Tag Archives: young professionals

“Yo Pros” in the Big O – Obviously Omaha

August 29, 2019 by

Nebraskans are known for their hospitality and generosity, exemplified by their involvement with countless charitable endeavors. This list of nonprofits–led by members and volunteers–helps young professionals find the right organization in which to serve, network, and grow professionally.


Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals

402.346.5000
omahachamber.org
Annual dues: None

Greater Omaha Chamber YP

Greater Omaha Chamber Young Professionals cultivate volunteering and outreach opportunities for the area’s young professionals, and aim to attract similar, like-minded individuals from other cities to Omaha. Volunteers organize the annual YP Summit, which will celebrate its 15th anniversary in March 2020, and connect individuals with nonprofits suited to their interests through the organization’s website.

Omaha Habitat Young Professionals

402.884.6858
habitatomaha.org
Annual dues: $45

Omaha Habitat YP
Members aim to promote homeownership in the metro area through volunteerism, advocacy, and fundraising. Beyond building affordable housing, the Omaha Habitat Young Professionals host DIY events and “friend”-raisers—events to boost membership—and volunteer at Habitat for Humanity ReStores. These young professionals organize the annual benefit concert Band Build and help with Brew Haha, a fundraiser featuring local breweries and restaurants, to support Habitat for Humanity and homebuilding efforts.

Urban League of Nebraska Young Professionals

402.453.9730
urbanleagueneb.org
Annual dues: $50

Urban League YP
Members of the Urban League of Nebraska Young Professionals focus on promoting, training, and developing young professionals of color and participate in community events such as North High’s Career Expo and community cleanup days. Benefits include a general membership in the Urban League of Nebraska, leadership and professional development training, and invitations to young professional and National Urban League events.

Omaha Jaycees

785.410.8871
omahajaycees.org
Annual dues: $75

Jaycees YP
Omaha Jaycees was the first young professionals organization in Omaha, as they were established in 1921. They represent the U.S. Junior Chamber. Jaycees organize the Beer and Bacon Festival and Hometown Holidays donation drive each year, and volunteer for local organizations such as the Siena/Francis House and Habitat for Humanity. Members also host an annual Young Professional Education Day to equip individuals with life skills such as filing taxes. Membership benefits include free entry to monthly social events, access to member-only quarterly outings, free or discounted tickets to Jaycees’ fundraising events (such as Beer and Bacon Festival), and professional networking opportunities.

40 Below

402.661.8454
omahaperformingarts.org
Annual dues: $99

40 Below YP

Young professionals passionate about supporting the arts can become members of 40 Below. Membership dues help support Omaha Performing Arts in attaining educational and community engagement initiatives such as Jazz on the Green. The group hosts the summertime social Twilight on the Terrace each year, drawing inspiration from next season’s performances. Membership benefits include meet and greets; backstage tours; discounted tickets at networking events, shows, and fundraisers; and invitations to special events.

United Way of the Midlands Emerging Leaders

402.342.8232
urbanleagueneb.org
Annual dues: $250

Emerging Leaders, United Way
The Emerging Leaders participate in all major United Way volunteering opportunities such as the Day of Action and Holiday Helpers. Other volunteer opportunities include the spring concert—which featured speaker Peter Buffett this year—and the annual United Way of the Midlands Golf Tournament. They also partner with Book Trust, a national literacy initiative benefitting school children from kindergarten to third grade, by providing local elementary schools with books. Members fundraise to ensure each child gets $7 a month to purchase books through the Scholastic Reading Club and read with the children once the books are delivered to classrooms.


This article was printed in the September 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Dusty and Marlina Davidson

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In a fit of late-night online browsing in 2004, Dusty and Marlina Davidson responded to a quirkily written classified for an Old Market apartment: “Super fly loft. Huge windows, two bedrooms, 2,000 square feet.”

With their minds set on moving out of their bland rental into something with a little more character, the couple stopped by the downtown loft the next morning. And moved in the next week. “It was a blink of an eye sort of thing,” Dusty says.

Neither of the Council Bluffs natives had lived downtown before, but both were ready to be in the heart of Omaha. They cite the energy of the Old Market, the Farmers Market (“We go down once a week and get stuff from our ‘garden,’” Marlina says, laughing), and the never-ending supply of things to do.

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The spacious loft seems TV-show ready, with exposed bricks and piping and scarred concrete. Contemporary décor, set off with pieces from IKEA, local designers, and heirlooms, keeps the two-bedroom apartment looking Young Professional Modern and not College Student Artistic.

The foyer is long and narrow, with a tiny seating area, a few plants, and gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows framed by heavy, white curtains. “It’s a weird space,” Dusty says, but the bar is down there, and it’s a good overflow area for entertaining. A little bit of a library adds an intellectual flare to the area, thanks to Dusty’s grandmother gifting him three or four classics on his birthdays. “I wish I enjoyed reading as much as I enjoy books,” he says.

The couple has considered buying a place but, as Marlina says, “We love the location, the frontage, the windows.”

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“The food truck,” Dusty adds with a sigh, pointing out where Localmotive parks right outside on 12th and Jackson every night. “We can’t be bothered to move. It’s sort of like inertia on some level, but we really love our place.”

A few years into living in their no-name building, the Davidsons made the acquaintance of local designer Jessica McKay of Birdhouse Interior Design. With her help, the couple learned how to give their personal style a voice in their Old Market home. “We bought a few pieces,” Marlina says, “but really I think it was more about what do we have and how do reorganize it so that it makes sense.”

One long-loved piece takes pride of place in the loft’s entryway: a bright blue Ms. Pac-Man arcade gaming console, built by Dusty as a gift for Marlina when they were dating. “He bought it as a black box,” she explains, noting he had an artist friend hand paint the iconic character on the console because it was her favorite. An old CRT television is the screen and is hooked up to a computer loaded with thousands of arcade and Nintendo games. “It’s fun when we have people over for the holidays or a party,” Marlina says.20130122_bs_2642 copy

You won’t find them entertaining much during the summer, however. For the past two years, the Davidsons have rented out their apartment to College World Series visitors and escaped the season’s craziness with a European working vacation. “I’m fine never seeing the College World Series again if we can get someone to pay us to go to France,” Dusty says. The couple plan to rent an apartment in Paris again this summer, a scheme that pans out nicely for his work as a serial entrepreneur with Silicon Prairie News and Flywheel, and her summers off from lecturing in communications at UNO.

If that sounds good to other young professionals in town, the Davidsons are all encouragement. “I think there’s more of us down here than people realize,” Dusty says. “There are places to be had. You can find them.”

Roger duRand

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Omaha designer Roger duRand didn’t invent the Old Market, but he played a key role shaping the former wholesale produce and jobbing center into a lively arts-culture district.

His imprint on this historic urban residential-commercial environment is everywhere. He’s designed everything from Old Market business logos to chic condos over the French Café and Vivace to shop interiors. He’s served as an “aesthetic consultant” to property and business owners.

He’s been a business owner there, himself. He once directed the Gallery at the Market. For decades, he made his home and office in the Old Market.

The Omaha native goes back to the very start when the Old Market lacked a name and identity. It consisted of old, abandoned warehouses full of broken windows and pigeon and bat droppings. City leaders saw no future for the buildings and planned to tear them down. Only a few visionaries like duRand saw their potential.

 “I had in mind kind of an arts neighborhood with lots of galleries and artist lofts.”

He had apprenticed under his engineer-architect father, the late William Durand (Roger amended the family name years ago), a Renaissance Man who also designed and flew experimental aircraft. The son had resettled in Omaha after cross-country road trips to connect with the burgeoning counter-culture movement, working odd jobs to support himself, from fry cook to folk singer to sign painter to construction worker. He even shot pool for money.

He and a business partner, Wade Wright, ran the head shop The Farthest Outpost in midtown. A friend, Percy Roche, who had a British import store nearby, told them about the Old Market buildings owned by the Mercer family. Nicholas Bonham Carter, a nephew of Mercer family patriarch Samuel Mercer, led a tour.

“We trudged through all the empty buildings, and I was really charmed by how coherent the neighborhood was,” says duRand. “It was really intact. The buildings all had a relationship with each other. They were all of the same general age. They were all designed in a very unselfconsciously commercial style.

“They were such an asset.”

Remnants and rituals of the once-bustling marketplace remained.20121119_bs_4319 copy

“When I first came down here, the space where M’s Pub is now was Subby Sortino’s potato warehouse, and there were potatoes to the ceiling,” recalls duRand. “Across the street was his brother, John Sortino, an onion broker. There were produce brokerage offices in some of the upper floors. There were a couple cafes that catered to the truck drivers and railroad guys. There was a lot of jobbing with suppliers of all kinds of mechanical stuff—heating and cooling, plumbing and industrial supplies. The railroad cars would go up and down the alleys at night for freight to be loaded and unloaded.

“A really interesting urban environment.” He thought this gritty, rich-in-character built domain could be transformed into Omaha’s Greenwich Village. “I had in mind kind of an arts neighborhood with lots of galleries and artist lofts.”

That eventually happened, thanks to Ree (Schonlau) Kaneko and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

duRand and Wright’s head shop at 1106 Jackson St. was joined by more entrepreneurs and artists doing their thing. The early Market scene became an underground haven. “In 1968, it was really artsy, edgy, political, kind of druggy,” says duRand.

Experimental art, film, theatre, and alternative newspapers flourished there. City officials looked with suspicion on the young, long-haired vendors and customers.

“We had all kinds of trouble with building inspectors,” who he says resisted attempts to repurpose the structures. “The idea of a hippie neighborhood really troubled a lot of people. This was going to be the end of civilization as they knew it if they allowed hippies to get a foothold. It was quite a struggle the first few years. We really had a lot of obstacles thrown in our path, but we persevered. It succeeded in spite of the obstructionists.

“I do have a sense of accomplishment in making something out of nothing. That was really the fun part.”

“And then it became more fashionable with the little clothing stores, bars, and gift shops. Adventuresome, young professionals would come down to have cocktails and to shop.”

The French Café helped establish the Old Market as viable and respectable.

The social experiment of the Old Market thrived, he says, “because it was genuine, it wasn’t really contrived, it evolved authentically,” which jives with his philosophy of “authentic design” that’s unobtrusive and rooted in the personality of the client or space. “Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing at all. The main criterion wasn’t profit…It was for interesting things to happen. We made it very easy for interesting people to get a foothold here.”

Having a hand in its transformation, he says, “was interesting, exciting, even exhilarating because it was all new and it was a creative process. The whole venture was kind of an artwork really. I do have a sense of accomplishment in making something out of nothing. That was really the fun part.”

He fears as the Market has become gentrified—“really almost beyond recognition”—it’s lost some of its edge, though he concedes it remains a hipster hub. “I’m a little awed by the juggernaut it’s become. It’s taken on a much bigger life than I imagined it would. I never imagined I would be designing million-dollar condos in the Old Market or that a Hyatt hotel would go in.”

duRand and his wife, Jody, don’t live in the Market anymore, but he still does work for clients there, and it’s where he still prefers hanging out. Besides, all pathways seem to take this Old Market pioneer back to where it all began anyway.

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