'Orphan Train' project hits home for co-owner of comunications firm

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2013 - 2:00 PM
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Between 1854 and 1929 more than 250,000 orphans and unwanted children were taken from New York and other cities and shipped west by train.

Photo: “Riders On The Orphan Train”,

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Jeanne Votca Carpenter has a personal interest in seeing “Riders on the Orphan Train,” at St. Paul’s refurbished Union Depot on Oct. 3 and 6.

More than 250,000 children, primarily from New York, were sent west for placement with families between 1859 and 1929. Union Depot was a major stop.

“My immigrant grandparents from Poland and Estonia ended up in Superior, Wis., in the late 1800s, and they had six kids,” said Carpenter, co-owner of communications firm Perceptions INK. “He was a laborer who broke his leg and couldn’t work. The six children were put on a southbound train in 1917. My late mother, Helen, who was born in 1915, was named Phyllis Gentling by the Mankato family that adopted her at 15 months.

“Her brother Tony, who was 9 when he carried her into an Owatonna orphanage, found her 63 years later. She was entertaining her bridge group at home in Mankato. She knew she had been adopted, but she knew nothing about her family. My mother was the last of the six children to be found by her siblings.

“My daughter, Jenna, who works as an account director in New York for [Minneapolis-based] Space 150, and I plan to work together to write my mother’s story, and how the siblings were reunited. I found my mother’s journals.”

Alison Moore, author of “Riders of the Orphan Train” and musician Phil Lancaster created the audiovisual experience, including interviews and images. More information on the shows and tickets: www.ridersontheorphantrain.eventbrite.com.

GREAT RIVER energy AND XCEL BUZZ

• Great River Energy, a wholesale electric supplier owned by 28 Minnesota power cooperatives, has signed a deal to offer its cleaner coal technology in China.

Although the financial terms were not disclosed, Great River Energy said it granted Tangshan Shenzhou Manufacturing Co. a 10-year right to offer “DryFiningtechnology to utilities in China. Great River Energy, based in Maple Grove, said it will assist in integrating the technology at utilities that adopt it.

The Minnesota utility burns lignite coal in two North Dakota power plants. Lignite, mined in North Dakota and China, can produce more air pollution than low-sulfur coal used by many utilities. Great River, aided by a U.S. Energy Department grant, developed DryFining to reduce moisture and segregate compounds that cause pollution. Great River said DryFining reduces sulfur dioxide and mercury by 40 percent, nitrogen oxide by 20 percent and carbon dioxide by 4 percent.

• A Boulder, Colo., group that wants to create a municipal electric utility set out to raise $20,000 in an online campaign last month. It ended up getting $193,018 from 5,700 contributors through website indiegogo.com, according to the site’s final tally.

The fundraising campaign by the New Era Colorado Foundation attacked Xcel Energy, the Minneapolis-based power company that now serves Boulder. The money will be used to fight a November debt-limit ballot measure that city leaders say would kill the effort to create a city utility. Xcel opposes municipalization, supports the debt limit and has accused the fundraisers of lying. The foundation contended Xcel was “prepared to spend possibly millions to win.”

Last week, the Boulder Daily Camera reported that Xcel was putting money into the debt-limit campaign: $300,000.

DAVID SHAFFER

ARC IN AFRICA

• Daniel Wordsworth of Minneapolis-based American Refugee Committee (ARC); businessman and ARC board member Ward Brehm and leaders from the Minnesota-based HealthStore Foundation were featured at last week’s 2013 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting.

ARC and U.S. Agency for International Development, Women for Women International, XL Insurance, HealthStore and Congolese partners are collaborating on relief and development through small-scale enterprises to reduce child mortality in Eastern Congo through a market-based approach run by women.

ARC’s Clinton Initiative-supported project uses social enterprise models to provide 22,000 people in rural communities with clean water, food and targeted health care to reduce child mortality rates. In addition, 3,000 farmers will receive small agricultural loans to stimulate the local economy and expand. The initiative will use phone-based cash transfers and cloud technology to support a third-party payer system. Models should emerge that can be scaled up and expanded.

Brehm, a veteran visitor to Congo, has explored ways for locals to develop their own development programs. He has served two presidents through the United States African Development Foundation. The HealthStore uses a traditional franchising model to distribute medicine.

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