. I was only concerned that she and her children were okay and that we happen to have an open apartment to put them into temporarily. She seemed relieved, though I could tell that she wished there were more that she could say or do.

A few days later, I was talking with our other tenants across the street. The fire came up and I asked if they were aware of what had happened. Susan (not her real name) said that her husband saw it while it was happening and said, “You gotta get over there and see what you can do!” Susan went into high gear and helped round up Mattieu, David, Grace and Ruth. The Urban Neighbors upstairs also came to help Chantal move furniture and mattresses that were unaffected by the fire.

Sometime later, I received this note from Chantal. It was addressed to me, but it was intended for many people that have come to her aid throughout her time in housing with us. It reads,

Dear Dan,
I really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, once again,for everything. Seeing the kindness and understanding, before and after the fireaccident, of you and everybody from UrbanHomeworks, I was sorry and still sorryfor what happened. I couldn’t thank God enough for all of you and ask Himto bless you and your families. Your actions go deep and teach me m
any thingsand I am blessed to have all of you. My children call you “fixer” because they see you come in sometimes repair whatever need to be fixed. I told them that your name is Dan, but they keep saying that Mr. Fixer was here and he fixed this or that. Thinking about that I say to my self; “He is a fixer, he does fix things and also people’s broken hearts. We all thank you; Me, David, Grace and Matthieu May God bless you.

Sincerely, Chantal

Chantal’s story is rare. We hope that none of our tenants experience a grease fire in their home. What we hope and believe is not rare is the care and concern that Chantal and all of our families feel from our staff, the Urban Neighbors, and other neighbors. Chantal lives in a 3-bedroom that we are able to rent to her for $550 each month because of private support that makes it affordable for her. You, too, can help more families like Chantal’s by participating in 100 Gives 100, a family sponsorship program.

>>Find out more about how to become ONE of the 100 giving 100. Help more families be at home in stable housing:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hockey in the 'Hood [Mike, south Mpls Urban Neighbor]

Hockey is a sport for rich white kids, and poor city kids and minorities just don’t play.

That is that stereotype that I have lived with for my entire life, and I suspect that it is a stereotype that others who come from the suburbs hold. Volunteering with Dinomights in south Minneapolis this year helped me break that stereotype and it is helping to break that stereotype for others as well. Dinomights, affectionately known to many as "Hockey in the 'Hood," brings a diverse group of kids together to discover and share a common love of hockey. And it turns out that kids who you wouldn’t associate with hockey have a great deal of talent.

After growing up in Bloomington, MN and going to Jefferson high school (capitol of high school hockey in MN!), I came to the city with a full set of biases about what city kids are like and about who belongs on an ice rink. But getting to know and love the kids that I worked with at Dinomights helped to break down some of the stereotypes that were bred from ignorance in my upbringing.

You frequently hear the phrase, “don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” This year, I had the chance to skate a mile alongside of the kids of South Minneapolis, who break all of the stereotypes that I carried with me from the suburbs into the city. They were both talented at hockey, and also responsive and respectful to coaches. They will be good ambassadors to the game and positive influences on their communities!

God is moving in the city, and He is using Dinomights to connect himself to the kids of Minneapolis and work to break down the stereotypes and prejudices that people from the suburbs may hold about who plays hockey. I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with Dinomights this year, and I’m lucky to have gained some exposure (as an Urban Neighbor with Urban Homeworks) to the kinds of organizations that are working for the Lord in Minneapolis to protect, develop, and enrich at-risk communities.

[for more information about the great work done by Dinomights, or to join Mike as a volunteer coach or tutor, check them out at If you are interested in being an Urban Neighbor with Urban Homeworks, go to].