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Volunteer Spotlight: John Meegan
by Katie Mintz
Photo by Katie Mintz
John Meegan, owner of suit shop Top Shelf Inc., 3040 Lyndale Ave., has worn a lot of hats in the Lyndale neighborhood. The nearly 30-year resident has been a painter, outlining fish that decorate the “aquarium” – actually a power generator at Garfield Avenue and 33rd Street. He was editor of this newspaper’s predecessor Common Sense, piecing together the newspaper’s pages on an ancient version of Microsoft Pagemaker. He was also treasurer and president of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association as it was becoming the community organizing powerhouse it is today.
Recently, he’s been an event planner, bringing together local businesses and organizations for the annual Lyn-Lake Street Festival, held this year Sunday, May 15, at the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street. A member of the Lyn-Lake Business Association Board and the Blaisdell YMCA Community Board, John said he saw a need to bring back the event in 2009 after a several year hiatus. The YMCA had just been through a major renovation and needed to reconnect with residents. “It behooves all of us business people to show we support an institution that does a lot of good in our neighborhood,” John said. At that same time, local mom-and-pop shops like his were struggling to recover from an extensive road reconstruction project and the recession.
“It felt like the economy and construction had really socked Lyn-Lake in the teeth,” John said. “We needed to show the world we were still vital.” With his wife Pat, he planned the festival in front of their store on Lyndale between Lake and 31st streets. This year marked the largest event, with the festivities moved to the north side of the intersection to accommodate growing numbers. John said in addition to the sunny weather, the third annual Lyn-Lake Street Festival was a hit for its good balance of all-ages fun, support for local business and the YMCA’s Rides of Spring bike rally.
Music has been a big draw for the young-adult set. This year acts included Haley Bonar and Heiruspecs – not to mention kid band Koo Koo Kanga Roo. “This was a dance-fever party for kids and it was infectious,” he said. “The biggest thing I’m proud of is it can still be called a family-friendly event.” But John said it takes hundreds of hours of personal time to collect the $30,000-plus in local business sponsorships and obtain the necessary permits for music, banners and food. He’s had help booking the band and coordinating volunteers from a new generation of community leaders, and he hopes to see them command the lead next year. “I like empowering young people,” said John, adding the rewards of giving back are enormous. “You get more back from being a volunteer than you give most of the time.”
It won’t be the first time he’s bowed out of the spotlight, wearing the hat of quiet leader. When he first got involved in the Lyndale Neighborhood Association in the late 1980s, he was part of a small group trying to make the area a better place to raise his two daughters and for all residents. “We had cab drivers being killed in their cars. There were blocks you couldn’t go on at night. It wasn’t fun,” said John, who hasn’t been involved closely in the association for the last decade.
He says through the work of those early volunteers, Lyndale was one of the first neighborhoods to get Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds and has since leveraged millions of dollars in private investment. He points to community resources like the Tubman Family Alliance and Agape Hospice as proof of success. “The neighborhood changed. We turned it around,” said John. “It was a volunteer effort to make all those things happen. The world just wouldn’t get along without volunteers.”
Mon, 2011-06-20 17:33
Tuesday, May 286:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Join us at the May General Membership meeting to hear from Minneapolis Mayoral candidates Mark Andrew & Cam Winton, Fish Fest, and Avenues for Youth. We will also be having a community vote on a request from Teen Challenge for a variance for expansion of services.
Tuesday, June 46:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Monthly Committee Meeting for the LNA Environment Committee. The Environment Committee meets on the first Tuesday of the Month.
Saturday, June 155:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Join us for one of the best Lyndale events of the year.
Friday, June 217:00 pm to 9:30 pm
Join fellow Lyndalians for an evening of board games and cocktails. Indulge your competitive self and have fun showing off your gaming skills. Just picture yourself tipping your head back in conquest, fancy intoxicant in hand. Sweet sweet victory.
Fish Festivity Functionaries:
That great month of June is upon us and the Fish Fest beckons. One of the highlights of the year, Fish Fest brings the community together in a flurry of fish tacos, good tunes, activities, and water balloons! We need help with all aspects of the event from set up to tear down, opportunities include: event and food set up, food/drink serving, activity stewards, water balloon fillers, booth sitters, money takers, and clean up stars. Contact Aryca to sign up for a shift (email@example.com or 612-824-9402 ext. 26). Let us come together and hold the best Fish Fest ever!