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NOTE: as of April 17, 2007, the Free to Grow program has closed.
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Gov. Johanns Proclaims April 12-18 Community Development Week in Nebraska, Presents Awards for Outstanding Projects
News Release

(Lincoln, NE) Gov. Mike Johanns today proclaimed April 12-18 Community Development Week in Nebraska and presented awards to volunteers, programs and agencies that have assisted with and accomplished outstanding projects in their communities.

Gov. Johanns said, "I want to congratulate all of the communities and individuals that have been recognized today for their wonderful efforts and accomplishments in community development. These awards have been a positive reminder to us all that many of the amenities and services we enjoy today are a direct result of the partnering of volunteers, government, organizations and the private sector."

The National Community Development Association began National Community Development Week in 1986 to remind Congress of the importance of the Community Development Block Grant Program. The Governor presented the following:

Metropolitan Awards for Lincoln
Lincoln Free to Grow

Nationally, Free to Grow programs promote substance-free, safe communities through prevention efforts that focus on improving home and neighborhood environments. Lincoln Free to Grow neighborhood revitalization is a collaboration of Lincoln Action Program Head Start; the Clinton Neighborhood Association; Neighborhoods, Inc.; several city of Lincoln departments, including police, building and safety, health, and urban development; and neighborhood residents.

Accomplishments include two neighborhood clean-ups and two graffiti clean-ups that involved neighborhood residents and volunteers from all ages and backgrounds. Other improvements include activities that helped neighbors meet neighbors, the establishment of Neighborhood Watch groups, increased housing and health code enforcement, and increased police community involvement.

Eagles View Park
Residents of the Arnold Heights Neighborhood realized the dream of locating a park and playground near their elementary school when the Lincoln Housing Authority donated land and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds were committed to the project.

Members of the Arnold Heights Neighborhood Association worked with the Lincoln City Parks and Recreation Department through all phases of the park's development, from design to installation and maintenance. They also helped install playground equipment, benches and picnic tables, and planted and watered trees.
3rd and A St. Overpass
The 3rd and A St. Overpass is the single largest element contributing to the safety and aesthetic improvements made to the double railroad tracks on 3rd St.

A partnership was formed between the Railroad Transportation Safety District, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific Railroad companies, the residents and members of the South Salt Creek Neighborhood Association, city staff from Public Works and Urban Development, and area property owners to determine what needed to be done along the busy double tracks. Working together, the groups developed a design that improved safety and meshed with the neighborhood's historic character. As a result, the surrounding neighborhoods don't just accept the overpass, they proudly claim it as their own.

For additional information on this project, contact Opal Doerr, City of Lincoln Urban Development Department, at 402-441-7852 or by e-mail at

Metropolitan Award for Omaha
Alvin M. Goodwin

A lifelong resident of northeast Omaha and president of the Omaha Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) the past 27 years, Alvin Goodwin has been a key architect in creating investment throughout northeast Omaha. Through his leadership, the nonprofit organization implemented the Kellom Heights Redevelopment Program. Additionally, Goodwin and the OEDC staff developed additional affordable housing developments near 60th and Hartman St.

Renovations of four buildings in northeast Omaha further support Mr. Goodwin's commitment to Northeast Omaha. Restoration of the Jewell Building, a registered U.S. Historic Landmark, provided space for the OEDC office, several small businesses and two private apartments. OEDC also renovated the old North Omaha Post Office and Jensen Building, a neighborhood renovation project of commercial with apartment space.

The leveraging of OEDC's $4.9 million equity contribution in 15 program areas resulted in nearly $19 million of capital invested in Northeast Omaha. OEDC ventures created more than 100 jobs and generated $1.6 million in yearly property, payroll, personal income and sales tax revenue. Goodwin also serves on the Creighton University Advisory Committee and plays a crucial role in the Omaha's river city redevelopment project.

For more information, contact Norita Collar, City of Omaha Planning Department, at 402-444-5177 or by e-mail at

The Honorary Showcase Community Award Johnson and North Platte

Throughout the past five years, the community of Johnson has used various grant funding to build Sportsman's Park; reconstruct downtown retaining walls, sidewalks, streets, underground utilities, landscaping and street lighting; establish an owner-occupied, single-family housing rehabilitation program; pass a nearly $3 million school bond issue to build an elementary school and gymnasium; and assist a local Main St. business with purchasing new machinery to increase productivity and efficiency.

North Platte
The community of North Platte collaborated with 60 area businesses, more than 30 churches, 13 foundations and organizations, and hundreds of citizens to raise $90,500 to purchase land on which Lincoln Connection, a city homeless shelter, will be relocated. North Platte also celebrated the completion of projects involving CDBG funds, including a County, City and Seven Village Needs Assessment of 10,000-plus households in June 1998; a new Comprehensive Plan, taking the city through 2010; a community/countywide housing study; a homeless gap analysis; and a downtown blight and substandard study that resulted in an overall development plan.

Additional major projects include the completion of a new Wal-Mart Distribution Center, which at full capacity will employ more than 600 people, the development of a 77-acre parcel of land and current construction of a new Menard's Retail Store.

The Governor's Showcase Community Award Ravenna and Lexington
The Governor's Showcase Community Award is presented to communities that have demonstrated exceptional capacity throughout the past 10 years, including the ability to identify community development goals; combine local, state and federal resources to achieve goals; and accomplish major projects with positive impacts.

Ravenna city officials surveyed citizens five times throughout the past 10 years to make a list of priorities. A number of projects and plans have been completed as a result of the surveys. Since 1993, Ravenna's projects have included a $12,300 CDBG to conduct a blight study and comprehensive plan, resulting in the demolition of 11 unsafe buildings, landscaping of Ravenna's streets, and the addition of a fourth lagoon at the city's water/wastewater facility; a $20 million, 35,000 square-foot addition to Leprino Foods; $227,100 in CDBG funding for a new day care center; renovation of their city hall, expansion of the fire hall and newly purchased fire equipment; and $730,000 in CDBG funding for homebuyer down payment and owner-occupied housing rehabilitation assistance.

Ravenna's youth have also played an integral role in the community's development process. They were awarded a $100,000 Teen Tobacco Prevention grant to help fund a new youth center and educate the youth about the dangers of tobacco use. Additionally, Ravenna students donated blood, assisted in raising funds for the new Alzheimer's wing at the local nursing home and were recognized as the 2003 Youth Advocate Award winners.

After experiencing significant population and cultural growth, Lexington officials took steps to address youth violence, cultural diversity and public facility development. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, Lexington has completed several projects that have contributed to the vitality of the city and its citizens.

During the past 10 years, Lexington has passed a school bond issue to help fund two new gyms, new classrooms, a community theater and a family aquatic center; developed a 35-acre outdoor recreational facility focusing on the city's youth; and funded an owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program to upgrade and rehabilitate at least 12 houses with CDBG funding.


copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.