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December 8, 2003 // UPDATED 11:09 am - April 30, 2007
By: Skyway News editorial staff
Skyway News editorial staff

Things going on in Downtown Minneapolis\' area Neighborhood\'s.

Downtown resident wins top volunteer award Rajiv Shah's family fled dictator Idi Amin's Uganda when Shah was an infant, and he grew up in Arden Hills, using education to overcome any hardship. As a Boston University student in 1993, he realized that many kids who needed an educational boost didn't have the chance to work with the same tutoring program long-term, so he helped found ACES to do just that.

In November, the 31-year-old Downtown resident won a prestigious McKnight Foundation "Unsung Hero" award for his organization, where inner-city kids get help learning from 4th grade until their senior year in high school.

Shah's program matches students from South and North Minneapolis and St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood with college students two to four nights a week.

The program targets middle-of-the-pack students since most schools already have programs for "gifted and talented" kids or those with learning disabilities.

Teachers refer students to ACES.

The program celebrated its 10th anniversary in May. All 13 original students graduated from high school on time and stuck with ACES all the way through. (Tutors typically volunteer for one year.)

"To see the vision of 10 years ago become a reality has been very rewarding," said Shah, who is now a Hennepin County Medical Center resident physician.

The program has a sports-themed curriculum; students work on reports about athletes, play games and do some math projects.

"Kids look at athletes as role models; right or wrong, they do," Shah said.

Shah grew up in Arden Hills but has been inspired to reach out to students in the inner city. Shah's family fled Uganda when Amin ordered Indians out of the country. The Shahs moved to London, then to Canada and finally settled in Minnesota.

After graduating from Boston University, Shah attended the University of Minnesota's medical school. The ambitious student launched ACES at 21 with Rhoda Au, a friend he met in Boston.

Shah is among 10 Minnesotans who received the "Unsung Hero" award this year. It is officially known as the Virginia McKnight Binger Award in Human Service.

For more information, check out the ACES Web site, or call 331-3454.

Those interested in becoming an ACES volunteer should contact Chad Holthaus at -- Sarah McKenzie

Now, you can report crimes online The Minneapolis Police department started a Web-based police report system in November, allowing people to report minor incidents on-line.

The new system will allow victims to document vandalism and lost or stolen property, generating reports often used for insurance purposes. The system is not intended for incidents in which injuries resulted and suspect information was available.

The new system was paid for using the city's Community Development Block Grants. Previously, police reports were only generated by an officer who responds to an incident or by using Teleserve, where victims phoned in reports.

Police Chief Robert Olson ordered the Minneapolis Police Department's Teleserve system shut down June 26 in a budget-cutting move. However, the phone system was restored two weeks later.

Police spokesperson Officer Ron Reier, said in July that Teleserve's reprieve came after police officials realized it cost more money to take reports without it.

Police administration said they hope the new online system will be save tax dollars, by allowing people to enter reports into the database themselves instead of a transcriber doing it for them. However, as with other police reports, printed copies of online filings are only available in the city's Records Department in City Hall, room 31, 350 S. 5th St.

To check out E-filing system, visit and to use Teleserve instead, call 673-3383. In case of emergency, dial 911. -- Robyn Repya

Tips to prevent holiday crime The Minneapolis Police Department's Community Crime Prevention/SAFE program is circulating safety tips for Downtown holiday shoppers.

First Precinct Officer Craig Williams has many suggestions to stay clear of trouble:

  • Don't carry around large amounts of cash -- use credit cards or checks, if possible, for large purchases;
  • Notify your credit card issuer immediately if your card is stolen or misplaced. Keep an inventory of credit cards along with a list of 800 numbers;
  • Use ATMs at busy, well-lit locations and protect your PIN number by shielding yourself from passersby as you punch it in (and don't flash cash);
  • Don't carry a purse or wallet -- they are the prime targets of thieves. Carry cash in your front pocket. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry;
  • Stay alert while shopping and carry a cell phone, if possible, for added security;
  • Avoid driving alone or at night, park close to the stores at which you plan to shop, and don't approach your car alone if you see suspicious people nearby; and
  • Don't overload yourself with packages of gifts. Put gifts in the trunk of your car -- don't leave them in plain view in the car. -- Sarah McKenzie

    Block E tree lit Dec. 9 Mayor R.T. Rybak will electrify Block E's 20-foot, holiday tree on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

    The mayor is scheduled to flip the switch around 5:20 p.m. in Block E's plaza, located under the Target Center skyway near the corner of 1st Avenue North and 6th Street.

    Salvation Army representatives and Block E General Manager Sue Bonin will also be on hand for the tree-lighting ceremony. The event will kick off a fund-raiser for the Salvation Army's HeatShare Program -- a fund sponsored by state utility companies to assist low-income families in paying for heating and electrical bills.

    In 2002, HeatShare helped 3,224 families pay utility bills. The Salvation Army has partnered with several state utility companies in educating families about energy issues and providing emergency energy assistance.

    The Swedish Fiddlers are also scheduled to play at the ceremony. Seasonal banners for Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah will be on display throughout Block E. -- Sarah McKenzie

    Neighborhood notes

    Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA) Next: Board meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 9. Meetings: Land Use meetings, 1st Tuesday of each month; Board meetings 2nd Tuesday of each month, 6:30 p.m., LaSalle Plaza, 800 LaSalle Ave., Suite #131. Contact: 659-1279, Borders: Mississippi River, Hennepin Ave., Washington Ave., 3rd Ave., 12th St., 5th Ave., 5th St., I-35W.

    North Loop Neighborhood Association Next: Board meeting, Dec. 17. Meetings: Last Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m., Heritage Landing, 415 N. 1st St. Contact: Jim Grabek, 677-1090, Borders: Lyndale Ave., Mississippi River, I-94, Hennepin Ave., Washington Ave., 3rd. Ave.

    Citizens for a Loring Park Community,/I> 11/24 Land Use Committee meeting Zoning change: Mike Talbot with Vital Vinyl spoke with committee members about plans to move his record store from 3 W. 15th St. to 1500 Nicollet Ave. The store is seeking a new zoning classification to allow for live, amplified music. Although committee members said they appreciated the business in the neighborhood, some had concerns about the new zoning classification, saying it would set a precedent for other types of development, such as fast food drive-ins, to which neighborhood leaders would object. The committee took no action; Talbot plans to attend the next Land Use meeting.

    Tenant concerns: Residents at an apartment building at 316 Oak Grove brought a laundry list of concerns about management at their building. The building has been marred by vandalism and maintenance problems, they told the committee. The group has organized a campaign to improve building conditions. Kim Havey, committee chair, said the panel would assist the tenants in resolving their concerns and possibly organize a tenant rally. Next: Board meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 9. Meetings: Board meets 2nd Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. 430 Oak Grove St., #207. Nicollet Task Force, 2nd Wednesday, Hibaq Coffee Shop. Livability Committee, 3rd Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., Dunn Bros on 15th St.; Land Use Committee, 6:30 p.m., 4th Monday, 430 Oak Grove St. Contact: Jana Metge, 874-9002; Borders: S. 12th St., I-35W, I-94, Lyndale Ave., and I-394.

    Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc. Next: Board, Monday, Dec. 8. Meetings: Board 2nd Monday of the month, 7 p.m., 1000 E. 14th St.; Economic Development Strategies, 3rd Wednesday, Building Land Use and Housing, 3rd Thursday; Neighborhood Action Committee, 4th Monday. (EPNI's committee meetings are open to all adults who live, work or own property in the neighborhood. Local Churches may appoint up to 3 people to represent them.) Contact: 335-5846 Borders: I-94, Hwy. 55, 5th Ave., S. 5th St.

    Nicollet Island/East Bank Neighborhood Association Next: Meeting, Jan. 20. Meetings: 3rd Tuesday of the odd-numbered months, 7 p.m., Pracna on Main, 117 SE Main St. Contact: Borders: Nicollet Island, Mississippi River, Central Ave. SE, railroad tracks north of and parallel to 1st Ave.