Week 44 – Gӓbe

This week the College World Series (CWS) is being played in town. Since 1950, the CWS has been held in Omaha and through the 2010 series, the CWS was played at Rosenblatt Stadium in South Omaha. I have many great memories of going to games in that stadium. In 2011, the CWS moved to the brand new TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha.

On Wednesday, I was heading back to campus from a change of command ceremony for the 55th Wing at Offutt Air Force Base and stopped for a few minutes at the original site of CWS in Omaha, which has been preserved as a small infield, signage, plaques, etc. It’s a shrine to 60 years of CWS in Omaha!

It was a beautiful morning and I walked into the area and relaxed in one of the Rosenblatt seats that are installed around the small infield. A few minutes later, in walked Gӓbe.

Gӓbe, obviously a LSU fan, and I started talking and I asked her to have a seat and join me. She asked what this was for and I said I had a blog…then I revealed the $50 part of the deal and she accepted being week 44.

Gabe week 44Gӓbe was there with her mother, Elodie. Gӓbe is a big LSU baseball fan. She said she missed only two of their home games this year, in spite of being in a cast and on crutches for part of the season. This was her third time in Omaha for the CWS and she said she misses the old ballpark (Rosenblatt).

Gӓbe is a senior at LSU majoring in Sports Administration and Marketing. She works in the LSU Athletics Department. She loves sports, and in particular, baseball. She is hoping to go to graduate school. She is from Baton Rouge and loves being from Louisiana…loves the food, the fishing and Mardi Gras. “People sometimes make fun of us from Louisiana, but they fall in love with everything about us when they get to Louisiana”, she said.

People also fall in love with Omaha when they come to town for the CWS. The CWS is really just an extension of Omaha to the rest of the collegiate baseball community and will be for at least another 22 years. The event brings the best fans to town. I had the pleasure to meet two of them this week!

Week 43 – Forest

In many ways, the Giving50x52 journey has enabled me to better see the “forest from the trees”…and this week I literally saw Forest!

We heard about a local benefit event in Papillion…and I heard there were unlimited waffles and sausage!

So, on Saturday (the 15th ) the whole family got up and went to the benefit for Forest Grapes at Shadow Lake Community Church.

The Waffle Man was working, and there were plenty of waffles. There was also plenty of support for this guy named Forest Grapes, who is battling cancer. He and his wife, Diane, were moving around the room at the benefit event talking with people, thanking them for attending and sharing a few laughs.

ForestAfter Lance Burch, Lead Pastor, got up on the stage and belted out a personalized rendition of “On Broadway” that was both impressive and humorous AND after I had consumed my second waffle, I located Forest and introduced my family to him. He sat down with us for a few minutes to talk.

Forest told me that he is from central Missouri and went into the Air Force. In 1985, he moved to Omaha and got married to Diane, where they lived for a few years before moving to Blue Springs, Missouri. In 1994, they moved back to the Omaha area.  Forest & Diane have three children.

Forest has worked in IT his entire career, his last role was with Best Buy.

Forest was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2000 and it returned in 2011. More recently, he learned that the cancer had metastasized and he is going through treatment at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Forest has a positive attitude on his challenge and was friendly.

As we parted I told Forest that there are many people he knows, and many people he doesn’t know, that are thinking about him, praying for him, and wishing him the best.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads!

Week 42 (Special Edition) – NeAD

On February 22, 2013, the Omaha World-Herald ran a story about Giving50x52 (which was very well written by Erin Grace!). By 2pm that day, Frank and Marlene Turk, who I did not know, stopped in my office at UNO and presented me a formal invitation letter and information about the upcoming biennial Nebraska Association of the Deaf (NeAD) conference in June.

This was the first time I had sat down and visited with someone who was deaf. We exchanged handwritten notes for about 15 minutes. They were both very nice, but I made no promises and said I’d think about it.

I thought Frank would forget about this, but he kept in contact with me and introduced me to Jonathan Scherling, president of NeAD. So I accepted their invitation and on Saturday, June 8th, I attended their conference to present briefly about Giving50x52 and to give NeAD a $50 bill. Below is a photo with Jonathan on the left and Frank on the right.

NeAD photo 1NeAD was established in 1902 as the chief spokesperson for all deaf and hard of hearing people. It is affiliated with the National Association of the Deaf, headquartered in Silver Spring MD. Both organizations exist primarily to preserve, protect, and promote the civil, human, and linguistic rights of all deaf and hard of hearing people. 

Their ultimate goal is to enhance public and legislative awareness of the needs and interests unique to deafness specific to bringing to the targeted population the best possible American life.

The best estimates in Nebraska are that approximately 6,000 people are deaf or unable to hear normal conversation (0.34%) and about 70,000 people who are hard of hearing or have difficulty hearing normal conversation (3.93%).

The NeAD conference was well organized and attended (over 130 participants). The theme was “Gateway to Collaborative Partnership”.  Everyone at the NeAD conference made me feel so welcome…it was truly a pleasure and an honor for me to join them and make a brief presentation.

Through my meetings with Frank and Jonathan and attending the NeAD event, I think I’ve gained a greater appreciation of the challenges of the deaf and of the importance for all of us to ensure that our community is inclusive of this wonderful population.

http://www.nead1902.org/

Week 42 – Billie Jo in 20-county

LOUISVILLE, NEBRASKA – In 1922, the state of Nebraska established the practice of using prefix numbers to identify the counties in which vehicles were registered on the license cass county license plateplate for the vehicle. Each of Nebraska’s 93 counties was assigned a number based on the number of registered vehicles in the county at that time. The county with the most vehicles, Douglas (city of Omaha), was assigned the number 1; the county with the second highest number of vehicles, Lancaster (city of Lincoln), was assigned number 2; and so forth. My current county, Sarpy, was 59.

In January of 2002, the State discontinued this practice for the largest three counties, Lancaster, Sarpy and Douglas and began issuing alpha/numeric license plates.  This change and the proliferation of prestige plates has taken away a little nugget of Nebraska history that I miss. Oh, I know that most counties in Nebraska still use these prefix numbers…but it’s not as much fun when only part of the vehicles are in the (prefix) game!

On Friday of this week, I woke up in 59-county and drove to 2-county for an all day meeting. On the way back, I took the long route through 20-county (Cass) and stopped in Louisville. It is there where I met Billie Jo.

I was parked at the combination convenience store/bank/Subway mini-strip mall along Highway 50 when Billie Jo pulled in next to me and went into the C-store. I figured she wouldn’t be long because she left the keys in the car with the car running (we do that in Nebraska!).

Billie Jo was talking on her phone when walking back to her car and I interrupted her and introduced myself. She was talking to her sister, Amanda, and I suggested she not hang up and just let Amanda listen. So on with the pitch…and Billie Jo accepted the $50.

Billie Jo is originally from 6-county (Saunders, and specifically Woodcliff) but moved to 20-county a year ago to live in Louisville with her fiancé, Ben. They are planning to get married next year. She is pregnant (with a boy) and due October 4th. Billie Jo looked very young to me, so I was quite surprised when she said that she had been married before for 15 years (she got married at the age of 17) and that she had previous children. She has four girls from that marriage.

Billie Jo said that she has been off work due to the pregnancy and that the $50 comes at a really good and needed time for them. It was a really good time to meet her, for me…another very pleasant encounter on this journey!

Week 41 – Kalvin

On Friday I was up and out of the house around 5 am. I had things to do and a bus (stop) to catch.

My idea this week was to select one of the many bus stops that I pass every day and pick the first person to arrive to wait for their bus. So, I staked out a bus bench near 72nd and Dodge.  Shortly before 6am a young man showed up.. and it was go time.

omaha metroI introduced myself to Kalvin, shook his hand and provided him the usual background on what I’m doing.  He agreed to be week 41.

Kalvin is an extremely pleasant and friendly guy. He is a plumber for Wonder Plumbing and was taking the bus to a job site. He said his car was being repaired and I commented that the $50 might help with that bill and he smiled and agreed.

Kalvin is 25, single, a graduate of Benson High School and has been a plumber for six years.

Kalvin is a pretty impressive guy. When asked what he likes to do away from work, he said he likes to spend time with his mom and family.

I sat and spoke with Kalvin for a few minutes on the bus bench as he waited for his bus, the Route#2, to arrive. When it did, we shook hands again and went our separate ways to our work.

Fridays always feel good, but after meeting Kalvin, this Friday felt especially great.

Week 40 (part 2) – Nothing But Nets

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and quite often the official start of mosquito season. To most of us, mosquitoes are a nuisance and seasonal, but what if that season (mosquito) never ended, and was deadly?

My favorite columnist is undoubtedly Rick Reilly. For years, I’ve looked forward to getting the weekly Sports Illustrated/ESPN Magazine and immediately turn to read his column…and I’ve read all of his books. One of his columns that I have never forgotten was from April 2006 titled, Nothing But Nets.  Here is a link to that column.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/rick_reilly/04/25/reilly0501/

Nothing but netsRick Reilly’s column and his leadership led to the creation of the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign. His efforts have inspired the largest global, grassroots campaign to fight malaria. It’s hard to imagine a better tag line for a person or columnist!  Rick is nothing short of impressive to me as a writer and humanitarian!

Since 2006, more than $45 million has been raised to send over 7 million life-saving bed nets to families across sub-Saharan Africa. Here are some facts about malaria:

  • Malaria is one of the world’s most serious global health issues. More than 200 million people each year are infected, and more than 600,000 of those die, EACH YEAR.
  • Malaria is particularly devastating in Africa where the disease is a leading cause of death among children. Every 60 seconds, a child in Africa dies from a malaria infection.
  • Malaria is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that bite at night.
  • Malaria is a preventable disease.
  • A long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed net creates a physical barrier against deadly malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
  • The insecticide woven into the net kills mosquitoes, preventing them from biting their next victim. This reduces malaria across a community.
  • Bed nets can reduce malaria transmission by 90 percent in areas with high bed net coverage rates. Thanks to bed nets and other tools, malaria deaths in Africa have dropped by one third in the past decade.

Until today, I had offered up nothing but air balls on Rick’s effort.  Since just $10 provides a net and saves a life, today Giving50x52 funded 5 nets in this mid-week effort.

“Nothing but net!”

To find out more, please go to:  http://www.nothingbutnets.net

Week 40 – Debra

She could talk a mean wing.  And when she said she preferred them from Old Chicago…at least partially because of the accompanying beer tours, she had my attention!

On Friday I stopped by the Sara Lee Bakery Outlet on north 72nd Street to see if I could get rid of some bread. Debra was there to sell it.

Sara lee signI browsed and bought a few things and somehow got in a conversation with Debra about wings. Not sure how that happened, but I’m sure that in terms of passion for wings I was outmatched. Debra had game.

So, I asked her to be my week 40 and she initially declined. She wouldn’t accept the dough.

I told her I kneaded her to take it…and she finally agreed to take the bones.

I will continue these …I can rise to the occasion.

Ok enough already…Debra has worked at the Sara Lee Bakery Outlet for 16 years. She has a son, Javon, who is a freshman basketball player at Benson High School and two older daughters. Debra is from Fort City, Arkansas and came to Omaha when her mom brought her here. She has never been married, but says she is still looking.

Debra has a very fun personality and kept asking her co-worker, “Can I do this?” and after about the third time of hearing “yes” she then asked me, “is this real?”.

Interestingly, since I was wearing a shirt with a UNO “O” on it, we talked about UNO and she said that Javon is going to be involved this summer with some UNO-related program. It turns out it is SummerWorks Omaha, which is an outstanding program operated by UNO (Kathe Oleson Lyons) and graciously funded by the Peter Kiewit Foundation, the Robert B. Daugherty Charitable Foundation and the Sherwood Foundation.

The nine-week SummerWorks Omaha program is designed for about 150 select high school students, aged 15 – 18, who desire to earn an income through summer employment. During the program the students also learn important skills that can be used to secure future employment and encourage active citizenship in the Omaha community.

Debra is thrilled that Javon is going to be in this program.

So are we!

Week 39 (part 3) – OmahaGives!

Of course I’m playing!

Back in Week 21 I blogged about #GivingTuesday and that I had missed that national day of giving held in November 2012.

So, when I heard about OmahaGives24, I wasn’t going to miss Omaha’s new 24-hour, online giving event!

Omaha Gives! was organized by the Omaha Community Foundation to grow Omahagives24philanthropy in the Omaha area. Matching funds of $500,000 and additional prize money will be made available to amplify charitable donations made on this day, which is TODAY, May 22, 2013.

Nearly 300 organizations that are headquartered or provide services in the Omaha area are represented on omahagives24.org.  At least 94% of every dollar will go to the nonprofit selected (there are about 6% in fees for credit card processing and online technology).

Giving50x52 just gave $50 to Film Streams, Inc.  The mission of Film Streams is to enhance the cultural environment of the Omaha-Council Bluffs area through the presentation and discussion of film as an art form.

So, Omaha, it’s a 24 hour party of giving…come join the party! 

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Speaking of the Omaha Community Foundation, there was an excellent story in the Omaha World-Herald on Sunday, May 19th about the leadership transition at the organization. Sara Boyd, currently President and COO, will become CEO this summer. Sara is an outstanding leader and Omaha is fortunate to have her at the helm of this important organization.

http://www.omaha.com/article/20130519/NEWS/705199914/1707#kelly-as-city-gives-omaha-community-foundation-transitions

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Finally, today is my significantly older brother Jeff’s birthday, so I wanted to wish him a happy birthday. If you round your age to the nearest decade, he is now in the 60 year old category! Happy birthday Jeff!

Week 39 (part 2) – Moore, Oklahoma

MOORE, OKLAHOMA – Thinking of our neighbors.

Moore OklahomaThe devastating May tornadoes have left most Oklahomans (and others) stunned and wondering what they could do to help.  United Way of Central Oklahoma advises that monetary donations are the best way to assist. The organization has activated its disaster relief fund effective Monday, May 20, 2013, so individuals may contribute specifically to the May tornadoes relief and recovery efforts.

http://www.unitedwayokc.org/

Week 39 – Steve, Ramsey, Reece & Lilly

LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – I’ve been on the “hunt” for a good weekly experience for this blog. My mind has been working on about ten ideas, but I think that has been getting in the way of me seeing the opportunities right in front of me.

This one was, literally, right in front of me…as in the line at Walgreens.

Graduation parties took us to Lincoln today (Sunday) and we stopped on the way at Walgreens at 84th & Northern Lights Drive to pick up a card. My wife was looking for cards while I looked around the store and found a couple things to get. I decided, not knowing how long it might take her, to go ahead and check out with my items and wait outside.

So, I got in line and was behind a guy and three kids. His total was a little over $20 and the clerk ran his credit card twice and both times it didn’t work. No problem, he said, he would come back later.

Fortunately, my mind (which was in the process of working on other Giving50x52 ideas) picked-up on the opportunity and allowed my brain to function and enable me to speak and offer to take care of his bill. The guy thanked me and he and his kids headed for their car.

My brain is beginning to clear up at this point and I hurriedly paid for my two sale-priced toothbrushes and rushed to follow this family. I caught up to them at their car and I made my usual Giving50x52 pitch and request.

They accepted my request to be my week 39 recipients, and I was thrilled. I told them briefly of my unusual journey and purpose. I then asked a few questions and learned a little about them.

I learned that the father is Steve (tracked down a photo of him shown here) and with him was Ramsey, Reece and Lilly. They are from Murdock, Nebraska and attend church in Lincoln.

A little of the background I got on them was that Steve has been divorced for about three Steve Borlandyears and his ex-wife moved to Florida. I didn’t ask, but I assumed he was raising these three beautiful children on his own. Steve is a part owner in a business called Minaska Outdoors, located near 12th & Cornhusker in Lincoln. They manufacture electronic game calls. I’m not a hunter, so this meant nothing to me and my wife until we looked them up online. We thought this might have something to do with video games at first!

These were four of the nicest people I have met on the Giving50x52 journey…and I’ve met some great people!

Yet again, the importance of opening our eyes (and ears) to the opportunities right in front of us presented itself today.  That is a call I want to hear.

On to the fourth & final quarter of Giving50x52!