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The fourth annual Marquette Community Day was another huge success! Dutchtown neighbors, led by MCD founders Ben Robinson and Markus Haskins, gave out backpacks and school supplies for children in the Dutchtown neighborhood, along with sharing local community resources and providing a fun day out to create a unique, community-oriented celebration in Marquette Park.

With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic hitting low-income families disproportionately hard, Marquette Community Day distributed more than 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to help local families bridge the financial gap as they prepare their children for the start of the school year. MCD also partnered with the St. Louis Health Department to provide vaccines to event attendees.

Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Marquette Community Day’s 2021 Comeback

After taking a one-year hiatus due to pandemic constraints in 2020, nothing was going to stop organizers this year from getting the event back to the community they loved. “This is a grass-roots organized event dreamt up by two people from the community, for the community,” said Marquette Community Day co-founder Ben Robinson, Jr. “Raising funds this year has been especially challenging with the pandemic, but we keep fielding questions from community members regarding Marquette Community Day this year. The need for this event has not gone away, it has only become greater.”

Activities at Marquette Community Day centered around the entire family. Besides receiving backpacks, school supplies, healthcare services, and haircuts, kids also got a chance to just be kids with horse rides, a bounce house and slide, foam archery, and tons of other fun activities.

“Our goal was to outdo what we have done over the past few years with more backpacks and supplies for area children, more entertainment for families, more positive energy, and more community building,” said Markus Haskins, co-founder of Marquette Community Day. 

Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
DJ Prospect Out Hrr at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

More About Marquette Community Day

Marquette Community Day founders Ben Robinson and Markus Haskins.
MCD founders Ben Robinson and Markus Haskins.

Started in 2017, Marquette Community Day was created to address the unique needs, concerns, and burdens that Dutchtown families, local businesses, and community organizations face on the South Side. The back-to-school celebration serves as a positive launching point for neighborhood kids to get excited about returning to school, prepared with backpacks, supplies, fresh haircuts and styles, and fun stories of what they got to do with their families at MCD.

Organizers Markus Haskins and Ben Robinson both grew up in the neighborhood and graduated from Roosevelt High School. Haskins and Robinson team up with Marquette Park Recreation Center, local small businesses, and other community organizations to provide the activities, supplies, and services available at the event. Marquette Community Day is an entirely grassroots event without a single large corporate benefactor or non-profit sponsor. 

Cure Violence at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
The St. Louis Fire Department at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Free food and drinks for attendees at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Thank You to the Participants and Sponsors!

This year not only saw the number of youth and families grow, but also saw growth in the amount of community partners involved. Participating organizations and sponsors included the Cross Grand, Cure Violence, Dutchtown Main Streets, Dutchtown Market, Dutchtown South Community Corporation, Employment Connection, Flowers and Weeds, Logan’s Kids Resale, One Silverstar Foundation, South City Hospital, South Side Spaces, Stars on a Mission, St. Joseph Housing Initiative, St. Louis Community College, St. Louis Health Department, St. Louis Parks and Recreation, STL Style, Thomas Dunn Learning Center, Youth in Need, and many more.

Children at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
Crowds line up for backpacks and school supplies at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.
A child playing with bubbles at Marquette Community Day in Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Did you get a chance to check out Marquette Community Day? Send us your thoughts and ideas for the park at info@dutchtownstl.org and visit dutchtownstl.org/marquette to find out more about what’s happening at Marquette Park.

Photos courtesy of Ben Robinson, Kayla Colwell, Chip Smith, and Nick Findley. Find more photos from Marquette Community Day on the DutchtownSTL Flickr page.

The Wink!, a new shared-space retail incubator concept, opens this Saturday, August 14th. Join us in Downtown Dutchtown for a soft opening celebration! Arrive at 10am for a tarp drop reveal. The Wink! and other neighborhood businesses will be open until 6pm.

Products available at The Wink! in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO. Offerings include jewelry, housewares, beauty products, art, and more.

At The Wink!, you’ll find an ever-changing, curated collection of locally sourced goods from small businesses and start-up shops including greeting cards, household goods fashioned from vintage fabrics, bath and body products, custom jewelry, original art and gifts, and much more.

Located in the Historic Winkelmann Building

The Wink! is located at 3302 Meramec Street on the first floor of the Winkelmann Building. The three story building at the corner of Meramec and Virginia is home to fourth generation Winkelmann Sons Drug, established 1913, as well as additional storefronts, plus apartments on the second and third floors.

Winkelmann Drug at the corner of Meramec Street and Virginia Avenue in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Forget Me Not Boutique and Creative Expressions Custom Designs are also tenants at the Winkelmann Building, occupying the storefronts around the corner facing Virginia. Both businesses also opened their doors in Dutchtown in 2021.

Meramec Street during the Spring Sidewalk Sale in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Come to Downtown Dutchtown for Special Deals, Tasty Treats, and Rare Finds!

In addition to the new and unique offerings at The Wink, Downtown Dutchtown will be bustling on Saturday with special sales and more all along Meramec Street. A number of Dutchtown businesses will be holding a sidewalk sale as they clear out summer merchandise to make way for fall fashions. Find new, used, and vintage clothing, home decor and furnishings, beauty products, gifts, and more!

Callisto Comics and Stories at 4219 Virginia.

On top of that, it’s Free Comic Book Day, and Dutchtown’s own Callisto Comics on Virginia has you covered! Head in to grab your free book and other giveaways, browse their entire selection of comics and graphic novels, and register to win a free year of comic books!

Urban Eats, 3301 Meramec Street at Virginia Avenue in Downtown Dutchtown, St. Louis, MO.

Fuel your shopping spree with lunch from the Urban Eats Neighborhood FoodHall. Renowned purveyors of birria-style tacos and quesadillas, Tacos la Jefa, operate along side Sugoi Sushi, Crepes and Treats, and All Rolled Up, a brand new addition to the Urban Eats lineup featuring a selection of both sweet and savory egg rolls. There’s also a new walkup bar window at Urban Eats where you can treat yourself to a beer or a glass of wine and enjoy the sidewalk seating at Meramec and Virginia.

More About the Wink!

The Wink’s shared retail concept offers unique opportunities for small retail businesses to get off the ground in the brick-and-mortar market. By using technology, sharing overhead expenses, and offering multiple engaging options for shoppers, costs are reduced, slim margins can be improved, and customers can enjoy a more robust shopping experience. The model seeks to activate the urban environment with benefits for the businesses, the building owner, and the community.

The Wink! is owned and operated by Caya Aufiero and John Chen, longtime Dutchtown residents, proprietors of neighborhood mainstay Urban Eats, and owners of SolutionWorks, a real estate development and management company.

The Dutchtown Community Improvement District and Dutchtown Main Streets are excited to announce the start of a new community-oriented Neighborhood Beautification Service Program in partnership with employer and training vendor Employment Connection. The program, funded by the Dutchtown CID, is designed to keep Dutchtown’s main thoroughfares clean while recirculating taxpayer money back into the community. Services are expected to start in August 2021.

“After getting our feet wet with standard trash porter services when the Dutchtown Community Improvement District got up and running, we really challenged ourselves as a community to envision a model that could have additional benefits to make this use of our tax dollars stretch even further,” said Joel Silliman, Chair of the Dutchtown Main Streets Design Committee. “What we are putting into place here in Dutchtown is a program that helps keep our streets clean, provides job opportunities for people who live here, and pays a fair entry-level wage.”

The scope of the Dutchtown Neighborhood Beautification Service Program was crafted by neighborhood volunteers serving on the Dutchtown Main Streets Design Committee. The new services will allow for the routine emptying of trash cans and litter removal along the Dutchtown CID footprint covering Virginia Avenue, Meramec Street, and South Grand Boulevard within the Dutchtown neighborhood.

The program aims to employ beautification workers locally from the Dutchtown neighborhood with a starting hourly wage of $15. This community-oriented model fosters clean streets while directly employing people from the community and paying them a fair wage.

Selecting a vendor for the Neighborhood Beautification Service Program followed a request for quote process with Employment Connection being awarded the contract. Employment Connection has existing ties to the Dutchtown community as the City of St. Louis’s chosen facilitator of the Cure Violence program in Dutchtown and a longstanding history of connecting local residents with employment opportunities and other services. Employment Connection will hire, train, and supervise the Dutchtown beautification workers.

Along with funding from the Dutchtown Community Improvement District, US Bank is providing financial support through its US Bank Foundation Rebuild and Transform Fund grant awarded to Employment Connection last Fall to support job training in targeted neighborhoods like Dutchtown. Habitat for Humanity, which has its St. Louis headquarters in Dutchtown, has also joined forces with Employment Connection to provide a utility vehicle for trash removal along the designated service footprint.  

“We have a lot of exciting momentum in Dutchtown and growing grassroots community engagement. The goal is to use our momentum to implement more projects and services that have equitable benefits for Dutchtown similar to what was accomplished with this local neighborhood beautification program,” said Nate Lindsey, President of Dutchtown Main Streets.

Now Hiring for the Neighborhood Beautification Team!

Are you or someone you know looking for rewarding part-time work? Join Employment Connection’s Neighborhood Beautification Team! Supervisor positions start at $17 per hour, and beautification workers start at $15 per hour. The jobs offer 15 to 20 hours per week beginning in August. Employment Connection especially seeks to hire from within the Dutchtown neighborhood.

The Neighborhood Beautification Team gives workers the opportunity to foster change within their community and play a key role in building a stronger and better Dutchtown for all. Take pride when you see tangible results as the Neighborhood Beautification Service Program helps to transform Dutchtown into a cleaner and safer neighborhood for residents, business owners, and visitors.

To apply, send a resume or letter of interest to smartinez@employmentstl.org. If you have more questions about the positions, you can call (314) 333-5622. Employment Connection is a background-friendly equal opportunity employer.

EncoreSTL is a collective of performance artists and creatives located here in Dutchtown at Thomas Dunn Learning Center. They produce live theater performances as well as digital media with a mission to impact and transform communities.

This summer, EncoreSTL is introducing their Encore4Youth Leadership Program, a paid opportunity for young people ages 16 to 24 to gain experience in the performing arts, digital production, and other vocational areas. EncoreSTL provides training and mentorship to participants, in addition to a $1,200 stipend. Read more about the program and learn how to participate below.

Who Is EncoreSTL?

EncoreSTL is a digital media and live production company based on the South Side of St. Louis. Their mission is to create high-quality productions while making the arts accessible to everyone who wants to experience them. Through culturally relevant theater productions and youth programs, EncoreSTL is dedicated to enriching the lives of members, patrons, and the St. Louis community, “because everyone deserves an Encore.” EncoreSTL’s activities mainly focus around its theater and youth programs, run under the names Encore! Theater Group and Encore4Youth, respectively.

Encore4Youth Leadership Program.

Encore4Youth

Effrem Grettenberger, founder and CEO of EncoreSTL, crafted Encore4Youth to be an innovative and engaging youth program. Having come from a rough background himself, Grettenberger found stability and structure in the arts and theater. From that experience, he saw the need for genuine and enriching youth programs.

Encore4Youth Leadership Program participants.

Grettenberger and Encore4Youth want to teach kids “how to act”—both literally and through soft skills. Encore4Youth supports kids’ passions, teaches a variety of skills, and provides mentorship in addition to pay.

The EncoreSTL team works to meet participants at their strengths and interests. While EncoreSTL primarily focuses on theatrical productions, they can also help kids interested in, for example, producing their own music. EncoreSTL provides resources, equipment, and mentorship to help realize the visions of Encore4Youth’s participants.

Encore4Youth Leadership Program participants at Busch Stadium.

Encore4Youth Leadership is a year-round program with opportunities varying depending on the season. Youth will participate in stage crew activities throughout the year, and the leadership program also includes immersive drama therapy in the summer. For more information on how to participate, email info@encorestl.org.

This summer, Encore4Youth has teamed up with STL Youth Jobs to provide paid employment to several participants. The young employees assist with staging shows and providing administrative support, in addition to participating in the immersive drama therapy program which will culminate in a final artistic presentation led by the youth later this summer.

Upcoming EncoreSTL Programs and Performances 

Encore Theater Group Murder Mystery Dinner Theater

Encore! Theater Group and Chakq Nation bring dinner theater to Cherokee Street! Join Encore on July 22nd for a murder mystery at Empire Hall, 3407 California at Cherokee. Call 314-814-6808 or click here to reserve your table and dinner for four. Additional shows with different themes take place on August 5th and August 19th.

In September, Encore! Theater Group performs Fade by Tanya Saracho. Fade is the story of writer Lucia and janitor Abel, and approaches issues of class and race within the Latinx community and the world at large. EncoreSTL is currently casting roles and seeking a director for Fade. If you’re interested in performing or participating in the production, contact info@encorestl.org. Performances will be on September 17th–19th and September 24th–26th.

Stay up to date with EncoreSTL’s performances and programs by visiting the EncoreSTL website or following them on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You can also find upcoming programs here on the Dutchtown Calendar.

In 2019, the City of St. Louis selected Dutchtown to be one of the city neighborhoods to participate in Cure Violence, an anti-violence public health initiative that has been successful in many cities and neighborhoods across the country. Taking a new approach to issues of crime and safety has many Dutchtown residents hopeful for the future of our neighbors and neighborhood.

And that hope is paying off. On May 26th, the city’s Health Department released statistics showing year-to-date crime statistics in the Dutchtown catchment area, which covers significant portions of Dutchtown proper and the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Gun-related crimes—aggravated assault, robbery, and homicide—are down significantly at a time when other parts of the city continue to struggle with violent crime.

Map of violent crime in Dutchtown year over year showing sharp decreases since implementing the Cure Violence program.

The Cure Violence program in Dutchtown just got up and running in November last year, and the results so far are impressive. Not only have we seen steep declines in violent crime in the neighborhood, but the Cure Violence team has become an integral part of the community. If you’ve attended a Dutchtown event in the last several months, you’re sure to have met some of the Cure Violence program managers and violence interruptors that are out on the Dutchtown streets every night to make the neighborhood safer for everyone.

What Is Cure Violence?

Taking an approach that addresses crime and violence as a public health issue, Cure Violence addresses root causes of crime rather than treat the symptoms. From their website:

Violence behaves like a contagious problem. It is transmitted through exposure, acquired through contagious brain mechanisms and social processes, and can be effectively treated and prevented using health methods.

Cure Violence began in Chicago in 2000. Dr. Gary Slutkin, a physician, epidemiologist, and former director of the World Health Organization’s Intervention Development Unit, founded the program. After years of work combatting epidemics of tuberculosis, cholera, and AIDS, he moved on to tackle the epidemic of violence.

In cities across America and throughout the world, the Cure Violence approach precipitated drops in violence of 40% to 70%.

How Does Cure Violence Work?

Cure Violence takes a three-step approach to stop violence that is similar to the approach used to contain other epidemics. The program employs interrupters, outreach workers, and a number of other people to enact their approach.

Detect and Interrupt Conflicts

Cure Violence employs interrupters that are known and trusted in the community. Interrupters are usually people from the neighborhood with “street cred.” Interruptors use their credibility to get to know people in the community who are involved in violence and criminal activity. They work to prevent retaliation after violent occurrences, deescalate conflicts through mediation techniques, and monitor situations to make sure that they don’t rekindle.

Identify and Treat High-Risk Individuals

Outreach workers identify and approach individuals at high risk of becoming involved in violence. The workers can help those at risk get access to social services like drug treatment and employment assistance. They also seek to change behaviors by discussing the consequences of violence and teaching alternative methods for conflict resolution.

Change Social Norms

The Cure Violence team engages with people throughout the community including leaders, residents, business owners, faith leaders, and service providers to change and strengthen the response to violence in the neighborhood. They respond to every occurrence of violence to demonstrate the community’s objections and resolve. Additionally, they work with neighborhood organizations to encourage positive social norms and convey the message that the community will no longer tolerate violence.

Cure Violence in Dutchtown

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen allocated funds to Cure Violence in 2019. Along with Dutchtown, the Wells-Goodfellow and Walnut Park neighborhoods on the North Side participate in the program as well.

The city selected local non-profit Employment Connection to administer Cure Violence in the Dutchtown neighborhood. Their team will work out of the Neighborhood Innovation Center on Meramec. Besides operating the program, the presence of Employment Connection in the neighborhood has provided opportunities for unemployed neighbors to find jobs and training. Employment Connection is a frequent partner at Dutchtown neighborhood events including Dutchtown Summer Vibes and Movie Nights, where you’ll find the Cure Violence team talking to neighbors of all sorts.

As we see at the top of this article, the outcomes have been outstanding so far. Cure Violence has interrupted over 80 potentially violent situations in just their first six months in Dutchtown. Beyond that, the team has identified and worked with a number of at-risk neighbors and spoken with countless community members and stakeholders to ingrain themselves into the community and address root causes of crime. We’re incredibly thankful for their presence and we look forward to seeing more progress and a safer neighborhood for all!