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Be Grateful!

Article by Claudia Kittock

If you sing with the Mill City Singers, you are familiar with the gorgeous song, simply titled, Be Grateful. This is a time of year when all of us are reminded of the things that bring us joy, the things that are so profoundly important every day of our lives. I do the work I do because I believe in social justice and equality. I believe that I am required to do this work. I was born lucky and I didn’t choose that luck. I was born to parents who loved me, provided a home for me, and urged me to read and to learn. Some people are not born with that luck through no choice of their own. I am required to give that luck back. What I have learned is that for every bit of effort and every bit of investment, it comes back to me 1000 times.           

I am honored to work with people experiencing homelessness. While that may seem odd in an essay on thankfulness, it is not. I have received more ‘thank yous’ and more thankfulness than in any other part of my life. I laugh every single day that I am with the youth, and the hugs are never ending. The strength I see every day inspires me to work harder and to do better.

I am honored to write this column for the incredible Mill City Times. Dave Tinjum urged me to write for a year before I said ‘yes’. He wanted me to tell the stories I hear as I go about my advocacy work. Why am I grateful? Because every single week I am honored to talk with people who are doing the work of social justice, not for show, not for money, and certainly not for glory. They do the work because it is the right thing to do, and I get to be reminded that our world is filled with people like this.

This year in the life of Friends of the Mill District there were many things that require thankfulness. As many of you know, we offered Yoga in the Park from Memorial Day to Labor Day. I was, again, approached by a yoga teacher who asked if she could teach the class for free! She assured me she would take charge of the schedule and find other teachers on the days she couldn’t be there. ALL of that was done for free, for a contribution to building community, for ‘doing the right thing’. Wow!!

The Mill City Singers continues to delight and touch both singers and audiences. In the past year, we have grown from an average of 41 singers in each rehearsal to 49. There has been no publicity to seek new singers, and yet we add people every single week. Our roster now includes 191 singers. Performances this year included the Capri Theater, the Loring Park Music Fest, a Twins game, caroling for Winterfest, and we have been asked to be a community partner with the Minnesota Orchestra.

We launched a new project in August of this year, the Mill City Youth Players. The actors come from the Cedar Riverside neighborhood and from YouthLink. We had 24 actors who participated and put on a sold-out production in the Dowling Theater at the Guthrie on August 24. It was phenomenal! The second session began on November 15 and will continue with rehearsals at the Guthrie, culminating in 3 performances!  There will be 2 performances on January 25, a matinee and an evening performance and will culminate with an evening performance on January 26. Put these dates on your calendar - you won’t want to miss it.

With new endeavors come new challenges. Our biggest challenge this year was finding the money to pay the salaries for the professionals who lead the Mill City Singers and the Mill City Youth Players. Because of the incredible outpouring of love and support from the ‘friends’ of these programs, we were able to find the financial support we needed. We are so very thankful to each and every one of you who help us. The name of our charity has proved very appropriate! You truly are friends of the Mill District and we are profoundly grateful for your friendship.

There are always ways to get and/or stay involved:

• Bring dinner for the actors at the Guthrie. We make sure there is a dinner for them after each rehearsal and ask you to stay and talk with them. Not only is it great fun, but you will be reminded just how much teenagers eat! If interested, please contact me at
• Sing with us! If you think you can’t sing, you are probably wrong, and even so, the Mill City Singers is open to all. No charge, no expectations but to come with a full heart ready to sing with joy and to make friends.  Contact me at
• Support us financially so that these programs can continue. You can donate through GiveMN at
• Send a check made out to Friends of the Mill District to: Claudia Kittock, 212 10th Avenue S, Apt. 102, Minneapolis, MN 55415

Be grateful! It matters in how you go through life, and a heart full of gratitude is one way to change the world around you.

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