Make your request to vote by mail by May 1st.
Voters can have a ballot sent directly to them in the mail, either to their home address or to another address if they are away from home.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, voting by mail is more important than ever for the May 12 primary election. Voting by mail is always an option in Nebraska elections, but this year, it’s an even better option as it can help protect yourself and others during this outbreak.
Click here to learn more: Requesting Vote By Mail
Kenny McMorris and Charles Drew playing leadership role with COVID-19: Resources Available
Kenny McMorris, Chief Executive Officer of the Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. and his staff at North Omaha’s Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) have led the way with the community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charles Drew is one of the longest running test sites which has facilitated over 11,000 tests since COVID-19 started impacting the state of Nebraska. McMorris has consistently pushed to increase the number of tests, masks, health services and to make other resources more available in the community. He is now partnering with others to plan for and implement the vaccination strategy.
Charles Drew has partnered with other FQHCs across the state and country to make sure urban and rural communities have the quality health care they need during this time. Charles Drew is serving an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse population of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian, Sudanese, Somalian, Native Americans and others in North Omaha.
Charles Drew offers a full range of comprehensive primary health services including: medical dental, behavioral health, and pharmacy. The team also facilitates community services, including enrollment for health insurance and Medicaid, improving access to healthy foods and other supports that address the Social Determinants of Health.
Across the country, African-Americans and people of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, partly because of conditions and disparities that existed well before the pandemic started to wreak havoc. Research shows those with pre-existing conditions and morbidity issues have greater risks of serious illness or death because of the Coronavirus.
African-Americans suffer from elevated levels of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other diseases that make them prone to the severe impacts of COVID-19. While there are debates about what causes African-Americans to have higher incidents of these diseases, national reports show that poverty, systemic racism and longstanding economic issues have served as a major driver of these health inequities..
Some will argue African-Americans create their own health issues. Yes, personal behavior has a role, but 80% of health outcomes have been tied to social determinants which include education, employment, housing and access to healthy foods.
The pandemic has shined the light on the fact that African-Americans still live in heavily segregated, under resourced neighborhoods which have higher rates of unemployment, poverty, underfunded and poorer performing schools, dilapidated and unhealthy homes and areas considered to be food deserts when it comes to health foods.
Charles Drew was created to address many of these concerns related to improving access to quality health care and partnering with others to also make fresh fruits and vegetables available in the neighborhood.
McMorris has consistently championed the need for residents to have a primary health home.
“We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for everyone in our community to have a primary health home, a primary medical doctor,” said McMorris.
“The conditions in which people live, learn and work contribute to their health. These conditions, over time lead to different levels of health risks, needs and outcomes among some racial and ethnic groups. In a public health emergency such as COVID-19, these conditions can also isolate people from the resources they need to prepare for and respond to an outbreak.”
“Charles Drew continues to serve with distinction and dedication. Kenny McMorris has really been on top of getting the community the latest information. In these very difficult days this community stalwart has stood tall,” said Ben Gray, City Councilman
McMorris consistently reminds leaders and elected officials that the community cannot just host events and serve people in the ER or urgent care.
“We need to know what caused them to get there and we need to provide services to help prevent the cycle from being repeated,” said McMorris. “We need to address the underlying issues by being proactive.”
As the community continues with COVID-19 testing, Charles Drew is also in a leadership position with helping to administer the vaccine. Charles Drew is coordinating with Douglas County and the state of Nebraska to expand locations to make the vaccine more available as the different phases are announced and implemented.
McMorris has worked directly with Dr. Adi Pour, Douglas County Health Director, and Dannette Smith, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, to keep the needs of North Omaha residents at the forefront.
He’s also actively participated in meetings with Councilman Ben Gray, Commissioner Chris Rodgers, State Senator Justin Wayne, Governor Pete Ricketts and other elected officials to present strategies and solutions to help prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Charles Drew plays an important role as the Health Care compass for North Omaha and the underserved at large. Kenny’s leadership during the pandemic cannot be underestimated. He is an authentic voice with North Omaha roots that the community can trust. “said Douglas County Commissioner Chris Rodgers, who is also the Chair of the Board of Health.
McMorris and Larry Duncan, Director of Behavioral Health Services at Charles Drew, have partnered with the Empowerment Network and dozens of other community organizations on the Healthy Village Collaborative funded by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services through CARES funding. The collaborative has helped to connect residents in North Omaha with food, health services, job training, and housing during the pandemic.
McMorris and other team members, Aja Anderson and Maurtice Ivy, are active members of the North Omaha COVID-19 Task Force. Anderson has helped to lead efforts with testing and distribution of masks while Ivy has served a leading role with getting residents enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program.
Charles Drew team members have also served on numerous committees across the region and state, playing a critical role with meeting the needs of clients and the community. Dr. Cheryl Logan, superintendent of Omaha Public Schools, has counted on Charles Drew in many ways before and during the pandemic.
“Kenny and his team have gone above and beyond to assist OPS, our children and families with testing and quality health services throughout this crisis,” said Logan.
Charles Drew is dedicated to providing quality comprehensive health care in a manner that acknowledges the dignity of the individual, the strength of the family, and the supportive network of the community.
“As board chairman for Charles Drew Health Center Board of Directors I’m extremely proud of the leadership of Mr. Kenny McMorris and the service provided by the members of the organization,” said John Ewing, Jr., Douglas County Treasurer. “This amazing team provided accurate health information to the community, became a major provider of testing and partnered with the Omaha Public Schools for testing to keep the staff and students healthy. They will be a leader in the vaccination process as well. They are a trusted source of healthcare in our community.”
To connect with Charles Drew, please go to their website: charlesdrew.com
Stay informed with frequent updates on Facebook.
Charles Drew Health Center is also a partner with the Healthy Village Collaborative.
Get connected to vitally important resources through the Empowerment Network’s Healthy Village Collaborative. You can find links to food, housing support, health care, jobs, job training and more here.
North Omaha Area Health Clinic: Offering Resources to the Community to Address COVID-19
(Photo Credit: Heartland Service)
The North Omaha Area Health Clinic and its founder Ira Combs are in the community and for the community. NOAH has launched innovative initiatives that reach and directly serve the North Omaha community. Combs excels in education, outreach and providing outstanding health services to the community.
“My goal is to make North Omaha the healthiest place in the state of Nebraska,” said Combs.
Ira has consistently focused on making sure the community most in need receives the quality health services they deserve at a price they can afford. The NOAH team consistently goes above and beyond to meet community members where they are in a respectful way that honors them.
Combs and his team also make youth and young adults a major focus for the organization. For years, Ira has created attention getting outreach and educational campaigns, culturally relevant superheroes and cartoon characters to reach youth in the community.
Ira has been recognized locally and nationally for his work in the community. In 2013, Ira was presented with the prestigious “Champion of Change” award by President Barack Obama’s White House.
The vision of the North Omaha Area Health Clinic is to be a beacon of light in our community, by ministering to the hearts, body, and minds of families and individuals in North Omaha.
The mission is provide care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Our primary value is “the needs of the patient come first.”
It is incredibly important to have NOAH in our community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and to learn more, please connect to NOAH here or call 402-933-0737.
Connect with NOAH on Facebook here.
LOCATION: 5620 Ames Ave, Omaha NE, 68104
Hours of Operation:
Monday: 12pm to 5pm
Tuesday: 12pm to 6pm
Thursday: 12pm to 6pm
Friday: 12pm to 5pm
Saturday: 12pm to 4pm
Get connected to vitally important resources through the Empowerment Network’s Healthy Village Collaborative. You can find links to food, housing support, health care, jobs, job training and more here.
24th & Lake partners work together; host 3,000+ at 10th Annual Christmas in the Village
800 bags of groceries provided to families during North Omaha’s largest holiday tradition
The Empowerment Network and community partners worked together to present the 10th Annual Christmas in the Village as a “Drive Thru” event. It was truly a Joy Ride to remember for all ages.
Though the lines backed up all the way to Cuming and at times Highway 75, the anticipation was extremely high for those that waited patiently for their turn to go through the Drive Thru Christmas in the Village at 24th and Lake. The pandemic forced changes to the event, but it couldn’t stop the spirit of the community. Once the overflow traffic was organized, things went smoothly.
Judging by the reactions, smiles, ooohs and aaaaahs from children, parents, seniors and everyone in between, the 10th annual community celebration and holiday tradition delivered on the promise for all ages.
“It was awesome. Really a lot of fun. It really didn’t take that long to get through the line,” said one parent with three smiling children in the back checking out their “goodie bags.”
“The kids loved it,” said another.
“Thank you all for doing this,” said a woman driving a van through the event.
Music to the ears of event planner, Vicki Quaites-Ferris, Director of Operations for the Empowerment Network. Faced with a world-wide pandemic and a spike in COVID cases locally, there were questions about what to do with Christmas in the Village this year. Willie Barney, president of the Network, and Quaites-Ferris decided to take the vote to the committee.
The long-term partners agreed to host a drive thru event and practice all precautions needed to make it a safe event.
“We didn’t want to let the kids and families down,” said Barney. “It’s been a tough and challenging year for everyone, but we believed we could still create a memorable and fun experience for children and families. Our volunteers wore masks and used a lot of sanitizer.”
“It was even more than we expected,” said Quaites-Ferris. “Our partners really came through. In addition to the fun activities, we passed out sanitizer, masks and information on COVID-19.”
Christmas in the Village at 24th and Lake is part of a longer term vision and initiative to rebuild an arts, culture, entertainment and business district in the historic neighborhood. The community-based North Omaha Village Revitalization Plan was facilitated by the Empowerment Network and Omaha Economic Development Corporation and developed with the input of 800+ adults and children. It was approved unanimously by the Omaha City Council in 2011.
Major projects, events and developments have happened in the “Village Zone” since the passage of the Village plan. It has served as a catalyst for hundreds of millions in public and private investments. The theme of the plan: Connecting a Rich History to a Thriving Future.
Barney came up with the idea for Christmas in the Village and shared a vision for the event with Quaites-Ferris, Deb Bunting and Stacy Henry Westbrook. They worked quickly to develop the initial plan and implemented the first event in less than four weeks. Michael Maroney and the team at OEDC also agreed to partner on the first event and have co-presented for 10 years with the Network.
“When Willie first shared the idea,” said Quaites-Ferris, “I said that sounds great, let’s do it next year. He said, no, we need to do it this year. We need to start bringing people back to 24th and Lake, even without any new buildings.”
Bunting had consistently shared that the arts can play a major role in rebuilding urban communities. The strategy has had a very positive impact. The initial attendance has grown to annually attract 3,000 to 5,000 attendees to the Village at 24th and Lake.
The pandemic forced the team to innovate and do things differently.
“Even from their cars, participants were able to receive a free bag of groceries, see cartoon characters, listen to some amazing holiday music, wave at Santa, see live animals including a camel and donkey and get a free goodie bag,” she said.
“We essentially brought all of the activities outside so everyone could participate from their vehicle.”
Organizers couldn’t have asked for a better day. With the sun shining bright and temperatures near 50 degrees, God smiled again on Christmas in the Village.
Along the route attendees could see Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Olaf, Ninja Turtle, Elsa, a dancing Doc McStuffins and for the first time, Black Panther.
“The children loved the characters,” said Ernest White, Vice President at American National Bank, one of the major sponsors and a lead volunteer at every one of the 10 Christmas in the Village Celebrations.
“Look mom, Look, Black Panther!, WOW!” said one child.
“Oooo wee, there’s a Ninja Turtle”, said another.
Those comments of pure fun and delight could be heard thousands of times all day. Balloon characters were also very popular including Frosty, Snoopy, a giant black Santa and a holiday Minion.
There was a constant stream of cars throughout the event. Some even started to line up as early as 10:30 am, even though the event didn’t officially start until noon.
This was the first year for the drive thru version, so getting the traffic organized along 24th street took some time. Overwhelmingly, community members were very understanding as thousands waited patiently waving and thanking organizers for not cancelling the event.
“We’ve been a part of every event since its inception,” said Michael Maroney, President of Omaha Economic Development Corporation, one of the presenting organizations. “It was amazing to see so many cars come through the event. It’s great to see what the event has become for the community. Before Christmas in the Village, we hadn’t ever had anything like this in North Omaha.”
OEDC staff Geneva Lopez, Cynthia Hume, Mike Schulz, Toni Tyree, NAACP president Vickie Young and a large team of volunteers welcomed families to the event by providing a bag full of groceries from the Fair Deal Grocery Marketplace. Families were incredibly appreciative as COVID has been extremely challenging in many ways. 800 bags of groceries were distributed during Christmas in the Village.
The food was made possible through the Healthy Village Collaborative facilitated by the Empowerment Network and supported with Cares funding provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
The whole route was full of surprises for the kids, but the most popular moment seemed to be the opportunity to see Santa standing near the street waving and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Children and adults alike were smiling ear to ear with eyes wide open.
Santa was positioned right next to a new stage brought in to bring the singing and music closer to the cars. Santa’s visit each year is coordinated by Yolanda Barney of Revive Omaha Magazine and Revive Center.
The music, always a huge part of the event, was even more amazing this year as it was pumping up and down historic North 24th Street. Duke Rigg and his team have excellently managed the sound every year for ten years.
“We had an awesome lineup again,” said Barney. “We kicked off with Big Wade and the Last Few, and continued music all day with Gus McNair, Chad Stoner, Millicent Crawford, Eric and Doriette Jordan, Jarron Taylor and LaShaun McCroy. Most have been with us every year. Some of the best artists in the city.”
People were literally dancing in the streets and singing along in their cars as they drove past. The warm holiday spirit could be felt throughout the event. Volunteers were smiling and waving, and wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.
Jonathan Chapman of the Empowerment Network and owner of a video and media company organized for the first time, a live broadcast of the event. He used it as an opportunity to train youth to bring a “Macy Days Parade” approach to Christmas in the Village. The video was available and can still be seen on the Empowerment Network’s Facebook page.
And though the event wasn’t able to host the Holiday Boutique, Aisha Conner of the Network and organizer of the annual Boutique found ways to incorporate Black Business owners into the event.
Candice Price, co-owner of Hometeam Auto, brought cars from her lot and positioned them at key points along the route.
“To sum up 2020 Christmas in the Village in two words… Simply Ahhmazing! It was a spectacular event enjoyed by thousands in the community. From live music, to giveaways including groceries for families, to local black owned businesses being given an opportunity to introduce their companies to so many, and even a fabulous manger set up with live animals! There was truly something for everyone! And to set it all up safely, in the midst of COVID-19, for all to enjoy is exactly what made it the event of the year,” said Price.
Leo Louis, CEO of his new moving company, Somebody with a Truck, was contracted to pick up and deliver items for Christmas in the Village and was able to post up his truck to help with distribution.
Ashley Reddick, owner of Mise En Scene Events, designed and installed beautiful balloon displays along the route. Entrepreneur and decorating consultant Carolyn Holmes wrapped the street poles beautifully with garland and flowers.
Jason Fischer, CEO of Surreal Media Lab, roamed the streets looking for the perfect moments to capture via video and photography. Jason is another partner who has partnered every year, producing excellent videos and capturing the essence of the event.
All of the traditional small businesses that participate in Holiday Boutique can be found on the Revive Omaha special edition online.
“You can support those businesses and others online with the virtual shopping guide,” said Conner.
Another black owned business that played a huge role was Calvin Jones and his team from Lions Gate Security. Jones went above and beyond by jumping in to help save the day and directing traffic at the 24th and Hamilton intersection.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years,” said Quaites-Ferris. “I want to thank all of the partners and volunteers for being a part of the event. Others from the planning team included the Omaha Star, Great Plains Black History Museum and OPD. The FBI Community Outreach Team, Bryant Center, UNO and Kappa Leaguers also came through big time.”
“This is the Village in action. Everyone working together, loving on each other, helping and supporting each other,” said Barney. “We will keep building on this community spirit. Now, we are moving to monthly events at 24th and Lake.”
Christmas in the Village is presented by the Empowerment Network and Omaha Economic Development Corporation. American National Bank is the gold sponsor and has supported the vision for 10 years. Other major sponsors include the Nebraska Arts Council, Douglas County Visitors Bureau and the North Omaha Turnback Tax Committee. Media sponsors include KETV and Revive Omaha Magazine.
Over 100 community partners have worked with the Empowerment Network to host the event each year.
“The holidays bring about a true sense of community. Anytime organizations, businesses and volunteers can share a few laughs, listen to the soulful sounds of Christmas, all while serving a need in our community, that’s a beautiful blessing. Despite the pandemic, we were determined to make CITV20 a success. CITV is a family tradition. Four generations strong for my camp. We look forward to it every year.” – Vickie Young
“This year’s drive through celebration of Christmas in the village was nothing shy of breath taking. Being able to see so much of the community still gather and celebrate the season in a safe way definitely helped lift my spirits during this difficult time.” – Sha’lise Oliver, college student and volunteer.
“There was an individual who came thru the line – he wasn’t sure what was going on but said he was ‘just following traffic.’ When we handed him the bag of groceries he was appreciative as he didn’t know he was getting food – Gave him the bag and he said: ‘Oh thank you I’m so appreciative because I don’t have any food right now. It’s going to help out a lot.’ He had tears in his eyes because he was so appreciative.” – Cynthia L. Hume, Manager, Fair Deal Village MarketPlace
Source: Revive Omaha Magazine