Tag Archives: Downtown Omaha

2017 September/October Family & More

September 1, 2017 by
Photography by contributed

Canoe the Great Marsh, Through Sept. 30 at Fontenelle Forest, 1111 Bellevue Blvd. North. Canoe the wetlands and explore the great marsh and its amazing array of wildlife. Canoers can find beavers, owls, and much more. Recommended for ages 10 and up. Advanced registration required. 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays; 5:40-7:40 a.m. Saturdays. $5 for members, $15 for nonmembers. 402-731-3140.
fontenelleforest.org

Garden Yoga, Sundays in September at Joslyn Art Museum’s sculpture garden, 2200 Dodge St. Instructors from Omaha Yoga and Bodywork Center will guide people through basic poses to lengthen and strengthen the body and center the mind. In case of rain, this event will be held in  the fountain court. 10:30 a.m. $5 suggested donation. 402-342-3300.
joslyn.org

SeptemberFest, Sept. 1-4 at Century Link Center, 455 N. 10th St. The 40th annual SeptemberFest includes live music in the beer garden, a carnival, arts and crafts, food, a mobile game theater, a steak cook-off, and more. 5 p.m-midnight Friday; noon-midnight Saturday-Monday. Admission: $5 adults and children ages 6 and up, free for children 5 and under.
septemberfestomaha.org

Labor Day Weekend at Henry Doorly Zoo Sept. 2-4

Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2-4 at Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. The zoo says goodbye to summer with bounce houses, airbrush tattoos, special animal presentations, and gate prizes. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $19.95 adults, $18.95 seniors (65+), $13.95 children (2-11), free for children 2 and under. $1 discount for military members and their families. 402-733-8400.
omahazoo.com

Chuck Berry: Hail Hail Rock and Roll, Sept. 3 at Film Streams, 1340 Mike Fahey St. A 1987 documentary featuring a concert to celebrate the 60th birthday of Chuck Berry, who died in March 2017. The film features performances from Linda Ronstadt, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Etta James, and Julian Lennon. 7 p.m. Tickets: $9 general admission; $7 for students, teachers, active military, and those arriving by bicycle. 402-933-0259.
filmstreams.org

46th Annual Art Fair, Sept. 9-10 at Rockbrook Village, 108th and Center streets. More than 140 national, regional, and local artists will display and sell their one-of-a-kind works of art. Spend the day browsing quality art and chatting with those who create and appreciate it. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: free. 402-390-0890.
rockbrookvillageartfair.com

Midtown Car Show at Midtown Crossing Sept. 10

Midtown Car Show, Sept. 10 in Turner Park at Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. The Midtown Car Show features the area’s finest one-of-a-kind cars in a show-and-shine format. Chicago Dawg House will serve grilled hot dogs and cold beverages in the park. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission: free—to show a car or attend. 402-934-9275.
midtowncrossing.com

Second Annual Food Truck Rodeo, Part 2, Sept. 15 outside of Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. This event includes 15-20 food trucks, a DJ, beer gardens, outdoor seating, and multiple outdoor bars. 4-11 p.m. Admission: Free. 402-884-5707.
reverblounge.com/events

Gifford Farm FALL Festival, Sept. 16 and 17 at 700 Camp Gifford Road, Bellevue. For a weekend of old-fashioned farm fun, this festival offers the Starlab Planetarium, exotic animals, pony rides, old-time vendors, raffles, and more. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5 for ages 2 and older, $2.50 for military personnel with ID. Pony rides are $5 extra. 402-332-5771.
gosarpy.com

Night Market Pop-up Festival, Sept. 22 at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. Highlights of this event include a mini food festival, giant outdoor games, moonlight yoga, live music from local musicians, and 20+ local vendors. 6-10 p.m. Free for the public and dog-friendly. 402-943-9275.
midtowncrossing.com

26th Annual Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow, Sept. 30 at Metropolitan Community College’s Fort Omaha Campus, 5300 N. 30th St. This celebration of Native American culture honors the traditional dance, music, artistry, oral history, and foods of various tribes across Nebraska and the surrounding region. 1-7:30 p.m. Admission: free. 531-622-2253.
mccneb.edu

(EVENT CANCELLED) Omaha Ramen Fest, Oct. 1 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village 2285 S. 67th St. This noodle fest will feature Omaha’s top chefs crafting traditional and creative bowls of the delectable Asian soup. There also will be local breweries serving beer and artists crafting colorful ceramic bowls for your ramen. 2-7 p.m. Admission: $5 (does not include food or drink). 402-496-1616.

T.J. Stiles will speak at Holland Performing Arts Oct. 3

Governor’s Lecture in the Humanities, Oct. 3 at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner T.J. Stiles will speak at the 22nd annual governor’s lecture in the humanities. He will draw from his work on historical figures, such as General Armstrong Custer, to address Nebraska’s centrality to American history. 7:30 p.m. 402-474-2131.
humanitiesnebraska.org

Haunted Safari, Oct. 6 and 7 at Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, 16404 N. 292 St. Take a hayrack ride down to Wolf Canyon to enjoy a hot dog supper, roast marshmallows, and play ghostly games for candies in the great outdoors during Haunted Safari. 6-9 p.m. Tickets: $23 general admission, $18 for zoo members. 402-738-2058.
wildlifesafaripark.com

Omaha Bug Symposium 2017, Oct. 7 at Midtown Art, 2578 Harney St. Dave Crane and Andy Matz deliver heart-pounding, mind-blowing entomological and microscopy lectures. Event includes musical entertainment, insect art and costume contests, and delicious edible insects. Refreshments provided. Admission: $5, age 21+ only.
facebook.com/omahabugsymposium

Japanese Ambience Festival, Oct. 7-8 at Laurtizen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. The Omaha Sister Cities Association helps host this event with a variety of activities to celebrate Japanese culture. Activities include calligraphy, origami, koinobori, traditional Japanese games, food tastings, and more. Performances will include martial arts demonstrations, traditional Japanese music, and dance. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Planes, Trains, and Autos, Oct. 7-8 at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, 28210 West Park Highway, Ashland. Guests are encouraged to come in costume and trick-or-treat at various stations while learning about various modes of transportation. The event will include five aircrafts, 20 unique muscle cars, and trains. Admission: $12 adults, $11 senior citizens and military with valid ID, $6 children (4-12), free for children 3 and under. 402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Lauritzen Gardens, starting Oct. 7

Fall Chrysanthemum Show, Oct. 7-Nov. 17 at Lauritzen Gardens, 100 Bancroft St. Discover a fascinating fabrication of flowers. Bold mums combine with brilliant colors, rich fabrics, diverse textures, gifts from the people of Shizuoka to the people of Omaha, and other exotic design elements representative of Japanese culture. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6 and members. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Night at the Museum, Oct. 21 at Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum, 28210 West Park Highway. This event includes behind-the-scenes access to aircraft and robotics activities. The keynote speaker, astronaut Clayton Anderson, will speak at 5 p.m. 5-8 p.m. Admission: $12 adults, $11 senior citizens and military with valid ID, $6 children (4-12), free for children 3 and under.402-944-3100.
sacmuseum.org

HutchFest, Oct. 21 at Midtown Crossing, 3110 Farnam St. HutchFest is a celebration of Midwestern artisans. The event includes food, drinks, live music, and 100+ vendors, selling everything from homemade jewelry to elegant hand-designed stationary to beard balm. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $5 adults, free for children under 12. 402-926-6747.
hutchfest.co

Ghoulish Garden Adventure, Oct. 29 at Lauritzen Gardens 100 Bancroft St. Come to the garden in costume for the annual Ghoulish Garden Adventure. Explore the visitor and education centers, visit the gardens, and trick-or-treat at different activity stations. Noon-4 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $5 children (6-12), free for children under 6. 402-346-4002.
lauritzengardens.org

Haunted Houses

Camp Fear Haunted House at Riverwest Park opens Sept. 22

Omaha’s haunted houses deliver an array of thrills from the maze-like Mystery Manor to the Haunted Hollow Theme Park which is located on a seven-acre farm. Camp Fear is one of the most immersive and horrifying attractions in Nebraska. The organizers encourage only the bravest souls to camp overnight.
Camp Fear (Riverwest Park 23301 West Maple Road) Opens Sept. 22. dusk-10 p.m.Thursdays and Sundays; dusk-midnight Friday and Saturdays.
Carnival of Terror (1209 Jackson St.) Opens Sept. 22. 7-10 p.m. Thursday; 7 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
Haunted Hollow Haunted Theme Park (12501 Giles Road) Opens Sept. 22. 7-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 7 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
Mystery Manor (716 N. 18th St.) Opens Sept. 15. September: dusk-midnight Friday and Saturday only. October: dusk-10 p.m. weekdays, and dusk-midnight weekends.
Ranch of Terror (11001 S. 48th St.) Opens Sept. 23. 7:30-11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 7:30-9:30 p.m. Sundays.
Scary Acres (17272 Giles Road) Opens Sept. 15. 7 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays in September; 7-10:30 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Thursdays; and 7 p.m.-12:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in October.

Pumpkin Patches and More:

Fall isn’t complete without a visit to at least one of the area’s many pumpkin patches. They offer many attractions such as corn mazes, hayrack rides, bonfires, scrumptious treats, giant jump pillows, spooky trails, and more.
Bellevue Berry and Pumpkin Ranch (11001 S. 48th St.) Opens Sept. 17. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Sundays.
Harvest Moon Farm (1410 US-77, Oakland, Nebraska) Opens Sept. 18. noon-6 p.m. Saturdays; noon-8 p.m. Sundays.
Skinny Bones Pumpkin Patch (3935 NE-133, Blair, Nebraska) Opens Sept. 8. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays.
Wenninghoff’s Farm Pumpkin Patch (6707 Wenninghoff Road) Opens Sept. 23. 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Vala’s Pumpkin Patch (12102 S. 180th St.) Opens Sept. 14. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

**Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Reducing Food Waste

October 4, 2016 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

The night of the Jimmy Buffett concert could not have been more perfect, weather-wise: a calm, near-cloudless 70-degree evening. Packs of Hawaiian-shirted Parrotheads meandered the Old Market’s cobblestone streets in search of 5-o’clock somewhere, food, and drink.

Major shows at CenturyLink are routine for downtown Omaha, but for the city’s restaurants, event schedules are just part of the unscientific guessing game to determine how much food to prepare for the nightly dinner rush.

Sometimes the indicators to make more food—a concert, a beautiful night outside, and an upcoming holiday—are the same indicators for restaurateurs to make less. Restaurants deal with this guessing game all the time. Wasted food impacts their bottom line. Any unused food usually means lost revenue. Environmentally, repercussions stretch across the entire cycle of food production.

Three restaurant owners gave their estimates on what they threw out each night: Ahmad Nazar, owner of Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine, estimates his restaurant fills a 45-gallon garbage can for a standard dinner service. Clayton Chapman, chef and owner at The Grey Plume, says his restaurant fills an 18-gallon garbage can per night. David Mainelli, co-owner of Julio’s, says his restaurant fills an entire dumpster in a week.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that 133 billion pounds of food went to waste in 2010. “The statistics are 40 percent of food that’s produced ends up in the landfill,” says Beth Ostdiek Smith, president and founder of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue.

Since its founding in 2013, Saving Grace has delivered more than one million pounds of food to local non-profits. The majority of the food comes from grocery stores, caterers, and convenience stores.

“When I started this, I thought that (restaurants) would be our top food donor. That’s not the case,” Smith says. “Our restaurants have learned to manage their food, and it’s more made to order, so there’s not as much waste from restaurants as maybe there once was.”

Different restaurants around town tackle the food waste problem with different strategies. At Ahmad’s, Nazar says his 26-plus years of experience have taught him about portion control. “I’ve learned how people want it, especially business people who travel. They don’t want too much food. It’s hard to judge, so I have a portion ready for everyone,” Nazar says.

The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that 133 billion pounds of food went to waste in 2010.

Mainelli says Julio’s kitchen staff tries to minimize waste by boiling the parts of the chicken that do not reach a customer’s plate and making it into a stock. Onion skins are used for barbecue sauces. Still, Mainelli believes his restaurant could do better in managing food waste. For example, cooked rice IS an item that has a short lifespan, as it cannot be reheated for a restaurant-quality dish. “Sometimes, we’ll throw out an entire batch that could serve 50 people,” he says.

The Grey Plume is renowned for being one of the most environmentally friendly restaurants in the nation. In addition to using recycled materials for their drywall and steel framing, Clayton Chapman says the restaurant uses a three-step process to reduce food waste. The first step involves using as much of the ingredient as possible (when carrots get cut up, the remaining carrot pieces get pureed into a base).

“Not everything has a second life, but most things do,” Chapman says. The second step includes composting any leftover and eligible ingredients. The final step is to prepare everything to order so that reheating isn’t necessary.

Along with internal quality control, Ahmad’s, Julio’s, and The Grey Plume have donated food and resources to charitable organizations like Siena/Francis Homeless Shelter and Youth
Emergency Services.

In 2012, after recovering from an undiagnosed lymphatic illness that left him bedridden, Mainelli was inspired to start Feedback Omaha, an organization that works with local restaurants and nonprofits to feed those in need. In addition to donating food to the needy, Feedback Omaha organizers also perform a standard restaurant-style dinner service.

In July, the organization provided its first service for YES, which featured a taco bar for about 100 kids. In October, Feedback Omaha served about 250 people at the Lydia House with Mama’s Pizza and All Inclusive Catering providing food for the event.

The standard for what can be donated is a simple (but inflexible) rule: whatever is cooked, but does not go out to a customer, can be donated. For example, a cooked pizza in a restaurant kitchen is ripe for donating. However, if it goes out into the restaurant dining area, it’s no longer a candidate for donation.

“If it’s in the buffet, it cannot be rescued. If it’s in the back, we can still rescue it,” Smith says.

Visit savinggracefoodrescue.org or facebook.com/feedbackomaha for more information.

Encounter

food-waste-illustration-copy

Ken Smith

September 25, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The hunt for parking in downtown Omaha often results in drivers using a rainbow of words not normally stated in polite company before causing themselves whiplash in an effort to squeeze into “the only spot available.” Omaha City Parking Manager Ken Smith, also known as the parking czar, hears those complaints frequently.

Those people are misinformed. “Omaha has a parking perception issue,” Smith says. “Not a problem.”

Smith proclaims downtown parking stalls are actually underused. Even at peak hours, approximately 55 percent of the spaces downtown (defined as the riverfront to 24th Street and Cuming to Leavenworth Streets) are full. Part of Smith’s work is to change that misperception.

Smith came to Omaha in 2012 after the city conducted a study and decided to consolidate parking operations, creating one division under a central manager.

“I was in Lincoln and had consolidated that program into a parking division. Having the division under a single professional helps the big goal,” Smith says.

Without a doubt, one of Smith’s greatest impacts has been turning the parking division from a city subsidized program into a money maker. The program transitioned from receiving $1.5 million in city subsidies to achieving a half a million surplus. Smith says this is the result of bringing Omaha’s parking infrastructure into the 21st century with technology like credit card readers on parking meters and a smartphone app.

“Additional payment options help with compliance,” Smith says. Put simply, if you give parkers ways to pay aside from hauling around a pocket full of coins, they’re more likely to do so. Smith says that since implementing more options in 2013, parking citations have reduced by 17,000 to 18,000 annually.

Smith studied aviation in college, then earned a graduate degree in architectural engineering.

“You never go to college thinking you’re going to be a parking professional,” he laughs.

After a stint with the parking division at the City of Lincoln, Smith says he kind of fell into the role of parking guru. He became the go-to guy with parking knowledge, which turned into a career he finds greatly rewarding.

“I can’t imagine going back to planning,” he says. “I’m kind of a jack of all trades. I get to run a department, manage a budget, be a business planner. There’s never a dull moment.”

What does the future hold for Omaha’s parking division? Smith says the department plans to continue using technology to advance their goals. Also a high priority is updating the downtown area garage parking infrastructure, which is more than 30 years old. The city is also working with private parking operators to market themselves better and change the misperception about parking availability in downtown.

Smith says it has not been decided at this time if rates will increase or hours will be extended. (Editor’s note: This info was correct at the time of publication.  The city has now decided to increase rates and extend hours.)

“The (2011 parking study) goals will be accomplished by a balanced approach between on-street parking and off-street parking to change behavior and improve perceptions that there is no parking,” Smith says.

KenSmith1

Peggy Pawloski

December 6, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“This is all I own,” Peggy Pawloski says, encompassing her 1,000-square-foot condo in the 1101 Jackson building with a sweep of her hand. The owner of LeWonderment, a gift store in the Old Market for children and dogs, shares the studio with her 8-year-old black standard Schnauzer, Isabella Rose. “She’s lovely in the store,” Pawloski brags affectionately. “She’s great with kids.”

The studio doesn’t have many options for lounging, but Pawloski loves to cuddle with Izzy on an enormous sectional facing the eastern windows. Even with the windows open, the quiet is remarkable and the view of the Loess Hills is stunning. “When I’m sitting here reading,” she says, “I can see all the airplanes taking off.” Living on the top floor means she can hear the rain sing on the building’s tin roof. She loves it, especially because her bedroom is a loft up a short flight of stairs, bringing her even closer to the sound.

The loft space is just large enough for her bed (that and the buttery leather sectional are the only two pieces of furniture she moved into the studio with) and a walk-in closet, complete with a compact washer/dryer. She keeps dishes and plates in a sideboard because she doesn’t have cupboards. She purchased the sideboard and the wall unit in the living area from IKEA. “I really have stripped down what I own and what I value,” Pawloski says. “It’s almost minimalist.” She laughs, knowing she’ll never quite reach that because of her love of books. During her previous career with Scholastic in New York, she had a collection of 3,000 children’s books.

20130429_bs_2714

The fairytale quality of children’s art and literature might be evident in the look of her shop, but her condo is all bold colors and simple silhouettes. A large abstract piece from internationally renowned local artist Steve Joy hangs above the sectional, and a Mid-Century womb chair and bar stools keep the studio’s feel sparse but colorful. The dining table and chairs are identical to ones found on the set of Mad Men.

Pawloski’s international travels with Scholastic enabled her to collect posters and art from around the world, which now hang in the dining and kitchen areas. “It’s the right change,” she says of her much more stationary life. “It’s the next metamorphosis.”

20130429_bs_2704

She calls her current routine living the dream: She gets up, walks the dog, and then she and Izzy go to work. They open LeWonderment just one block away at 11 a.m., and the two of them are there till 9 p.m., selling children’s books, dog treats, and helping clients design the perfect playroom through Pawloski’s latest venture, Play+Room by LeWonderment.

Pawloski’s daughter, Amy, and her son, Jason, are on the board of directors for the French-inspired gift shop, and her two granddaughters come work in the shop on weekends. She says she feels like the fairy godmother: “I have a charming life because of all the people involved in it.”

Fashion: Seeing Red

November 8, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Modeled by Carey of Lincoln. Styled by Jared Spence. Hair and makeup by Mj Hartig. First assistant: Keith Binder. Photographed at Lakeside Auto Recycling and American Auto Parts.

Photo 1: Black faux leather and sheer top
; black leggings with faux leather detail. Nouvelle Eve
Stainless steel bib necklace; 
sterling silver cuff. Goldsmith Silversmith
Fox fur vest
; red leather boots. Overland Sheepskin Co.
MZ Wallace Prussian blue bag. LeWonderment

Photo 2: Red sheath dress with black panels. Nouvelle Eve
Black leather and rabbit fur jacket
; black leather boots; black fur handbag. Overland Sheepskin Co.
Stainless steel mesh with oxidized silver clasp necklace and matching cuff
; stainless steel with gold plating bracelets; 
sterling silver braided chain bracelet
; gold-plated druzy sterling silver ring
; watermelon tourmaline in brass and sterling silver earrings. Goldsmith Silversmith

Photo 3: Oversized wine top with black faux leather detailing. Nouvelle Eve
Oxidized silver and gold-plated necklace;
 oxidized silver braided chain; 
watermelon tourmaline necklace in sterling silver and 14ky;
 brass fox on sterling silver chain necklace
; 24kt gold and oxidized silver cross with diamonds;
 oxidized and gold-plated silver necklace. Goldsmith Silversmith
Black boots with back stitching detail. Overland Sheepskin Co.
MZ Wallace moss handbag. LeWonderment

Photo 4: Ombre coat
black and gold belt. Nouvelle Eve
Leather and rabbit fur gloves. Overland Sheepskin Co.
MZ Wallace charcoal bag with gold chain. LeWonderment
Gold plated and sterling silver earrings. Goldsmith Silversmith

Old Buildings, New Art

November 3, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Since Omaha was founded nearly 160 years ago, many of its older buildings have seen their demise. But in at least two of Downtown Omaha’s historical structures, creative artists and imaginative entrepreneurs have replaced staid bankers and burly beer makers, enabling these pieces of history to continue on with a new purpose.

Carver Bank

An abandoned building near 24th and Lake streets became a renovated space this year for:

  • Artists in residence. Visual and performance artists receive workspace and a $500 monthly stipend for one year.
  • Art. Exhibitions, events, and workshops are available for youth and adults.
  • Participation. A cultural and economic resurgence is happening in North Omaha.
  • Environmentalism. Finishes inside are mostly made of salvaged and recycled materials, such as a gymnasium floor from a decommissioned school in Panama, Iowa.
  • Delicious food. Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop is open till 4 p.m. every day but Sunday, even serving a roast-beef sarnie called The Carver.

Carver Savings and Loan, named for scientist George Washington Carver, opened in 1946 as Nebraska’s first African-American bank. Vince Furlong, who conducts walking tours for Restoration Exchange Omaha, says that the bank closed in 1966. After housing several nonprofits, the building shut its doors in 2006.

In 2010, Hesse McGraw, then chief curator for Omaha’s Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates began talking to people in the neighborhood about the needs of North Omaha, according to Jessica Scheuerman, program coordinator for the Bemis Center.

After two years, McGraw and Gates decided to renovate the abandoned Carver Bank building. They wanted to spearhead a program with an emphasis on visual and performance artists of color or who are North Omaha-minded.

Patricia “Big Mama” Barron, the eponymous owner of the sandwich shop, says the neighborhood was excited about the renovation that began last year. “People would come by and talk about how happy they were to see something go in there.”

The Carver Bank building is owned by the City of Omaha and leased for $1 over five years to the Bemis Center, which renovated and programs the space.

The artists’ program fits in well with the City of Omaha’s long-range, public-private plan to revitalize North Omaha, focusing on the 24th and Lake Cultural Arts District.

The building’s renovation is a good example of recycling. Framing lumber torn down during the building’s demolition was reused to frame new walls. Says Barron: “I’m a person who believes in recycling things, and I hate to see old buildings torn down. That’s a part of history being torn down.”

Anheuser-Busch Beer Depot

The stable is gone. The ice house is gone. Even the beer vault is gone. All were destroyed by a fire.

What remains is a quaint, brick building that was an office when the brewery’s complex was built in 1887. At 1213 Jones Street near the Bemis Center, the building has housed The New BLK (pronounced Black) advertising agency and art gallery for three years.

“‘The new black’ is a term in fashion for the next hot thing,” says Brian Smith, who gives his title as connector, catalyst, and co-conspirator.

The building was remodeled in 1988 by its current owner, Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture, which had offices there before moving. The architecture firm added a mezzanine loft area for nonprofit offices, and the space is still set aside for that use. “A recent example was Aqua-Africa, which builds wells in South Sudan,” says Smith.

The New BLK spreads out on the main level in a modern, open, workspace. The advertising firm also runs an art gallery on the lower level, featuring emerging artists.

Gerard Pefung, born in Cameroon, is one such artist who exhibited his work at The New BLK. “He recently did a mural installation at Omaha Police Headquarters,” Smith says. “Some of our partners are active artists and some have managed artist studios in Europe.”

Lutheran Family Services

October 30, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lutheran Family Services President and CEO Ruth Henrichs remembers meeting a young man a year ago who had a tattoo on his lower arm that read “Born to Lose.” When she asked him about it, he told her that life had always been against him—that he had been “born to lose.” That was, of course, until he came to LFS, he said.

“There are lots of people who come to LFS on a daily basis who have this sort of invisible tattoo on their hearts that says ‘Born to Lose,’” Henrichs says. “I want them to leave here after receiving help with a different invisible tattoo.”

Strengthening the individual, the family, and the community is how LFS intends to change those heart tattoos. And that’s exactly the mission the organization has followed since its humble beginnings in 1892.

“When you work somewhere like LFS, no matter how difficult the day is, you always go home knowing that someone’s life was changed because you came to work.” —Ruth Henrichs

Over its many years within the Omaha community, LFS has grown into a faith-based nonprofit providing multiple services in over 30 locations across Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas to over 35,000 individuals annually regardless of age, race, religion, or income. In other words, just because it’s called Lutheran Family Services doesn’t mean you have to be Lutheran to receive aid.

Mental health counseling, sexual abuse treatment, substance abuse treatment, foster care, adoption, pregnancy counseling, family support services, immigrant and refugee services—they do it all and more for people 
in need.

“When you work somewhere like LFS, no matter how difficult the day is, you always go home knowing that someone’s life was changed because you came to work,” says Henrichs, who worked as a pregnancy and adoption counselor, a marriage and family therapist, and Interim CEO with LFS before she became its leader in 1985.

She believes LFS’ work is part of the fabric of the community. For many years, nonprofits used to work alone, focusing only on their own work. Now, however, many organizations, including LFS, embrace the idea of uniting their limited resources with other organizations’ limited resources to provide a bigger impact.

“There’s a rich diversity of nonprofits in the Omaha community, and we all offer difference services. Together, we have a collective impact. It’s important that we all work cooperatively so that our community can be strong. Communities are only as strong as their weakest link. Everyone has problems in life. Sometimes, those problems are so great that people need the help of the community. When the community helps those people, it strengthens the community as a whole.”

Nancy K. Johnson, volunteer and president of LFS’ Forever Families Guild, agrees. “Children are the future, as cliché as it sounds,” she says. “If, for example, we can get in there and help a single parent learn to be a better parent, that trickles down into our community to make it stronger.”

“We work with families and children to increase academic performance and help with obstacles, like attendance, to make sure the students are doing well with their education.” —Nellie Beyan

Johnson, who also works in real estate as the senior vice president of CBRE-MEGA, was introduced to LFS about 15 years ago through Adoption Links Worldwide, which later aligned with LFS. She began attending fundraising events for the organization and met Cheryl Murray, who was the executive director of Adoption Links at that time. “I really admire Cheryl a lot. She’s passionate and dedicated to the cause of helping young women and children. She’s one of those kinds of gals that you can’t say no to,” she laughs.

Clearly, Johnson couldn’t say no to Murray, now a development officer and guild liaison for LFS, because she was drawn into more volunteer work with LFS. “I started volunteering more for them, and I became the president for LFS’ Forever Families [Guild].”

As the guild president, Johnson works to increase fundraising and gain more exposure through other organizations. “There’s an organization called CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) that I’ve been involved with before through my real estate work. So I mentioned the Forever Families Guild to them, and they’ve picked the guild up as their philanthropy of choice for the next year.

“People are always afraid to volunteer because they think it takes too much time or money, but it really is simple…LFS can do a lot on limited funds and time because the group is so passionate.”

One such passionate supporter is Nellie Beyan, who works as a Family Support Liaison with LFS in the Omaha community and the Omaha Public Schools district.

“We work with families and children to increase academic performance and help with obstacles, like attendance, to make sure the students are doing well with their education,” Beyan says. “OPS has a large population of Burmese refugees [the Karen] that we work with, too.”

Working with refugees and immigrants comes easily for Beyan because she, herself, is an Omaha transplant. She moved in April 2000 from her home country of Liberia to work as an international volunteer with LFS. Later, she enrolled at University of Nebraska-Omaha to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work with the help of sponsors Mr. and Mrs. Howard Hawks and Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Alseth.

“I underwent a similar experience and hardships that most non-Americans undergo when they first come to America…I can put myself in their shoes because I know exactly what it’s like to come into a country with a new culture and new way of life, leaving family behind. It’s a difficult thing, the assimilation process. It’s very gradual, but it’s made easier by the available resources.”

“People are always afraid to volunteer because they think it takes too much time or money, but it really is simple.” —Nancy K. Johnson

Beyan likes working with LFS because she feels that the organization is everywhere in the community. “Imagine what Omaha would be like without LFS,” she muses. “I can’t even picture that. Without all that they have to offer, especially for all of the immigrants and refugees, people would be totally lost.”

Understanding just how many people in the community rely on LFS, Henrichs and the Board of Directors are taking major steps to improve LFS’ outreach and work in Omaha.

“Whether we’re talking children’s needs or refugee and immigrant needs, we’ve recently decided our focus in the program development should be primarily on prevention and early intervention,” she explains. “Many services are ‘fire truck’ in that they respond when a crisis happens. We need to become ‘smoke detectors’ and catch issues before they become bigger problems.”

Another improvement? They’ve been at their 24th & Dodge location for more than a decade, and they’ve slowly been acquiring the city block between Dodge and Douglas streets in order to renovate and build more space. “Many that we serve are in the heart of the city,” Henrichs says. “We’re going to stay right here.”

And here is exactly where the community wants them to stay.

Lutheran Family Services will host their annual Wicker & Wine® Basket Auction fundraiser on Nov. 7 at Mid-America Center (One Arena Way) in Council Bluffs, Iowa, from 5-7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40. For more information, visit lfsneb.org or call 402-342-7038.