April 1, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Everybody says that it takes a village to raise a child, but what happens when the village needs to be rebuilt?” asks Willie Barney, founder and president of the Empowerment Network.

The “village” concept is integral to the Empowerment Network’s philosophy, and the organization has been a key voice in shaping the North Omaha Village Revitalization Plan.

Barney was born in Mississippi, went to college in Iowa, and rose in the ranks of Lee Enterprises. He moved to Omaha with his wife in 2000 for a World-Herald marketing manager job.

Six years later, he and a small group discussed starting the Empowerment Network. It formally launched in April 2007 with the involvement of 400 local residents and stakeholders. Today, the collaborative involves more than 3,000 participants with over 7,000 providing input into a community-based plan.

They host several initiatives: Christmas in the Village; Monthly Village Community Meeting; Omaha 360 (violence prevention); the African American Leadership Conference; Step-Up Omaha! (the state’s largest youth employment initiative); Entrepreneurship Collaborative; and the North Omaha Cradle to Career Education Strategy.

105 N. 31st Ave., No. 101, Omaha, NE 68131

402.502.5153 · empoweromaha.com

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