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A Helping Hand: The Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District


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Nearly every day when I walk to my bus stop after work, I pass the same friendly face. He’s wearing a bright green shirt (or a bright blue and green jacket in the winter) and he smiles at passersby while picking up litter and offering assistance. While he’s usually walking, other similarly clad people are cruising on Segways or driving by in bright green trucks. They’re newer faces to the downtown scene, but they’re the ones to seek out if you’re visiting and looking for directions, assistance or just a Minnesotan smile.

Downtown Improvement District

Photo by Todd Buchanan

Since July 2009, the streets of downtown Minneapolis have been a little cleaner, a little safer, and a lot more friendly thanks to the Downtown Improvement District. The DID is a nonprofit organization that is led and managed by property owners and city representatives. DID ambassadors take to the streets each day, 365 days a year, to provide escorts, clean graffiti, and a whole lot more. In fact, since its inception, the DID has assisted nearly 240,000 pedestrians, removed more than 2.5 million pounds of trash from the city streets, and helped save more than 25 lives.

Plus, they love what they do; they’re not faking those smiles. Take it from Brenda Gordon, a DID ambassador since day one, and what she loves about her job: “I love the social services part, the humanity part of it. Helping people out in any way that you can, even if it’s as simple as, ‘Where’s this restaurant?’ Or, talking to someone who needs shelter and doesn’t know what to do. The spectrum is big and it’s out there every day. Sometimes you just stumble across it and sometimes it comes to you.”

So, next time you’re visiting Minneapolis and find yourself lost or in need of assistance, look for the bright green shirts. Maybe you’ll meet Brenda, or maybe you’ll meet someone else, but whoever it is, they’re here to help.

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