Tag Archives: Nebraska Humane Society

Anne Thorne Weaver

February 18, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

National Society of Colonial Dames diva Anne Thorne Weaver is at an age when she says and does what she wants. Fortunately for Omaha, this patron puts her money where her mouth is in supporting the arts.

When the new Blue Barn Theater opens this spring, the box office will be named in her honor for a major gift she made to the company. She admires the Blue Barn’s edgy work.

“I’m just very impressed with what they do,” says weaver. “There’s something about the intimacy of the smaller theater. I think they’ve done some wonderful productions. I think their new facility will be wonderful, and there won’t be any bats,” she adds in referring to a past production when an winged intruder darted overhead.

“I thought, that’s an interesting prop,” she quips, “and then realized it was a bat. Suddenly there was this thundering of shoes coming down in a mass exodus.”

Weaver likes that the theater’s new site on South 10th Street will be more visible than its Old Market digs. “I think it’s an exciting move and one of the things that’s really going to add to the Omaha scene.”

Her gift to Omaha Performing Arts made possible the Orpheum Theater’s Anne Thorne Weaver Lounge. The dedicated private space is a chic oasis for post-show receptions.

“I think it really puts a little wow into Omaha,” says its namesake, “and really adds a lot to any attraction you’re doing in the Orpheum.”

Outside the metro, her generosity’s recognized in the gift shop named after her at the Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) in Kearney and the lobby gallery named for her at the Lake Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa. She also donated the center’s stained glass ceiling created by Bogenrief Studios.

She not only gives money but time to venues she believes in, serving on boards for Opera Omaha, the Omaha Symphony, the Omaha Community Playhouse, and MONA. She served on the Western Heritage Museum (now Durham Museum) board and was active in the Joslyn Women’s Association.

Weaver, whose civic volunteering includes the Nebraska Humane Society and the Junior League of Omaha, only gives to things she enjoys. “Life is too short, so why fuss around with something I don’t enjoy or work with people I don’t like. When you give, everything is given back.”

She traces her aesthetic appreciation to her late artist grandmother, Narcissa Niblack Thorne, renowned for her miniature rooms, dioramas, and shadow boxes. Some of her grandmother’s handiwork is displayed in framed cases hanging on the walls of Weaver’s exquisitely designed home, whose expansive sun room features two Bogenrief windows.

Surrounding herself with beauty comes naturally to Weaver, who grew up in the historic Terrace Hill home in Des Moines. The restored structure is now the Iowa governor’s mansion.

The well-traveled Weaver considers the vibrant arts scene here a cultural and economic asset that makes the city a more attractive place to live and visit. She takes pleasure helping the arts thrive and sampling all the region’s offerings.

“We all need music and art in our lives,” Weaver says.

20141119_bs_8943

Selfless Selfishness


January 11, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A recent visit to the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS) found volunteer Chet Bressman deep into an adoption consultation with Sara Edwards, Amanda Hoffman, and a pup of questionable parentage named Nina. There had apparently just transpired a minor spat of sorts, and Bressman was setting things aright so that an interview could begin in earnest.

“No big problem,” Bressman explained. “It’s just that she was getting a little mouthy, and we had to…the dog…Nina…Nina was getting mouthy…not either of these nice young ladies,” the amiable Bressman sputtered as the women made an unsuccessful attempt to suppress giggles.

“Not only does he know the history of the Nebraska Humane Society, he is a vital part of that history. He’s played an important role in where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
— Pam Wiese, NHS Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing

Bressman was working adoption duties that day, but his other efforts over the last 15 years have included everything from building kennels to driving the PAW mobile adoption unit and more. His tireless dedication—60 hours a week of volunteering is not uncommon for him— led to him and his wife, Louise, being recognized by NHS with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Chet and Louise are fixtures here at the Nebraska Humane Society,” says Pam Wiese, the organization’s vice president of public relations and marketing. “Chet has been here so long and has put in an incredible number of hours. Not only does he know the history of the Nebraska Humane Society, he is a vital part of that history. He’s played an important role in where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

The couple, both longtime volunteers, met at NHS and dated for four years before being married over 10 years ago. “She came with all her papers and licenses in order,” Bressman quips.

20131127_bs_6028

Bressman was part of the organization’s team that traveled to coastal Mississippi on an animal rescue mission in the devastating wake of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, and he joined the ASPCA team for a similar trek to Joplin, Missouri, after a tornado wrought destruction on that town in 2011.

Bressman’s commitment to animals knows no geographic boundaries, but his heart, he says, will always be for the sprawling NHS complex near 90th and Fort streets.

“I want the Nebraska Humane Society to be the very first words people think of when it comes to new pets,” he says. “There are so many puppy mills and so much bad breeding out there, and we don’t put up any unhealthy animals for adoptions. It’s a win-win situation in every way. It’s a win for the animal, for the adopting family, and it’s a win for the community because every adoption opens a new space here for us to do it all over again.”

“He told us everything; the day the dog came in, where she was found, her health at the time. He knew absolutely everything about Nina. He’s a real adoption pro.”
— Sara Edwards

The Bressmans live with Golden Retriever Buddy (11) and cat Sophie (17). Last year they lost Gracie, but her memory lived on when NHS commissioned a caricature of the Golden Retriever for use as the official mascot of the nonprofit’s annual Walk for the Animals.

Back in the adoption room—one brightly painted in the hue of cheery sunflowers—Bressman was coaching Edwards and Hoffman on some of Nina’s special needs. The dog, a Boxer-Dalmatian mix, was born deaf, and that meant the learning of hand signals along with other tips.

“Fold your hands,” Bressman gently explained to Hoffman, but not before she playfully wiped some of Nina’s slobber onto Edwards’ sweater. “That’s right. Now turn away from Nina. You got it.”

20131127_bs_5993

Safety was also paramount in the discussion because each woman, both recently divorced, had a young child at home. Neither of the kids knew that Nina—an early Christmas present—would be awaiting introductions when they returned from school that day.

“Chet was great to work with,” Edwards says. “He told us everything; the day the dog came in, where she was found, her health at the time. He knew absolutely everything about Nina. He’s a real adoption pro.”

“More like an adoption god,” adds Hoffman. “We couldn’t believe it when we learned he is a volunteer. He should have his own show on Animal Planet.”

“I knew that was going to be a good adoption. Nina is going to a good home with good people where she’ll get lots of love and care.”
— Chet Bressman

Bressman was equally happy with how Nina’s adoption unfolded. “I knew that was going to be a good adoption,” he says. “I always know. Nina is going to a good home with good people where she’ll get lots of love 
and care.”

And then Bressman admits that he, the seemingly selfless co-winner of such an august award as the Lifetime Achievement honor, secretly harbored the most selfish of motives in his interaction with Edwards, Hoffman, and Nina.

“Best of all, it’s a big win-win for me, too,” he beams. “That one made my day!”

Visit nehumanesociety.org for more on Nebraska Humane Society adoptions, programs, and events.

For the Love of Pets

December 12, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“Animals are a huge deal in this house!” exclaims Kim Hanusek of Bennington, mom to Samantha, 9, and Leigha, 6.  She’s also a second-grade teacher at Pine Creek Elementary in the Bennington Public Schools district. Kim is always eager to visit about the eight animals (yes, eight!) that complete her extended family.

“First off, we have Tucker, 3, a purebred Boxer,” shares Kim. “My family has been raising Boxers for 20 years, and my sister and I grew up showing Boxers in 4-H. I have shown Tucker locally at shows in Lincoln and Omaha, but now he’s a ‘finished champion,’ which means he’s just a coach potato.

20131007_bs_5823

“Then we have Piggy, a French Bulldog who’s 4 and also a purebred. We got him from a breeder, and he actually looks like a pig.”

Kim goes on to describe her three feline friends. Callie, a domestic shorthair Calico, was adopted from the Nebraska Humane Society seven years ago (which makes her the most senior pet of the household).

Diamond, 4, is a Ragdoll, a domestic breed known for its gigantic size and limp body. “The kids like to hold him like a baby, and he’s so flexible, he folds up in half.”

20131007_bs_5813

Then there’s Lily (age unknown), a domestic shorthair stray the family took in a couple years ago. “Another teacher spotted her in the snow on the playground one day, and I took her home. We didn’t intend to keep her,” Kim confesses, “but [Leigha] had been asking for a cat of her own, and we were trying to get her to stop chewing on her blanket. I told her, ‘Little girls that chew on blankets don’t have their own cats.’ It worked like a charm,” Kim recalls with a laugh.

The family also has two hamsters—gifts to the girls from their father, Brian, for Valentine’s Day last year.

20131007_bs_5750

And just what does Dad think of all the animals in the house? “He grew up in a home where the dog stayed outside most of the time,” says Kim. “Then he found me and met my family…He had to become an animal lover out of necessity! Now, he travels to dog shows with us and willingly goes along with it all. Truly, he loves seeing the enjoyment the girls get out of [the animals].”

Last, there’s Coty, an 18-year-old paint horse that Kim got while in college. The family boards Coty at The Farm at Butterflat Creek in Bennington. “I did a little breakaway roping on her when she was young, but I was never successful,” Kim recalls. “She’s pretty ornery, but she’s turned out to be a great family pet. The girls and I ride her…both girls took riding lessons this summer. Samantha hopes to ride competitively one day.”

20131007_bs_5798

Samantha plans to begin showing Boxers next summer in 4-H Junior Showmanship competitions as well, Kim shares proudly.

“My hopes are that both girls will show or train dogs in 4-H and more competitively in AKC-sanctioned shows when they get older,” she adds. “There’s a lot of enjoyment and pride that comes when you work hard and bond with a pet. The possibilities are endless with dog/owner activities. They might move on to dog agility, confirmation [breed judging], obedience, therapy dogs, and/or working with our breed-specific rescue group.”

20131007_bs_5790

While the family pets are teaching her girls lessons about hard work and responsibility—they help clean cages, take the dogs to obedience classes, make sure all the animals are watered and fed daily, and other duties—Kim says they’re teaching them lessons in humanity as well.

“They’re learning that the animals depend on them…that all animals need love and attention, and that playtime is a requirement of pet ownership, too. They’re learning that animals feel…and they’re all unique. Samantha, especially, has taken a real interest in learning about the differences in dog breeds and their temperaments and behavior.”

The family has also done some work with a dog rescue club, which has allowed the girls to see how some pet owners treat pets as disposable. “I want them to understand that pet ownership is a commitment, and you don’t get rid of a pet because you’re bored with them or so you can get another. It’s not temporary,” adds Kim.

20131007_bs_5529

Having so many pets does offer its challenges, Kim admits. The family has to budget for yearly vaccinations and heartworm pills, boarding and farrier fees, vet bills, and of course, pet food and supplies. All the expenses can add up. Taking any trip can also be a hassle. “We always have to ask, ‘Who’s going to take care of the animals?’ before we can go anywhere.”

Recently, Kim and Brian approached the girls about taking a vacation to Disneyland. The girls’ response? “They told us they wanted to go to New Orleans where they make Pitbulls & Parolees or to the Florida Everglades to see where Gator Boys is shot.” These are two Animal Planet shows the family watches together. A love of animals is ingrained in them for life, Kim says.

“A lot of what we do revolves around the animals, especially the dogs. They join us for fire-pit nights with the neighbors…they sleep in our bed…they’re there for just about everything.” And that’s just how the Hanuseks like it.

The Bennetts and Their Little Bit of Luck

September 24, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Family life is hectic for everyone. Kids, work, school functions, sporting events…the list goes on and on. Add a family pet into the mix and it’s enough to make you wonder how it all gets done.

Angela and Rick Bennett of Bellevue have one such family. With four school-age children, they faced a question: “Is a dog one member too many?”

A few years ago, the Bennetts were looking for a dog to bring into their family. “We needed a dog that didn’t shed,” explains Angela. Two of her children, James, 12, and Julia, 7, have allergies. “We had a list of very specific breeds and thought we were going to have to look around for a while.”

As luck would have it, the family stopped into the Nebraska Humane Society on the same day that a Lhasa-Poo (a cross between a Lhasa Apso and a Poodle) puppy was put up for adoption—and his name just happened to be Lucky.

“In the beginning, the kids promised to do a lot of the work,” recalls Angela. For the most part, she says that they have kept their end of the bargain, with everyone taking turns cleaning up after Lucky, feeding him, and walking him.

She shares that her husband, Rick, made sure that each child had his or her own responsibilities in caring for Lucky, allowing the new family member to bond with everyone. Angela admits that it was difficult in the beginning. “When we first got him, he wasn’t nearly as easygoing as he is now,” she says. The Humane Society identified Lucky as a family-friendly choice, but the screening process can sometimes be an imperfect science. Lucky’s adjustment to his new home took some work. Angela says that he had a hard time getting used to the kids.

“When they would touch him, especially when he had some food in his dish, Lucky would bite them,” she says. Concerned by this behavior, Rick started to wonder if they might need to give the dog away. “We wouldn’t have given him away just because we didn’t want him, but obviously we didn’t want the kids—or their friends—to get hurt.”

20130802_bs_9356_2

In an attempt to save Lucky, 15 year-old Erica closely observed the dog’s behavior and came up with a list of ten rules, written in Lucky’s voice, that each family member should follow. A copy was hung in each child’s bedroom.

Rules such as “Don’t bother me when I’m eating or have my bone,” “When I’m asleep, leave me alone…I’m not in the mood to play,” and “If I walk away, don’t grab me or keep me back” topped the list.

“I think it was mostly due to Erica’s rules that [we were able to keep] Lucky,” says Angela.

Anna, age 10, reminded her mother of another helpful hint: “Close the zipper on the trampoline, and don’t leave a stool out there when it’s open.”

After making a few other adjustments, such as crating Lucky during meals so that he wouldn’t beg for food, things are running smoothly at the Bennett home.

“Lucky is pretty laid-back,” says Angela. “He loves to sit at the door and just look out. But when he sees another dog, he gets a little crazy.”

Though Lucky is rather territorial, he does enjoy playing at the dog park. “Once he’s off his leash, he gets along with the other dogs. He’s never gotten into a fight with another dog at the park.”

The idea of bringing home a new dog is always fun and exciting. But soon reality sets in and difficult issues need to be worked out. Will the kids follow through on their responsibilities? How will Fido interact with the children?

“It’s a big commitment!” says Angela. Thankfully, for the Bennetts, they were able to find a way to resolve these unexpected issues within their own home and keep Lucky as a part of their family. “It was a little touchy with him [at first], about how he reacted to the kids,” says Angela. But she offers this advice: “Pay attention to the dog’s personality and be patient with the interaction between the dog and the kids.

“This is really corny, but we always said we were ‘Lucky’ to find him,” says Angela.

Repurpose

August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann, The Salvation Army, and Nebraska Humane Society

A good location often draws businesses to established neighborhoods. Repurposing an existing building can also revitalize a neighborhood, a lofty goal that could bring tax benefits to a business that qualifies for the City of Omaha’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for property in certain areas. (Read the guidelines about qualifying for TIF and also see if a property falls within the community redevelopment area at cityofomaha.org/planning.)

The advantages of repurposing commercial properties are plentiful. Here are a few examples of repurposed buildings that have paid dividends across the board.

A Landmark Preserved—The Residence Inn by Marriott Omaha Downtown 

An example of TIF financing sits at 106 S. 15th St. The Residence Inn, scheduled for a September opening, in an Art Deco building that has housed many federal agencies since 1934. The last occupant, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, moved out in July 2008.

Location was a key factor in the building’s choice. “The location was a prime position for the type of hotel we wanted to develop—an extended-stay hotel for a mixture of business and leisure guests,” says General Manager Kyle Highberg. The estimated $24 million renovation presented unique challenges. “Our architects and developers spent countless months designing each room, each space, and each feature.”

The Federal Building is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. “We worked in conjunction with them to make sure we were maintaining the historical integrity of the building,” he says. If a building can be preserved, it should, Highberg adds. “I think it presents a certain social responsibility to do so when we can.”

20130802_bs_9205

Dingman’s Collision Center is now housed in the space formerly occupied by Cougar Lanes Bowling Alley.

It Takes Vision—Dingman’s Collision Center

Boyd Dingman believes that vision is the secret to successfully repurposing a building. A water bottling plant on Saddle Creek Road became his first Dingman’s Collision Center in 1996. In 2005, he bought his second location near 120th and Maple streets that started life as a mechanical shop.

Renovating his third location three years ago presented special challenges. But Dingman liked the site. The building near 144th and West Center streets was formerly Cougar Lanes Bowling Alley.

Renovation was not easy. The 25 bowling lanes were removed and lowered. Walls were torn out. The roof, parking lot, sewers, and concrete were repaired. The $1 million renovation of the structure that was built in 1968 took four months.

Dingman is now making plans for a fourth repurposed building for his business, which he runs with help from his two sons and daughter.

NHS-outside

Nebraska Humane Society’s building was formerly a Food4Less supermarket.

Location, Location, Location—Nebraska Humane Society 

When the Nebraska Humane Society was ready to move, President and CEO Judy Varner looked at property farther west and also considered new construction. But instead the shelter simply moved next door to a 63,000-square-foot building at 8929 Fort St. that sat empty—a former
Food4Less supermarket.

“We do a lot of business at the courthouse and downtown, so moving west would have been a problem,” she says. “Due to the proximity of this building to our old home, we were able to involve the staff in the design of the new space, which was great for team building.”

Major renovations included plumbing, acoustical, and HVAC.

The Nebraska Humane Society now has four repurposed buildings on its campus. The spay/neuter clinic used to be a bank, and the education building once was a strip mall. The former shelter is now used for animal control offices, overflow for rescue efforts, boarding, daycare, and grooming.

A History of Repurposing—The Salvation Army 

The Salvation Army has twice repurposed buildings. In 1991, the former Methodist Hospital at 36th and Cuming streets became the Renaissance Center, home to Western Division headquarters and social service programs.

After programs grew from seven to 20, The Salvation Army bought two former FBI buildings in the Old Mill area for $2.4 million and moved the divisional headquarters from the Renaissance Center in 2012 to make room for the new programs.

But after learning that bringing the Renaissance Center up to code would cost $35 million and a new structure would cost only $17 million, including demolition, The Salvation Army decided the building’s life was over after 107 years. A capital campaign to raise funds for a new social services building is underway.

Repurposing a Neighborhood—The Kroc Center 

The Wilson Packing Plant in South Omaha became dilapidated after closing in 1976. Repurposing the century-old building was out of the question. But revitalizing the neighborhood was not. The Salvation Army bought the land, equivalent to six city blocks, to build a new community center with funds donated by philanthropist Joan Kroc.

“It had been nothing but an eyesore,” says Madeline Moyer, business services director for the Omaha Kroc Center. “Police will tell you that the only thing you saw in two nearby city parks were gang initiations.”

The Kroc Center opened in January 2010 and changed the neighborhood. “Now you see people playing in the park,” says Moyer. “One resident said we were a beacon of hope for this community.”

When is the Right Time for a Family Pet?

August 16, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

So you just had kids. During the first couple years of raising toddlers, you were under a lot of stress and had a fairly unpredictable schedule. But now that they’re in school, you’ve gotten into a comfortable routine—breakfast, take the kids to school, go to work, pick the kids up from school, eat dinner, go to bed. It’s about this time that you might be thinking, “Hey, we should get a family pet!”

But how do you know if a pet is a good idea? And what kind of pet should you get to fit your family’s lifestyle? Well, there are actually several things to consider before adding a pet to your family.

The first is whether or not you have time you can devote to a pet. “Time is the best judge,” says Cathy Guinane, training and behavior coordinator with the Nebraska Humane Society, who works with owners of new pets regularly. “A family has to have time for an animal. They can’t be gone all the time.”

Guinane, herself, adopted four dogs—three terrier mixes and one poodle mix—and personally prefers to get pets in the summer. “It’s easier to potty-train a puppy or younger dog when the weather is nice. [And] more people are outside in the summer, so there’s more time for walks.”

“The answer is different for each family,” adds Tera Bruegger, director and adoption coordinator with Hearts United for Animals, a no-kill shelter, sanctuary, and animal welfare organization in Auburn, Neb. “One time that can be difficult, however, is around the holidays.” Bruegger says that holiday preparations, leaving town, and constantly having guests over aren’t beneficial to the transition of adding a pet to the family because there’s not enough time to establish a routine.

20130411_bs_0619

“A lot of thought and discussion should go into this life-changing decision,” explains Bruegger. Feeding, grooming, exercise, medical expenses, your home—all of these things must be considered before taking on a new pet.

Always evaluate your home before getting a pet. Do you have a house or a condo that you’ve bought, or are you renting an apartment?

If you have a permanent residence, you’re in pretty good shape. (If you have a yard, that’s even better, especially if you’re thinking about getting a dog.) You’ll just have to get used to the idea of your pet possibly destroying wood floors and carpet, scratching doors and cabinetry, and chewing furniture. But hey, you’ve had kids. You’ve already accepted the fact that your house will show some wear and tear, right?

If you’re renting, however, you’ll want to check with your landlord because you might not be allowed to have a pet; and if you are, there are often breed and weight restrictions, as well as pet deposits and monthly fees. Apartments are getting a lot better about allowing pets, but adopting a giant Great Dane might be better if you held off until you have a permanent residence.

The big one, though, is whether or not you can afford to own a pet. Purchasing and adopting both cost at least a couple hundred dollars, depending on the breed and age. Then, there’s spaying and neutering, which are highly recommended by vets. Don’t forget licensing, rabies shots, and annual check-ups and vaccines. And just like kids, always keep in mind that there could be a medical emergency, like a broken leg.

So what kind of pet is best for your family? Well, that depends on your schedule and whether or not you’re looking for a long-term companion for your family.

20130411_bs_0472

Smaller animals—fish, birds, reptiles, rodents—require much less time, space, and interaction than a cat or dog. “They’re good for teaching kids responsibility,” says Guinane. In fact, if you’re not sure about whether your family is ready to handle the responsibility of a larger pet, it might be good to start with one of these. Beware, though. These pets have shorter lifespans and may upset younger kids when they die.

With a cat or dog, more time and effort is needed. Both animals crave interaction, whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, playing with toys, or simple petting.

Cats are the more independent of the two, explains Guinane. Although they do still need some attention, cats won’t feel the same sense of abandonment a dog will if your family is out of the house a lot. Cats do, however, require a litter box (unless you train your cat to go outside or in the toilet), which will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Also, most cats don’t do well with roughhousing.

“If you’re looking for a quieter pet that is fairly easy to take care of, cats can make great companions,” says Bruegger.

On the other hand, dogs are very playful and make great family companions. “A dog will love everyone and can handle the activities of an active household,” says Guinane. Not to mention, if you have children who are physically disabled, a dog can provide extra support.

“Dogs can bring so much happiness to a home,” Bruegger adds.  “Some people believe you live longer with dogs, as you are happier, and you may be healthier since you may get more exercise walking the dog.”

20130411_bs_0584

Age is also something to think about with cats and dogs. Kittens and puppies are fragile and require training, but they’re also much more social. “They can grow up with the kids and the activity of the household,” says Guinane. The problem? “They get into everything and chew a lot!”

With an older cat or dog, you have the luxury of only having to train the animal to get used to your home, as they already know basic commands and are potty-trained. “They may be a bit more laid-back or have less energy, which can be appealing to many people,” explains Bruegger. Just make sure you choose an older pet wisely because some of them may not have been around kids before. Usually, animals that haven’t been around small kids find them frightening because their movements are so fast and unpredictable, which can be especially hard on an older animal.

“[An older animal] may also have more health issues,” adds Guinane. “They may not be as game to play and be touched when they don’t feel well.”

Nevertheless, whatever type and age of animal you choose for your new family pet, both Guinane and Bruegger recommend that you adopt from a shelter or rescue instead of going to a pet store.

“Animals at shelters need a home,” says Guinane. “Sometimes, they just need another chance.” The Nebraska Humane Society works closely with people looking to adopt and tries to find the best possible match, depending on personality types, lifestyle, and location restraints.

Hearts United for Animals has a similar process, though they take it a step farther by doing a home visit before selecting matches. “Adopting from a shelter or rescue means you’re not supporting puppy mills [with] inhumane conditions…For many, the thought of providing a home to an animal that needs one fills their hearts with joy, and the bond built with a rescue pet can be second to none.”

Pet-Proofing Your Home

Planning on expanding your family with a bundle of furry love? Pam Wiese, vice president of public relations and marketing at Nebraska Humane Society, says that the NHS has pamphlets to hand out about pet-proofing a home, as well as a behavior hotline. Still, Wiese has learned a lot from firsthand experience.

For example, her two labs Rudy and Bree may or may not notice the screen door is closed when they come crashing back in from playtime. Wiese has discovered that a pair of simple “bird magnets” (magnets that attract each other on either side of a screen or glass) keeps the rambunctious pair from tearing through her screen door. Again.

Use Wiese’s following tips to prevent such destruction to your property, as well as eliminate hazards to your pet’s health:

Be tidy. “Unfortunately, one of the best things to do is keep your home picked up,” Wiese says with a laugh. By getting in the habit of putting your shoes in your closet and shutting the door, you remove an opportunity for puppy to develop a taste for leather.

Get down on their level. View your home from your new pet’s vantage point, and you might be surprised at what nooks, crannies, and cords a kitten or a puppy could get tangled up in. Block holes, put covers over air vents, and get cords tidied out of the way.

Put food away. Even if you’re thawing meat, Wiese recommends shutting it in a turned-off microwave or setting it overnight in the fridge. “You don’t want your dog to learn that you keep food on the counters,” she says. “That way, the one day you do forget to hide the German chocolate cake, he’s not going to be looking for it.”

Close everything. Get a covered trashcan. Close the toilet lid. If your cat’s a Houdini, consider childproof locks on cabinets.

Filling Mom’s Shoes

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Daughters become inspired, motivated, and awed by their mothers as they see them dash out the door on a volunteer mission time after time. They often follow in their footsteps.

But as daughters trail mothers down the volunteer road, they’re finding the path has veered. More women in the workplace means a different approach to volunteering. Meetings once scheduled for mornings are now scheduled for noon so volunteers can return to jobs. An e-mail sent at midnight is now more likely to happen.

How volunteers schedule their time has changed. The dedication and sense of responsibility that daughters learn from mothers has not. Here we share four stories about the gift mothers give daughters that keeps on giving —the gift of volunteering.

Gail Yanney & Lisa Roskens

Gail Yanney became an anesthesiologist in the 1960s when few women held careers. At the time, the consensus was that working women didn’t have time to volunteer. (We know better now.) But she soon became one of Omaha’s most active volunteers.

Her volunteering career began while she was a busy student at UNMC College of Medicine. Invited to join Junior League, she asked permission from her department head.

“He said, ‘Physicians need to be part of their community,’” remembers Gail, who is now retired.

Passionate about the environment, she was a teacher naturalist at Fontenelle Forest on her day off. Gail is also a founder of the Women’s Fund of Omaha.

 “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.” – Lisa Roskens

With her husband, Michael Yanney, she received the Spirit of Nebraska Award from the Eppley Cancer Center last year.

Gail’s daughter, Lisa Roskens, learned from her mom. “I was inspired by my mother, who did things women didn’t do then. If you’re not influenced by your parents, you’re not paying attention.”

Lisa is chairman of the board, president, and CEO at the Burlington Capital Group, a company founded by her father, who partners with his wife in philanthropy. Volunteering is a family affair at the Roskens’ house where Lisa’s husband, Bill, and their two children join in. They rally around animals and kids and have helped at the Nebraska Humane Society and at Take Flight Farm.

Lisa tries to pass on to Charlie, 13, and Mary, 10, what her mother passed on to her. “We try to instill that sense of giving back as an obligation to being a citizen in a community. I don’t tell them what charities to support, but foster independence.

“Mom said the only thing you get out of life is what you give away.”

Sharon Marvin Griffin & Melissa Marvin

Sharon Marvin Griffin and her daughter, Melissa Marvin, have received many of Omaha’s top honors for volunteering. For Sharon, they have included Arthritis Woman of the Year, Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor, Salvation Army Others Award, and United Way of the Midlands Volunteer of the Year, among others. For Melissa, awards have included the 2010 YWCA Women of Distinction and honors from the Omaha Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Each has been involved in more than 40 charitable activities over a lifetime. Each presently serves on 10 nonprofit boards. Coincidence? Not likely. Melissa has inherited her mother’s zest for volunteering.

“Mom is a professional volunteer,” says Melissa. “No. 1 is the importance of giving back. No. 2 is the importance of how to be a leader, how to work together in teams. I try to emulate that.”

“Mom is a professional volunteer…I try to emulate that.” – Melissa Marvin

Melissa remembers her first volunteer experience at age 7. She and brother Barney, then age 2, delivered Christmas gifts to shut-ins. “We looked on it as an honor,” she says.

The family, including her father, Sam Marvin, who died in 1997, together rang bells for The Salvation Army.

The mother and daughter also have in common busy careers. Sharon, who is married to Dr. William Griffin, has had a 25-year career in real estate at NP Dodge. Melissa is with the Cohen Brown Management Group and is director of Community Engagement for Metropolitan Community College.

Mom has the final word: “The more you give, the more you grow.”

Susan Cutler, Jeanie Jones & Jackie Lund

Susan Cutler has big fans in her daughters.

“I watch all the friends Mom has made and the rewards you get from giving. I have huge shoes to fill,” says Jeanie Jones. “I don’t think she realizes how big those shoes are.”

Those shoes took the first steps to volunteering in her hometown of Council Bluffs, where Susan lived with her husband, Bill Cutler, a funeral director. They moved to Omaha in 1987. “When I started volunteering, I learned so much about my community,” she says.

She volunteered at her children’s schools. “I wanted to meet other parents, learn what was happening,” says Susan, who was a third-grade teacher earlier in her life. She presently is on the board of directors of the Methodist Hospital Foundation and Children’s Hospital Foundation and is co-chairman for Joslyn Art Museum’s 2013 Gala.

“I have huge shoes to fill. I don’t think [Mom] realizes how big those shoes are.” – Jeanie Jones

Her daughters have their own impressive resume of community service.

“I remember Mom was involved in Ak-Sar-Ben when I was in sixth and seventh grades. I had to go to stuff and didn’t like it,” laughs daughter Jackie Lund. The mother of two children is owner of Roots & Wings Boutique in Omaha. But Jackie now goes to “stuff” and enjoys it. She is guild board treasurer of the Omaha Children’s Museum.

“I met some of my best friends through volunteer work,” says daughter Jeanie, who has three children. She serves in leadership positions for such groups as Clarkson Service League, Ak-Sar-Ben, Joslyn Art Museum, and Girls, Inc.

Susan said she didn’t try to influence her daughters. “Your children do what they watch, not what you say.” She continues her devotion to volunteering. “You learn about yourself, as well as about the community. It all comes back to you more than you can ever imagine.”

Sharon McGill & Kyle Robino

Kyle Robino remembers as a child slapping stickers on hundreds of mailings for charities. That was her first exposure to the world of volunteering with her mother, Sharon McGill.

Their family’s tradition of volunteering has been passed down from generation to generation. Sharon inherited the volunteering gene from her mother, who helped establish the Albuquerque Garden Center, and from her grandmother, a strong force in her rural New Mexico community. “I looked back at their lives and learned how they made things better for others,” she says.

Sharon brought along her talents as a ballet dancer when she moved to Omaha in 1968. Not surprisingly, her first volunteer act was helping to build a professional ballet company. A dancer, teacher, board president, and, later, ballet mistress for Ballet Omaha, Sharon took her two daughters along. They attended ballet classes and absorbed the essence of volunteering from watching their mother. She now serves on the Joslyn Castle board.

“I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models. My mom was a great role model.” – Kyle Robino

Kyle and her sister, Gwen McGill, who resides in Napa Valley, Calif., are following in their mother’s ballet shoes.

The JDRF is the center of Kyle’s volunteer work. Five years ago, her older daughter, Olivia, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Kyle’s husband, Mike, is board president of the JDRF Heartland Chapter.

“As you get older, you figure out what your passions are and what causes are personal to you,” says Kyle, who owns Old Market Habitat flower shop. “I think people who volunteer clearly had mothers who were great role models,” she says. “My mom was a great role model.”

Kyle is now a role model for a possible fifth generation of volunteers—daughters Olivia, 14, and Ava, 7. These young ladies will have big shoes to fill, too.

Seniors and Animal Companions

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Did you know that including a pet as a part of your family brings huge health benefits, especially for those over 60 years of age?

The list of healthy side effects from pet ownership is long. Walking a dog and even simple grooming practices mean just that much more physical activity for the pet owner, every bit of which improves circulation and slows bone loss. And according to the Pets for the Elderly Foundation, a not-insignificant benefit of pet companionship is combating loneliness. Fighting off depression and loneliness is a benefit of pet ownership acknowledged in all parts of the industry, including by the Purina’s Pets for Seniors program.

Locally, the Nebraska Humane Society plays a huge role in providing pets for seniors. “We have a very specific program for seniors,” says Pam Wiese, Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing at the NHS. The shelter’s website describes its Program for Seniors program as follows:

“For this segment of society, the unconditional love and constant companionship of a pet can be a lifeline. That’s why the Nebraska Humane Society works fervently to help elderly residents adopt and keep companion animals.” Making use of the program is easy: Call the NHS and ask for assistance with adopting a pet for a senior.

Mable Rose resident Alene Dytrych with her Poodle, Star.

Mable Rose resident Alene Dytrych with her Poodle, Star.

“For seniors on a fixed income,” the NHS’ site states, “one emergency can mean the difference between paying the electric bill or feeding the dog.” To assist seniors with the cost of feeding their pets, the shelter will deliver free pet food to any senior with a licensed pet, who qualifies for the NHS’ Meals on Wheels program. “Ask about qualifying for Animeals at the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging,” reads the site, “when you sign up for Meals on Wheels at 402-444-6766.”

“Companion animals provide peace and pleasure for seniors,” says Wiese. “It is a beautiful symbiosis!”

But the benefits of pets are not limited to only those in a private home. Mable Rose Estates, an assisted living facility in Papillion, allows some of its residents to bring their dogs or cats with them to their new home. This is a win-win for everyone, says Lisa Summers, Director of Memory Support at Mable Rose Estates. Not only do new residents benefit from having their animals with them, so do the other residents as they become acquainted with the newcomer pets as well.

“Companion animals provide peace and pleasure for seniors. It is a beautiful symbiosis!” – Pam Wiese, vice president of public relations and marketing with Nebraska Humane Society

“We have all sorts of animals at our facility, including chicks,” says Summers. “We have an egg-hatching event every year. The eggs are brought in, and the residents get to watch over them until they hatch. We also bring in caterpillars in the spring, and when they morph into beautiful butterflies, the residents get to release them into our courtyard.” It is spectacular, says Summers.

Another event at Mable Rose is the annual dog show, which includes dogs living at the facility as well as those belonging to volunteers who bring their dogs in just for the show. The dogs are all dressed up in costumes, and everyone has a great time, says Summers. In advance of the show, residents help bake doggie treats for the entrants.

“Petting zoos are also brought in [to the facility] for our residents, and it is a wonderful time for all,” says Summers. “And we take residents to local farms in the spring and summer. It is a great experience, as many have either grown up on a farm or spent time at a farm as children.”

Mable Rose is also host to a bulldog named Rosie that serves as a hospice volunteer dog. Rosie is a very loving animal who provides comfort and peace to the seniors and their families, Summers adds.

Nancy Wilson-Hintz

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

NOVA Treatment Community’s mission is to be passionate about providing treatment services, education programs, and foster care services for children, adolescents, adults, and families, as well as help empower individuals and families to experience a life without substance use, family turmoil, and other problems that adversely affect their lives. This is a mission that NOVA’s newest executive director, Nancy Wilson-Hintz, is excited to be a part of.

The Omaha native and Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School alumna has always loved volunteer work, feeling it’s important to give back to the community in which she lives. Her favorite volunteer work is anything involving advocacy for those who are unable to advocate for themselves—especially working with vulnerable children and adults. Such advocacy led to her graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Public Affairs and Community Services/Criminal Justice and into volunteering with the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, which oversees child abuse and neglect cases in the child welfare and court systems.

“It is an honor to work with all of the devoted professional people who make it possible for individuals seeking empowerment to have that opportunity.”

Wilson-Hintz worked as a juvenile probation officer and then an adult probation officer for Nebraska State Probation until 1998 when she switched to the nonprofit world. She became the founder and first executive director for CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) of Douglas County, a nonprofit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. CASA volunteers act as a child’s voice in and out of the courtroom, ensuring that the child is receiving all necessary services.

She explains that she chose the nonprofit career path because she believes strongly in “working for the greater good.”In 2006, Wilson-Hintz was asked to be on the NOVA Board of Directors by another board member who was also a CASA volunteer. “Serving on the NOVA Board of Directors provided me with great insight into the workings and mission of the organization. It also helped in transitioning to the NOVA executive director position last fall and taking over the legacy of Eleanor Devlin, NOVA’s founder and executive director of almost 30 years.”

NOVA—which stands for New Options, Values, and Achievements—is a treatment community with adolescent and adult residential programs for substance abuse and mental health problems, outpatient and intensive outpatient services, and foster care services for those who need the support and tools to live a safe, comfortable life.

Wilson-Hintz with NOVA dog, Chance.

Wilson-Hintz with NOVA dog, Chance.

As executive director, Wilson-Hintz says she looks forward to increasing public awareness and funding sources regarding the variety of behavioral health programs and services NOVA offers. “I’m [also] looking forward to networking with NOVA staff, board of directors, funders, and other community organizations that provide behavioral health services,” she says. “It is an honor to work with all of the devoted professional people who make it possible for individuals seeking empowerment to have that opportunity.”

One such devoted “professional” at NOVA with whom Wilson-Hintz works is actually a rescued Border Collie named Chance, who lives with one of NOVA’s Youth Residential Supervisors. “[Chance] was adopted from the Humane Society twice and then returned to the Nebraska Border Collie Rescue, where he lived in foster care for four months before NOVA’s staff adopted him,” she explains.

Chance was named such because he, too, was given a second chance in life to find a loving family and a safe home, which Wilson-Hintz believes makes him a perfect mascot for the organization. As someone who has always thought animals to be extremely helpful in therapy, Wilson-Hintz says that Chance has done an outstanding job making the kids who come to NOVA’s facility feel at home. “He runs to the door to greet the kids each morning, then checks in with staff and spends almost his whole time with the kids…He brings a sense of peace, love, and devotion to the NOVA community.”

“My ultimate goal is to save children and adults from falling through system cracks by ensuring that no one is denied behavioral health services.”

Second chances aren’t just for Chance and the people who come to NOVA though. Wilson-Hintz also displays her faith in second chances in her personal life, as she has adopted three dogs—Petey, Monty, and Jackie—and given them a loving home with her and husband Michael Hintz.

Wilson-Hintz adopted Petey, a 12-year-old Norfolk Terrier, from the Nebraska Humane Society when he was 3 after he was found sick and suffering from a gunshot wound on an Iowa highway in the middle of winter. But she says, he has fully recovered and has been her “inseparable buddy” ever since.

She found Monty, a 6-year-old Miniature Pinscher/Terrier mix, tied up to a dilapidated trailer in a small Nebraska town two years ago. “He was living in deplorable conditions, and it broke my heart to see the hurt and desperation in his eyes,” she says. “I asked if I could have Monty, and the owner agreed to let me take him.” She had planned to take Monty to the Humane Society, but when she brought him home, she fell in love with him.

Today, Wilson-Hintz and Monty are volunteers with Domesti-PUPS, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs, pet therapy programs, classroom dogs, and educational programs. “Monty and I currently go to a nursing home monthly to visit the residents there. Troubled adults and children quickly connect with Monty because, I believe, they instinctively know that he understands them.”20130108_bs_0027 copy

Her most recent addition was Jackie, a 2-year-old English Setter/Lab mix, whom she adopted from the Humane Society after being her foster parent for two weeks. “Jackie was one of the nine rescued pups from a breeder in Illinois. She was not socialized to humans and extremely fearful of everyone and everything. What I thought would just be a short foster care situation ended up being a permanent one.” According to Wilson-Hintz, Jackie’s social skills have gotten so good that she now acts just like a normal puppy, which means lots of destroyed remotes, cell phones, and shoes for Wilson-Hintz and her husband. But they’re always patient in working with her and enjoy watching her progress.

With such compassion for those who need help, both human and animal alike, there’s no doubt that Wilson-Hintz will continue to expand and better NOVA’s services as executive director. Over the next year specifically, she plans to focus on foster care awareness and foster parent recruitment, as there is a continuous need for stable homes for abused and neglected children who can’t live with their biological families. Although NOVA currently provides foster care homes and family support services, there’s also a great need to increase community outreach, which is why Wilson-Hintz is making foster care awareness one of her top priorities.

She has several plans for NOVA’s future as well. Her two main goals for the next five to 10 years are to broaden financial opportunities and increase program stability by building on past successes and implementing new forward-thinking options. “My ultimate goal is to save children and adults from falling through system cracks by ensuring that no one is denied behavioral health services simply because they do not qualify for funding through the state or other programs, do not have insurance, or are not able to pay out-of-pocket expenses.”