For more than 20 years, volunteers across Nebraska have been working behind the scenes to create a new kind of community pride and belief in the future of our hometowns. Working through Nebraska Community Foundation, people from all walks of life are investing in the good life in greater Nebraska.
Nebraska Community Foundation is pleased to provide support for this series of columns celebrating Nebraska’s intriguing places and fascinating foods. These stories, written by Omaha World-Herald journalists Matthew Hansen and Sarah Baker Hansen, encourage us to experience more of what makes Nebraska unique.
Here at Nebraska Community Foundation, we have discovered unique qualities and often hidden assets that have enriched quality of life in more than 250 hometowns. Every hometown in Nebraska has local assets. They may be obvious – like our great schools.
They also may be obscure or surprising. The local grocer is an accomplished artist. The kid who acted out as a teenager is now stepping up to serve on the village board. A bachelor farmer from Verdigre, who never wore a suit in his life (or in death!) and didn’t believe in charity, leaves millions to two communities because they’re serious about growing and thriving. Nebraska has an abundance of surprising possibilities and homegrown assets. Nebraska Community Foundation works with groups of committed citizens to identify and build on their assets, whether they represent financial capital or human capital.
It is true that Nebraska Community Foundation is in the business of helping volunteers raise local charitable dollars and build permanent endowments to sustain community vitality. It is true that we help generous donors give back during their lifetimes and make significant gifts through their legacy.
Our real business, however, is more about people than money. The underlying motive for all our work is to help community leaders discover what is already in place that holds value for young families today, and what they can do to make their community even more attractive to a growing number of people who, in the 21st century, can choose to live wherever they want.
Today, the economic development question is not one of jobs. The better question is: Why here? Why do I want to live, work and raise my family in this community? People attraction is now the community economic development priority for building a prosperous future for Nebraska.
Working in partnership with volunteer leaders of more than 220 affiliated funds located throughout the state, Nebraska Community Foundation has reinvested more than $264 million and has unleashed the talent and resources in our people and our places. We are firm in our belief that everything we need is right where we are.
In Red Cloud, our focus is on heritage tourism industry (thanks to American novelist Willa Cather’s deep connection to the community) and early childhood development – two driving forces behind people attraction and economic development.
In Ord, philanthropic support for the arts, entrepreneurship and leadership development is creating a vibrant culture.
In Hebron, farmers and ranchers are helping the school provide locally sourced meat, fruits and vegetables.
In the tiny town of Shickley, there are more than 40 active businesses and over 65% of households in the school district have made a gift to their community’s unrestricted endowment.
In Albion, volunteers of our affiliated fund are leading the way in a public-private partnership for high-quality after-school opportunities.
In Ogallala, workforce endeavors, fueled by philanthropy, are helping to recruit skilled workers to Keith County.
In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to sharing stories that will shine a light on what it means to be living in our hometowns. It’s no secret these stories of success and generosity deserve to be told.
For more on the Nebraska Community Foundation, visit nebcommfound.org.