Wearing sunglasses and a big grin, Darcy Knight wielded her paintbrush and bucket on a sunny October afternoon. It was a week of transformation by amateur and professional volunteers, giving new life to the building that had been Log Cabin Flowers. The Franklin Ave. landmark, since 1945, was now becoming 29th Street Petal Pushers at Old Arizona Collaborative in Minneapolis. The building reflects the new hopes and new futures coming to girls in the Whittier neighborhood.
In the early 1990s, when Knight and Elizabeth Trumble acquired the Old Arizona building at 29th and Nicollet, they were thinking of creating an arts center. But they learned that they had just located at the fourth leading corner for drug dealing and prostitution in Minneapolis. They saw young girls selling themselves on the corner and decided to do something to get girls off the street.
“We opened the doors and invited them in,” Trumble explained. They also invited instructors and artists they knew to get involved. They created a dance studio and theater space. The girls were mentored in filmmaking. Over 100 girls showed up for their first open house and to date over 1,800 teen girls have participated in programs at Old Arizona and fewer are participating in unhealthy behaviors.
The 29th Street Petal Pushers is their newest project. The Log Cabin Flowers’ building was slated for demolition in 2006. Old Arizona Collaborative saw potential and moved the structure to its own location.
In addition to teaching girls about how to grow and arrange flowers, Trumble and Knight intend to grow “socially conscious businesswomen.” When customers buy plants, flowers and garden accessories from 29th Street Petal Pushers, they will be supporting young women in meaningful employment-for many their first job.
Even as the walls and ceiling are still coming together, the girls have completed their first order, centerpieces for a luncheon for the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. They are taking special orders for Valentine’s Day and anticipate a spring grand opening.Some of the girls who have been involved with writing the business plan and soliciting foundations for funding tell the story best.
“I have learned to be open minded. People here speak their mind and not judge them by what they say. It makes you older and more responsible for stuff that happens around you,” said 14-year-old Dakessa.
“It’s not a very good neighborhood around here. They get involved in really bad situations. Everyone’s in conflict and fighting with each other and gangs and violence. [Here] you can get away from the streets for a while and it would be like a sanctuary away from all of that,” said 17-year-old Sandy.
Be A Changemaker:
You can get involved with the 29th Street Petal Pushers in a number of ways:
• Financial contributions to Old Arizona Collaborative can be sent to 2821 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55408.
• Volunteers with a passion for working with teenage girls and have experience with floral design, accounting, marketing or inventory control are being sought.
• Order your Valentine’s Day flowers now.