No doubt about it, Ira Combs is a blessing to the community. After a long career working as a nurse at UNMC and other social and health organizations, Combs felt a strong calling to do more to positively impact his community.
Over the years, he could see the gaps in healthcare that were creating issues and leaving thousands of people un-served. Lower rates of health insurance. Poverty. Unemployment. Lack of transportation. Lack of awareness and information. Lack of access. He decided to do something about it and stepped out in faith to form the North Omaha Area Free Clinic (NOAH). His story is one of perseverance, faith, passion, hard work and commitment.
(Photo: Ira Combs and the NOAH Team)
“We want to make North Omaha the healthiest place in the state.”
Not one to seek personal attention, Combs just does the work. He is focused on making sure his community has what it needs, and if possible he wants to provide it at no charge. He has been quoted as saying, “We want to make North Omaha the healthiest place in the state.”
The work to make that happen is daunting, but he keeps plugging along with the assistance from his team and many others in the community working to improve conditions in North Omaha and for African-Americans and people of color.
He is also incredibly committed to reaching the youth. Combs has consistently created innovative and creative ways to get messages into the minds of children and teens. He has a “whatever it takes” mentality when it comes to making sure children understand healthy behaviors.
He is also incredibly committed to reaching the youth.
Whether it’s creating attention grabbing marketing materials, bus benches, radio spots, jingles or billboards, Combs and his team are dedicated to the cause. He’s even created superheroes and other characters to get the message across.
Knowing kids usually relate to people closer to their age and speak their language, Combs is dedicated to hiring younger staff members from the community.
Another key need that Combs identified over the years is the limited number of African-Americans and people of color in the health industry. Rather than complain, Combs did what he always does, he did something about it.
He launched Youth Expressions of Health (YEOH), one of the best youth training programs in the city. Every year, the program recruits youth and exposes them to career options available in the health field.
Shomari Huggins works with Combs to facilitate the highly impactful and successful initiative. A number of the graduates have entered the health field, attending and completing college in pursuit of their goals.
Through his efforts, Combs is lifting up the health of North Omaha. Though he does not seek attention, his work has brought him plenty of it. He was recognized by the White House under President Barack Obama’s administration.
Personally, Combs has lived through his own challenges, but always seems to have a positive and comforting spirit at all times. He has his own health obstacles and has cared for his loving wife, Victoria, who is confined to a wheelchair, for many years. Their love is as strong as ever as they continue to pursue this faith filled journey.
North Omaha is blessed to have Ira Combs and his team in place before, during and after this pandemic passes.
To connect with NOAH visit: noahclinic.org or call 402-933-0737
NOAH Clinic is a beacon of light in the community, by ministering to the hearts, body and minds of families and individuals in North Omaha. The clinic provides care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Their primary value is “the needs of the patient come first.”
- Drive Thru COVID-19 Testing
- Physical exams for men, women and children
- Family Planning
- Health Education
- Medical Referrals
- Mental Health Screening
Personal Health Screening for:
- Diabetes, High Blood Pressure
- Anonymous HIV and Hep-C testing and risk counseling
- Anonymous STD testing and treatment
- Daycare worker and camp physicals
Health Classes and Support Groups:
- Smoking Cessation
- Weight Loss
- Diabetes Support
- Hypertension Support
- Grief Support
- Sickle Cell Support Group
Watch NOAH’s weekly show, COVID Conversations on Facebook at: facebook.com/NoahFreeClinic. The live show is hosted by Pastor Portia Cavitt and features guest panelists who discuss topics related to COVID-19. Noahclinic.org 402-933-0737
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.
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.
Google invests $100,000 in North Omaha; $50,000 with Empowerment Network’s VEC
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.”
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.”