Tag Archives: opportunity

Transitorily Yours

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a new Encounter column focusing on millennial life by Brent Crampton. To share your significant life experiences, email millennials@omahapublications.com

Today is Jan. 7, 2017, and yesterday I walked out of House of Loom one last time. It was a place that I co-owned, DJed at, and curated events for. The scene I left was only a shell. There were no swirling lights or sounds, no Victorian lounge vibes, and certainly no lively, booze-fueled conversations. Just an echo of the life that filled that place for 5 1/2 years remained (along with the bustle of a construction crew ripping a hole in the wood floor).

Loom was many things to many people, but to me it was a lovely little social experiment that blended cultures, creatives, and communities. Categorically, it was a nightclub and event venue, but to the folks frequenting its experiences, it was a place where patrons and friends could mobilize around causes, express emotions, mourn passings, and celebrate life’s contrasts.

The influx of people was so fluid that you could not distinguish it as a straight or gay bar, but simply as a people’s bar. On its best nights, it brought together folks who normally wouldn’t intersect in our city, and lifted us out of the doldrums of our daily lives.

It is rare for a business to shut down without the force of an unpaid bill. As a friend and fellow small business owner says, it is a gift to be able to close on your own terms. And that is exactly what we did. For myself and the other owners, House of Loom was never meant to be permanent. It was a successful social experiment. And it was time to move on.

I have spent the past 13 years of my life fervently dedicated to contributing to Omaha’s nightlife. With this new year, I embark on a new chapter—one where the loud and flashy peaks of club life are swapped for the quiet joy of watching my 1-year-old baby stand on her own for the first time. Now, spontaneous social gatherings are traded for intimate dinner parties (often planned months in advance). Instead of falling asleep as the sun rises, I wake up  with the sun.

It is a different life—one with its own advantages. My prior life could never hold a candle to this new world. In fact, as I write this, my baby daughter is napping away on my chest after a messy meal of liquified plums, apples, and carrots. She is tuckered out, and so am I.

This brings me to why I am writing this column. During this next chapter of my life, I will be taking some time to hibernate in the creative womb. The invitation to turn to the reflective act of writing seemed like a synchronistic opportunity. Instead of only sharing my notions of creativity and thought from behind a DJ booth, I will gladly be able to do so in this space.

Much like my life right now, I am going to ad-lib my writing. Most likely I will touch on topics ranging from the social impact of nightlife (of course), the curiosities of parenting (because I’m new at this), food (because I get giddy when I eat good food), and inclusiveness and equality (because of our new president), all through the millennial lens of a 30-something, post-nightclub-owning new papa.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Brent Crampton previously co-owned House of Loom and is co-owner of Berry & Rye, a bar in the Old Market. A multi-award-winning DJ in a former life, he now prefers evenings spent at home with his family.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Neighborhoods, USA

February 20, 2017 by
Photography by Provided

Chris Foster quickly developed a deep appreciation for his Gifford Park neighborhood after arriving in 1986. He joined its neighborhood association when it was launched a couple of years later and served as its president for a two-year stint that ended in 2001.

But it took a trip to Pittsburgh that year to trigger an epiphany. He realized what his midtown neighborhood could become.

On the trip, members of Omaha’s Planning Department and folks from various Omaha neighborhood associations traveled to the Steel City to attend that year’s “Neighborhoods, USA” national conference.

At the NUSA conference, hundreds of attendees passionate about improving neighborhoods and building stronger communities gather to swap ideas, participate in educational workshops, tour neighborhoods, and honor the innovative and life-changing work of neighborhood betterment projects.

And 2017 will see an exciting culmination of the efforts of city planners and Omaha neighborhood advocates like Foster—the 42nd annual NUSA conference is coming to Nebraska for the first time. The conference will be held at the Omaha Hilton Hotel and CenturyLink Center from May 24-27.

“NUSA coming to Omaha is a great training, educational resource, and networking opportunity for Omaha neighborhood leaders to learn about what’s going on in neighborhoods all around the country,” says Julie Smith, a conference organizer and neighborhood alliance specialist with ONE Omaha. “We will learn about programs other cities have and know that they face a lot of similar challenges, as well.”

A Fourth of July parade attracts residents in the Maple Village neighborhood.

Years in the Making

Discussions to bring NUSA to Omaha started six years ago, according to Norita Matt, a city planner who attended that 2001 conference with Foster. Years of planning led to Omaha’s presentation to NUSA leaders at the 2015 conference in Houston that landed the bid to host this year’s event.

“There is a lot that goes along with it; you have to have the mayor’s support and plenty of city support,” Matt says.

The Omaha conference will include local keynote speakers; dozens of local, national, and global workshops; awards for exceptional neighborhood betterment programs; local and national exhibitors; and a mayor’s reception.

The highlight of each conference, Matt says, are the Neighborhood Pride Tours during which attendees learn how neighborhoods use innovation and elbow grease to better their communities. More than 20 tours, including two in Council Bluffs, will focus on the rich history, unique designs, and revitalization of neighborhoods, she says. Tours are capped with receptions, local entertainment, and demonstrations of different cultures through music and dance.

“Going into the neighborhoods gives us a chance to hear about challenges and what people are doing to bring back the neighborhoods,” she says.

Gifford Park is one of many neighborhoods to participate in the city’s annual Spring Clean Up.

Two Omaha keynote speakers will highlight a key crucial neighborhood betterment effort. Jose Garcia and Terri Sanders will present their groups’ efforts to revitalize the 24th Street corridor, Omaha’s original “Street of Dreams,” connecting North and South Omaha, including the Fair Deal Village MarketPlace near 24th and Burdette streets.

Fostering a Better Community Life

For Foster of the Gifford Park association, NUSA coming to Omaha holds special significance because of his profound experience in Pittsburgh more than 15 years ago.  >

“I described it as a life-changing experience because I saw a presentation on inclusiveness involving community gardens,” Foster recalls, describing how he was “blown away” by a Seattle speaker who described the city’s network of community gardens.

Foster and others spent hours with the speaker at a local coffeehouse, and he then found himself doodling ideas about a vacant piece of land behind the Gifford Park home he shares with his wife, Sally.

Soon after, they were cleaning up the double-wide lot and purchasing the parcel for $4,000. Others joined in to transform the lot at 3416 Cass St. into the Gifford Park Community Garden. A youth gardening program soon followed.

A mural on North 30th Street emphasizes the history of the Florence neighborhood. Photo by Mele Mason.

A couple of years later, the garden expanded and an “adventure playground,” complete with a double-decker treehouse, was built as a way to build community ties among Gifford Park families and children.

Since then, a host of neighborhood activities and services have been developed, including a community bike shop and a free youth tennis program held each August at 33rd and Cass streets.

The conceptual seeds that revitalized Gifford Park’s community were planted at that NUSA conference years ago.

“NUSA provides me with some leadership development,” Foster says. “It gets people excited, invigorated, and motivated to want to take on projects in neighborhoods or work with the city and take on leadership roles. As volunteers, we have more effect on our neighborhoods than almost anything else. We’re the owners and stakeholders who can actually get it done.”

Visit nusa.org for more information.

The 42nd annual NUSA conference is coming to Nebraska for the first time. The conference will be held at the Omaha Hilton Hotel and CenturyLink Center from May 24-27.

A mural in Prospect Village celebrates the North Omaha neighborhood.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Patique Collins Finds the Right Fit

January 28, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In 2011 Patique Collins left a two-decade corporate career to open a fitness business. Two-and-a-half years later her Right Fit gym on West Maple Road jumps with clients.

This former model, who’s emceed events and trained celebrities (Usher and LL Cool J), now seeks to franchise her business, produce workout videos, and be a mind-body fitness speaker with a national reach.

Under her watchful eye and upbeat instruction, members do various aerobic and anaerobic exercises, kickboxing and Zumba included, all to pulsating music, sometimes supplied by DJ Mista Soul. She helps clients tone their bodies and build cardio, strength, and flexibility.

The sculpted Omaha native is a longtime fitness convert. Nine years ago she added weight training to her running regimen and got serious about nutrition. She’d seen too many loved ones suffer health problems due to poor diet and little exercise. The raw vegan describes her own workouts as “intense” and “extreme.”

And she pushes clients hard.

“I really want to help every single person that comes in reach their maximum potential, and that is a big responsibility,” she says. “If you don’t give up on you, I won’t. I will do whatever I can to help you earn your goals if you’re ready to.”

Collins has even been known to show up at your workplace if you skip class. “There’s accountability here at Right Fit. I’m very passionate about my clients.”

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She believes the relationships she builds with clients keeps them coming back. “People will tend to stay if you develop a relationship and work towards results.” Her gym, like her Facebook page, is filled with affirmations about following dreams, being persistent, and never quitting.

“I think positivity is a part of my DNA,” says the woman who sometimes dresses as a superhero for workouts.

A huge influence in her life was her late maternal grandmother, Faye Jackson, who raised her after Collins and her siblings were thrown into the foster care system. “My grandmother told me I could be whatever I wanted to be and made me believe it.” Collins went on to attain multiple college degrees.

Motivated to help others, she made human resources her career. She and her then-husband Anthony Collins 
formed the Nothing But Net Foundation to assist at-risk youth. While working as a SilverStone Group senior consultant and as Human Resources Recruitment Administrator for the Omaha Public Schools, she began “testing the waters” as a trainer by conducting weekend boot camps.

Stepping out from the corporate arena to open her own gym took a leap of faith for this single mother of two small children.

“This is a lot of work. I am truly a one-woman show,” she says. “Sometimes that can be challenging.” Right Fit is her living, but she works hard at maintaining the right balance, where family and faith are top priorities.

She’s proud to be a successful female African-American small business owner and humbled by awards she’s received for her business and community achievements. Collins believes opportunities continue coming her way because of her genuine spirit.

“There’s some things you can’t fake, and being authentic is one of them,” she says. “I’m doing what I want to do. I think it’s my ministry. Everybody has their gifts, and this is mine. I’m able to influence people not just physically but mentally.”

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Multiply by 50

December 29, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Opportunity leads to success. Success opens the door for even greater opportunity. Such is the cycle of the American dream. But many youths across the Heartland face more adversity than opportunity. Poverty, suffering, and staggering obstacles are their reality.

“Coming from an immigrant family, my parents only studied up to sixth grade in Mexico,” says Oliver Ramirez-Gutiérrez, a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Omaha with a dual major in biology and foreign language. “My dad works in a meat-packing plant, and my mom cleans houses. We don’t have the finances for my parents to pay for me to go to college. Even though there are obstacles in the way, you just overcome them because you don’t really have an option of failing.”

As a 2013 Ak-Sar-Ben scholarship recipient, Gutiérrez’s options just expanded in a big way. He was one of 50 winners of $6,000 college scholarships presented at the recent Ak-Sar-Ben Coronation & Scholarship Ball.

Gutiérrez says the scholarship opens a whole new world for him. “There are endless possibilities that you can do once you have your college paid,” he says. “That money is basically my future. If I hadn’t received it, I don’t know where I would have gone.”

Founded in 1895 as a harvest celebration, the Coronation & Scholarship Ball honors the volunteer efforts of families throughout the Heartland by selecting their children as members of the royal court. A civic-minded business leader of the region serves as king and the queen is honored for the civic contributions of her family.

“The ball is a party with a purpose, that being each individual scholar and how we can help each individual succeed,” says Jane Miller, chairman of the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Board of Directors.

Ak-Sar-Ben partners with the Horatio Alger Association offering Ak-Sar-Ben scholars access to matching scholarship funds from colleges and universities across the country, including many local institutions. “I’m just really proud,” Gutiérrez continues, “that the people at Ak-Sar-Ben were able to see the potential in me to become something great and to one day give back.”

Now take Gutiérrez’s potential and multiply that by 50.

 

First Monday of the Month


December 3, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

There are really two different shifts for breakfast, Jeff Slobotski explains. Some show up at the 11-Worth Cafe at 7 a.m., and others don’t roll in until 8:30. But that’s okay, because the First Monday of the Month Breakfast Club of Champions isn’t 
about structure.

The idea for a monthly breakfast of professionals from all disciplines is one of those brainwaves you can’t assign to one person. Slobotski, co-founder of Silicon Prairie News, says he had a conversation with Omaha friends about getting people together around a meal. “It was that conversation and a San Francisco friend who said she was doing this first Monday of the month thing that made me think, this is a thing that should happen,” Slobotski says.

He put an open invitation on Facebook last June, inviting over 200 people to show up the following Monday at the 11-Worth Cafe on 24th and Leavenworth. “Basically we all show up for breakfast and just take over the place,” the event page reads. “We hang out, drink coffee, and get jazzed to start the day/week & month off right. Let’s do this thing. Go!”

“Honestly it wasn’t until the third time that I actually talked with Tony,” Slobotski admits. That’s Tony Caniglia, the owner of 11-Worth Cafe. Slobotski figured it would be nice to give the establishment a heads-up that things might get a little crazy for a few hours on certain Monday mornings. “We didn’t want their servers quitting after a Monday shift,” he says.

So 40-70 people show up for a chatty breakfast at a local diner. What’s the end goal here?

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“There’s this resurgence, this energy, in the city,” Slobotski says. “People want to be involved, and I think that shows a general passion for the city. Let’s all take our labels off and just come together as people. You don’t come to this wearing a name tag with a stack of business cards.”

“We’ve seen changes in the way business networking takes place,” says Mike Battershell, vice president of Bergman Incentives and a core First Monday breakfaster. “You’re looking for opportunities to get your name out there, but you’re also just looking for ways to make your community better.”

Slobotski describes Battershell as an instigator. “Mike’s the kind of guy who won’t just post to Facebook saying something needs to happen,” he says. “He’ll give you a phone number and a name. He’s an informed instigator.”

For Battershell, the breakfasts are about spreading that information. “You’re probably going to sit next to someone you wouldn’t otherwise sit with. Say you’re a programmer, and you’re sitting next to an artist who’s sitting across from an elected official,” he says. “That’s a catalyst for business opportunities and community improvement projects.”

Diverse backgrounds are key, both agree. “I’m very passionate about not creating another insular group,” Slobotski says. “How can we continue to be open? Be proactive? Be inviting to folks from different geographies and industries, different spheres within the city?”

The welcoming nature of the 11-Worth itself doesn’t hurt. “The wait staff at 11-Worth is great,” Battershell says. “If you get up and move, they’ll remember that you had the corned beef and hash.” In fact, he says he bounces from seat to seat about four times in the morning.

Oh yes, that’s allowed. “If there’s a break in conversation, it’s totally appropriate to jump up and move on,” Slobotski assures. After all: no structure, no special recognition, no food chain.

And no judgment.

Slobotski laughingly admits he orders the same breakfast every time. “The number 11. Two eggs sunny side up, two pieces of white toast, grape jam, massive side of hash browns. The place is underground-famous for its 
hash browns.”