The federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program remains the strongest support system available for accomplishing critical need community and economic development projects throughout the state. Today marked an occasion to remind Nebraskans of its strong, unwavering support through the years and to highlight the latest outstanding projects.
During a ceremony at the State Capitol today, Gov. Dave Heineman presented a proclamation declaring April 8-14 as Community Development (CD) Week in Nebraska.
“Community Development Week is a good reminder of the vital partnerships between volunteers, local organizations, government, and the private sector,” Gov. Heineman said.
During the past five years, $62.7 million in CDBG funding has been invested in 374 projects throughout Nebraska, leveraging an additional $151 million in state, local and private investments. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development administers CDBG funding for all communities outside the cities of Lincoln and Omaha.
National Community Development Week was started in 1986 to remind Congress of the value of the CDBG program. To celebrate Nebraska’s involvement in CD Week, Gov. Heineman presented the following awards for outstanding efforts by communities in the areas of economic development and community revitalization:
The 2012 Governor’s Showcase Community Award went to Imperial
Imperial (pop. 2,071) — Local leaders and residents work closely to develop practical road maps for attaining future goals here in Imperial. In fact the maps literally helped attract a 4.5 percent population increase of many relocating or returning young families as revealed in the city’s 2010 Census. But that’s just for starters. The city has successfully combined its large talented volunteer base with a keen ability to stretch its local donations from businesses, service organizations and individuals to accomplish several key goals. Here are highlights of Imperial’s successful community development projects during the past five years:
Imperial citizens voted passage of an increased sales tax in 2007 to build the Chase County Facilities Sports Field Complex which features a crown jewel—a new swimming pool—and locker room/bathhouse facility, and an adjacent athletic field built by partner Chase County Schools. The pool and facility opened May 2009.
Improvements to Campbell Park were a natural progression given its proximity to the new swimming pool. New play structures were purchased with local donations, sales tax funds and grant money and installed in 2009 by a group of volunteers. After the old pool was torn out here, local Lions Club members built a sturdy, modern restroom facility that doubles as a storm shelter.
“Meeting of the Minds,” a group of citizens organized in 2010, meets quarterly to discuss ways to enhance life in Imperial. Efforts have included developing a Community Calendar for the City’s website, and spearheading the design and purchase of “Welcome” banners that greet people in downtown Imperial.
Imperial celebrated its quasquicentennial (125th year) July 2-4, 2010, by hosting a birthday party complete with cake decorating and youth cupcake decorating contests, kid’s one-mile and adult’s 5-K races, a breakfast, city-wide garage sale, a horse “whisperer” program, art show featuring 18 local artists, Imperial history display, quilt exhibit, old-time carriage rides, a bluegrass music program, homemade pie eating contest and ice cream social and special activities for children.
The 2011 program “Take Pride in Imperial” involved residents, aged six to 70s painting curbs and fire hydrants, cleaning up streets and highways, and conducting general cleaning.
Also in 2011 a gym in the city offices received a new coat of paint and a floating sport court floor; state-of-the-art projection and surround sound equipment, and a new screen was purchased for Imperial Theater; and daycare was quickly organized at the senior services facility when a local day care announced plans to close.
Contact Leslie Carlholm at 308-882-4368, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2012 Governor’s Showcase Community – Honorable Mention Award went to Hartington
Choosing one community for this award was equally difficult given the quality of applicants
As the county seat, Hartington leaders recognize the need to stay current with changes impacting the local economy and believe strongly in surveys, leadership retreats and town hall meetings as critical tools for identifying future projects.
Just previewing the more than 30 projects that Hartington counts among its major accomplishments during the past five years, it is clearly evident the important role that surveys, leadership retreats and town hall meetings played in seeing these projects through to completion.
Projects number more than 15 in 2010 and 2011 alone. In 2010 these include a nearly $55,000 DEQ grant for a new recycling baler; a $2,800 Building Entrepreneurial Communities Act (BECA) grant to Hartington and Fordyce to implement curriculum in schools that teach students about starting and operating businesses; a $65,655 Nebraska energy grant to promote energy efficiency in two downtown buildings; a $29,900 Phase 1 grant from DED to improve the downtown district; a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant for the new Westfield Acres housing development; a $25,000 JOBS Grant from the Federal Home Land Bank in Topeka to help with the Westfield Acres project; and the planning of a road to relieve school traffic congestion.
In 2011, Hartington and Fordyce received a $3,400 BECA grant to help provide area businesses and youth with economic development opportunities: Holy Trinity Parish built a $625,000 parish office and rectory; Hartington Economic Development (HED) created Northeast Investment Group that is exploring angel investment opportunities; HED also applied for $15,196 CDBG revolving loan funds to develop three lots for business development in the Industrial Park; HED helped attract TrailManor Manufacturing Company, LLC, which designs, manufactures and assembles light-weight recreational travel trailers; a Phase 2 Downtown Revitalization grant from DED went toward infrastructure, streets and sidewalk improvements; a $15,600 library fundraiser helped replace carpeting; and a design study involving ways to mitigate potential flooding was completed.
Contact Carla Becker at 402-254-6357 or email@example.com
Also featured during the celebration were projects in the cities of Lincoln and Omaha.
The City of Lincoln recognized the team of University Place Community Organization board members and residents who conceived the idea for Lincoln’s University Place Community Market in 2010 while attending a NeighborWorks-sponsored community leadership workshop in Kentucky.
The group brainstormed all the logistics, realizing they had the space—a half block in the heart of the UPCOM commercial area, vacated during a 2003 fire and owned by the City; the funding—NeighborWorks awarded $2,000 to “get the ball rolling.” This was combined with new Neighborhood Mini-Grants awarded by the City of Lincoln. Ultimately the grants helped fund a project coordinator and one-time site preparation costs all totaling $4,000. UPCO also contributed $2,000; finally, they had community support, including from UPCO officers and board members; Nebraska Wesleyan University students who handed out fliers, local businesses, such as Ayars & Ayers that donated staff time and equipment to help prep the site, and volunteers who ran the market all summer long.
Additionally, the City chipped in rent-free use of the vacant property, and Parks & Rec picnic tables.
Once again, every Wednesday starting June 13 through September 19, 3-7 pm, the University Place Community Market will be “the place to be.”
Contact Opal Doerr at 402-441-7852, or ODoerr@lincoln.ne.gov
The City of Omaha recognized the following three projects:
•The Empowerment Network, established in 2006, is a collaboration of more than 500 organizations, businesses, and individuals including elected and appointed officials, business executives, nonprofit leaders, pastors, ministers, educators, violence prevention specialists, neighborhood leaders, community development experts, and residents.
The Network implements the “7-Step Empowerment Plan” (employment and entrepreneurism; education and youth development; housing, neighborhoods and transportation; faith and hope; violence intervention and prevention; health and healthy families; and arts, culture, entertainment and media) to improve community life.
One example is the Network’s Summer Jobs Program through which more than 700 youth and young adults have been hired with many transitioning to full-time employment. Now in its second year, the Network also helped with creation of the following five new nonprofit organizations: Impact One Community Connection, Communities in School, Alliance Building Communities, North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, and North Omaha Contractors Alliance.
Accepting the award were Willie Barney and Vicki Quaites-Ferris.
•Deer Park Neighborhood Association, established in 1981 by Rudy Novacek and Frank Janiak, Deer Park is located in southeastern Omaha.
One of its largest initiatives ever undertaken was the five-year rehabilitation of Deer Hallow Park. The Association raised $125,000–$40,400 through their own fundraising efforts and $84,600 through 13 local and national grants, all matched by a $125,000 City of Omaha commitment to upgrade the park.
The Association’s most successful fundraiser was parking cars during a six-year run of the College World Series that netted $159,100 and went toward a number of neighborhood initiatives…one being beautifying the Vinton Street Business District. Because the Association committed $75,000 of its own money in new planters, benches, trash receptacles, trees and plants, the City of Omaha included Vinton Street in the City’s Capital Improvement Program. This resulted in an additional $100,000 investments infused into the area, bringing the total to more than $175,000 by the end of 2010.
Accepting the award was Deer Park Neighborhood Association President Oscar Duran, with a huge nod going out to all Deer Park residents.
• Jeanine Dickes, Neighborhood Advocate, widely known as “J-9” was born and raised in the Orchard Hill Neighborhood whose needs she strongly supports today. During the summer months she is most often found tending one of many area community gardens, and as a result, she is an invaluable resource to other neighborhoods seeking advice about community gardening.
When a proprietor targeted the neighborhood as the site for a new liquor store, the neighborhood obtained legal counsel and petitioned the Nebraska State Supreme Court, stating that the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission had not done due diligence considering only the proprietor’s needs and not the neighborhood’s needs. The Court ruled in favor of the neighborhood.
Ms. Dickes is, perhaps, best known for connecting neighbors with nonprofit organizations and city programs that best improve their quality of life. She has served on the Orchard Hill Neighborhood Association Board for more than ten years; is strongly connected with “At Risk Youth and Adults” through Impact One; and very compassionately concerned about refugees from the Karen and Karenni Tribes (originally from Myanmar). For her endeavors, she was awarded the Spirit of Neighborhood Courage Award and the Mildred Lee Award in 2006.
Courageous with a capital “C”, Ms. Dickes fearlessly asks total strangers for thousands of dollars worth of donations in volunteer labor; confronts politicians about broken promises; and communicates equally well with foundation board directors and gang members.
Accepting the award was Jeanine Dickes.
For information about the three Omaha projects, contact Norita Matt at 402-444-5177, or NoritaMatt@ci.omaha.ne.us
For information about the CDBG program, visit www.neded.org.