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As one of the world’s leaders in technology, company executives see this as just the start to a long-term partnership.

Two North Omaha nonprofits, Seventy Five North and The Empowerment Network, will each receive $50,000 of support from Google that aims to enable connectivity in the neighborhood.

The money will provide for connectivity through a variety of projects.

The Empowerment Network works together with residents and leaders to transform neighborhoods and improve the economic condition and quality of life. It will use the funds to ramp up its STEAM room, devoted to teaching young people about science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, as well as improvements in its auditorium and teaching facilities. Located on the campus of the Omaha Home for Boys, the Network’s Village Empowerment Center houses offices for strategic partners, and serves as both a community meeting and collaboration space, and a place for educational opportunities.

“We could not be more pleased with the significant investment Google has made in the Village Empowerment Center. Technology has proven to be one of the key factors that helps to develop any community,” said Timothy Christian, President of the Empowerment Network Board of Directors. “Their investment will give our youth valuable tools that will allow them to be even greater contributors to the community and the world.”

Willie Barney, CEO and Founder of the Empowerment Network, said the funds will allow for a dramatic increase in capacity at the Village Empowerment Center.

“When we envisioned the Village Empowerment Center, we stepped out to create a one stop integrated service center where youth and families would get directly connected to employment, job training, housing, health services, financial education, entrepreneurship, technology and more,” he said. “This investment will help the Center, our community and partners to thrive in the midst of the pandemic and beyond.”

Google first broke ground in Nebraska in 2019, when it opened a data center in Papillion. The surrounding area – including Google’s largest global data center located in neighboring Council Bluffs, Iowa – is part of the company’s larger economic commitment to the state.

Since then, it has invested in the Omaha community. Google supported the development of the Kiewit Luminarium, the $101 million science museum opening on Omaha’s riverfront in 2023, and in 2020, helped provide more than $3.36 billion of economic activity for 8,000 Nebraska businesses, nonprofits, publishers, creators and developers. It also created more than 100 jobs for Nebraskans, according to the Google Nebraska economic impact report.

“The ability to connect to technology has a transformative impact on a community,” said Dan Harbeke, Regional Head of External Affairs at Google. “We’re proud to support the work of both Seventy Five North and The Empowerment Network, who are providing critical housing initiatives as well as educational programs. We are thrilled to be a part of expanding their efforts with these connectivity investments.”

The Empowerment Network’s Village Empowerment Center on the campus of the Omaha Home for Boys includes offices for collaborative partners:  Charles Drew Health Center, Church on Purpose, Emerging Ladies Academy, Family Housing Advisory Services, GrowNebraska, Technology Consulting Solutions, UNMC, Urban League of Nebraska and the Empowerment Network’s Step-Up team.

The Step-Up collaborative at the VEC includes partnerships with:  Business Seals, Gamble Tech Firm, House of Bah, Metropolitan Community College, No More Empty Pots and others.

The second grant will go toward supporting families living in recently constructed Highlander neighborhood residences and a community center in North Omaha creating opportunities for teens and adults.

Seventy Five North works to convene community members, educational partners and the philanthropic community to lead the transformation of the Highlander neighborhood. It will use the funds to outfit more than 100 units of affordable housing with new technology including audio systems, wireless connectivity and doorbells equipped with cameras, among other connected technologies. The funds will also provide limited maintenance for the technology. The units are split among low-income, moderate-income and market rate apartments, and homeownership opportunities exist for families at all income levels as the project grows.

“I am beyond grateful to Google and its regional leaders for its partnership and contribution to the revitalization of north Omaha’s Highlander neighborhood,” said Cydney Franklin, President and CEO of Seventy Five North Revitalization Group. “Google’s investment is both significant and timely considering the growing importance of connectivity and digital access in this 21st century economy.”

“Omaha’s business community is very generous,” Mayor Jean Stothert said. “The connectivity that Google is supporting will benefit families and individuals by extending education opportunities and building community. The city is grateful for their investment in two meaningful projects, and for their presence in the metro area.”

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Willie Barney, CEO of the Empowerment Network, full statement:

“This investment by Google is incredibly significant for our community.  The youth, families and collaborative partners will benefit greatly with the enhancements in technology, infrastructure and additional connectivity.

When we envisioned the Village Empowerment Center, we stepped out to create a one stop integrated service center where youth and families would get directly connected to employment, job training, housing, health services, financial education, entrepreneurship, technology and more.

For our Step Up youth, they are now being introduced to hands on training with entrepreneurship, culinary, drones, coding, trades, career exploration and college prep. They are learning to become innovators, creators and producers.

For our community partners, this is where Omaha 360, Cradle to Career, Legacy Wealth, Redefine the Game, summits, conferences and so many other collaborations and activities take place.

Google’s investment and partnership will allow us to dramatically increase our capacity at the Village Empowerment Center and accelerate our ability to accomplish our vision and mission.”

Community Features

24th & Lake Holiday Schedule. Shop. Eat. Play. Sing. Enjoy.

Building on ten years of success with Christmas in the Village, the Empowerment Network, OEDC, Revive, FHAS, Omaha Star and 30 plus businesses, venues and organizations have come together to plan and host a great series of events for the Holidays.

The businesses are sending an open invitation for families, friends, neighbors and the whole community to come down and celebrate the holiday season and support small black businesses.

“We have something for all ages,” said Willie Barney, CEO of the Empowerment Network and co-owner of the Revive Center and Carver Legacy Center in the district.

“It’s an opportunity to continue the positive momentum at 24th and Lake, provide some fun activities for children and families and continue the development of our business, food, arts, culture and entertainment district.”

Friday, November 26th is Black Friday in the Village.  Shoppers are encourage to visit and shop at all of the stores in the Village.  Most of the stores are offering 20% off this weekend, including special deals, discounts and gift cards.

Saturday, November 27th is a great day to celebrate Small Business Saturday and support Black-owned businesses.  Stores are once again offering 20% discounts and there will be a holiday lighting ceremony starting at 4:30 pm at Dreamland Park.  Music will be provided by Millicent Crawford and Big Wade.  Trolley rides will be available from 1 to 5 pm.

Next Saturday, December 4th, is the 11th Annual Christmas in the Village at 24th and Lake.  Over 50 organizations and dozens of businesses come together annually to host the event which has become the largest community celebration and holiday tradition in North Omaha.  Visitors from all over the region attend the event.  The hours are Noon to 5 pm with special activities for the whole family.

The Village at 24th and Lake Partners are also working with the community to host a series of events during Kwanzaa.  Stay connected on the Village facebook page.

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Community Features

Smiles & Sweets; Over 1,000 attend Trunk or Treat in the Village

Children and families celebrate, enjoy the activities at 24th and Lake

Great things are happening in the Village.  Businesses, venues and organizations are working together to create a great place to come together consistently for food, music, arts, entertainment and to support the small businesses in the area.

“Saturday was completely magical. Seeing the kids dressed up and the adults getting engaged as they played the games and got candy was wonderful,” said Cynthia Hume, site manager for OEDC’s Fair Deal Village.   “I’m thankful for the partners of The Village at 24th and Lake who collaborated to host another successful event.”

In early September, partners developed a calendar of events for the fall and winter season in the Village.  The first two major events have been well attended and received rave reviews from the community.

“Fall Fest was a huge success with 500 in attendance and then, two weeks later the Trunk or Treat had over 1,000,” said Willie Barney, CEO of the Empowerment Network and Co-owner of the Revive Center and Carver Legacy Center, all located in the Village.  “It was a beautiful day and the kids really enjoyed themselves. It is always a blessing to see so many families in the Village.”

Most of the event was focused on the 20 plus stops where kids could get free candy.

Kids definitely went home with their pumpkins, buckets and goodie bags full.

Ital Vital Living took it even further by creating a haunted house which drew a crowd and some surprises for the visitors.

“My mom built the haunted house from scratch.  I could definitely hear some screams coming from inside,” said Latisha Taylor, one of the co-owners at Ital Vital.  “Overall, the kids had a good time.  We think we will have to go even bigger next year.”

In addition to the bountiful candy and haunted house, families could make arts and crafts at the Union, play small carnival games at OEDC, listen to the DJ at Dreamland Park, take a tour of the Great Plains Black History Museum and purchase cinnamon rolls, caramel apples and peach cobbler at the Revive Center.

“We had another big turnout, with 300 visitors at the Great Plains,” said Eric Ewing, executive director at the Great Plains Black History Museum.

Members of the Omaha Police Department, Black Police Officers Association and Douglas County Sheriff candidate Wayne Hudson were also handing out candy and interacting with the community.

“This is great for the officers to engage in a positive way with the community and for the kids just to come outside and enjoy themselves in a safe and positive environment,” said Sgt. Marcus Taylor of the BPOA.

The event was also an opportunity to stay informed and get connected with important health resources.

Visitors were able to pick up health information and swag from UNMC, get their vaccination from Douglas County at IMA’s MLK Park and listen to African-American Mocha Docs speak about keeping safe from COVID and the importance of getting vaccinated.

“Saturday was amazing on the northwest corner of 24th & Lake Street, the IMA’s MLK Park as IMA pastors gave out candy to hundreds of children and the DCHD Vaccination Team administered vaccination shots,” said Pastor Portia Cavitt, Senior Pastor or Clair Memorial UMC and President of the IMA.  “Through much prayer and scientific knowledge, we have the power of prevention!”

“To see the families and the smiles on the faces of the children, that’s what it is all about for me,” said Barney.  “It reminds me of my own childhood going to Harvest Festivals with my family.”

“It’s also a great way to connect the community to the exciting things happening in the district.  Many of them tell us they didn’t know there were so many businesses, opportunities and resources here at 24th and Lake and they definitely plan to come back.”

It was another beautiful day in the Village at 24th and Lake.  Momentum is building.  The next big event will be the 11th Annual Christmas in the Village on Saturday, December 4th.

Stay connected with future events here.

 

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Community Features

‘It was phenomenal’ Hundreds attend Fall Festival in the Village

It’s a beautiful thing when the village comes together. The weather was beautiful, too.

30 small businesses, venues and organizations came together to host the very first Fall Festival in the Village at 24th and Lake. The new event builds on the successes of Christmas in the Village and Native Omaha Days activities hosted at 24th and Lake.

“The goal since we launched Christmas in the Village ten years ago and developed the North Omaha Village Plan was to build towards having large monthly and weekly events at 24th and Lake to further advance the district,” said Willie Barney, CEO of the Empowerment Network and co-owner of the Revive Center and Carver Legacy Center.

“It was phenomenal,” said Terri Sanders, publisher of the Omaha Star. “They had a chance to have fun and learn about the history and see the future of the Omaha Star when they stopped by.”

“Seeing the kids having such a great time was the best,” said Cynthia Hume, site director for OEDC’s Fair Deal Village. “They were all enjoying the games and petting zoo and I remember one little girl skipping across the parking lot saying ‘this was so much fun’ as she was leaving. That’s what it is all about.”

The Empowerment Network, OEDC, Revive, FHAS, Omaha Star and others teamed together to host the first Christmas in the Village and new businesses and venues have joined in along the way in the historic district at 24th and Lake.

Barney started bringing the businesses and venues back together for additional planning in late August of this year following one of the most successful Native Omaha Days on record, planned and hosted by the Native Omaha Days Organizing Committee.

He felt this was the time to create a collective master schedule and calendar to keep the great things happening at 24th and Lake front and center.  The initial planning team has continued to expand and now includes 30+ businesses, venues and organizations.  Even more are joining now.

“The holidays are a significant time for most businesses. When we work together, 24th and Lake is a great location for music, food, shopping, connecting with history and celebrating black culture,” added Barney.

Fall Festival is a great example of this collective approach.  Each business and venue agreed to take on a part of the event and offer something unique for children and families.  The goal for the team was to start small just like Christmas in the Village and build as they go.

“We were blown away by the turnout,” said Brigitte McQueen, executive director of The Union of Contemporary Art. The Union provided free pumpkins, craft making, a new exhibit and introduced their Pursuing Legacy project with Denise Chapman.

“We ran out of pumpkins and produce, brought more out and ran out again because there were so many families,” added McQueen.

In addition to the face painting, cartoon characters, hula hooping and other free activities, families supported the small businesses in a big way.

“We were excited about all of the families that came out to support the event,” said Yolanda Barney, co-owner of the Revive Center.  “We were pleasantly surprised about the number that attended.  Our team is planning ahead for the Trunk or Treat event.  We really appreciate the support of the community.”

“It was so amazing, such a great turnout,” said Imani Murry, co-owner of Ital Vital Living that offered the free face painting and food for sale by Little Ve’s and their own smoothies and juices. “It went so well for our business and Little Ve’s that we sold out of just about everything.  Plus, we provided face painting for over 300!”

“This was definitely successful and I think we’ve found another annual event,” said Eric Ewing, executive director of the Great Plains Black History Museum. “We had nearly 200 go through the museum in just four hours.  Guests learned a little history and the kids were able to get a treat, too.”

That is exactly the vision and goal for The Village at 24th and Lake.  A long time theme for the village revitalization efforts has been “A Rich History & Thriving Future.”

The event went extremely well even though one of the main attractions ran into a major snag. The hayride was not available as the farmer coming from Springfield, who was providing the trailer, had a flat tire without a replacement.

Organizers said it was disappointing to not be able to host the ride for the community after all of the coordination, but they are now planning to add it to the Trunk or Treat on October 30th.

All of the other activities were in place and fully enjoyed by those in attendance.

“Being a community advocate and business owner, there was something magical in the air Saturday,” said Michael Young, president of Technology Consulting Services and co-owner of Rooted Synergy Gallery. “Live music, activities for all ages and the community coming together to support businesses is exactly what this district needs.”

Based on the attendance and all of the smiles, laughter and positive energy, the future is bright for The Village at 24th and Lake.

Connecting families, friends and community to outstanding events and a positive environment including music, food, activities, arts, culture and small businesses, all within the historic walking district, that’s a beautiful thing.

Stay connected with future events here.

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