Neighbors honored for serving their neighborhoods

submitted photos • From left, District 1 Community Council staff member Chia Lor with Shaquonna Jackson and Hafsa Mohamud.

From left, District 2 Community Council staff member Lisa Theis with Joan Ballanger and St. Paul City Council member Dan Bostrom's aide Scott Renstrom.

From left, Payne-Phalen Community Council staff member Robin Horkey with Don Lorr, Cook St. Paul general manager Candy Lyons, Cook St. Paul weekend manager Brook Lyons and Cook St. Paul owner Eddie Wu.

The annual St. Paul Neighborhood Honor Roll award dinner took place Jan. 26 as a way to celebrate neighbors and their commitment to their neighborhoods. 

Each year, St. Paul’s 17 district councils nominate neighbors who have made an impact. Those who are nominated get their names put on plaques near the St. Paul City Council chambers in City Hall. 

The district councils are independent nonprofits whose borders are determined by the city. The councils make recommendations to the city on various issues such as business and liquor licensing, zoning and new development, and help to update the city on issues in neighborhoods.

This year, each of the East Side’s district councils — District 1, which covers neighborhoods in southeast St. Paul; District 2, which covers neighborhoods in the northeast corner of the city; Payne Phalen, which covers the northwestern corner of the East Side; and Dayton's Bluff, which covers the southwestern corner of the East Side — nominated neighbors or local organizations that have made positive impacts on their communities.


District 2

The District 2 Community Council nominated  Joan Ballanger. According to a statement by the District 2 Community council board, Ballanger was nominated because of her support for the council since the early 2000s.

“While taking her daily walks, she often chats with residents asking what areas need improvements or where concerns are and then brings their concerns to the attention of the board,” the statement said.

In the past, Ballenager worked with her neighbors, the community council and city to get a crosswalk installed at Furness Parkway and Larpenteur Avenue. The board said she is also diligent in contacting the city when she finds broken or sunken sections of sidewalk on her block that need to be replaced.


District 1 

The District 1 Community Council nominated two people this year, Hafsa Mohamud and Shaquonna Jackson. 

According to a statement from the district's board, Mohamud has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and is currently a student at the University of Minnesota. The board described Mohamud as “someone passionate about community engagement.” She was involved in the “Your Vote is Your Voice” project, the District 1 Youth Council and helped to create the East Side Open Mic series that occurs monthly at the East Side Freedom Library. 

She has also helped to facilitate conversations between St. Paul Parks and Recreation and community members. Mohamud is a member of the District 1 Youth Programming Committee and Young Mentors Group and spends time tutoring kids at Sun Ray Library.

The board described Jackson as a “dedicated mom of five sons.” She helps with the District 1 Young Mentors Group and sits on the council’s Youth Programming Committee. She was a District 1 Community Council board member and helped with the East Side Pride Open Mic nights before becoming a staff member. According to a statement from the council, “She enjoys empowering youth and making her community a better place.”

“Helping others can be so rewarding for the heart and soul,” Jackson said.



The Payne-Phalen Community Council nominated three people, Don Lorr, Eddie Wu and Ryan Huseby.

Lorr has served as chair of the Railroad Island Task Force for many years and the council’s board described him as “working tirelessly to empower and inform his neighbors about issues facing that neighborhood.” He’s worked closely with St. Paul City Council member for Ward 5, Amy Brendmoen, and “has become the ‘go-to’ person for Railroad Island issues,” according to the council.  

The council’s statement said the board chose to nominate Wu because of the impact his restaurant Cook St. Paul has had on the neighborhood.

“[Wu] has turned Cook St. Paul, his modern diner on Payne Avenue, into a center of community, hosting pop-up dinners for various chefs and organizations, organizing hurricane relief and driving to Houston to cook for firefighters, and creating a space where all Eastsiders feel welcome,” the statement said.

Huseby is a co-owner of Tongue In Cheek, which the council calls an “upscale” Payne Avenue restaurant and “a beloved member of the community.”

“He’s graciously hosted our organization, the Payne-Phalen Community Council, in a fundraiser the past couple of years,” a statement from the council’s board said, “and always says yes to requests for gift card donations, both from the Payne-Phalen Community Council and from other community organizations.”


Dayton’s Bluff

The Dayton’s Bluff Community Council nominated two local organizations, Cerenity Marian, a senior living and care center located at 200 Earl St. near Indian Mounds Regional Park, and local nonprofit Hmong Americans for Justice, each for their involvement and commitment to the community 

Cerenity Marian includes both independent senior living and and a care/transitional facility within the same campus to make it easier for couples with different care needs to live near each other. 

Hmong Americans for Justice was founded in 2015 by Hmong-American community organizers and works on education, economic and social justice in St. Paul.


— Marjorie Otto


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