State's top community development projects honored

LINCOLN (April 12, 2001) -- Nebraska community and organization representatives gathered in the Warner Legislative Chamber today to be recognized for innovative projects that have contributed to and improved Nebraskans' quality of life. The awards were presented as part of Community Development Week, to be observed April 16-22.

Governor Mike Johanns presented the following awards:

Metropolitan Award for Lincoln -- Klein's Corner Streetscape. Located in the Everett Neighborhood, Klein's Corner is one of Lincoln's oldest surviving neighborhood commercial areas. Klein's Corner and surrounding neighbors share a strong connection. For example, when the Everett Neighborhood Association worked with the city to develop a Focus Area Plan, they prioritized improvements to the corner. The partnership among neighbors, businessowners, and the city, led to installation of new ornamental lighting, street furniture, landscaping, and signs, giving the unique area even more visibility and a stronger sense of identity.

For more information, contact Opal Doerr, City of Lincoln Planning Department, at (402) 441-7852, or e-mail:


Metropolitan Awards for Omaha -- Long School Neighborhood Association; Community Alliance; and Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April, Brush Up Nebraska and Emergency Repair.

  • Long School Neighborhood -- Construction of the North Omaha Freeway coupled with social unrest in the 1970s greatly impacted the North Omaha area. One neighborhood experienced a 30 percent housing loss and major increase in crime. Where homes once stood, overgrown and deteriorating lots comprised over 50 percent of the neighborhood. The Long School Neighborhood Association organized during the 1970s to address the problems. During the mid-1990s, the association conducted a neighborhood survey, then approached the New Community Development Corporation about partnering with them. After years of work, the Long School Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan passed in 1999. Today, two single-family homes are being built in the neighborhood. During the next seven years, an additional $5 million Community Development Block Grant funds will be used to improve the neighborhood.
  • Community Alliance -- Created in 1981, Community Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides community-based services to more than 900 area residents with mental illness. The organization's outreach program, which works with the city of Omaha to address homelessness, received U.S. Housing and Urban Development 811 funds to construct an eight-unit apartment complex. Four units will be built with HOME funds beginning in late spring. An additional 12-unit apartment complex is being completed this month. When Paxton Manor closed last year, 164 people -- more than 100 with mental illness -- needed immediate housing. Community Alliance helped establish 64 new supportive housing units in less than 90 days.
  • Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April, Brush Up Nebraska and Emergency Repair -- Realizing the great needs of Omaha's low- income families, Omahans Tom and Sheila Pettigrew created Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April, Brush Up Nebraska and Emergency Repair. Through these organizations, the couple has raised more than $1 million in contributions and recruited 53,200 volunteer hours. Specifically, Emergency Repair has provided 546 families with repairs totaling $60,000; Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April has rehabilitated 32 homes; and Brush Up Nebraska has painted 220 homes. The Pettigrews work closely with City of Omaha officials to provide services that people may not otherwise qualify for through government programs.

For more information, contact Norita Collar, City of Omaha Planning Department, at (402) 444-5177, or e-mail:


Family Friendly Community Awards focus on community-wide, long-term efforts to develop strong families through community leadership and involvement. The awards are sponsored through the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture strengthening grant, "Building Family Friendly Communities."

This year's awards go to Petersburg, Howells, Wymore and York.

  • Petersburg was cited for youth involvement in the village's decision- making processes; the strong bond of trust among youth and adults; and the village's readily evident pride and commitment. For example, a Youth Center features a board made up of four youth and four adults. Teens run the center during 'teen time,' but it also is open for younger children after school, and for general meetings. A community survey is conducted by the village board, along with annual town meetings and "Community Time" held at all village board meetings to gain input from citizens and organizations. A School at the Center program involves students in projects, such as creating community welcome signs and researching the history of community businesses.
  • Howells was recognized for accessing many resources to meet the needs of area youth and families. For example, when a town hall meeting identified the need for home improvement, the city clerk's office helped several families qualify for low-interest loans to replace furnaces and roofs, and meet other needs. Six families received support for developing small businesses. More than 86 percent of the residents passed a school bond to build a new K-12 school building, and a local booster club provides low-cost extra curricular activities for children. Volunteers and organizations also identified a facility, equipment, funds, and instructors for a yearlong preschool. In September 2000, the preschool opened with three instructors and enrollment of 98 percent of the area's preschool- aged children.
  • Wymore was recognized for its belief that "It takes a community to raise a family." the community put this belief into action by bringing many organizations together to offer services, such as substance abuse prevention, juvenile diversion, health and wellness programming, parenting education and other educational opportunities. The Wymore Library and the Family Unifying Network created an after school mentoring program called "ASK" where students work with senior citizens, young adults and peers on homework, improving technology skills and implementing community projects. Wymore also is in its first year of "4 Kids Counseling," that enlists educators, families, and community members to help students with personal and social skills, and academic and career goals.
  • York was recognized for many long-term projects and collaborations. Among these were a needs assessment survey that led to new community partnerships, including a juvenile diversion program, the York County Community Health Coalition, the York County Health Department, and York being named a Good Beginnings community. Family Connections also was founded, bringing 80 family members together monthly for a free meal, child care, and education program related to developing strong families. Also in 2000, York developed the York Area Children's Museum that provides creative and educational activities for area youth.

For more information, contact Doug Swanson, 4-H Youth Development, at (402) 472-9015, or e-mail:


Top Ten Rural Development Initiatives

The Top 10 and 100 Outstanding Rural Development Initiatives have been awarded annually since 1993 by the Nebraska Rural Development Commission. The awards honor projects, programs and communities that represent excellence and innovation in support of community and economic development in rural Nebraska. This year's Top Ten Initiatives are:

  • The Allen Development Group, Incorporated -- Established 10 years ago, this group has helped build a 25-lot subdivision, converted an abandoned house into a daycare facility, and worked with village board members to attract new owners for the village's only grocery store that otherwise would have closed. Perhaps its best measure of success is the help given to 47 first-time homebuyers, including 67 new residents with 55 children who attend the local school.
  • Dundy County Home-owned Carnival, Benkelman -- When Dundy County residents couldn't afford to hire a carnival for the annual county fair, they established their own. Nearly 500 volunteers donated money, time and talents to purchase, design, build and run games and rides, operate food booths, sell tickets and advertise the five-day carnival. In all, about $25,000 was donated. New attendance records were set when 17,000 tickets were sold at fifty cents apiece for the five nights. The carnival was so popular that the food booth operated by FBLA and FFA members ran out of food with two days remaining.
  • GROW Nebraska -- Established in 1997, GROW Nebraska is helping expand Nebraska's arts and crafts industry, creating a sustainable economic environment for entrepreneurs across Nebraska. The organization provides marketing and training opportunities to help artisans market products locally, nationally and globally. It is made up of more than 164 businesses, representing a $10 million enterprise, and is directly responsible for helping create 219 new jobs in mostly rural Nebraska. This marks the second Top 10 award for the organization.
  • McPherson County Federal Credit Union -- The county has its first financial institution in more than 60 years thanks to area youth and adults who worked for over a year to solve the dilemma of few or no available financial services in the county. The only credit union in the U.S. located in a motel room, McPherson County Federal Credit Union enlists high school students to design promotional brochures and help with bookkeeping.
  • Minden Opera House -- What began as a restoration project, became a $2.7 million county-wide campaign for a multipurpose facility in Minden. The 276-seat opera house includes a gift shop, art gallery and mini-museum. It has built a reputation as the area's premier entertainment center, offering theatrical productions and concerts, and a setting for dances, weddings and meetings. Built in 1891, the opera house had gone unused and fallen into disrepair until community members raised funds to renovate it.
  • Nebraska Farmers Choice -- This non-stock cooperative of southeast Nebraska pork producers grew from a seven-member steering committee who became interested in direct marketing opportunities after attending a briefing by the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center. Now, 29 members strong, the cooperative is ahead of sales projections, and working exclusively with a local meat processor to purchase all inputs locally. The groups' marketing efforts include attending community festivals and farmers markets, and making "Pork Stops," or sales from a refrigerated truck that travels to numerous communities.
  • Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) -- A project of the Center for Rural Affairs since 1990, REAP is the largest, full-service microenterprise development program in Nebraska -- the only one that strives to serve all of the state's rural areas. REAP delivers small business training, networking, one-on-one technical assistance, and microlending to businesses that are members of a REAP "association."
  • Scottsbluff Centennial Summer -- To honor and celebrate Scottsbluff's centennial, 100 days of festivals, plays, shows, dances, parades and other events filled last summer with activity. The project involved three years of planning, $225,000 cash and in- kind contributions, more than 2,000 volunteers, and draping the town in red and white bunting.
  • Village of Petersburg -- For the first time, a community has won this award two years in a row. Petersburg's winning activities and projects in 2000 included moving and restoring a historic barn for use as a museum during the State Antique Tractor and Horse Plowing Bee; the 11th Annual Petersburg Trail Ride that attracted 350 participants; improvements to the community park; the Old- Time Christmas Dinner; increased youth involvement in community activities; and start up of a new bed-and-breakfast.
  • Wolf Den Market in Arthur -- For three years, Arthur residents were without a grocery store. After two years of research and hours of residents' and youths' volunteerism, the Wolf Den Market opened its doors in late 2000. Planning and development of the market helped teach practical business lessons to the community's youth, and Arthur residents no longer have to drive 40 miles for staples.


Outstanding Service to Rural Nebraska Award -- The late Dr. Edwin C. Nelson. Accepting the award on behalf of the Nelson family was Leonard Skov, Dr. Nelson's longtime friend. After "retiring" as president of Chadron State College, "Dr. Ed" spoke in more than 100 communities across the state and even traveled to Australia in 1999 to share his message about rural development. He was affectionately known as "Nebraska's small town cheerleader" for his enthusiasm, dedication and devotion to rural communities, and his story -- that of a small town Nebraska boy who achieved great things through hard work -- was one that many Nebraskans identified with. Following this year's presentation, the award will be called the Dr. Edwin C. Nelson Outstanding Service to Rural Nebraska Award.

For more information, contact Doug Gibbs, Nebraska Rural Development Commission, at (402) 471-6005, or e-mail:


The Showcase Community Award is presented to a community that has demonstrated exceptional capacity during the past 10 years, including the ability to identify community development goals; combine local, state and federal resources to achieve goals; and accomplish major projects with positive impacts. Ainsworth is this year's winner. The community has won many awards, including NCIP Community of the Century. It is connected to county and regional initiatives through the North Central Development Center, Community Builders, the Nebraska Outback Committee, School/Community Revitalization, and the "Coming Back Home Promotion" among others. Ainsworth passed two bond issues to renovate and expand schools and build a new community facility. In addition, the community supported at least seven business start-ups and 10 business expansions, including Advantage Receiveable Solutions that will create about 60 jobs. Ainsworth accessed $800,000 CDBG funding for housing rehabilitation and $250,000 CDBG funding for the new community facility. The city also obtained grants for technology, education, environmental quality and tourism projects.

For more information, contact Kara Heideman, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, at (800) 426-6505, (402) 471-2235, or e-mail:


Federal, state and local organizations jointly supporting CD Week activities in Nebraska include the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Nebraska Rural Development Commission, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Nebraska Chapter of the Community Development Society, University of Nebraska, cities of Lincoln and Omaha, and First National Bank of Omaha.

The National Community Development Association started National Community Development Week in 1986 to remind Congress of the importance of the Community Development Block Grant Program.