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A Beautiful Day in Their Neighborhood

Though 2020 brought challenges to South Minneapolis, brothers Tim ’05, GS’08 and Matt Anderson ’03, S’11 continue seeking new ways to connect with and serve their community. Their nonprofit Ace in the City opened its Center of Belonging, which will provide a safe space where community members can access resources.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

October 22, 2020 | 9 a.m.

Matt ’03, S’11 and Tim Anderson ’05, GS’08

Brothers Matt ’03, S’11 and Tim Anderson ’05, GS’08 are serving their South Minneapolis neighbors through nonprofit Ace in the City. And with the opening of the Center of Belonging, they’re looking to help their neighbors overcome barriers to access services.

As they worked to transform the church basement of Resurrection Minneapolis into a community space called the Center of Belonging, brothers Tim ’05, GS’08 and Matt Anderson ’03, S’11 strove to be intentional about the decorations on the walls, the magazines on coffee tables, and other little details. “Those small details communicate something to the people coming in,” Tim says. The message Tim and Matt aim to communicate to their South Minneapolis neighbors is simple: You belong. “We believe that’s what the gospel’s all about, is God telling us, ‘You belong,” Matt says.

Nonprofit Ace in City opened its Center of Belonging in early October to be a safe space where people can access community resources in one place. But similar to the decorations, the brothers aim to go deeper than a transactional interaction. They want to serve their neighbors through partnerships and relationships. The Center of Belonging comes after years of serving and learning, which has transformed their views on their faith, race, equity, and community. “Ace and each of us individually has been immeasurably impacted by the folks in our community as we’ve grown in relationship and walked alongside them,” Matt says.

The Andersons grew up in a predominantly white suburb where their dad was a Lutheran pastor. Matt chose Bethel because he wanted to attend a Christian university in the Twin Cities, and Tim had frequently visited campus for basketball camps growing up. Matt majored in youth ministry and says Professor of Biblical Studies Emerita Karen McKinney helped challenge his views on race, justice, and equity issues. “It was far more formative than I even appreciated at the time,” he says. Tim’s love of basketball led him to Bethel, where he earned his B.A. in History. Then his interest in working with young people led him to Bethel Graduate School to earn an M.A. in Teaching. He started his teaching career at Spring Lake Park High School, but his position was cut as the Great Recession hit. As Tim struggled to find another teaching job in the Twin Cities, his close friend, Andy “Ace” Wiersma, died in a car crash. After losing someone he looked up to and considered a third brother, Tim felt God pulling on his heart. Tim realized he could pursue his passion for serving kids outside teaching. He launched Ace Hoops in 2008 in honor of his friend.

For the first few years, Ace Hoops used basketball to invest in kids’ lives in South Minneapolis. But as Tim and his team formed relationships in the community, they recognized broader needs in the community. They learned many kids just came to hang out and didn’t even like basketball. Tim rebranded Ace Hoops as Ace in the City in 2012 to shift the focus to community needs. Tim saw graduation rates significantly lower in his South Minneapolis neighborhood than in Shoreview, where Tim worked at the time as a part-time youth pastor. Literacy became a key focus because of its wide-reaching effects on graduation rates and other education issues, and Ace works with many first-generation English speakers. Ace also continues mentorship efforts in schools and parks.

The Center of Belonging

Ace in the City founder Tim Anderson ’05, GS’08 hopes for the Center of Belonging to be a place where everyone in the community feels welcomed and valued.

Tim’s South Minneapolis connections deepened when he and his family moved to the neighborhood. Tim was inspired by writer and minister John M. Perkins to live in the community if that was where he would work and serve. After growing up in exclusively white spaces, Tim admits he had to adjust to living in the diverse Powderhorn neighborhood where his block alone features 14 countries of origin. But he loves it and says that reflects the kingdom of heaven. “That’s the picture that we should have,” he says. The rich diversity isn’t limited to race—it extends to diversity in politics, age, beliefs, and more. “It forces you to wrestle with things,” Tim says. “When you just find yourself with people who only think like you, look like you, talk like you, you’re not really in a position often to challenge your own way of life. And I think the city has done that in really profound ways.”

Matt, who also earned an M.A. in Theological Studies from Bethel Seminary, was drawn to his brother’s work in South Minneapolis. Matt worked at Eagle Brook Church for several years, but as he started working with Ace and in the neighborhood, his perspective on ministry changed. Matt now acts as Ace in the City’s communications coordinator and serves as the primary connection point for Ace’s many partner churches. He also works as an associate pastor at Resurrection Minneapolis.

For Matt and Tim, their partnerships in the neighborhood help them see jobs, education, community, family, race, and equity differently. “All these different things became real,” Tim says. “Bethel and other places, they prepare you for it to a degree, but until you’re really in it, so much learning happens when you’re actually in the work, especially for a long period.” At Ace, they strive to be present in the community with a desire to love their neighbors, which means they don’t try to force what they think on the community. Instead, they strive to be attuned to opportunities and wait to see how God’s giftings at Ace fit. “We receive as much from the community as we ever pour into it, and that posture, for me, is what excited me about talking to Tim about coming on board,” Matt says.

That spirit permeates through the Center of Belonging, which is focusing on health equity and accessibility—two significant issues in South Minneapolis. Ace aims for the center to bring together many community groups and resources in one spot. Wayside Recovery Center will serve women fighting addiction, Emerge Mothers Academy provides support services to single mothers, and Render Free will host communal wellness space and events for self-identified black and brown women in the center’s commons area. The South Uptown Neighborhood Association will also have an office in the center, which Tim calls crucial because they’ll act as a neighborhood glue. The hope is that the groups will partner at the center and refer people to one another.
The Center of Belonging

Through the Center of Belonging, Ace in the City has transformed the church basement of Resurrection Minneapolis into a community space. Pictured are Ace employees Arielle Grant, Bekah Simpson ’14, Matt Anderson ’03, S’11, and Tim Anderson ’05, GS’08.

Tim also hopes to hold health and dental clinics in the center and other events with various pop-up partners. Ace will host its programming and youth outreach out the center, and it will manage a food market with Rooted Green Wellness. While COVID-19 limited access to the food market, Ace is looking to get creative. Tim and Matt are thinking through ways to deliver food similar to food delivery services or Amazon Prime. “We’re thinking through—if we can’t invite people in, how do we come to you,” Tim says.

COVID-19 isn’t the only challenge Ace in the City faced while trying to open the Center of Belonging. The tragic death of George Floyd—a Black Minneapolis resident—at the hands of a white police officer occurred nearby in the neighborhood, placing Ace in the City and Resurrection Minneapolis at the center of worldwide protests about police use of force and conversations about race. That proximity spurred difficult and beautiful things for the Andersons and Ace. It sparked positive opportunities to listen to neighbors, and Tim says it brought about teachable conversations with his children. But it’s led to a challenging season in the neighborhood. Tim witnessed a murder near his home as violence has increased, and he sees the pain in his community still “on full display in such a powerful, deep way.” But to Tim, COVID-19 and Floyd’s death highlighted the good in the community just as much as the challenges. “You see things like violence and desperation going to extremes because of what’s going on, but you also see the ways the community rallies around and figures out solutions and works together, heightened in ways it’s never been before,” Tim says.

That resilience is one of the neighborhood’s greatest strengths. The challenges of 2020 have created opportunities for Ace to be creative and to learn from their neighbors. After Floyd’s death, Tim says Ace in the City as an organization has acknowledged all the work there is to do. But after a decade of work in the neighborhood, Tim believes Ace is prepared to help by teaching and sharing what they’ve learned. “I think we need to show the church and the world a better way through the work at the Center of Belonging,” Tim says.

The Center of Belonging

The Center of Belonging will feature several community organizations, which will be able to partner together to provide services to people in the community. They include: Wayside Recovery Center, Emerge Mothers Academy, and Render Free. The South Uptown Neighborhood Association will also have an office in the center, and Ace in the City’s offices will be located in the center.

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