OMAHA – If you’re an Omaha neighborhood in need of assistance, help is now available through ONE Omaha, a new citizen-driven initiative supported by the City of Omaha and the local philanthropic community.
The mission of ONE Omaha is to actively facilitate the development of neighborhoods in the City of Omaha through communication, education and advocacy, said Julie Smith, ONE Omaha program manager. She began her duties Feb. 16.
The initiative’s launch is the result of two years of effort by a volunteer task force comprised of the city’s six neighborhood alliance leaders and others to fill the gap in services left by the closing of the Neighborhood Center in February 2013. The task force, known as the United Neighborhood Alliances of Omaha (UNAO), included Omaha City Councilman Chris Jerram, representatives from the Benson-Ames Alliance, Midtown Neighborhood Alliance, North Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, Northwest Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, South Omaha Neighborhood Alliance, Southwest Omaha Neighborhood Alliance and Omaha by Design as well as various city staff.
“Our goal was never to replicate the Neighborhood Center but to build upon its decade of service to the community and explore new models for meeting neighborhood need,” said Mike Battershell, chair of the task force.
ONE Omaha is that new model. Instead of creating a new stand-alone nonprofit, the initiative is housed with Nebraskans for Civic Reform (NCR) in the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). Founded in 2008, NCR is a group of dedicated and politically diverse Nebraska professionals committed to making civic institutions more inclusive among youth and historically disadvantaged and disengaged populations. It will act as ONE Omaha’s fiscal agent and oversee its daily operations.
“This will allow ONE Omaha to focus our efforts on programming and relationship building in all corners of the community while keeping administrative overhead to a minimum,” Smith said. A UNO graduate, Smith most recently served as a service program coordinator and volunteer consultant at her alma mater. She expects to earn her master’s degree in urban studies from UNO this May.
Mayor Jean Stothert included $50,000 in the 2015 city budget to support the initiative. “ONE Omaha will help neighborhoods and neighborhood alliances understand how to use public and private resources to improve the quality of life in Omaha,” Mayor Stothert said. “It will result in stronger, safer, healthier neighborhoods.”
The task force and the City of Omaha have established a series of first-year ONE Omaha projects, each of which has a set of objectives and performance indicators so the initiative’s progress can be measured:
- Quantify the capacity and contribution of Omaha’s existing neighborhood associations
- Create a proactive neighborhood advocacy program
- Identify geographic areas of the city in need of leadership development
- Improve the way neighbors communicate with each other and with the City of Omaha
- Recognize the important contributions of neighborhoods to the City of Omaha to help sustain their volunteer effort
- Help Omaha’s neighborhoods understand and access available city services
- Secure the future financial stability of ONE Omaha
“The neighborhood dynamic is changing, and ONE Omaha fully intends to use emerging technology and best practices to establish a baseline through its first-year projects that will help hone the focus of the initiative in subsequent years,” Battershell said. “Together, ONE Omaha and Nebraskans for Civic Reform can change the way neighbors interact with and serve the place they call home.”
With the establishment of the initiative, the UNAO Task Force will dissolve, and representatives from the city’s six neighborhood alliances will become members of the ONE Omaha Advisory Committee, which will also contain representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the city’s planning department and NCR.
Funding for the ONE Omaha initiative is provided by the City of Omaha, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, an anonymous donor, a 2015 South Omaha Historical Grant and contributions from individuals, organizations and businesses.
For more information about ONE Omaha, contact Smith at 402.547.7473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.