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The streets were once again full of smiling, laughing and dancing children, families and community members celebrating the holiday spirit at 24th and Lake.

After making the decision to convert the event into a drive thru in 2020, Christmas in the Village returned to the streets of 24th and Lake in a big way.

“Though last year turned out to be an excellent event and much needed escape from the pandemic with over 1,000 cars driving through, it was amazing to see children and families return to 24th and Lake to enjoy themselves and celebrate the season at Christmas in the Village,” said Willie Barney, CEO and founder of the Empowerment Network.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since we launched the event and inspiring to see how much it has grown and the impact that it has made.”

Christmas in the Village is presented by the Empowerment Network and OEDC in partnership with dozens of organizations and businesses.  Major sponsors include American National Bank, Douglas County Visitors Fund, North Omaha Turnback Tax Committee, Nebraska Arts Council, KETV, Revive and main stage sponsor, Veridian Credit Union.

It started as a vision from Barney. He presented the idea for the event to Vicki Quaites-Ferris, Stacy Henry, Deb Bunting, Michael Maroney and the OEDC team.  They jumped on board and the first event was planned in just four weeks back in 2011.

Over 70 businesses, organizations, artists and ministries worked together to make the event possible this year.

“Christmas in the Village is a great example of what is possible when we collaborate and each business and organization does their part,” said Barney. “We have been able to create a high quality and well attended event with the help of so many partners. It has also served as a catalyst to show what’s possible here in this historic district.”

The day started with volunteers and businesses working together to place inflatable balloons and characters up and down 24th Street. Business owners swept sidewalks. Volunteers raked leaves. Tents and games were set up early in the morning.

By 10 am, children and families started arriving to receive free gifts from the toy giveaway arranged by 4 Urban and sponsored by UNO.

By 10:30, teams had put Street barricades in place and the event officially started at noon with the Bryant Center’s Condor Drum Corp leading Mr and Mrs Claus down N 24th Street in a horse drawn carriage.

“It was a beautiful sight,” said Vicki Quaites-Ferris, Director of Operations for the Empowerment Network and event manager.

“The streets were lined with families who were excited to see the drum team, elves, and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus.”

That was just the beginning of a day full of interactive and fun activities. Some have called it a “Winter Wonderland.” People come from all over the region and some as far away as St Louis, Kansas City and Minneapolis rave about the event.

Visitors were treated to free carriage rides sponsored by the Network.

There were face painters in the Fair Deal and families could receive discounts and specials from the local businesses. One of the businesses, Still Poppin, was also celebrating five years in business.

At OEDC, children could wave to Mrs. Claus, receive a free goodie bag and play interactive games.

Tasty food was available on both ends of the event. Smoking Guns and A Taste of New Orleans food trucks were on the street and the Revive Center served customers throughout the day. Between the trucks and Revive those in attendance had a wide range of options.

Some new businesses experienced Christmas in the Village for the very first time. Ital Vital Living which opened this past summer selling smoothies and juices in the former location of the Cooler, hosted a Selfie photo booth and sold their delicious products.

“We had a great turnout and response throughout the day,” said Imani Murry. “24th and Lake is a beautiful place to celebrate the holidays and it was so awesome to see so many kids and families here. We’ve had some great events this fall and this was the largest.”

Just to the North, the Union returned as a participant with a balloon artist, interactive children’s activities and the highly popular Raku pottery.

The largest crowds always gather in Dreamland Park for an awesome holiday concert featuring some of Omaha’s top gospel and jazz artists, including Millicent Crawford, Kathy Tyree, The Arvies, Eric and Doriette Jordan, Chad Stoner and Big Wade.

Pear Tree Performing Arts wasn’t able to perform in 2020 but returned once again to deliver inspiring dance routines in front of a packed audience. The Sacred Heart children’s choir also joined in for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the event.

Another crowd favorite is the live nativity scene complete with a camel, donkey and other animals. The Empowerment Network partners with Mt. Moriah and Scatter Joy Acres on the attraction that draws great reactions from kids.

There was plenty of hot apple cider and cookies provided by Styles of Evolution.

“We doubled up this year on cider and cookies and we ran out midway through the event there were so many people,” said Don McPherson, owner of Styles.

Kids and families enjoyed all their holiday favorites including hot chocolate, cookies, popcorn, cotton candy and other snacks available from different locations.

The Omaha Police Department handed out candy canes and stickers. The Black Police Officers Association has been involved every year as a sponsor and handing out toys and candy bags in partnership with Revive and Santa.  The Omaha Fire Department provided an interactive experience that kids seemed to thoroughly enjoy.

Bridge Church joined in for the first time with some excellent and engaging activities outside on Lake Street.

The Great Plains Black History Museum presented a Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and handed out free candy.

The Omaha Star provided a children’s activity book and sold subscriptions.

Families stopped by the Carver Legacy Center and received some swag and information from the Carver team and American National Bank. American National Bank is a platinum sponsor and has supported Christmas in the Village every year since it started.

One of the other major impacts with Christmas in the Village is the support for local small businesses. Many of them reported record sales during the five hour event.

“We truly appreciate the support from our community” said Valerie Bradford, owner of Divine Nspirations.

“An event like this can do wonders for a small business. We did very well and it’s such a positive experience for families.”

Further to the South, LeFlores New Look Fashions, Get N Go Foods and other businesses also participate and see the economic impact of Christmas in the Village.

Because of the pandemic, precautions were implemented to keep attendees safe. Most activities were held outside and masks were required when guests ventured inside buildings. Hand sanitizer was distributed and available at every location.

Although the group would much rather have had Santa interact directly with the kids all day, he was primarily waving through a window from a specially made office on 24th Street. It still created some awesome moments and memories.

“We want to thank all of our partners, sponsors and volunteers,” said Quaites-Ferris. “This wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Another major bonus was the nearly 300 residents that received their vaccinations through a partnership between the IMA, Mocha Docs, Douglas County Health Department, Mt. Moriah and the Empowerment Network.

“We worked with the county and they brought all three vaccinations and the booster as we requested,” said Pastor Portia Cavitt, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and Senior Pastor of Clair Memorial Church.

“I was out talking with the people and encouraging them to come get vaccinated right there on the spot. There was a tremendous response. We want the County to do more of this. Meet the people where they are.”

That was music to the ears of the organizers.

“The Village is a now a place where you can play, eat, shop, sing, worship, enjoy family, get healthy and have a great time throughout the year, not only during the holidays,” said Barney.

“When we created Christmas in the Village 11 years ago, part of the vision was to bring people back to 24th and Lake and to serve as a catalyst for holistic revitalization.”

“The momentum is building. We’ve come a long way, but even greater things are just ahead. 2022 will be the best ever.”

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2021 Photo Gallery

 

 

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

OMAHA, Neb.

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 and their national strategic partners and advisors will be in Omaha for the Rebuilding the Village Conference.

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.  In this session, Barber will provide an overview of key elements to fundraising success and share an overview of the upcoming fund development cohort.

 

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.  In this session, Hart will share key concepts to help you develop a mindset to maximize your leadership opportunities and provide an overview of the new cohort.

 

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.

In this session, Dr. Robinson will guide you towards growing and making the most of your network and provide an overview of the next RTG cohort. You will also hear from RTG Alumni regarding their own path career paths and stepping into impactful leadership roles.

 

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.  Dr. Jolly will review the key elements to develop and implement your own wealth building plan and provide an overview of the upcoming Legacy Wealth Cohort.

Register for the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and come join us for the introduction of the new cohorts.  Learn More and Register here

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Community Features

Dream Big! Eric Thomas coming to Omaha June 7th

OMAHA, Neb. –  On June 7, the Empowerment Network will take over CHI Health Center Omaha & Hilton Omaha Downtown for the 17th Annual Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon. This year’s event also features the highly anticipated Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, highlighting the importance of supporting and empowering black-owned businesses in the community. The conference kicks off at 8:00 am.

Big Dreams and Collective Visions!  The luncheon will feature an energizing session from keynote speaker from New York Times best-selling author, educator, motivational guru and international business phenomenon, Eric Thomas, Ph.D.

As an inspirational speaker, Thomas has made a successful career working with and coaching Fortune 500 companies, top athletes, students and audiences around the world. A visionary, Thomas helps others walk in their purpose. Through a thorough examination and application of these same principles, his conference attendees continue to maximize their successes both in the workplace and at home. As a husband, father and philanthropist, Thomas aims to improve the lives of others through self-empowerment, self-assessment and consistent execution.

The Rebuilding the Village Conference and Luncheon has long been recognized as a premier gathering for community leaders, activists, entrepreneurs and stakeholders to come together to address key issues facing underserved communities. With a focus on career advancement, leadership development, DEI, wealth building, entrepreneurship, community building and more, the conference aims to foster collaboration and drive positive change in Omaha and beyond.

“The Rebuild the Village Conference and Revive Omaha Black Business Expo continues to evolve,” said Willie Barney, CEO and founder of the Empowerment Network. “Through this year’s event, we are focusing on the best ways to build economic strength and equity, support business owners, encourage homeownership, and invest in economic development and revitalization. Our community wants to be a part of the development of our city. Our Conference and Black Business Expo will equip attendees with the tools needed to thrive.”

Dream Big video from Eric Thomas

Central to this year’s event is the Revive Omaha Black Business Expo, a dynamic showcase of black-owned businesses from across the region. Attendees will have the chance to network with entrepreneurs, learn about innovative products and services, and support the local economy.

Backed by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the Empowerment Network works to build a safer environment for all residents by increasing educational and career success and reducing violent crime. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance leads a cross-sector national call-to-action focused on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.

In 2023, the Rebuild the Village Conference attracted more than 1,100 attendees. Of those attendees, nearly 40 percent were students. With the help of last year’s keynote speaker, businessman, NBA legend and philanthropist Erving “Magic” Johnson, Rebuild the Village was able to raise $90,000 during an unexpected auction at the end of Johnson’s speech. Last year’s event also drew in leaders from across the nation, including key cities like Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Ill., Denver, Co., Kansas City,  Mo., New Orleans, La. and Tulsa, Okla.

In addition to the Black Business Expo, the conference will feature keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops, and interactive sessions led by industry experts and community leaders. To learn more about the event, including ticket prices and sponsorship opportunities, please visit https://www.rtvomaha.com/. Registration closes Monday, June 3.

 

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 the City of Omaha and other national communities.

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