Waterlines - November 2014
It has been an incredible month for Urban Boatbuilders. After nearly 20 years, we have made a momentous move to a new workshop thanks to the efforts of our supporters, friends and volunteers! All the hard work and dedication that went into making the move possible has paid off, and 2288 University is buzzing with activity.
I am humbled by the support of the entire Urban Boatbuilders community throughout this process, and I was delighted as our friends, Apprentices and staff united to make Urban Boatbuilders’ new home the best it can be. From the wave of donations we received to provide our Apprentices with the highest quality tools and equipment, to our new Apprentice Sam spending his Saturday assembling workbenches and drilling shelves together under the watchful eye of our expert volunteer Collette, the whole Urban Boatbuilders family has done their part and has never been stronger.
On November 13, Urban Boatbuilders will be participating in Give to the Max Day, 24 hours of charitable giving during which Minnesotans generate millions of dollars for organizations doing important work to improve the quality of life for all Minnesota. A new era has begun at Urban Boatbuilders, and Give to the Max Day is a great chance to contribute to that future while being a part of a Minnesota tradition that does a world of good.
We are pleased to announce that Urban Boatbuilders will be offering two matching donations on the 13th, doubling or even tripling your contribution. First time donors will benefit from both, tripling their gift, so spread the word about this amazing chance to make a huge first splash at Urban Boatbuilders. With your help, we will continue to serve more youth and keep Urban Boatbuilders moving onward and upward one boat at a time.
Thank you for all that you do! We’d love to see you at our new workshop’s Grand Opening Celebration on February 8!
Boys Totem Town Update: A Conversation With Phil Winger
Phil Winger is Urban Boatbuilders' most experienced boatbuilding instructor. As a part of his work, he has been bringing boatbuilding to youth incarcerated at Boys Totem Town juvenile correctional facility for many years, and he recently took a few minutes to talk about this fall’s BTT program.
Introduce yourself. How are you involved in Urban Boatbuilders' program at Boys Totem Town?
My name is Phil Winger. I am a boatbuilding instructor. Urban Boatbuilders has partnered with Boys Totem Town almost since the beginning of this organization.
I started building boats out there with residents who were doing time in 2000. Since that time, we've built approximately fifteen boats there.
How does the BTT program differ from other Urban Boatbuilders partnership programs?
We can do higher skill work because of the intensity. The students work with me for five hours of the day and we can take on more complicated projects and have very good results.
It creates an excellent environment for establishing a rapport and there is a low instructor to student ratio. When you're asking more of a student, it shows that you really believe in their abilities and they really respond well to that.
I should say one other thing. We get to build really cool boats because of the way the program is structured. It's very intensive. We've built an electric boat, a few kayaks, an Adirondack guideboat, even a sailboat, over the years.
I really enjoy the opportunity to do challenging things and keep it fresh for the students.
What are the youth building this year?
This fall we are building a 12 foot Norwegian pram. It is a traditional lapstrake rowboat that is built largely by eye. It's super cool how simple it is. You start with one pine board, and bend it into a parabola using a stick called a shore that is braced off the ceiling. Then you build off of that upward curved board.
There are four planks per side after that original keel plank. This is a little more advanced than our canoes, but one of the great things about Totem Town is that the guys there have time on their hands, and so we aren't as rushed as we might be at a typical school.
Where it's at now, the frame kind of looks like a whale skeleton.
What are the program's strengths and why do you think it is successful? Are there any stories you would like to share from the year so far?
We run what's called a on the job training, or OJT, program. I work with three residents fairly intensively for four weeks. When I'm there, they just come up and build a boat with me and get academic credit for doing it because we integrate math, science and technical reading every day.
At the end of that four weeks, they get tested with a final assessment. It's mostly just for us, to see if we are delivering our content well to the residents.
This year, one student got a 98% on his test, a record. And the other got a 91%. I liked that they did really well on these academic assessments after doing all that hands-on work. It just shows that you can integrate academic materials into more hands-on work.
Part of the reason we're there is that we're recruiting for our Apprenticeship program. We're trying specifically to give an opportunity for boys at Boys Totem Town to stay involved with positive and constructive activities. One of the current students came to one of our open houses at Urban Boatbuilders to learn about becoming an Apprentice.
What is something that you have learned while teaching at Boys Totem Town?
I learn something every day I’m there. Some of it pertains to boatbuilding, but a lot of it has to do with either youth development or education or correctional philosophy, or even politics. Partnering with a complex agency like Ramsey County Juvenile Corrections makes it interesting to see and be in that environment, to learn what's happening. I meet a lot of people that care.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
BTT has been our most consistent partner since Urban Boatbuilders incorporated as a nonprofit, and they are an excellent fit for our mission. We hope to continue this relationship into the foreseeable future!
Apprentice Spotlight: Malik
How did you learn about Urban Boatbuilders?
Through my helper Peter and through the internet.
What made you excited about working at Urban Boatbuilders?
Being able to use tools like the chisel, spoke shave, block plane, and especially the sanding disc.
What were you hoping to get out of being an Apprentice?
Learning how to measure so I can be a carpenter after I graduate.
What do you want to do with all of these skills?
This may sound unusual, but I’m going to build an adjustable spinning chair out of wood.
What do you want to do in the future?
I will start off by being a photographer. Then I’ll be a game designer. And then I’ll be a mechanical engineer for my last career.
What has been your proudest moment as an apprentice?
Building my first boat at the state fair.
What is your favorite tool in the shop?
Sand paper. I love sanding stuff and making it smooth.
Are there any fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share?
A lot! I’ve actually repaired a computer before. There was a problem with the LED so I replaced the RAM card.
Donor Spotlight: Ann Erickson
Ann is a long-time supporter of Urban Boatbuilders, and has generously supported our youth development programs since 2012. Her daughter Ellie interned with Urban Boatbuilders and was an Assistant Boatbuilding Instructor this past summer.
Introduce yourself. What is your background?
I grew up on a farm in Bird Island Minnesota, went to St Kates for college and stayed put in St Paul. I have two college age children, work as a project manager, and rely heavily on coffee, chocolate and an extraordinary circle of friends and family.
What role has philanthropy played in your life?
This really goes back to how my parents raised their 11 children. Their philosophy was always “you get back so much more than you give”. I recently had a Yogi tea bag message that says it best – “Live for something higher, bigger and better than yourself”. Urban Boatbuilders is an invitation to do just that.
When did you first get involved with Urban Boatbuilders?
In 2013 my daughter Ellie was desperate for a summer internship after a lead with the YMCA fell through. I brought it up as a project with my Saturday morning coffee shop friends. Tim and Dick have volunteered for years with Urban Boatbuilders and made the initial connection. Despite not having an established internship at the time, Urban Boatbuilders said “sure”. Ellie was thrilled. I was astounded. Chalk it up to too many years of working in a rigid corporate environment; it was incomprehensible to me that an organization would accommodate such a request. At the end of the summer, I asked Ellie “on a scale of 1-10 how life transforming was your experience?” Her response was “11”.
What attracted you to the cause and to Urban Boatbuilders in particular?
It’s that think globally, act locally slogan. Urban Boatbuilders is helping our community, our youth, our future.
What motivates you to stay involved?
Urban Boatbuilders makes it easy to be actively involved. There are so many opportunities to meet the Urban Boatbuilders Youth, Staff and other Volunteers. The boat launches, public boat builds (this year even at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, State Fair!), volunteer gatherings, open shop nights, Waterlines, etc provide ways to stay connected with Urban Boatbuilders.
What do you hope Urban Boatbuilders will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
Thanks to strong leadership Urban Boatbuilders is scaling up its program and community footprint significantly. It is exciting and invigorating. But stay a little quirky. Unconventional works well with Urban Boatbuilders. As a friend used to say: “Don’t lose the funk.” Of course with building boats as the modus operandi for working with youth, that funky aspect is pretty secure.
Does anyone in your life play a role in supporting your involvement and providing inspiration?
Seeing the commitment of Urban Boatbuilders’ staff and volunteers but also the apprentices’ personal stories provide plenty of inspiration.
Do you have an anecdote about Urban Boatbuilders that really moved you?
The Apprentices’ stories really speak to the importance of having a person and a purpose in life. And the power of one – one person and one purpose. UBB staff have been that one for many Apprentices. And building boats is that one purpose.
What other organizations or causes do you support?
There are so many, many worthy causes. A couple years ago, someone asked “what are your top three?” My top three are Urban Boatbuilders, St Catherine’s University, and educational sponsorship for a young person from India. I hope readers will make Urban Boatbuilders one of their top three.
Do you have a message to share?
At an Urban Boatbuilders event last year, Don Shelby said “Building boats is a metaphor for building lives.” I don’t think I can say it any better than that.
Meet Our AmeriCorps VISTA Harry!
Urban Boatbuilders’ amazing AmeriCorps VISTA Sara Kay headed west towards sunny California this August, but we have been assigned two new AmeriCorps VISTA members from the Saint Paul VISTA Program. Harry took a moment out of his busy day to introduce himself and talk about what he does.
Introduce yourself. What is your role at Urban Boatbuilders?
My name is Harry Kent and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA (volunteer in service to America) at Urban Boatbuilders. My position is the Volunteers and Programs Specialist.
How did you learn about Urban Boatbuilders?
I first learned about Urban Boatbuilders while working at an internship with the District Councils Collaborative of St. Paul and Minneapolis. During that time, we moved into an office space on Hamline & University Avenue, inside a converted used-car dealership. Inside hanging in the ceiling were these fantastic boats. One day, some nice guys brought in a beautiful boat similar to the ones hanging in the ceiling and I said, HEY, who are you guys with the really nice boats? And they said they were part of an organization called Urban Boatbuilders. They told me about Open Shop and I came by to volunteer a couple times and now here I am!
Can you tell us a little bit about your past work or school experience?
I am a proud graduate of Macalester College with a major in Geography and a minor in Hispanic Studies and a concentration in Urban Studies. Prior to my work here at Urban Boatbuilders, I have worked with various youth organizations including teaching Spanish at Language Sprout, working with some summer camps in Columbus, Ohio with the Ohio Hispanic Coalition and Past Foundation and doing some work for Macalester through the Civic Engagement Center.
What has your experience at Urban Boatbuilders been like so far?
I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience so far at Urban Boatbuilders. I had a blast at the State Fair witnessing the Apprentices build an entire canoe from start to finish! I also have been enjoying getting to know the many volunteers who help us out and have been excited to welcome new faces to the volunteer community. And, I have had a fantastic time getting to know the staff here and being able to work with them on a daily basis has been a real joy.
What’s something that you’ve achieved at Urban Boatbuilders that you’re particularly proud of?
I helped host our first Apprenticeship Open House this past month and it went very well. We were able to get students across St. Paul high schools to come down and experience our shop and learn more about our Apprenticeship program from staff and current participants. It was really cool to see the current Apprentices interacting with interested students and I am looking forward to helping out with more Open Houses in the future.
What do you want to see at Urban Boatbuilders in the future?
I am hoping to build more partnerships with different schools across the Twin Cities and I would be very excited to see more new volunteers at our Open Shop. And I'm excited to see Phil in a tuxedo during our Winter Fundraiser.
Any fun facts about yourself?
My favorite radio show is Radio Pocho on KFAI 90.3 Community Radio and my favorite soccer team is Tottenham Hotspur.
A Buildout Perspective
by Sam Hartzell
You have probably heard by now: Urban Boatbuilders has moved. As one of two new AmeriCorps VISTA members at Urban Boatbuilders, I arrived only a few months ago at the start of August. I remember opening the glass door with the big, welcoming, yellow URBAN BOATBUILDERS sign beside it and walking into a wonderland of boatcrafting and sawdust. The Apprentices were working on their toolboxes, and Marc Hosmer, Phil Winger and Sara Kay all looked up as I came in that first time and offered a jolly Hello. I was overwhelmed, though. I was taking it all in, and there was so much to see in that jam-packed corner of Pascal and University.
Three months later, I’ve seen my share of people come in off the sidewalk with probably that same look of wonder. To see the boats suspended from the ceiling. To see racks of paddles and planks upon planks of wood stacked closely. The big, mysterious table saw and the swooping frames of canoes coming together. It’s really something special, and it’s a whole new world for people who aren’t used to it.
Well, that shop is empty now, and the magic has moved to a place where it can grow and sink into the pores of a new floor.
I only just got to know the old shop, but as we all sat in there, having packed up the last box and wrapped up the last bundle of wood, Phil was talking about the memories. That each block plane, each nail in the wall, each coat of paint, had a history, and that he could name the young people who had come through that place and picked up that block plane, hammered that nail, or laid that coat of paint.
I’m new. But for those of you in the Urban Boatbuilders family who have only ever known Urban Boatbuilders in that little rectangular space, and who have known it long and well, this is a profound leap.
The new workshop is wide and tall. The new office feels huge by comparison to the snug corner the staff has been in for 15 years. That corner wasn’t meant for six people. And the old workshop certainly would have struggled with 18 Apprentices. From now on, thanks to everyone’s efforts, the new magic will reach more youth than ever before. And when a young person enters Urban Boatbuilders’ new home for the first time, there is going to be so much to see.
The move has been a team effort. From Kraus-Anderson’s crew doing the initial construction work to get the new shop ready; to the critical financial support and amazing generosity of everyone who donated; to our extraordinary volunteers putting in hours and hours to get the workbenches built, the walls painted, the floors laid down, and the offices assembled; to Apprentices pitching in on Saturdays and having a blast putting furniture together or drilling tool racks – there is a crowd to thank.
The new workshop floor is going in as I write this, a wooden floor that will prevent damage to the tools that will get dropped in the years to come. The Two Men and a Truck moving team carried boxes upon boxes of tools and materials and packets of wood to their new home, and that is all waiting to be unpacked. The office computers are set up, though the internet doesn’t work quite yet. The kitchen is gleaming and filled with newly washed cups thanks to Angela.
Over the coming weeks, everything will be unpacked and find new homes. Phil, Michael, Collette and Angela will mastermind the flow of the workshop, the ideal placement for each tool and each boat mold. Marc Hosmer, who juggled every complexity of the move and brought the currents together like a maestro, will be in the office with the morning sun working to make Urban Boatbuilders the best it can be and better. Our talented volunteers will start new projects and restorations. And young people, new to the magic, will come through the doors with that look of wonder. And they will pick up a block plane, hammer a nail, lay new paint – and grow and learn, one boat at a time, one new memory at a time.
Mark Your Calendars! Urban Boatbuilders Events
There’s a lot going on at Urban Boatbuilders! Here are three upcoming events that you should mark on your calendar.
November 13th – Give to the Max Day
Minnesotans will unite to contribute millions to important causes and organizations at work in our state. As a celebration of philanthropy and charitable giving, Give to the Max Day is a superb chance to see your donation have two or even three times the impact thanks to Urban Boatbuilders donor matches. All donations made through givemn.org will be doubled, and all first-time donors will see their donation tripled! With chances for your donation to win prize tickets of a $1,000 or even $10,000, every single donation has a chance to make a huge difference. Help Urban Boatbuilders generate thousands of dollars to improve the lives of Twin Cities youth and join us on Give to the Max Day to make a difference.
December 30th – Hats & Mittens 2014 Winter Ball Fundraiser
Hats & Mittens has chosen Urban Boatbuilders as the beneficiary of their annual gala, to be held at the Radisson Blu at the Mall of America on December 30th. Expect a delightful and stylish evening with delicious food, a silent auction, and all to benefit Urban Boatbuilders. Tickets are $85 per person plus a child’s hat and mittens set. Celebrate the holidays and Urban Boatbuilders this winter!
February 8th – Grand Opening Celebration
Urban Boatbuilders is getting comfortable in the new workshop at 2288 University, and we look forward to throwing a wonderful celebration in honor of everyone who contributed time, treasure, and talent to making this move a reality! Come by on February 8th, check out the new workshop, and let us provide the festivity, food, fun! You make the work of Urban Boatbuilders possible, and we want to recognize and celebrate all you do at our amazing new workshop. Join us!