By Christie Vogt
The Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation has named Pat Thompson as the recipient of its annual Spirit of the Park Award.
Since 2007, the foundation has solicited nominations from the community with the goal of commemorating neighbors who have “demonstrated a high level of dedication and service to St. Anthony Park,” said Julie Drechsler, the foundation’s executive director.
Thompson is involved in numerous community initiatives, including serving as a founding member of Transition Town-All St. Anthony Park, a co-chair of St. Anthony Park Community Council’s Transportation Committee, the board secretary of Creative Enterprise Zone and secretary of the St. Anthony Park Community Garden Club. She also volunteers in the Saint Anthony Park Library garden and adopts seven bus stops each winter along Raymond Avenue where she clears snow for transit users.
Most recently, in response to the news that 167 trees may be removed from Cleveland Avenue to accommodate a road project, Thompson said she had been spending nearly all of her time trying to ensure the project was delayed and restructured in order to save more trees.
Originally from rural upstate New York, Thompson has lived in Minnesota since 1986. In 1993, she moved to south St. Anthony Park from Minneapolis and has lived in her current home in the Park since 1996.
Since retiring in 2014 from a career as a graphic designer for nonprofit organizations, Thompson has been dedicating her time to volunteering in the community, largely working on projects connected to climate change.
“We face this existential threat,” Thompson said, “and I just want to do what I can do.”
Thompson developed an interest in plants during college and through freelance work with environmental and social justice nonprofits. While working full time and raising a child, she also became an active volunteer with the plant sale at the Friends School of Minnesota. Thompson said it wasn’t until she retired that she had sufficient time to become more involved in St. Anthony Park.
“I feel really humbled,” Thompson said, “that there are people working in this neighborhood for a lot longer than me doing a lot of stuff who have never won this award.”
Drechsler said Thompson is “an amazing community builder and leader. She’s passionate. She’s humble… She’s just really well-deserving of the Spirit of the Park Award.”
In addition to her numerous ongoing commitments, Drechsler said that Thompson’s campaign to save Cleveland Avenue trees is particularly timely for this year’s award.
Commenting on her activities, Thompson said she suspects that much of her drive to serve comes from her parents who were engaged community members themselves.
Her father Bill, for example, was a network manager for the American Radio Relay League, a member of the county planning commission and an active participant in local politics.
Thompson’s mother Betty was also involved in politics and served as a Girl Scout leader, among other volunteer roles. She was also elected to a town board of supervisors and helped establish a local economic development office.
To Thompson, all her current volunteer work can be connected back to the climate.
“Transition Town-All Saint Anthony Park’s motto is ‘Smaller footprint, stronger community,’” she explained. “So, obviously you need to work on the climate aspect, but you also need to build a stronger community.”
Thompson said the idea of having things like community festivals, public artwork and safe places to walk are “all part of having a stronger community, so that as climate change happens—because it is—you trust the people you see instead of distrusting them, and then you can work together.”
The Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation will officially congratulate Thompson during the 4th in the Park celebrations. A monetary award in Thompson’s name will also be made to the 4th in the Park Committee.
Christie Vogt is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Bugle