On August 27, 1996, a meeting of the greater South Omaha Neighborhood Associations was called together and conducted by State Senator Don Preister. The focus was on the formation of a coalition ofSouth Omaha Neighborhood groups. Senator Preister felt that a larger assembly of leaders was needed to achieve success in obtaining solutions for problems inSouth Omaha– specifically housing code enforcement, graffiti, sewer problems, economic opportunities and political involvement. Every person, of the 26 present, expressed their support for and commitment to a coalition. They unanimously agreed to establish one.
A coalition of neighborhood association officers representing the greater South Omaha area held its first organizational meeting on October 30, 1996at St. Bridget’s Church on 27th & F Streets. At that meeting, South Omaha Neighborhood Action and Response, SONAR, (named by Susan Koneck) was created. The boundaries were set at the Missouri River to 72nd St. and Harrison to Leavenworth St. The founding neighborhood organizations included Spring Lake, H & L, Deer Park, Highland South, Christie Heights, Highland Park, Indian Hill, Karen Western, Columbus Park, Hanscom Park, Southside Acres, Weircrest, Southside Terrace and Social Settlement. SONAR was formed to strengthen and support, through unity, the efforts of individual neighborhood organizations to improve the quality of life in South Omaha. Subsequent meetings were conducted monthly by Senator Don Preister and held at the SONA building at 31st & Q streets.
SONA (South Omaha Neighborhood Association), a 501 c 3 non profit, had been formed in 1965, to improve the South Omaha community: to promote interest, education, and involvement of citizens in an effort to secure the best possible neighborhoods for all the residents. SONA’s Articles of Incorporation were filed in July of 1969, and a contract was formed with the City of Omaha. Early in 1996, the City informed SONA that it would be selling the SONA Community Building. Because of costs involved to rehabilitate the building, the SONA board rejected the City’s proposal to purchase it. The Mayor of Omaha was dissolving the City agreement with SONA and the South Omaha Community as ofApril 19, 1998. This put in question the future of the SONA Community building and SONA organization itself. In September of 1997, Dave Schinzel of SONA wrote a letter to Senator Preister of SONAR regarding this situation and suggested a possible merger of the two organizations.
On October 9, 1997, Dave Schinzel and other SONA board members attended a SONAR meeting to discuss the changes taking place with the SONA organization. At that meeting, it was decided that a committee should be formed to get a clearer understanding of how a merger/transition could be accomplished. This committee, chaired by Elaine Heaston, found it possible and advantageous to merge..
On December 11, 1997, during a regular SONAR meeting, a report was given to SONAR and SONA members on the merger proposal. Because the two groups had common goals regarding the quality of life in South Omaha, it was unanimously decided to merge the two organizations. At this same meeting, new board members were nominated whose terms would begin in January of 1998. They were Rudy Novacek, Don Preister, Carolyn Velehradsky, Mary Sue Wydeven, Katherine Holian, Carol Brothers, Steven Brand, Bob Graybeal, Janet Bonet, Joan Sylva and Shirley Gonsalves. New interim officers were nominated for a period of four months beginning January 1, 1998and were formally elected at the December 17, 1997 SONA board meeting. They were President – Steve Brand; Vice President – Joan Sylva; Secretary – Janet Bonet; Treasurer – Bob Graybeal. Boundaries for the new group were adjusted to Dodge St.on the North, leaving 72nd St. on the west,Harrison St. and the River as the other two boundaries.
At the February 12, 1998 SONA meeting, minutes of the December 11 meeting were approved so the merger became final. The original SONA and SONAR thus officially became the current SONA.