Banyan Community is rooted in the Phillips Neighborhood to transform lives by developing youth, strengthening families, and creating community. Banyan Community began as an idea, when founders Tim and Joani Essenburg moved into the Phillips neighborhood in 1990. The Essenburgs are committed to seeing their community change through the gifts, leadership and vision of the residents themselves.

The Essenburgs began by building relationships with their neighbors, and out of those relationships a block club was born. As neighbors got to know each other, both adults and youth began to express interest in creating new youth programs. In 1997, a Kids Club program was launched, providing a safe place for kids to learn conflict resolution and community building.

Programs grew and Banyan Community incorporated as a tax-exempt nonprofit in 1998. Development of other new programs followed:  an after school program was launched and ASPIRE (high school tutoring/support) was started for high school youth when Banyan staff saw the need to provide more structured academic accountability.

The leaders of Banyan Community recognize that in order for children to thrive and ultimately graduate, go to college and succeed as adults, whole families and the larger community must be connected and engaged. This philosophy is at the heart of all of Banyan’s programs.

Banyan History

Co-Founders Tim and Joani Essenburg move into the Phillips neighborhood.
First Banyan Community development house from 1990
Block Club is Formed
Black club gathering in the phillips neighborhood taken in 1992

Neighbors band together to form a Block Club to fight crime and build community on the 2500 block of 16th Ave

Minneapolis is referred to as “Murderapolis” due to the record high murder rate.
Kids Club Program Launched
First Banyan Community kids club picture taken in 1997

First Kids Club of the neighborhood youth meet to play games, make crafts, share a snack, and listen to bible stories on a Thursday evening in January. Kids Club is the longest running program at Banyan.

Banyan takes elementary kids to Camp Honeyrock!
Vintage camp kids picture of youth participants taken in 1997
Phillips Neighborhood Minneapolis
Banyan is Born 501(c)3 status granted
Banyan tree

Banyan in a fig tree with a large center trunk. Long branches send out roots which grow downward and form new trunks that create a grove of trees. This is our vision—a vibrant and connected urban neighborhood with roots and transformed lives!

Banyan Establishes Mission and Vision
First Banyan Community logo from 1998

Mission: To reclaim the East Region of the Phillips neighborhood by reconciling people to people and people to God and reweaving the social and spiritual relationships necessary to create a tapestry that strengthens education, family and community.

Vision: Building Shalom in the City (Shalom: a Hebrew word meaning peace, justice, and the enjoyment of all relationships with God, ourselves, and neighbors.)

Partnership begins with St. Bart’s to provide backpacks to kids, ensuring they are ready to start the school year!
Banyan Community Outreach School Program
Block club agrees to let Banyan purchase, renovate and rezone problem property as a small community center, called the Banyan House
Banyan Community Center in Phillips Neighborhood
Art Workshop
Banyan Community Art

A partnership with artist Anne C. Brink and middle school youth begins with the theme: Build Each Other Up.

Phillips Neighborhood Minneapolis
After School Program is Formed
Banyan Community After School Program

After School Program begins at Banyan house, providing a safe place for kids to do homework.

First DeLaSalle High School Graduate
Banyan Community High School Graduates

First Banyan youth graduates from DeLaSalle High School with a Higher Ground scholarship.

A Bigger Home for Banyan
Banyan Community Church Event

Banyan expands to nearby church, 2nd floor offices, gym space and classrooms.

Banyan receives the Charities Review Seal demonstrating a commitment to upholding transparency and excellence.
Charities Review Council "Meets Standards"
Silver Birch Camp
Banyan Community Youth Outdoor Event

Banyan elementary kids attend Silver Birch Ranch for summer camp.

Community Council forms to build adult leadership and provide insight on Banyan’s model of community development
Continued Growth

Banyan formalizes by hiring more staff and reaching out to more kids and families.

Lighthouse Network launches on 5 blocks
Banyan Community Outreach Service Area

Banyan builds collective efficacy in our neighborhood through the dual strategy of local leadership development and block-by-block community building efforts. The Lighthouse Network operates on a longstanding concept of block club organizing. The overall goal of the Lighthouse Network is to enhance public safety through leadership development and community building.

Space Maxed
Banyan Community Youth Reading

Space is maxed out and a waiting list begins. Banyan Board of Directors begins due diligence on search and acquisition of a new building to allow for growth.

Camp Amnicon
Banyan Community Outdoor Event

Banyan middle school youth attend Camp Amnicon.

Banyan scored high marks on The Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) tool through the Youth Works Institute, University of Minnesota Extension
Mastery Outcomes introduced
Banyan Community Mastery Outcomes
Family Advocate
Banyan Community Family Advocate

Banyan hires first Banyan parent in Family Advocate role.

First Business Leaders Breakfast
Banyan Community Leaders

Event is designed to bring in business leaders to build bridges for 1st generation leaders. Banyan recognizes that in order for people in poverty to thrive and succeed, whole families AND the larger community must be connected. Banyan creates educational pathways for youth to develop leadership skills, engage in positive and meaningful relationships with peers and adults, and broaden their horizons. These pathways are likened to a “LinkedIn” social capital network that dissipates the ghetto-like situation of poverty in neighborhoods.

Growing Responsibly
Banyan Community Growing Responsibly

5 million dollar Growing Responsibly kick off.

Land Purchase!
Banyan Community Events Minneapolis

Park Board voted unanimously to sell property to Banyan for our new permanent home. 

Capital Case Statement
Banyan Community Capital Case Statement
Phillips Neighborhood Minneapolis
Breaking New Ground
Banyan Community Youths Helping

Groundbreaking on a permanent home for Banyan! Construction began the fall of 2015 and will be completed in the summer of 2016.

Community Move
Banyan Community Building

At the end of July 2016, as the lease expired on our 6,200 square foot space, staff packed and labelled boxes. Community members arrived and helped move Banyan to  our new home. This was the third move in Banyan’s history, and puts us in our permanent home!

Ribbon Cutting
Banyan Community ribbon cutting at grand opening of new facility in Minneapolis

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony August 18, 2016.

Phillips Neighborhood Minneapolis
Celebrating our first 20 years
Banyan Community Youth Community Program
CLEC Program Launched
Banyan Community Breakfast Event Minneapolis

In response to input from Banyan parents, the adult-focused Community, Leadership, Education, and Connection (CLEC) program was launched.

Banyan Graduates
Banyan Community High School Graduates

Banyan graduates the 50th youth from high school.

Wilder Research calculates Banyan’s ROI
Banyan Community Social ROI

Wilder Research performed a study to determine the societal return in investment (ROI) that our work fostered based on the youth who have graduated from high school in our first 20 years. The research concluded that Banyan’s ROI per youth yields a benefit: cost ratio of 8:1. For every $1 invested  in Banyan, $8 is returned to society!

Preschool opens
Banyan Community Youth Community Program

Banyan builds a unique and responsive partnership with St. David’s Center to offer a 4-star Parent Aware and NAEYC certified early childhood education program in the Phillips neighborhood. This partnership bring experts in early childhood development and urban community development together. The model uses a community platform to improve educational outcomes for the youngest members of our community, intervening as early as possible to lay the groundwork for long-term educational success.

Pivoting in the Pandemic
Pivoting in the Pandemic

Banyan pivoted programmatic offerings during the pandemic.


Banyan is pleased to provide a space for Minneapolis Public School’s Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) classes. ECFE’s goal is to enhance the ability of all families to provide the best possible environment for their child’s learning and growth.

25 Years!
25 Years!

Banyan Community celebrates its 25th year of serving the community. Read more and watch our history video.

Still Rooted, Rising & Reaching

“I love how Banyan supports families and kids. My kids really enjoy coming here and the educators do a great job.”

Banyan Parent

“I am so grateful for Banyan. I trust Banyan and the staff here with my children, which is very important to me.”

Banyan Parent

“Sometimes I think of moving to the suburbs due to the drug and homeless issues but, then I think of Banyan and my neighbors, friends and family and I say – I CAN NEVER LEAVE PHILLIPS.”

Community Council Member

“I’m glad I came to Banyan this summer or else I would just be at home bored watching TV instead of doing fun things like crafts.”

Banyan Youth

“I’m thankful that we have had Banyan to guide us through this college process. We have never done this before, and don’t know anything about college or financial aid. It was good to know that our son had Banyan to help him understand things and explain the steps.”

Banyan Parent

“Banyan teaches you to stand up for what you know is right, to handle the situation in a respectful manner.”

Banyan Youth

“I give to Banyan because I know that my gift will go a long way both in impact with the community as well as effectiveness with a well-run organization.”

Current Donor