Kim Eslinger

Brianna Ojard
Associate Editor

David Tinjum

Claudia Kittock
Columnist / Non-Profits
Email Claudia...

Merle Minda
Small Business Columnist
Email Merle...

Michael Rainville Jr.
History Columnist
Email Michael...

Ryan Ojard
Staff Photographer

Jenny Heck
Mill City Cooks
Email Jenny...

Mill City Times is a not-for-profit community service.  We do not sell advertising on this site.

Cultural Cornerstones
Search Mill City
Community Partners

Thanks to our community partners, whose support makes Mill City Times possible:


Residential Real Estate professionals serving Downtown Minneapolis & Riverfront since 1999

Visit their website...


Enhancing the Minneapolis riverfront environment—for people and pollinators

Visit their website...

Recent News
Front Page Archives


Article by Claudia Kittock 

I have always loved Thanksgiving. When I was a little girl growing up on the farm it meant days of cooking and baking, scrubbing our home from top to bottom, and then being inundated with relatives. It was chaotic, fragrant, and filled with love and chaos, not to mention the leftovers!

Our Thanksgivings have changed, as is true for all of us. They are still filled with love and chaos, but maybe a bit quieter and that is good, too. What remains the same is that it is a wonderful moment to pause and remember everything in life that we need to acknowledge with hearts filled with thankfulness.

Almost 4 years ago, a group of friends decided to start a charity, Friends of the Mill District. We wanted to be an active part of creating a community for everyone, and found out that the blessings we have received by doing this work is beyond anything any of us could have imagined. I want to pause in my life for a few moments and tell you about just a few of those blessings, and remember how incredibly thankful we all are.

The Guthrie Theater Education department helped us begin a group called Mill City Players. We brought together a group of potential actors from YouthLink and from Cedar Riverside. After two successful productions with the Guthrie, we all decided that we needed to grow in a different way. We were so very blessed by the relationship with the Guthrie and so grateful that they continue to provide our young people with tickets to Guthrie plays. They also donate a rehearsal space for the Mill City Singers every week. How lucky are we to have the Guthrie as our partner?

In the late spring, we hired James A. Williams as our Artistic Director. He brought with him Patricia Brown and Ahanti Young. Each of these artists brings incredible artistry to our actors and are highly skilled teachers. What isn’t included in their job descriptions is how much each has come to care about the young people. Every actor comes into a safe space for every rehearsal and learns how to be a stronger and better person. They are fed every day and leave with hugs and with messages about their power.

The Mill City Singers, founded in 2015, has grown from 29 singers to 268. If you are a ‘friend’ of the Mill District, we want you to be a singer. 2018 was an incredible season with performances at the Bold Hope in the North Super Bowl event, at Orchestra Hall, at the Ordway, and at the Loring Park Music Festival, just to name a few. We are a unique group of friends. The singing, led by the incredible JD Steele and Fred Steele, is why we come together, but the sense of community and friendship helps us stay.

The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) continues to support us with grants to help us do our work.  It is no small thing to start each year with seed money from MRAC. We wouldn’t be the Friends without MRAC.

Our community supports us in surprising ways, most of it without asking. In the past year we have been contacted by Minnesota Orchestra, the Ordway, the Guthrie, the Mill City Museum, ESPN, McKinney Roe, the Hennepin County Library, MacPhail Center for Music, Bobby and Steve’s, Izzy’s, Trader Joe’s, Enso Taiko, YouthLink, 10,000 Things, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), and the Minnesota Twins. Each group wanted to help us and did. If you had told me this would happen when we began the Friends, I would have been sure you were wrong.

Our individual donors are incredible. We are only 3 years old, and when the Friends began, I was told by more experienced people that no one would take a chance on us for at least the first 4 years. Well, our group of donors hadn’t heard that. Every year our mission has grown and our donors have continued to support us with more and more funding to help us do more.

I know that my heart has grown 3 sizes since I began this work. I am honored by the experiences I continue to have. I am reminded every day that people are incredibly good. I am reminded that people want to help, often just needing someone to show them where they are needed.

Thank you, donors. Thank you, artistic staff - JD Steele, Fred Steele, James A. Williams, Patricia Brown, and Ahanti Young. Thank you, actors. You make me anxious to get up every day and so very grateful at the end of the day that I got to spend time with each of you. Thank you, community. We are stronger together. As Paul Wellstone so famously said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -   

About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).
« What Happens When Rivers Merge? | Main | Witnessing Waves, Featuring Local Artist Alison Price, on MN Original, November 17 »