Loup City (pop. 996) has a sparkling new community center because its residents wanted it badly enough to plan for it, pay for it, and even get their hands dirty by helping finish it.
A 2001 community survey revealed that 70% of the population felt a new community center was needed. But securing the funding was another matter entirely. In stepped Mildred Peterson who believed that Loup Citians had the fortitude to see their dream through to completion. On behalf of herself and her late husband, Charles, she made a sizeable donation, igniting fundraising efforts that rallied the entire community.
With the Peterson donation, the Sherman County Community Foundation established a fund for the new Community Center in early 2001 and a fundraising committee agreed on a goal of $650,000. Sherman County Bank officials stepped up and donated $50,000 followed by Jim Trotter, who offered his 140 by 125 ft. plat of land on the corner of Eighth and O streets.
A couple grants have been received through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED). City officials applied for and received a $250,000 federal Community Development Block Grant from DED that was applied to the project in 2002. The city also applied and was approved for DED’s Community Development Assistance Act that allows businesses and sole proprietors to receive state tax credit for a portion of their contributions.
A “white elephant sale,” held August 2003, attracted hundreds of donated auction items from individuals and businesses in the community. Noting the overwhelming response, several business and community leaders came forward and offered to match funds raised that day. Auction-goers feasted on sloppy joes (another fundraiser) as they bid on desired objects. It was a good day, bringing in more than $14,000.
Direct mail campaigns, undertaken by the fundraising committee, netted further donations. Numerous volunteers worked with the Sherman County Bank, Sherman County Community Foundation and Loup City Development Corporation to seek donations from past and present residents, alumni, area businesses, organizations, surrounding communities and Sherman Lake residents. Each week, the Sherman County Times newspaper, owned by George and Beverly Peterson, featured a running total of all donations received to date. The Petersons also printed articles written by the fundraising committee, as well as contribution spotlights and regular project updates. Word spread and the project received coverage in the Grand Island Independent and Kearney Hub newspaper, and on NTV News and KNLV Radio.
A Peter Kiewit matching grant was awarded in the amount of $35,000. Many organizations, such as the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts held fundraisers in order to make a donation to the fund. Employees of the Rose Lane Nursing Home in Loup City held a soup supper and nursing home owners Jack and Eldora Vetter matched the soup supper proceeds with their own contribution. The project was a true community effort involving everyone in successfully raising funds.
Ground was broken in May 2003 and construction of the 115 by 75 ft. center got underway. The new center includes seating for about 500 people, air conditioning, a large kitchen area and a separate meeting room.
In January 2004, about 28 volunteers, from high school students to senior citizens flocked to the nearly completed building to help lay floor tile. Less than a week later, volunteers showed up again to help wash windows, wipe down walls and clean the kitchen and everything in it.
Today the center is used for weddings, high school graduation parties, banquets, anniversaries, family reunions, birthday parties, and customer appreciation meals. A local group calling itself the Prevention Policy Group, sponsors activities for youth living throughout Sherman County, such as a lock-in slumber party and Valentine’s Dance, and hosts an informational event for teens on how to deal with peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and sex. Upcoming youth activities to be held are the Boy Scouts’ Blue and Gold banquet, Girl Scouts’ bake sale, prom dinner, and Loup City School honors and athletic banquets.
When the center’s new rental rates were being debated, the mayor and council determined that there would be no charge for nonprofit groups, such as the Volunteer Fire Department, Emergency Medical Technicians and Loup City Schools.
City officials also are planning an “Appreciation Day to show its appreciation for all that Loup City residents have done.