New playground equipment

Residents of Norfolk celebrate the grand opening of Embrace Park, the community’s first fully accessible playground designed to be enjoyed by children of all abilities without restriction. Fundraising for the $630,000 project was handled and swiftly achieved through the Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund, an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation, thanks to more than 130 generous donors.

Nebraskans are generous by nature. It’s engrained in our culture. It’s who we are.

While Nebraska doesn’t rank among the top 10 wealthiest states, it is consistently recognized as among the most charitable. In fact, a 2016 study by SmartAsset looked at charitable contributions, time spent volunteering and number of nonprofit organizations. Nebraska came in sixth overall.

If you’re from Nebraska or currently call it home, this probably doesn’t surprise you. It didn’t surprise the authors of this article. Through our work on the Nebraska Community Foundation board of directors and our experiences in our own communities, we see evidence of this generosity every single day.

Nebraska Community Foundation works with thousands of volunteers and donors across the state to build stronger and more prosperous communities.

You may know them. They are the people who step up and lend a hand whenever they are needed. They give generously of their time, talent and treasure to make their community the kind of place where people want to live, work and raise their kids. In other words, they’re like you.

Depending on the community -- Nebraska Community Foundation works with 250 of all sizes across the state -- this generosity manifests itself in a variety of ways. It responds to local needs and capitalizes on homegrown assets. Importantly, the recipients of this generosity are determined locally, by the people who live and work there and have an intimate familiarity with the opportunities and challenges they and their neighbors are facing.

In Norfolk, local generosity has taken the shape of the community’s first inclusive playground -- a place where all kids, no matter their abilities, can play together. This goal was achieved through an outpouring of community support and financial contributions of all sizes from more than 130 donors.

In Pender, not only are public school staff members devoting their careers to helping others, 51 out of 56 of them are making meaningful contributions to their community’s unrestricted endowment, providing for today’s residents and future generations who will call Pender home.

In Red Cloud, the Valley Child Development Center is receiving checks for thousands of dollars and envelopes containing just a few dollars because generous Nebraskans believe that all kids, including those in rural Nebraska, deserve access to the highest quality childcare and early childhood education.

When a privately-owned nursing home in Ainsworth closed its doors unexpectedly in 2015, community members and governmental agencies pulled together to make sure not only residents, but employees were taken care of, too.

All across the state, Nebraskans are taking care of other Nebraskans and the hometowns they love. They are living examples of stewardship -- taking care of something that doesn’t belong to you.

Travel in any direction, and you’re sure to meet these Nebraska stewards, offering up their precious human and financial capital, and treating community as a worthy cause. They’re considering their hometowns as they plan their legacies. And they’re encouraging their friends and loved ones to do the same.

This generosity is yielding a lot more than warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s reaping rewards that are benefiting the whole state. Neighboring communities are watching places like Ord, Imperial, even tiny Byron with 83 people, where citizens are creating quality of life solutions in hometowns that are attracting young families and growing businesses. This is no longer an aspiration. This is happening in 52 of our most rural counties, where the population of 30- and 40-year-olds is on the rise.

Nebraska Community Foundation is privileged to serve 250 communities located in 80 of Nebraska’s 93 counties. We are proud to support these stewards as they live out their mission to take care of something that doesn’t belong to them. We share their passion for making sure that Nebraska is left an even better place than we found it.

We invite you, fellow generous Nebraskans, to join us -- a growing network of dreamers and changemakers -- in this movement.

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