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Jennifer Brooks

Columnist | Local
Phone: 612-673-4008
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Jennifer Brooks is a local columnist for the Star Tribune. She travels across Minnesota, writing thoughtful and surprising stories about residents and issues.

Previously as a Star Tribune reporter, Brooks covered the State Capitol and the Minnesota congressional delegation in Washington.
Recent content from Jennifer Brooks
An early vote center in downtown Minneapolis for the 2020 primary election.

Brooks: The plan is to have a plan for voting in this election

Six months into the pandemic and six weeks out from the election, we're all adapting, especially those who count votes.
Boys and Girls clubs are opening around the Twin Cities this week, including the Southside Village club located a block from the intersection where Ge

After a traumatic summer, after-school programs prepare to listen to the kids

  It’s been six months since Mark Graves had to tell anyone to stop running in the halls. And he cannot wait to do it…
Brooks: Doctor dreams of Twins logo that looks more like team and its fans

Brooks: Doctor dreams of Twins logo that looks more like team and its fans

In the summer of 2020, as Minnesota burned and its people suffered and died in a pandemic, a Twin Cities doctor turned to Minnie and Paul again as a source of unity.
Tiwanna Jackson, owner of Tweak the Glam Studio on Lake Street, rebuilt and reopened on Lake Street. She held her belated grand opening in August. All

Brooks: Work on Lake Street to recover from riots continues, even on Labor Day weekend

More than 70,000 people donated more than $10 million to the effort to rebuild. Now what businesses really need, says the Lake Street Council, is to see people walk in.
Learn the secrets of making seed art with these DIY instructions

Learn the secrets of making seed art with these DIY instructions

State Fair seed art champion Jill Moe offers a beginner's guide to making your crop art masterpiece.
Learn how to felt a special Minnesota State Fair souvenir

Learn how to felt a special Minnesota State Fair souvenir

Missing your State Fair souvenirs? Make your own "Blue Ox, Blue Ribbon" keepsake with official Star Tribune felt ornamentalist, Jennifer Brooks.
After Ken O'Brien lost his beloved Yorkie, Oliver Bruce, he learned he wasn't alone. He was surrounded by an entire community that understood the hole

He lost his emotional support animal and found a community ready to support him

  Sometimes the smallest things help us through the hardest times. Oliver Bruce O’Brien weighed 8 pounds. He had bright button eyes, a sweet fuzzy…
Haley Puckhaber positioned the desks in her fourth-grade classroom at safe distances for incoming students at Friendship Academy for the Arts while ge

Minnesota teachers prep for a school year like no other

For most school districts, this entire year offered two equally bad choices.
With a pound of butter and a few tools, here's how to carve your very own butter head

With a pound of butter and a few tools, here's how to carve your very own butter head

A State Fair master guides us through the sculpting process using a one-pound butter brick you can find at most grocery stores.
Crews worked Thursday to clean up glass and board up the broken windows at the Nordstrom Rack on Nicollet Mall.

Brooks: Once again, it's hard for anything to feel normal in Minneapolis

It has been 95 days since George Floyd died and all that's changed is that we're angrier at each other.
Julia Rainey, 29, left, and her mother, Tonya Rainey, were among the residents of a tent compound in Powderhorn Park in July. Minneapolis park police

Brooks: Encampments are sign of homeless crisis bigger than any one of us

Government agencies, nonprofits and activists are trying — sometime collaborating, sometimes clashing — as they respond.
U.S. Postal Service mail carrier Angela Hardy’s employer consistently ranks as Americans’ favorite government agency.

Brooks: Neither rain nor political heat keeps postal workers from their appointed rounds

Every once in a while, Minnesota postal workers get a reminder that the U.S. Postal Service is still America's favorite federal agency.
Miranda Gray-Burlingame test-drives one of the newest handmade wooden toys at Lark Toys in Kellogg, Minn. Her family-owned shop is one of many Minneso

Brooks: Lark Toys stands firm on masks — and draws fans

One Lark staffer, a former preschool teacher, likes to compliment the masked children she meets. Maybe that's something we all need to hear.
State Demographer Susan Brower spoke to a kindergarten class at Bethune Elementary School in Minneapolis on Dec. 20. Census takers, hired from the com

Everyone should count: Minnesotans, don't get left out of census

  We’ve counted almost three out of every four Minnesotans, give or take. It’s three out of four if you’re filling out the 2020 census…
Nancy Gossell voted early in the Minneapolis Early Vote Center.

Brooks: Minnesota aims for full ballot boxes, empty polling places this Election Day

Half a million Minnesotans have requested absentee ballots already. That's half a million people who won't have to wait in line on Aug. 11.
A couple wrapped in crude swastika masks shout and gesture defiantly from the back of the checkout line at a Wal-Mart in Marshall, Minn., on Saturday.

Brooks: Swastika-swaddled shoppers were the symptom, not the disease

This isn’t who we are, we told ourselves when the neighbors went shopping with swastikas wrapped around their heads. Shoppers howled through their Nazi…
Minnesotans are finding ways to make the strange, distant summer of 2020 fun for their kids and themselves. Coach Chris Brosell tossed Vivian Shanks a

Brooks: This weird, Plan-B pandemic summer might just have some fun in it yet

For everything the summer of 2020 took from us, there are people working to give us something back. Like Zoom calls with goats.
Father Time Antiques in Duluth requires masks. “It will save lives,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said of the practice.

Brooks: At last, a mask mandate for Minnesota

Maybe there will be protests. But it's hard to argue that this is a radical policy leap when Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio did it first.
In 2000, then-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura entered a packed gym at Murray County Central by going through a large paper hoop reading, "THE MCC REBELS

Brooks: Minnesota's baffling collection of Confederate high school mascots

Murray County Central is one of the few districts willing to take a hard look at its mascot.
The Minneapolis Farmers Market adapted to COVID-19 with masks and pandemic precautions. Now, the family farmers wait for the crowds to return for a ta

Brooks: Minnesota farmers markets adapt to a pandemic summer

Farmers are hoping a trip to the market is one sweet summer treat Minnesotans can still savor.
Brooks: Young eyewitness to Floyd's killing is writing children's book

Brooks: Young eyewitness to Floyd's killing is writing children's book

Judeah Reynolds, age 9, is going to tell her own story. The story of what happened that day she walked to the store, and in the days that followed.
With new safety measures in place, Debbie Manke, right, took in the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory as she took photos of her daughter Stephanie St. Ger

Flower Power: Reopened conservatory in St. Paul offers a break from pandemic gloom

When the pandemic closed the conservatory doors, the gardeners opened a window.Through the cold, gray spring, as the virus spread and Minnesota shut down, people…
The only Confederate flag that really belongs in Minnesota is the one its soldiers captured at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. During a rare public displa

Brooks: Minnesota put the Confederate flag in its place 150 years ago

They’ll be racing again at the Elko Speedway this Fourth of July. Fast cars, fireworks, a responsibly sized crowd, and not a Confederate flag in…
Minnesota officials urge anyone who's joined a protest or mass gathering to get tested for COVID-19. But the clinics conducting those tests are still

Brooks: Short on masks, gowns and help, clinics use what they have to test as many as they can

  They don’t have enough masks. They don’t have enough gowns. They don’t have enough help. But at Open Cities Health Center, they use what…
Josie Johnson, center, preparing for the March on Washington in 1963. Five decades of marching, advocating and Civil Rights work later, Johnson watche

Brooks: Minnesota civil rights leaders reflect on the power of the streets and the long road to justice

  Josie Johnson had always felt a bit of hope. She stayed hopeful as a teenager in Texas, gathering signatures on a petition to end…
Residents and volunteers came and went from the Sanctuary Hotel at the start of June.

Brooks: A sanctuary closes, and a city faces its failure to protect and serve

With all the heartbreak and havoc, the Sanctuary Hotel was a bright spot, an uplifting story of a community taking care of its own. And then it was gone.
Witnessing history George Grice, far left, 4, of Minneapolis joined other children at the George Floyd memorial outside Cup Foods.

Brooks: The kids are watching as we face hard questions about George Floyd

They know what happened to George Floyd, as well as to too many black men and women before him.
The Minnesota National Guard is protecting a rare unlooted or shuttered grocery store on Cedar Avenue and 26th, several blocks from Lake Street in Min

Exhausted neighborhoods reel after a week of fire, fear and self-defense

The neighborhood’s last grocery store, encircled by National Guard troops and vehicles, was open for business. “They protect everything,” said Hamza Wadi, taking a break…
Greta McClain and two other artist painted a mural of George Floyd on the wall of Cup Food Store .

Brooks: While the Twin Cities region rages, a neighborhood grieves a singular loss

A mural of George Floyd in south Minneapolis is an act of creation in the middle of so much destruction.
Protesters near the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct station on Tuesday after a rally and march over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

Brooks: George Floyd and the city that killed him

Something's not right in Minnesota, land of some of the worst racial disparities in America.
Volunteers from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities unloaded boxes of donations for the Little Earth community in Minneapolis. Since kids can't

Brooks: Boys & Girls Clubs adapt to pandemic by meeting kids where they are

For some families, a global pandemic barely registers as a traumatic event compared with everything else they've survived.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda delivered the Easter benediction as a livestream on the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary. Hebda announced that Catholic chur

Brooks: Not attending church won't kill anyone, but rushing to reopen might

Minnesota's Catholic conference and the conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are promising every precaution. That might not be enough.
Veterans Gene Szumski and Thomas Skrzysowski helped prepare for Memorial Day in Dupont, Pa.

Brooks: This Memorial Day, communities remember what they lost and hold on to what they have

The pandemic threatens our lives and our livelihoods. But for everything the virus takes, there are people who find ways to give back.
Artist Cathy Bratter, who relies on lip-reading, models a transparent face mask. Ordinary masks can muffle speech and hamper communication.

'I never felt handicapped until now.' Minnesotans with hearing loss face a masked world

For thousands of Minnesotans with hearing loss, the masks we've come to rely on are a barrier to communication.
Nick Houkom and Teresa Cahill, nurse managers at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, modeled two of the new protective gowns desi

Brooks: U students saved local hospitals from running out of PPE

A small group of students from the University of Minnesota just invented a new Class 1 medical device and got it into production. It took them two weeks.
Dr. Timothy Roach

Brooks: Caring for COVID-19 patients forced Blaine doctor into isolation from family

This is the price some pay to protect the rest of us.
A masked House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, prepared for a recent session under the new normal of social distancing.

Brooks: In a Legislature on lockdown, Capitol gets used to a new normal

Among the signs: It falls to the lawmakers themselves to fill in as chaplain and open each session with a few good words in these bad times.
Student walk on campus at Macalester College in 2017.

Brooks: From the Class of 1970 to the Class of 2020, with empathy

The 50th reunion might not happen until the 51st, but Macalester's Class of 1970 is more worried about the Class of 2020.
Nurse Ruth Vercheck of Nura Pain Clinic volunteered to make free home visits so patients in debilitating pain don't have to leave home in the middle o

Across Minnesota, nurses make free house calls to patients in pain

Rather than take medical supplies the hospitals need, the nurses hit the hardware store.
Owner Deb Pedro and staff like Tracy Korhonen at this Maplewood Perkins know their regulars so well, families as them to call if someone doesn't show

Brooks: A neighborhood restaurant misses its neighbors

Most of us would drive by Debra Pedro's place — the Maplewood Perkins — without realizing it is hurting, too.
Micah Roth of Nordeast Makers assembled some of the thousands of protective face shields that Twin Cities volunteers are manufacturing on home 3-D pri

Brooks: Minnesota volunteers help to fill broken links in hospital supply chain

Across the state, they are filling the gaps with little more than 3-D printers and goodwill.
A man wearing a mask walks past posters encouraging participation in the 2020 Census, Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood

Brooks: Minnesota's last competitive sport is the 2020 Census

Each response is an affirmation: We're here, our children are here, we count.
Art student Cedar Thomas smiles in front a collection of upbeat signs and decorations meant to cheer the neighborhood. Someone tore it all down and le

Brooks: Chalk up this artful gesture to someone with a big heart wanting to help

Cedar Thomas is an artist, a college senior and one of millions of Minnesotans making the best of these difficult times.
Jeanne Calvit, founder of Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, with some of her colleagues, in healthier times. The St. Paul-based cent

Brooks: The art of the possible continues, despite it all

The coronavirus might shut down almost everything else, but the art goes on at Interact, a visual and performing arts center for people with disabilities.
Teresa Thomas, founder of the social networking business 50 Fun Things, took to Facebook to help people brainstorm ways to have fun and stay healthy w

Brooks: Minnesotans try to make the best of the worst of times

Staying happy and healthy while staying at home is the challenge now for 5 million-plus Minnesotans.
Twin Cities restaurants emptied their kitchens to give the food away at Public Kitchen + Bar in downtown St Paul to anyone who needed it.

Brooks: To keep their neighbors safe, the one thing they can't do is their job

  The one thing Justin Sutherland can’t do right now is his job. “All we’ve done, all our lives, is feed people,” the chef…
This isn't the book launch party that author Sheletta Brundidge and her family had planned. But orders for "Cameron Goes to School" -- the story a lit

Brooks: Minnesota children's book finds audience as schools, libraries close

The middle of a public health emergency is terrible timing for a book launch. But that was just the beginning of the story.
The scene at a past St. Albert the Great's fish fry, which routine attracts more than 1,000 diners.

Brooks: Minnesotans work to stay close while socially distant

For the next few weeks or months, keeping our distance will be the surest way to keep each other safe. The distance comes at a cost
A year ago, a blizzard collapsed the Hoffman family's barn in Chatfield, Minn., killing several cows and nearly driving a century-old family farm out

Brooks: Minnesota dairy farm survives and thrives after a blizzard of bad luck

The new year has been kinder to the Hoffman family after their dairy farm almost went out of business.
Shelves that held hand sanitizer and hand soap are mostly empty at a Target in Jersey City, N.J., Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Brooks: Just put down the mask, wash your hands and other virus advice

Despite practical, affordable and common-sense advice, pandemic panic has emptied store shelves across the city, state and country.
Amy Klobuchar spoke at a campaign rally in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020. She dropped out of the presidential race shortly after the event.

Brooks: Every campaign that ends breaks somebody's heart

At Klobuchar headquarters in northeast Minneapolis, they were clearing out the campaign bus. Yard signs. Leaflets. “Amy for America” buttons. The candidate’s staff piled them…
Tucker Jensen's love of local music and musicians lives on in Radio Five Watt, the internet radio station he helped start in Northeast Minneapolis's F

Brooks: On Radio Five Watt, Tucker Jensen's love of Minnesota music and musicians lives on

On Tuesday, a year after they lost Jensen to cancer at age 29, his family, friends and fans will gather at a benefit concert to celebrate his life and continue his work.
Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and other Republicans announce a slate of bills during a news conference on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, at the s

Brooks: Which view of the Twin Cities to choose?

Outside the Twin Cities, looking in, some state lawmakers don't like what they see, while the mayor of Minneapolis is a lot happier with the view.
Blama Massaquoi. The world took more from Massaquoi than it gave, and he repaid that cruelty with compassion.

Remembering Blama Massaquoi, who gave the world more than it took from him

The 34-year-old died in Cottage Grove on Feb. 11, from injuries suffered half a lifetime ago, as a schoolboy abducted and tortured during the Liberian civil war.
Mississippi Mushrooms is closing, but their landlord/hometown is giving them a little more time to sell off their equipment and the hundreds of pounds

Brooks: No room for mushrooms in Minneapolis' Upper Harbor Terminal plans

The city of Minneapolis has big plans for the land. But Mississippi Mushrooms wasn't part of them.
A pedestrian walks past a sign for the Iowa Caucuses on a downtown skywalk, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Des Moines. The first-in-the-nation presidential

Brooks: What Minnesotans saw at the caucus to end all caucuses

We still don't have a winner in Iowa. We still don't have an explanation.
Neighbors, police officers and members of the St. Paul Town Hall Facebook group gathered in support of El Burrito Mercado after a takeover style robbe

Brooks: Customers show support for St. Paul's El Burrito Mercado after frightening robbery

  For 40 years, El Burrito Mercado has been there for St. Paul. This week, St. Paul was there for El Burrito Mercado. “It’s a…
Counties still have to ask themselves: Are refugees welcome here? Or are we some sort of Beltrami County? Shown is the crowd at the Beltrami County Bo

Brooks: Minnesota's Pope County, in Trump Country, votes unanimously to welcome refugees

When the County Board met on Jan. 7, the vote was a swift, uncontested yes.
A look at several Minnesota driver's licenses that were made available starting in 2018.

Brooks: Real frustrations pile up over obtaining a Real ID

Minnesotans tell of making multiple return trips, juggling taller and taller stacks of documents, hoping each time they've hit on the correct paperwork combination.
Most North American churches don’t make it past the 80- or 100-year mark. Especially in Minnesota, which has been losing churches — and churchgoer

Brooks: Fight to save a small church turned into a battle for the ages in Cottage Grove

The leadership of the Grove United Methodist Church assured people all week that nobody is setting the elderly adrift on Mississippi ice floes to make space in the pews for younger, cuter families.
While Iowans were dreaming about caucusing, Minnesotans were casting early votes in the 2020 presidential primary.

Brooks: Who cast the first votes for the next president? Minnesota

Friday's start of early voting was too big an occasion for some voters to sit back and wait for Super Tuesday to come to them.
A look at several Minnesota driver's licenses that were made available starting in 2018.

Brooks: The long Minnesota goodbye to unReal ID

Think you don't have to beat the rush? Have you seen this state try to deal with a zipper merge?
In Minneapolis, the wait for affordable housing can stretch for a decade.

Brooks: Minneapolis' housing shortage puts a veteran's toddler out on the streets

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority could house another veteran. Or they could house a veteran's child. They couldn't do both.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz called Monday for public hearings as a way to break an impasse over insulin affordability legislation. At right is an empty in

Brooks: As talks at State Capitol derail, Minnesota diabetics pay price

Meghan Mateuszczyk wants her lawmakers, who can't meet a 30-day deadline, to understand a real deadline.
Dennis Jensen Source: Obituary photo

Brooks: St. Paul bids farewell to a peace officer and peacemaker

Dennis Jensen could bring together people barely on speaking terms and hammer out an agreement that all sides liked, a former chief said.
There are so many kids saving so many lives, the Twin Cities-based Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America estimates it awards three or fou

Brooks: Lifesavers come in any size and age

The children will save us. They do it all the time. Kids like 8-year-old Logan Luedtke.
Leo Treadway in the Santa Claus and Joulupukki costume he donated to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Brooks: Latest donation to the Minnesota Historical Society is a Yuletide treasure

Archivists will probably build a mannequin especially for the suit. That's something they've done only one other time, with Prince's "Purple Rain" costume.
Mark Griffith, executive director of the South Central Minnesota EMS System, works with volunteer first responders at a cardiac arrest response class

Brooks: For EMTs in rural Minnesota, it's a job of bad hours, no pay, grateful neighbors

Eighty percent of the state's rural emergency medical services rely on volunteers, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. But it's getting harder to find volunteers to answer the call.
"Roger, I am proud to call you my friend!!!!" Big Lake Police Chief Joel Scharf took to social media to defend a resident who was falsely branded a "c

Brooks: A feeling's all you need on social media, as Big Lake and Eagan panics show

  There was no masked predator hiding in the bushes in Eagan. No one was snapping pictures of children at the bus stop in Big…
Patrick McClellan, who has been enrolled in Minnesota's medical cannabis program from day one, hopes upcoming changes make the program more affordable

Brooks: New year, big changes for struggling Minn. medical marijuana program

The number of clinics is doubling, from eight to 16. Next year, the program will open to chronic pain patients for the first time.
Clockwise from top left: Raven Bianca Gant; Carol and Barry Bennett; Kjersten, William and Nelson Schladetzky; Mark Franklin Jr.; Mary Jo Loons Jansen

Brooks: Remembering the victims we've already forgotten

Guns killed so many of us this year, Jennifer Brooks writes. Our neighbors keep dying, and we find ways to forget.
Demolition of the former St. Andrew's Church in St. Paul started in August.

Brooks: Minneapolis artists use 3-D printers to preserve endangered art, architecture

Scanning the former St. Andrew's Church inside and out, and gathering enough data ensured that the St. Paul landmark would live on.
Eshay Brantley (left) and Nakara White (right) staffed clothing designer/retailer Houston White's booth at 2017's Black Friday on Broadway sale.

Brooks: 'Black Friday on Broadway' seeks to keep north Minneapolis shoppers in the neighborhood

This year, the community is hoping to keep their dollars closer to home.
Baker Hiltrud Steimel teamed up with Chaska American Legion Post #57 to send hundreds of cakes to the troops this December. She met with Post Commande

Brooks: Bakers, American Legion team up to spread holiday cheer to troops

Together, they hope to send a sweet reminder that someone in Minnesota is thinking of them.
Despite years of outcry, some Minnesota schoolchildren still get turned away for a hot lunch if their families haven't paid up.

Brooks: Why do schoolkids keep paying the price in fights over school lunches?

We don't make children buy the textbook before they can read. We don't make them chip in for gas for the school bus.