Good neighbors, unite! 

Mill City Commons events
Mill City Commons events include happy hours, a book club, exercise classes, regular foreign policy discussions, outings such as birding walks and volunteer activities, too. Photos courtesy of Mill City Commons

For seniors living near the heart of downtown Minneapolis — amid all the concrete and steel, traffic and transients, high rises and security systems — it’s a challenge to feel like a part of a true neighborhood in which people care about, and look after, one another.

That’s where Mill City Commons (MCC) comes in, a membership organization for those age 55 and older who live in the city’s central riverfront district and North Loop neighborhood.

Since the organization formed 10 years ago, members have gathered for coffee, met for drinks, toured the neighborhood, published a weekly newsletter, organized a food drive and more.

It’s all part of their mission to build “meaningful connections to people, activities and resources” to maintain vibrant lives.

Today 90 percent of MCC members, whose median age is 76, live in 30 buildings near the Mississippi River, from I-35W to the Plymouth Avenue Bridge and from Washington Avenue to Fourth Street, including Nicollet Island.

Activities

One of MCC’s early supporters and first board president is Marcia Townley, who moved back to Minneapolis from New York City after her husband died and she retired. She bought a place downtown.

“I knew I wanted more of a community in Minneapolis,” she said. “We got started with 35 members. We wanted dues at a level where we could have a small, part-time staff.”

For most members, dues cost $650 a year, and the staff now includes an executive director, a program manager and a member services administrator.

“In our first years, our priorities were to provide support for one another,” Townley said, “bringing people meals, taking them to the doctor’s office and just running errands.”

Now the agenda includes exercise classes, a meditation circle, birding walks, an evening book club and even a monthly foreign policy discussion.

MCC makes a point to reach out to men who sometimes find it difficult to establish and maintain friendships after they retire.

The Men’s Coffee and Conversation Group meets biweekly at Elsie’s in Northeast Minneapolis and anywhere from 25 to 40 guys gather to talk, eat and listen.

“It’s a great way to socialize,” said Bob Callahan, the current board chairman for MCC. “It’s a chance to make friends in an informal setting.”

Carol Jordan and Bob Callahan
Carol Jordan and Bob Callahan enjoy a happy hour at an event organized by the Mill City Commons.

Callahan and his wife, Carol Jordan, were both retired and had been living downtown since 2007 when they joined Mill City Commons in 2010, shortly after it organized.

“We hadn’t yet found a way to connect with others in our age group and saw this as an opportunity,” Jordan said. “Now MCC is very important to us. We’re involved in its connections or activities two to four times a week, in addition to family, neighbors and volunteering elsewhere.”

I’ve always thought it special to live near the Mississippi, the historic ribbon of water separating the Twin Cities. What’s special about MCC is the opportunity to make it a shared experience among good neighbors.

Belonging to MCC comes with a price tag, so that the staff can ensure that events and activities are well-planned, organized and operated. But the friendship and fellowship, according to its members, are quite spontaneous and freely given.

“I have a strong feeling that I live in a community that knows and cares about me,” said Townley. “Every time I go to Lunds, I see someone I know and it’s the same when I walk across the Stone Arch Bridge. It all helps keep me energized, active and engaged.”

And it helps make Minneapolis less of a big city and more of a good neighborhood.

Learn more at millcitycommons.org.


Dave Nimmer had a long career as a reporter, editor and professor. Now retired, he has no business card, but plenty to do. Send comments or questions to dnimmer@mngoodage.com.