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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Richard Hart's real name: A good old-fashioned American mystery
He entered the Chicago courtroom on Sept. 21, 1951, wearing his signature white 10-gallon hat, looking like a cowboy from another time, which he was, and also was not. Ever since anybody could remember, the man in the white hat had been an outsized character in his corner of northeast Nebraska, a lawman whose real-life story seemed ripped from the yellowed script of an old Hollywood Western. Read story
Runza: The story of one of Nebraska's most treasured foods
The tale of that beloved Nebraska meat pocket — sometimes called a bierock — is about much more than a sandwich you’ve ordered in a drive-thru or inhaled during halftime of a frigid Memorial Stadium football game. Read story
Their American dream – an Indian restaurant inside a Nebraska truck stop – attracts diners from all over
At the Jay Bros., a stop along the road east of Lexington where there are no houses, there is no Subway or Starbucks, and hardly any people. There are only the Chaudharys and their most unlikely version of the American dream: a central Nebraska Punjabi-style Indian restaurant, Taste of India, inside a truck stop. Read story
At Scratchtown Brewery in Ord, Nebraska, locals drink to newfound success of once-dying town
Here, in this town of 2,100 people, three business partners — an electrician, an ex-banker and a former Omaha Chamber of Commerce exec — are brewing what may be the best craft beer in the entire state. Read story
Art made them famous. Murder shaped their lives. A hotel in Nebraska links their pasts
They both looked out this window. That’s what you think when you duck down and peer out the bedroom drapes of a nondescript stucco hotel on Cozad’s Eighth Street. Read story
Speakeasy in the ghost town: How a Nebraska native is quietly transforming his rural steakhouse into a fine dining establishment
Crunch through the gravel parking lot toward the door, push through a dim entryway and into a small bar decorated in hunter green, wood and old Nebraska Cornhuskers photos. Order yourself a barrel-aged Manhattan. A plate of house-cured pork belly. A steak so perfectly cooked and beautifully charred that you’d wager you’re somewhere in Chicago or Omaha. Read story
Howells, Nebraska, has only about 550 residents — but two Catholic churches
Howells, Nebraska, is in fact the last small town with two Catholic parishes in the entire Omaha Archdiocese. These two Catholic churches of Howells are a quirk of fate, an oddity of American immigration, a faded symbol of long-forgotten ethnic strife and also a newer symbol of this town’s persistence and cooperation. Read story
At Eat Restaurant in Dodge, Nebraska, population 600, chef serves small-town food with a big-city twist
It doesn’t quite make sense, at first, why this chef who spent most of his career cooking in Napa Valley and Sonoma, California, is running a restaurant in a Nebraska town of about 600. But once you sample the menu, it starts to become a bit more clear. Read story
Down a country road in untamed northwest Nebraska, visitors can find the opposite of city life
There is a place in Nebraska that you reach by bumping west down a dusty one-lane road, inching to your destination as the sun sets so brilliantly purple-red over the green bluffs and sand-brown peaks and valleys that you want to bring every person who ever said the state is flat and boring to this exact spot and yell, “Look!” Read story
In the most unlikely place of Lewellen, Nebraska, one family is reshaping the town through its funky business empire
Hang a left off Highway 26, enter the first Main Street business you see, and you find co-owner Cynthia Miller on roller skates, skidding to a stop at the counter to grab chicken salad sandwiches and giant slices of strawberry rhubarb pie and then gliding across the room to deliver them to hungry diners. Read story
'A food destination'? In Scottsbluff, the Emporium — 'an elegant little restaurant' — appeals to locals, visitors drawn by nearby landmarks
It’s just not locals who are wild about the Emporium. It’s caught the eye of tourists from across the U.S. and from as far as France and Australia who have come to western Nebraska to follow the Oregon Trail or see Chimney Rock. Read story
Potter, Nebraska, population 300, preserves its rich legacy as the home of the Tin Roof Sundae
This small diner in a village of 300 is where it all began. Harold Dean “Pinky” Thayer stood behind the same counter at the same soda fountain where Alaree and Max sat this summer. It’s where Thayer came up with the Nebraska-made concoction, piling those now iconic ingredients into a soda glass, and perhaps gazing up at the ceiling after his first bite. That’s how his daughter, Kathy Thayer Heine, said he came up with its name: the tin roof refers to the decorative tin tiles that still sit above Sundry diners’ heads today. Read story
20 years ago, Red Cloud, Nebraska, seemed all but dead. Now the hometown of Willa Cather is changing its fate
As a first lady speaks to a packed house in my hometown, as she praises Red Cloud’s most famous resident and then snips a ribbon officially opening the biggest thing to happen here in my lifetime, my mind keeps drifting from this surreal present to a fading teenage memory. Read story
Atkinson store keeps the holiday spirit alive all year long by offering an eclectic assortment of Christmas decorations
The disco reindeer is what got me. I had previously been on the fence about Something Special by Marilyn, the only store in Nebraska featuring two floors and roughly 4,500 square feet of small-town retail space jam-packed with Christmas trees, Christmas ornaments, Christmas villages, Christmas Santas, Christmas baby Jesuses, Christmas Magi and virtually everything you ever needed or did not need in order to celebrate a very merry Christmas. Read story
The 'oldest tavern in the state,' locally owned Columbus bar hasn’t changed much since 1876
Glur’s, named for second owner Louis Glur, has been family owned for most of its 141 years in business. And though its past certainly touches on Nebraska’s cowboy era, it’s beloved today not just for its place in history but also because it’s still run by a local. Open the squeaky old door and you’ll still find a place that provides townies with a cheap cheeseburger and a cold beer any night of the week, just as it always has. Read story
2 Holt County friends craft copper mugs, sell them online, forging potential path for rural Nebraska
“We couldn’t do this in Brooklyn,” Matt says. “I don’t even know if we could do this in Omaha. … Here you go down to the hardware store, the guy works with you, talks to you about your business for 15 minutes, slaps you on the back and tells you he hopes to buy a set soon. The small-town support is what helped make this real.” Read story
At annual Nebraska Star Party, astronomers gather in Sand Hills for an unobstructed view
In 2017, perfect stargazing is as rare as a surfer’s killer wave or a sommelier’s perfect bottle of wine. But the Nebraska Star Party is the astronomer’s version of the Oahu waves or the vineyards of Bordeaux. Read story
With no experience, family keeps hotel, cafe and small Nebraska town from shutting down
That dedication can be expected from Mandy and her husband, Dale, who, with no experience in either hotels or restaurants, took over the architectural gem to ensure it stays open — and Bassett, population 562, stays on the map. Read story
Norden Barn Dance, a 117-year-old tradition, is a two-step back in time for locals and visitors
The beer is ice cold and $2. The dance floor is getting crowded with rosy-cheeked ranch hands and two-steppin’ grannies and city slickers who earlier today were tubing the Niobrara. For the 117th year in a row — the 87th year inside this very barn — Keya Paha County is hosting a barn dance. It does, indeed, feel like a cure for whatever ails you. Read story
'This is the last frontier': At a 5,000-acre organic ranch in Nebraska's Sand Hills, the buffalo still roam
Dave’s way of life, the land he owns and the food he raises have attracted the attention of tourists from as far away as Europe, who want to take in a slice of the Plains; of healthy eaters, who track Dave down to learn his ways; and of chefs, who come to Dave for the bison meat. Read story
Thanks to immigrant families, Lincoln's Vietnamese food scene is thriving
Lincoln’s Vietnamese dining scene is second to none, thanks to families who immigrated to Nebraska decades ago and opened restaurants to support their own community. Now those spots support the whole capital city with soup, banh mi sandwiches, tea and hospitality. Read story
Omaha left South 24th Street for dead. Now a new generation of immigrants has it booming again
This street was long ago wounded by the demise of its biggest industry — the biggest stockyard in the world — and its main reason to exist. It was long ago abandoned by department stores and taverns, and long ago fled by the grandchildren of immigrants who moved to Hanscom Park or Millard or Papillion. Omaha left South 24th for dead decades ago. And yet, in 2017, it is oh-so alive. Read story
World-Herald food writer answers her most-asked question, 'What's your favorite restaurant?'
My favorite restaurant smells like sourdough starter, candle smoke and some unidentifiable, slightly stale scent that wafts in from the Old Market alley. In the summer, it’s a warm breeze on the patio, a glass of cold rosé and my favorite saffron rice and baked salmon. In the winter, it’s all twinkling Christmas lights and colorful ornaments dangling from the ceiling, with red Bordeaux and hearty boeuf bourguignon. Read story