Keith County Foundation Fund's vision is to enhance Keith County’s ability to
grow as a community where people want to live, work, learn, have fun and prosper.
KCFF Welcomes New Friends to Learn About
Western Nebraska During the Urban Rural Tour
Members of Keith County Foundation Fund and other community residents hosted North Omaha residents April 14 and 15 as part of a tour of Southwest Nebraska that aimed to highlight the commonalities between urban and rural Nebraska.
A collaboration between Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF) and Preston Love Jr.’s North Omaha Legacy Tours brought a group of fifteen North Omaha and Lincoln residents west to build relationships and share a taste of life in Greater Nebraska. The tour included stops in McCook, Imperial and Ogallala.
“At Nebraska Community Foundation we believe ‘change happens along the lines of relationships at the speed of trust,’” said NCF CEO and President Jeff Yost. “That’s what we’re doing with this exchange. We’re building relationships between Nebraskans to identify commonalities, build trust and find opportunities that are mutually beneficial.”
In McCook, attendees went on a walking tour of local landmarks such as Ben Nelson’s childhood home, the George W. Norris House, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Sutton House and Sehnert’s Bakery. Volunteers with McCook Community Foundation Fund organized and led the local tours, which lifted up the community’s resilient and beloved local businesses, connecting the two communities’ support for local, homegrown businesses that highlight residents’ ingenuity and tenacity.
While in Imperial, tour participants enjoyed a meal catered by Super Foods at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall. The evening included presentations by Imperial Community Foundation Fund members, as well as performances by members of the North Omaha delegation. D. Kevin Williams, an actor from Omaha, performed a piece on the history of DeWitty, one of many Greater Nebraska towns founded by African American homesteaders. Kaleciana Perry, a high school student from Omaha, shared the process behind her book, “Why the Black Man Cries.”
Tour attendees stayed overnight with residents, offering an opportunity for guests and volunteers to connect on a more personal level and creating a welcoming atmosphere. Attendees then traveled to Wine Glass Ranch Saturday morning for breakfast and a talk from owners Logan and Brianna Pribbeno.
The tour’s final leg, organized by Keith County Community Foundation Fund, began at Ogallala Livestock Auction Market where participants witnessed a mock auction and learned about the livestock market from co-owner Jay Nordhausen. The travelers then went on a bus tour of Ogallala landmarks such as Boot Hill, the Mansion on the Hill and Lake McConaughy. The day in Ogallala concluded with a lunch at United Methodist Church, which featured presentations by Cowboy Capital Consultants and students involved in youth-inspired philanthropy efforts. Small group conversations followed lunch with attendees and hosts sharing reflections and next steps.
“Thank you to our friends and neighbors for making a trip to southwest Nebraska,” said NAME, a member of FUND’s Advisory Committee. “Being able to share with them a taste of our culture and life in our community meant so much, and we look forward to building our relationships further.”
Tour organizers in southwest Nebraska took inspiration from Love’s hosting NCF volunteers on a tour of North Omaha in November 2022. That tour was the result of conversations between Love and NCF leadership that identified numerous commonalities between urban and rural Nebraska and investigated opportunities to unleash each community’s abundant local assets.
“These new relationships have the potential of going beyond the learning process and possibly extend to mutual initiatives,” Love said. “Together our communities can benefit and assist each other toward mutual growth and enrichment.”
“Thank you to our friends and neighbors for making a trip to southwest Nebraska,” said Pam Abbott, a
member of KCFF FUND’s Advisory Committee. “Being able to share with them a taste of our culture and life in
our community meant so much, and we look forward to building our relationships further.”
A Shift in Economic Strategies
Keith County E3 hosts entrepreneurial learning sessions
A gathering of Nebraskans leading the way toward building sustainable local economies met in Keith County last week to learn from each other, share progress, and tour local businesses as part of an ongoing peer learning program.
This was the fourth peer learning session of Energizing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems (E3), an initiative designed by Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF), NetWork Kansas and e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems to help communities build a culture that supports and encourages local business growth.
“Today in Nebraska, economic opportunities are created by local entrepreneurs as opposed to the traditional model of recruiting a ‘home run’ employer from somewhere else,” said K.C. Belitz, NCF’s COO. “That’s why NCF is proud to have begun this E3 initiative to build more successful ecosystems to grow entrepreneurs across Greater Nebraska.”
The three-year endeavor, which began in 2021, aims to empower local leaders to further business, community and economic development in Valley County, Holt County, Keith County, Sidney and Red Cloud through extensive training, education, and peer learning opportunities. So far, the cohort has held three other sessions in Valley County, Holt County and Sidney.
The Keith County session began in Paxton, where participants dined at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and toured two local businesses, Hehnke’s grocery store and Pronto Pit Stop. The session continued in downtown Ogallala, where the group learned from owners of The Tin Cactus Boutique, Makenzi’s Boutique, U-Save Pharmacy, Buenz Gifts and Adams Bank & Trust.
Participants presented community updates at the Kenfield Gallery, sharing successes and challenges with each other. The conversations sparked inspiration and new ideas.
Boxcar hosted the E3 cohort for dinner, which featured a talk by Valley County E3 member and business coach Caleb Pollard, who also co-owns Scratchtown Brewing Company in Ord. The day ended at Second Chapter Brewing, Ogallala’s new brewery housed in the former public library building.
The following morning the group toured Front Street then returned to the Kenfield Gallery to delve deeper into their plans for the few months before their next peer learning session.
“The momentum we heard in all five E3 communities was impactful,” Belitz said. “Through presentations and conversation, their energy, momentum, activity and growing confidence was readily felt. And what was particularly interesting was how each of the five is finding their unique path, which is just what entrepreneurs do.”