This is the first of our weekly Family Fun Club activities created by our volunteer team. We will request feedback from participants to help us create quality programming and build a museum that will meet the needs of Central Minnesota families. Join us for fun surprises for the whole family all summer long!
Monica Segura-Schwartz has been a part of the Great River Children’s Museum from early in the project. She began meeting at Glen Palm and Jane Ellison’s dining room table and has seen the board grow in size along with the scope of the project. Monica worked with Glen and Jane to build a board fully representative of our community. From the building donation to the process of hiring an executive director, she has seen the organization through many milestones and looks forward to many more to come. For Monica it is important to think about representation at all stages of a community project. “There will always be someone who is missing and we need to be aware of that as we move forward,” she says.
Monica brings a wide range of experience to her work as the Secretary on the Board of Directors. She has been a member of the St. Cloud Area School District School Board, GREAT Theater Board of Directors, and the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs, among others. She has a broad skill set from past work and study experiences. Her skills in organization, policy and community outreach add insight into many layers of museum board operations. From personnel decisions to organizing files, overarching goals to financial details, Monica adds valuable insights and willingness to take on tasks. She is consistently focused on getting input from as many stakeholders as possible in our community by engaging the museum in a variety of projects, activities and partnerships. She has been a driving force behind the museum’s progress.
Monica is most excited to have a uniquely welcoming community space for families in Central Minnesota. The museum will be a town square of sorts, where people from all backgrounds who share a love for children can gather around shared experiences. Adults and children will play, explore and learn together – about each other and about the wonders of the world around them. These experiences are already happening through the work of the Roundtables, PEL Labs, and community outreach activities. Play will have a permanent home at the Great River Children’s Museum thanks to Monica’s work in furthering the development of this destination attraction that will draw people from town and country to experience all it has to offer.
Over the last six weeks, the world has changed in ways that none of us could have imagined. Great River Children’s Museum has continued to make progress even while some activities have been put on pause and many community events have been cancelled. Committees have continued to meet over Zoom during this time and plan around the COVID-19 crisis as best we can. We know our supporters and our community are interested in our progress.
Over the past several months, Play, Explore and Learn (PEL) Labs have been conducted by museum volunteers for the purpose of learning how families engage in a variety of museum activities. These events have been conducted with small groups by invitation. Unfortunately, the PEL Labs planned for April and May have been postponed, but the committee continues to plan and prepare for the time when they can resume. All the while, discussing ways to keep connected to children and families in the community through alternative activies during this challenging time.
Another group of volunteers have been working with a consultant to conduct roundtable discussions with targeted groups around museum development. They have met with two groups of community members, downtown council members and non-profit group representatives, and early childhood teachers. These discussions have added valuable insights at this key phase of development. Additional roundtable sessions will be conducted with other groups of stakeholders when we are able to safely meet in small groups.
Our Exhibits Committee was visiting regional museums to inform their work as they continue to develop the exhibit concepts that were designed by the museum consultants. They visited the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum. Unfortunately, they had to postpone upcoming visits to museums that are now closed due to the COVID-19.
The Personnel Committee continues to forge ahead in the search for an executive director. The position posting garnered a lot of interest and interviews were planned before the Covid crisis. The committee has created a list of top candidates. Then, they conducted phone and Zoom interviews. They are on track to bring a recommendation to the board in May with a goal of bringing on an executive director in June.
This is just a sampling of the good work being done by the board, committees and volunteers working with the Great River Children’s Museum. We look forward to the day when we can again bring community members into the building to engage in this exciting work with us. The excitement of children, families and neighbors is what fuels this work.
We may not be able to meet in person during this time, but development work continues with the help of grants and donations from individuals and organizations in our community. In these challenging economic times, GiveMN is running a #GiveAtHomeMN campaign complete with $68,000 in prize drawings. By making any size donation to Great River Children’s Museum between May 1-8th, you help qualify the museum for prizes. Go show your support for a children’s museum in downtown St. Cloud by visiting givemn.org and making a donation during the first week of May. Your participation in this event will demonstrate the abundance of generosity and hope for the future that still exists in this time of crisis. We continue to strive for a better future for the children of Central Minnesota! One where they have a place to come together to create, explore, discover and be inspired through the extraordinary power of play.
Three safes were moved out of the bank! The museum is looking less like a bank due to the “sale” of three safes. The safes were offered for free to anyone willing to move them, which was a sizeable effort. Dave Surma, a foreman with El-Jay Plumbing & Heating, had been working in the building on a gas line project for Xcel Energy when he became aware that the safes were available. He decided to take on the project of removing the safes and finding them new homes. It took two full days and a crew of workers to move the safes. They constructed a steel beam gantry spanning two rooms to lift the safes onto carts. They used an elaborate hoist system and winches to pull the safes out around the various obstacles, up a ramp and out the door where the gantry system had to be built again to lift the safes onto the back of a truck. It was quite a production to move the three heavy safes. We are very thankful to have them out and fulfilling their next purpose.
Our PEL Lab space is looking great because of eleven volunteers from the United Way Day of Caring. On Thursday, September 19, they spent the day painting the 1200 square foot room where we plan to host our PEL Labs and the restroom in that space. The volunteers also dismantled some shelving in an older vault. Volunteers came from several employers, including GeoComm, Minnwest Bank, PCI, Safelite Auto Glass and Toppan Merrill. Thanks for all the hard work!
We will soon be kicking off our capital campaign! Through the museum planning process our financial goals are becoming more clearly defined. We continue to have operating expenses for the project that are similar to start-up costs for any new business. We are grateful to all the volunteers who have been donating time so generously. The project has been operating on volunteer passion for several years now with the recent addition of hired consultants who have assisted with marketing, museum planning, architecture and other specialties. The project has also undertaken some minor construction costs to make the building safe for people touring and for guests of our roundtable discussions and PEL Labs. Every dollar we raise now helps to propel this project forward. It is also our hope to ready ourselves for hiring our first employees, beginning with an executive director, in the coming months.
With the autumn season upon us, please consider the Great River Children’s Museum in your year end giving plans.
The Great River Children’s Museum had the opportunity to share play activities and information at the African Cultural Festival at Lake George on Sunday, September 15th. It was a beautiful day for the first annual outdoor event. Our volunteers were able to connect with a wide range of community members who shared their ideas about what they would like to see in a children’s museum serving Central Minnesota. They were also fortunate to be able to enjoy wonderful entertainment including African drumming, dance, poetry and song. Thanks to all who stopped by our booth and to the St. Cloud African Cultural Organization for inviting us!
“Welcoming,” “flourishing,” “connected,” “community” – these are a few of the inspiring words you will find in the newly completed 63-page museum plan that has come out of a series of sessions with museum planners, Jeanne Vergeront and Jim Rowe, early childhood experts and children’s museum leaders. Over the course of several months, the planning group has crafted a clear and comprehensive plan for a museum in downtown Saint Cloud. They envision positive changes for children and families in Central Minnesota and beyond as a result of the Great River Children’s Museum’s presence in the community.
The Museum will bring expanding opportunities to the Greater St. Cloud Area. This will be possible because the community will place a value on play as essential to children’s learning and wellbeing. Families of all backgrounds will be connected around a shared interest in their children. Children will be prepared for a more culturally diverse community and a changing world. The entire community will recognize that it thrives when its children thrive!
You may be wondering… What is a PEL Lab? What happens around round tables? The Museum is beginning to reach out strategically to community members to gather input into museum creation. Board members and community volunteers are putting together two unique series of events, each with its own purpose.
Play, Explore and Learn Labs, or PEL Labs for short, are events for adults and children to come to into the museum for a small sample of a museum experience. The goal is for the Museum to learn how to design exhibits and programming that work for our community. A group of professionals will design each experience and invite families to come play and explore. Museum volunteers will use this as an opportunity to learn what works well and what doesn’t. The information will be used for planning museum spaces, exhibits and activities.
Roundtables are opportunities for board members and the museum planning team to ask key questions of community members. Through these discussions, the Museum hopes to hear from a wide range of diverse voices from throughout Central Minnesota. This input will help the Museum understand what the community wants in a museum and how best to serve the Greater St. Cloud Area. There is great value in taking time to sit around a table and talk face-to-face about big ideas for improving a community, in this case, through the creation of a children’s museum.
If you would like to take part in either of these events, please make sure you have completed our survey. We have been collecting input over the last six months via this same survey. It has been circulating at events and on social media. If you have not yet completed it, we would like to hear your voice. At the end of the survey, there is an opportunity to express your interest in participating in roundtable discussions. Thank you for your input into the project!