Undesign the Redline Recap Blog

On June 25, the Junior League of Omaha had the honor of hosting the first virtual tour of The Union for Contemporary Art’s Undesign the Redline exhibit. Led by Susan Stroesser, a volunteer of The Union, and Paige Reitz, deputy director of The Union, our members had the opportunity to learn about the history of the redline in Omaha and the lasting impact that we can see today.

According to The Union, “Beginning in 1936, the neighborhoods of Omaha’s Near North and South sides were systematically segregated from the rest of the city by means of prohibitive and discriminatory home lending practices. In Omaha, and cities across the country, red lines were literally drawn on city maps by the federally-funded Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, identifying predominantly African-American and immigrant communities as “hazardous” and unfit for investment.

Systemic challenges today, like inequalities in housing, education, income, criminal justice and health are far from separate issues. These challenges are rooted in a deep and entangled history of policies, practices and processes that remain unrevealed and misunderstood. As new forces begin to transform cities and towns, decisions about interconnected challenges are therefore often made ‘in the dark.’”

The virtual training enabled League members to have meaningful conversations that encourage us to continue learning and growing as a League. It also provided us with a connection to the communities that we are predominantly serving in our new Hunger and Access to Healthy Foods focus area. Of our five current community partners, all five are in the top ten zip codes of poverty in Omaha, and two of them are in the number two spot. All of these community partners are located in areas that were previously redlined.

Historic Omaha Redlining Map

Below are comments from a few attendee’s experience. “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to virtually tour the Union for Contemporary Art and learn about structural racism in both its current and historical context within our community. The virtual docents were incredibly knowledgeable in leading discussion and providing relevant resources. These critical conversations are necessary within the Junior League of Omaha, and I am glad that our members are committed to growing and learning. It is clear that we can do better, and experiences like this offer us an opportunity to expand our understanding and better serve our community moving forward.” – Anne Bowen, Placement Chair

“Omaha has a history similar to so many cities of similar size – and lots of our members have no idea how much racism is a part of that history. The Union’s Undesign the Red Line training helped us learn about the intersections between red lining, public school segregation, public transportation, food deserts, and a lack of healthcare facilities in both north and south Omaha. For many of our members, it was the first time these issues had ever been discussed, and the Union does such an incredible job addressing the topics that no matter where you are on the journey, there is something for everyone. I loved how the Q&A at the end allowed of members the chance to share stories and connect their own lived experiences to the content of the exhibit. It was especially helpful to have Paige in the training to provide research in the chat for us as topics came up.” – Stephanie Kidd, Diversity and Inclusion Chair

“The ‘Undesign the Redline’ event was incredibly timely and insightful. This event proactively addressed and educated membership on systemic race issues. The speaker provided a detailed history of segregation and racism within the Omaha community and a few league members shared their personal stories which further demonstrated the persistent nature of the issue. The educational impact of this event is meaningful and it was one of my favorite JLO events as a result!” – Sophia Petrow, Done in a Day Vice Chair

Shannon Lang, Hunger & Access to Healthy Foods Chair

Learning followship through service

By Sarah Antonello, New Member Recruitment Coordinator

Volunteers at No More Empty Pots

During a typical day working at Heart Ministry Center’s (HMC) drive-through food pantry, the cars are ushered through the line as quickly as possible in order to serve as many community members as possible. But on one hot, humid Friday in June, one of the clients asked if she could pray with and for us. Taking that moment to pause in the middle of the frenzy struck me deeply at the time, but the moment has stayed with me in the weeks since. It has been as a reminder of the power of community and the value of serving others. The HMC staff and volunteers frequently tell the pantry clients, “Thank YOU for the opportunity to serve you,” as they drive away; that moment of prayer was the first time when I understood how grateful I was to be able to serve. 

As members of the Junior League of Omaha, we tend to focus on being leaders in the community. But in my time at Heart Ministry Center and No More Empty Pots, two of the organizations JLO works with on the new focus area of hunger and access to healthy foods, I’ve found myself following others more often than I’m leading them. I have wanted to make suggestions and tweaks to improve efficiencies (that’s what I did in my day job), but what I’ve gotten to do instead is work on listening more than speaking, to strengthen and flex my humility muscles, and to be reminded of the innate humanity inside us all, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in. 

In mid-May my job was downsized as part of the company’s pandemic response. I found myself scared, anxious, angry and lonely during the seemingly-endless stretches of days at home with no one to talk to. When the chance to start volunteering regularly through JLO’s Community Impact programs came up, I was ecstatic. Eagerly I signed up for multiple shifts, expecting this volunteering work to help with my loneliness and boredom, but it has done so much more. 

Volunteers at Heart Ministry

This volunteering work has tested what I thought about myself. It hasn’t always been comfortable – physically or emotionally. But I’m developing a new skill: followship. And while I’m learning to follow, I get to observe those that are learning to lead, providing all of us the opportunity to develop and grow. 

I joined the Junior League so that someone would organize volunteering opportunities for me. It was something I wanted to do, but there were so many causes that I couldn’t pick. As I learn more about food insecurity, I see how it perpetuates historical inequalities, frustrates education efforts, destroys communities and threatens the health and well-being of so many of our neighbors. 

The work JLO is doing with its hunger and access to healthy food focus area is vital to the stability, health and wellbeing of our community. The partner organizations we work with have created robust programs and initiatives fighting to end food insecurity, and we are able to lend our time, energy and sometimes sweat to the cause, exponentially increasing the impact we can have, together.

JLO Community Impact – Ways to Give Back

The Junior League of Omaha is committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. As our Omaha community grapples with the sudden and life-changing challenges in this COVID-19 time, we want to respond and live out our mission by serving others and giving back to our community.
 
The Community Impact Council, along with the Management Team, have reached out to our partners in the new Focus Area: Hunger & Access to Healthy Foods to find ways we can get our members back into the community while understanding the personal decisions around each individual’s comfort and preference. Your participation is optional and certainly appreciated!
 
Join us for four ways to give in May with two incredible partners!

Heart Ministry Center – Virtual Food Drive

The Heart Ministry Center provides basic necessities, educational opportunities, health outreach events and support to individuals and families in north Omaha and surrounding areas. They are home to the largest food pantry in the state of Nebraska, distributing more than 3 million pounds of food per year and 1 million pounds of that total is fresh fruit and vegetables. Heart Ministry Center is able to purchase their food pantry goods at a very low cost, far lower than what we would be spending on physical goods.

At Heart Ministry Center:

  • $250 feeds 10 people for 30 days
  • $8.30 feeds 10 people, three meals a day
  • $2.77 feeds 10 people one meal
  • $0.27 covers one meal per person

 The Junior League of Omaha is hosting a virtual food drive for the Heart Ministry Center for the month of May. It is a monetary drive, with donations being made via PayPal Giving Fund here: https://www.paypal.com/us/fundraiser/charity/1238066

Steps to Participate in the JLO Virtual Food Drive:

  1. Click the link and give a donation of whatever you can.
  2. In an effort to measure the monetary impact JLO is having on access to healthy food in the Omaha community, we request that you forward your giving receipt to acdcommunityimpact@jlomaha.org

 
Heart Ministry Center – Volunteer Opportunities
Thursday, May 14 & Thursday, May 21
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Volunteers will work alongside Heart Ministry workers during their pantry hours as they provide drive thru service to 150-200 families. Volunteers will help by filling pantry bags, distributing bags to cars, loading/unloading food in the warehouse, and assisting with any other needs they may have that day.

Sign up on Digital Cheetah. Each shift is for four volunteers to adhere to CDC guidelines and social distancing rules. Bring your own mask and other gear (i.e. gloves, clothing, etc.) that make you comfortable to volunteer.

The Union for Contemporary Art – Physical Goods Donation Drive

The Union for Contemporary Art strengthens the cultural and social landscape of our community by using the arts as a vehicle to inspire positive social change. The Union’s Abundance Garden includes 960 square feet of raised garden beds, a geodesic dome greenhouse, a small fruit-tree orchard, composting facilities, a performance space, and an outdoor classroom used for community events and The Union’s Youth Engagement programs.
 
For the month of May, Junior League members can purchase items from the attached list and drop off the goods to anyone of these members’ homes at eight different Omaha locations around the city. These goods will be donated to the Union for inclusion into the Art+Life kids and CSA resources to families and seniors in the community.
 
Dry Goods Donation List
 
JLO Member Donation Options
 
Tips for donating:

  • Leave the bag on the front porch of the member’s home or in a box marked for JLO donations.
  • Thank you to Alysia Radicia, Jamie Schneider, Michelle Pernicek, Colby Jensen, Kerri Palmesano, Emily Barr, Catherine Harrington and Jess Sock for being a drop-off location!

 
The Union – Mask Making Tutorial: Sew & No Sew
 
Saturday May 9, 10 – 11 a.m.
Contact: Shannon Lang – Shannon.p.lang@gmail.com
Via Google Hangouts
 
Paige Reitz, Deputy Director of The Union for Contemporary Art, will be teaching us how to make both a no sew mask and a sewn mask. If you would like to donate any of the masks you make, the Heart Ministry will gladly accept them for their employees, clients, and pantry recipients.
 
Register on Digital Cheetah and by emailing Shannon Lang. Event registrants will receive the Google Hangout link along with a list of supplies needed.
 



Again, these activities are completely optional. We understand that lives have changed dramatically and we are trying to meet the needs of all members. We hope that you will consider participating if you feel comfortable and your new schedule allows.
 
Sending healthy wishes your way!

Junior League of Omaha announces new focus area

The Junior League of Omaha wrapped up the year and the decade with the announcement of an exciting new focus area: hunger and access to healthy foods. On December 2, the Board of Directors decided on this focus area after assessing criteria including membership interest, opportunity in the community to make an impact, sustainability, variety of volunteer opportunities and potential barriers. 

The decision comes as a result of a tireless process led by the Community Research and Development (CRaD) committee. They assessed needs in the Omaha metro in three different areas: hunger and access to healthy foods, abuse of women and children and opportunity youth.

The CRaD committee worked to set up and host around 30 service learning opportunities in these three areas between June and November. Members completed the service learning opportunities and provided valuable feedback which was compiled by the committee. This feedback was critical in making a decision on a new focus area.

“The CRaD team has been working diligently all year to ensure that education and volunteer opportunities were available for members to learn and participate in with the three focus areas. The focus area and research teams have collaborated with local organizations to envision future strategic goals and programming for years to come. We are grateful to have such passionate women involved in this process and for the participation and feedback from all of our membership,” said Emily Barr,| Junior League of Omaha Community Research and Development Chair. 

Building on the impact made over the last 100 years, the Junior League of Omaha is entering this new decade with an exciting area of focus and renewed commitment to voluntarism. 

Project Hope Pack Transitions into Leadership of CASA

Over the years, Project Hope Pack has positively impacted the lives of thousands by distributing necessities and comfort items to children ages 3-18 who are taken out of crisis situations. These backpacks are donated to several agencies around the Omaha metro. In addition to hygiene products, these backpacks also include items such as stuffed animals, blankets and activities, which help to boost children’s spirits during challenging times.  

The Junior League of Omaha is proud that this program has come full circle and that so many members have seen Project Hope Pack from its inception to the community launch to the Service Board of CASA of Douglas County, which will take place in May 2019.

The 2018-2019 League year has been filled with launch milestones, such as a complete move of products from our inventory to CASA. All of our project shifts now take place at CASA, located at 2412 St. Mary’s Avenue in Omaha.

The CASA Service Board members have been paired with Project Hope Pack committee members to ensure a smooth transition. So far, we have distributed 620 backpacks to organizations such as Project Harmony, Youth Emergency Services, Partnership 4 Kids, Lutheran Family Services, Completely Kids, Heart Ministry, Boys Town, and more!

The committee looks forward to  the continued success of Project Hope Pack through the hard work and volunteerism of CASA Douglas County Service Members!

Project Hope Pack Fall 2018
Project Hope Pack Committee Members

Great Books For Great Kids

Did you know that reading skills are the greatest single predictor of future academic success?* Yet, 16% of people in the Omaha area are functionally illiterate. This means they struggle getting through the day because they can’t read well enough to order from a menu, fill out a job application, or help their kids with homework.** Nationally, on average, children in middle-income neighborhoods have 13 books per child. In contrast, for low-income children there is an estimated 1 book for every 300 children.

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The Junior League of Omaha has never hesitated to step up and help out with what the community needs. Through its own community project, A Book of My Own (ABOMO), the Junior League of Omaha has been helping to promote literacy and provide books at home to under-served children ages 0-18. Throughout the year, new and gently-used books are collected and ABOMO partners with community organizations such as schools, churches, Heartland Family Service, and the Boys and Girls Club to distribute books to children in need. Since 2011, ABOMO has distributed over 80,000 books in the Omaha community and worked with more than 70 community partners.img_9793

Recently, the Junior League of Omaha partnered with Runza® Restaurants for the 14th annual Great Books for Great Kids fundraiser. The funds collected benefited the Junior League of Omaha’s A Book of My Own community project. The League’s Board of Directors and project committee members staffed each of the 15 Runza locations to provide members of the community more information about the Great Books for Great Kids event as well as general information about the league. The event was a great success again this year and more than $5,000 was raised for the community project. ABOMO plans on using the funds to purchase books for upcoming distributions.

2016_08_jlo_abomo_runza_03

If you are looking to give back and want to contribute to the community project, here are a variety of ways that you can donate to ABOMO.

  1. Donate books. A Book of My Own needs new and gently-used books. Donation bins are located at the following locations:

Back and Neck Care Center, 2055 N. 156th Street, Omaha, NE

Ridgeview Animal Hospital, 18142 Wright Street, Omaha, NE

Walnut Creek Veterinary Clinic, 96th and HWY 370, Papillion, NE

Roots and Wings, Countryside Village, 8712 Pacific Street, Omaha, NE

Bare Body Shop, Rockbrook Village, 10811 Prairie Brook Road, Omaha, NE

You can also contact the Junior League of Omaha office at 402.493.8818 or book@jlomaha.org to schedule a drop-off appointment. If you donate gently-used books, we would appreciate books that are in saleable condition with no torn cover, ripped pages or chewed marks. Also, we do not distribute books that have been wet or have mold or mildew.

  1. Donate money. 100% of monetary donations are used to purchase new books for the project. Donations can be sent to the Junior League of Omaha office.
  2. Host a book drive. Plan and host a book drive at your school, church or office. Contact the Junior League of Omaha office at 402.493.8818 or book@jlomaha.org for further information.
  3. Volunteer. Volunteers are needed to sort and prepare books for distribution. Contact the Junior League of Omaha office at 402.493.8818 or book@jlomaha.org for volunteer opportunities.

Visit the Junior League of Omaha’s Facebook and Instagram page, or follow the #JLOmaha to see more of this successful event. Special thank you to the A Book of My Own committee members who make this project successful: Liz Akert, Katie Anderson, Megan Black, Becca Bode, Meghan Bothe, Anne Bowen, Sarah Carse, Kristyn Chapman, Beverly Gorman, Erica Goven, Miranda Griffiths, Sara Hanke, Becky Heckman, Elizabeth Jamrog, Jessica Kozel, Steffanie Luteran, Katie Martens, Meghan McClain, Erica McDonald, Maria Michaelis, Kristi Mitchell, Summer Nabity, Kimberly Nolan, Taylor Pugh, Nicole Seckman, Tina Spatz, Jessica Thompson, and Lisa Tonjes Moritz.

*National Assessment of Educational Progress

**Literacy Center of the Midlands

Done-In-A-Day at the Rose Theater

The Rose Theater is home to the Omaha Theater Company. In 1948, Junior League of Omaha members alongside Emmy Gifford were inspired to start a theater for young audiences in Omaha and one year later, the Omaha Junior Theater was born. The League was instrumental in growing the Omaha Junior Theater, one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the United States. In 1970, the Junior League of Omaha(JLO) pledged money for a Cultural Education Series to be produced for Omaha schools in cooperation with the Omaha Junior Theater, the Omaha Ballet Association and the Nebraska Arts Council. During the 1980s, JLO approved community activities and a new project for the theater company. Over the years, the Omaha Junior Theater grew – it was renamed Emmy Gifford Children’s Theater in 1977 and again renamed The Rose Blumkin Performing Arts Center in 1993. The Omaha Theater Company first staged a production at The Rose Theater in 1995. In 1998, in honor of the 80th Anniversary of the JLO, the League approved a grant to its past project – the Omaha Theater for Young People – now the Rose. This grant was a joint effort with the Junior League of Omaha Foundation, which contributed toward the grant. The relationship between JLO and The Rose continues. Many League members, past and present, have served on The Rose Theater’s Guild. Continue reading “Done-In-A-Day at the Rose Theater”