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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: 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.”

Services provided:

  • Drive Thru COVID-19 Testing
  • Physical exams for men, women and children
  • Family Planning
  • Health Education
  • Medical Referrals
  • Mental Health Screening
  • Cholesterol

 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: The live show is hosted by Pastor Portia Cavitt and features guest panelists who discuss topics related to COVID-19. 402-933-0737

Community Features

1,200+ attend Rebuilding the Village Conference featuring Eric Thomas

OMAHA, Neb. – June 11, 2024 – On Friday, June 7, more than 1,200 attendees walked through the doors of  the CHI Health Center Omaha & Hilton Omaha Downtown to listen to captivating speakers during the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon. Hosted by the Empowerment Network, the event also featured the Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, as well as a powerful and energizing speech delivered by keynote speaker Eric Thomas, Ph.D., a New York Times best-selling author, educator and motivational guru.

“Think Big and Take Action! The Rebuilding the Village Conference was a tremendous success, bringing together local and national leaders, visionaries and community members who are committed to making a tangible difference,” said Willie Barney, CEO and founder, Empowerment Network. “We were able to convene over 1,200 participants including 600 youth from our Step-Up Omaha program.  This conference is more than an event; it’s a movement that empowers teamwork to revitalize our communities. Together, we are forging a path towards sustainable growth and collective prosperity.”

Timothy Christian, Board Chair, Empowerment Network and CEO Night Fox Entertainment, Eric Thomas ET and Willie Barney, CEO and Founder, Empowerment Network.  Photo Credit Nehemiah Barney

The Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon brought together community leaders, activists, entrepreneurs and stakeholders to address critical issues facing underserved communities. With a strong focus on professional and community development, this year’s conference was centered around career advancement, DEI, entrepreneurship, leadership development and wealth building. Sessions were designed to enhance collaboration and strengthen the economic impact in Omaha and beyond.

As keynote speaker, Thomas talked about the importance of inclusive leadership strategies, purpose with emphasis on working collectively. “As a leader, you have to stop ambushing, as a leader, you have to stop doing the one-on-one, as the leader, you have to stop being in isolation,” said Thomas. “You’ve got to understand why [purpose] is so significant; it’s so significant because whoever you are, whatever assignment you’re on, you have to fulfill that assignment.  You are better when you move together.”

Supported in part by the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a program of The Obama Foundation, the Empowerment Network is dedicated to building safe and thriving communities through economic, educational and social success. Programs like Omaha 360 and Step-Up Omaha exemplify these efforts. My Brother’s Keeper Alliance promotes supportive communities for boys and young men of color, ensuring they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.

With representation from New Orleans, Kansas City, Lansing, Tulsa, Pittsburgh, Memphis, St. Louis and other national cities, attendees came far and wide to network, build community and grow professionally and personally during this year’s conference.

This year’s agenda also included special sessions just for Step-Up youth which aligns with the mission of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.  Breakout sessions focused on driving change, community investment and connecting students with their gifts and strengths.

“There’s always more work ahead, but we have seen a measurable impact through our collective work and collaboration with hundreds of organizations and the engagement of thousands,” said Barney. “Step-Up students are graduating from high school, going to college and entering the workforce.  Graduates of Legacy Wealth are buying homes, launching and scaling businesses, saving and investing.  Alumni of Redefine the Game are receiving promotions, advancing their careers and moving into leadership. We are launching the next round of these cohorts and two others focused on fund development and leadership.”

In the coming months, the Empowerment Network is working with partners to launch the next phase of transformation this summer – pathway to careers, wealth and ownership. Additional growth opportunities including:

  • Connecting 200 more youth per year to the Step-Up youth employment and entrepreneurship programs, to grow to 1,000 students per summer within three years
  • Expanding STEAM programming including drones, robotics, music production, entrepreneurship and culinary.
  • Launching Skill Up! and EmPower Up! for hundreds of North Omaha adult residents to increase wages by providing wrap around and certified educational services
  • Investing in small businesses, entrepreneurship, tourism and job creation
  • Expanding efforts to reduce gun violence by an additional 50%
  • Assisting 250 organizations, small businesses, neighborhoods and churches with capacity-building

As an effort to invest back into Omaha’s Black-owned businesses, the conference featured entrepreneurs during the Black Business Expo, in addition to three breakout sessions specifically for small business owners.

More than 20 panel discussions and interactive workshops led by industry experts and community leaders were also held.

“We greatly appreciate all the attendees, sponsors, speakers, volunteers and all engaged.  We encourage you to support small businesses and stay engaged,” said Barney.

To learn more about the Rebuilding the Village Conference visit To stay connected with the Empowerment Network and learn about upcoming events, visit Follow Empowerment Network on Facebook at


About the Empowerment Network

The Empowerment Network is a nonprofit organization committed to advancing economic, social, and civic progress within Omaha’s African American community, North Omaha and the region. Through collaborative efforts and innovative initiatives, the Empowerment Network strives to create opportunities for empowerment and transformation in every zip code and neighborhood in Omaha and beyond.


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Community Features

2024 Revive Omaha Black Business Guide

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Community Features

New cohorts prepare to launch…Leadership, Fund Development, Wealth Building & Career Advancement


Great News!  After announcing four cohorts late last year, the Empowerment Network decided to delay the launch of the initiatives as they ran into the holiday season, received formal notice of their award of $10 million through the North and South Omaha Recovery Plan and continued the national collaboration with their partner cities introduced at last year’s African-American Leadership Summit.

The Network is now prepared to move forward with the four capacity-building cohort opportunities with their national strategic partners and advisors Dr. Pamela Jolly, Dr. Randal Pinkett, Dr. Jeffery Robinson, Suzan Hart and Anna Barber.

Keys to Fund Development to Make Your Vision a Reality & Intro to Cohort

Anna Barber, fundraising expert that has helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars including for the Smithsonian’s National Black History Museum in Washington D.C., will lead a six-month cohort on Fund Development:  building a donor base to make your vision a reality.

Barber will share insights gained through her work with major universities, the Museum, Obama Foundation and other national clients.  Participants will develop a comprehensive step by step plan to build and maintain a strong, diversified donor base.

Complete this form to express interest in the Fund Development Cohort with Anna Barber.


Collaborative, Transformation Leadership and Powerful Storytelling & Intro to Cohort

Suzan Hart, one of world’s top storytellers and presenters, will launch a Collaborative Leadership and Storytelling cohort:  Maximize Opportunities with the Power of Your Story.

Participants will learn more about the transformational power of collaboration and enhance their presentation skills by defining purpose, understanding their value, and releasing the power of their story.

Complete this form to express interest in the Transformational Leadership and Storytelling Cohort with Suzan Hart.


Advancing Your Career with Key Principles from Redefine the Game & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Jefferey Robinson of BCT Partners will return to Omaha to help launch the 5th Cohort of the Redefine the Game Institute, an innovative career advancement and leadership development program. Over 150 have participated with most receiving promotions and increased compensation, expanded career opportunities or leadership positions within new organizations.

Complete this form to express interest in the Redefine the Game Institute cohort with Dr. Randal Pinkett and Dr. Jeffrey Robinson.


Understanding Your Wealth Building Code and Developing Your Plan & Intro to Cohort

Dr. Pamela Jolly a nationally recognized wealth-building strategist returns to launch the third cohort of the Legacy Wealth Initiative.  Graduates of Legacy Wealth have developed wealth plans, saved thousands of dollars, become homeowners, launched and purchased businesses, invested individually and collectively and made contributions to their community.

Complete this form to express interest in the Legacy Wealth Cohort with Dr. Pamela Jolly.


Stay connected to the Empowerment Network website for the next steps.   

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