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August 2011 YP Connections: Q&A

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Each month metroMAGAZINE, in cooperation with The Greater Omaha Young Professionals, polls a group of "YPs" to obtain a brief glimpse into their lives and their insights on our community. Following are the answers which were provided to this months' Q&A.


How do you define the "Spirit of Omaha"?


Beth Riley


I FEEL INCREDIBLY FORTUNATE to work in a city where we have philanthropic leaders focused on systems change– true philanthropy–rather than trying to bandage societal problems. Donors in Omaha are investing in social change and are interested in seeing a return on their investment. At Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands, we serve many of the most vulnerable youth in our community, children and teens who are growing up in single parent households, extreme poverty, or both. Donors in Omaha are astute and know the value of matching kids with quality community-based mentors. When adults can serve as role models and cheerleaders to kids facing adversity, we see real results in reduced dropout rates and reduced activity in the justice system. Omaha is unique in having such an informed base of philanthropic leaders who are committed to making this a promising, safe place for all children, regardless of their background. Even more exciting, we are having real conversations about these issues in our community. I can’t imagine living, working and raising my own son anywhere else!



Jeremy Belsky

­Planned Giving Officer • BOYS TOWN

COMING TO OMAHA after growing up in small town Nebraska (pop. 2,500), I was impressed with the city’s vastness and big buildings. Why, I wondered, had my hometown never grown like that? The explanation is simple. That community didn’t have the foundation to attract medium and big companies that spur growth. It just didn’t have weit, whatever that special “it” was. I’ve always felt that Omaha’s “it” factor has been our philanthropists, large and small, who continue to set the pace in generating a spirit of giving back to Omaha. The $3 billion downtown development effort over the last decade (Qwest Center, Union Pacific, First National Bank, etc.) was a show of “we can do this!” by Omaha’s community leaders. Getting to perform charitable gift planning for Boys Town parallels the generosity of Omahans. At Boys Town we want to heal families and save children, and that takes resources of all kind. The spirit of Omaha is no different. We’re proud. We empathize. We want to help. Keep giving and keep growing, Omaha!



Sarah Lopez

Director of Development and Communications • INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES

WHEN I ASK PEOPLE who are not originally from Omaha how they came to be here and what has made them stay, the answer is always the same. Despite their varied backgrounds, people quite logically point to Omaha’s job market and educational opportunities as being initial attractors, but it was the community’s laid-back nature, sincere friendliness and quiet generosity that inspired a sense of belonging, ownership and desire to reinvest their time, talent and treasure here. At Inclusive Communities, we are always challenging our students to consider how they can serve as better stewards of the community that we all share. As our society becomes increasingly diverse, a large part of this process will involve reaching out across the divides of race, faith and class to maintain the same sense of “belonging” that has, for years, encouraged people to make Omaha home.As someone who grew up here, I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved in work that is helping to define and maintain what we like
to refer to as the “Spirit of Omaha.”


Kareen Hickman

Development Director • PRIDE OMAHA, INC.

I DEFINE THE SPIRIT OF OMAHA as building a better community. In my 11 years here, whether through work or volunteer activities, I have always had a heart for working for the greater good of my community. The work I do at PRIDE, an acronym for Prevention Resources and Information on Drug Education, is about keeping children safe and drug free so they can reach their full potential and be tomorrow’s leaders. In hopes of building a healthier, safer community for all, it is my goal to help work toward changing the cultural influences that encourage children to use drugs. Over the years I have seen how this community comes together to support the work of the non-profit sector. We live in a great city with so many opportunities to give not just money, but also time and talents. We are blessed to be part of a community that wants to get involved and enjoys finding creative and innovative ways to elevate our great city. The spirit of Omaha is in its people!

-end- metroMAGAZINE





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