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FACF Youth Philanthropy Contest winner packages meals for local families

The Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Contest provides a unique opportunity for area youth.

The annual contest encourages young people throughout the community – in grades kindergarten through 12th – to ask themselves how they can make a difference in their communities.

Winners are then awarded up to a $1,000 grant from the FACF to go out and actually make that positive change.

In the past that has meant projects like creating literacy boxes for area schools; hosting a carnival to provide education for child safety; making blankets to be given to children who are disaster victims; providing needed supplies to an animal shelter; organizing a walk or event to benefit a non-profit organization and many more worthwhile endeavors.

“The contest is a great way to teach kids that they can make a difference in the community,” Melissa Diers, executive director of FACF, said.

Diers said the foundation wanted to make students aware that they can be philanthropists even without an accumulation of wealth.

“It’s not just all about donating money,” Diers said. “It’s about donating energy and time and your talents to make a difference.”

On Sunday, one of the contest’s 2017-18 winners completed another Youth Philanthropy Contest project and made a difference in the community by preparing meals for those in need.

Archbishop Bergan third-grader Lauren Owsley, along with a group of friends and parents, prepared 50 meals to help “Feed Fremont Families” at the Fremont Meat Market on Sunday.

The idea to focus on preparing uncooked meals for families in Fremont came from Lauren’s love of spending time cooking with her own family.

“I love making cookies with my Grandpa Healey,” she said in her video submission for the contest.

According to Lauren Owsley’s mom Nichole, her daughter initially wanted to make cinnamon rolls but they decided to prepare ingredients to make slow cooker baked ziti as well as corn and garlic bread.

“Her favorite thing to cook is cinnamon rolls, so she wanted to do that but thought that this would be a better choice for the families to be able to be together in the kitchen,” she said. “A lot of the kids said their favorite meal was spaghetti, so we decided to do baked ziti that you can make in a slow cooker.”

To prepare the 50 meals the group of six girls worked in an assembly line of sorts in the back of the store as they packaged uncooked pasta, frozen hamburger, cans of tomato sauce, parsley, cheese, corn, and garlic bread into large freezer bags along with a recipe page for families to follow along while preparing the meal.

After completing the task the meals were brought to the Fremont Area United Way to be dispersed to families the non-profit organization serves locally.

Nichole Owsley said along with being dispersed to families in the short term basis, some of the meals will be kept on hand at the Fremont Family Coalition to be used in on a more emergency basis.

Along with providing food for those in need, Owsley’s “Feed Fremont Families” initiative also focuses on benefits associated with cooking a meal as a family.

“There is a lot of benefit from the families actually cooking together in the kitchen, so that is what we are excited about,” Nichole Owsley said. “Hopefully by preparing these meals families will get to spend more quality time together, as well as give parents the chance to teach healthier eating habits and cooking skills to their children.”

Following their afternoon meal-prep on Sunday, the group of students will complete the project by packaging 50 more meals in May.

“We are trying to coordinate the one in May so some of the girls can actually be there when the families pick them up,” Nichole Owsley said. “So that will give them the opportunity to actually hand the meals out and kind of see the difference they are making.”

Along with Owsley’s “Feed Fremont Families” project, the Fremont Area Community Foundation awarded 10 other area youths with $1,000 grants to complete similar projects over the course of the year.

Some of those projects include an effort by the Trinity & Bergan STEM Club to make STEM kits for the children at Care Corps Family Services; confirmation class members at Elim Lutheran and St. Paul’s Lutheran Churches in Hooper making comfort bags for each child at The Bridge; Ashley Uhing and the Logan View FCCLA Program making fleece tie-blankets for cancer patients at Children’s Hospital; Kylie Shurz, with the help of family and volunteers, crocheting 300-400 octopuses to deliver to the Fremont Health Medical Center for newborn babies.

“We’re always trying to expand the culture of giving in the community,” Diers said. “If we can teach kids young to assume that responsibility to make a difference in the community, hopefully that’s a life lesson they’ll carry forward into adulthood.”

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Student art on display

One of the things Fremont Area Art Association Executive Director Barbara Gehringer enjoys about children’s art is all of the smiles.

“The people smile, the animals smile, the flowers, and even the sun smiles,” she said.

Along with enjoying the happiness represented in many young artists’ pieces, Gehringer also enjoys their unique perspective.

“They are very aware and sometimes far more than we would give them credit for, and that is the other thing that I love seeing about children’s work is that they are pretty insightful,” she said. “They do see the bigger world.”

As the calendar turns to March, area residents will get their chance to enjoy some of the smiles and insights provided by young local artists as Gallery 92 West is set to host a selection of works from Fremont Public Schools students in grades K-12.

The Fremont Public Schools’ Select K-12 Art Show will be held at Gallery 92 West, at 92 W Sixth Street, beginning March 6 and continuing through to April. The show will include a reception on Sunday, March 11th from 1-3 p.m.

“Our gallery will literally be floor to ceiling with kids’ art, which is fabulous,” Gehringer said. “We will have a reception with all the artists, just like we would do with any other show and a lot of kids and their families come in which is always great to see.”

The student art show coincides with the nationally recognized Youth Art Month, which is held annually in March.

“It’s a way for us to show that we advocate for art in public schools, art in all schools, and it is a way to highlight that we support the teachers in what they do as well,” Gehringer said. “There have been a ton of studies that show that studying the arts, not just visual arts but all of the arts helps students think creatively and problem solve in other disciplines.”

According to Gehringer, the FPS Select Show will feature art from students in schools throughout the Fremont Public School system which creates a unique experience with works from kindergartners to seniors on display.

“It’s just fun to watch the progression and we usually hang it so you can walk around the room and see kindergarten all the way through twelfth grade,” she said. “Just to show the level of sophistication that happens across those grades.”

Along with featuring a cross section of art from students of different ages, the art show will also feature a variety of mediums.

“In years past we have had 3-D works, graphics, pencil drawings, pen and ink, paper, painting, collages we always have a little bit of everything,” Gehringer said.

The event not only provides the public a chance to look at what young people in the community are learning about and creating, it also provides those students a chance to be recognized for their artistic achievements.

“It’s an opportunity for them to see their work in a real gallery and to get a little experience of what it is like to be a ‘real’ artist,”

Gehringer said. “In a lot of other academic areas there is recognition for doing well in those things in a variety of ways. Whether it is science fair projects or academic decathlons or athletics, and this just gives those students that same opportunity to be recognized.”

Tammy Real-McKeighan, Fremont Tribune 

Barbara Gehringer, Fremont Area Art Association executive director, admires student artwork on during the FPS Elementary Select Art Show at Gallery 92 West (the Fremont Area Art Association building) in January. Gallery 92 will be exhibiting art from K-12 students at FPS throughout March. 

Brent Wasenius / Courtesy Photo 


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Proposed change to make room for commercial space to be heard on Tuesday

The Fremont City Council will consider a number of agenda items at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, including a controversial zoning change proposal within the proposed SunRidge Place housing development on the east side of town.

At the meeting the council will consider a request from Dodd Engineering & Surveying, LLC seeking approval of a zoning change, on behalf of Don Peterson and Associates, Connie & Paul Barron, and Luanne & Gary Ehmcke for 4.8 acres of land in the SunRidge housing development be changed from RR Rural Residential zoning to GC General Commercial.

The 4.8 acre tract of land is part of Don Peterson & Associates’ proposed SunRidge Place housing development which is a multi-use development including apartments, townhomes and duplexes along Jack Sutton Drive to the south, with single family houses along the northern border adjacent to Military Ave. and a small area of commercial space in the northeast corner of the property.

The item comes to the City Council after the Fremont Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning change by a vote of 7-1 during a meeting earlier this month.

The proposed zoning change for the 4.8 acre tract of land, and the SunRidge Place development as a whole, has faced opposition at previous Planning Commission and City Council meetings.

At the City Council meeting on Jan. 9, local resident Brad Yerger submitted to the Council a petition with more than 100 signatures showing citizen disapproval of what is happening in terms of the proposed development.

“I’ve been out canvasing since the last meeting, and personally, I’ve had contact with about 150 residents in this area,” Yerger said at the time. “I don’t have any that have said they’ve approved of what is going on. I had two or three who said ‘I don’t have enough information,’ and one who said ‘I agree with everything you’ve said, but I just don’t sign petitions.’ Everyone else that I’ve talked to is on this list tonight, many are in the room and they share the same concerns.”

Much of the public concern about the proposed housing development involve increased traffic in the area, child safety involving traffic and proximity to proposed commercial space within the proposed development near Fremont Middle School and Johnson Crossing Academic Center, as well as potential drainage issues, and property values.

“You just built Jack Sutton drive and as soon as you put up apartment buildings it will be obsolete, it won’t be big enough to handle the traffic,” Alan Fanning, who lives near the proposed development on Johnson Drive, said at the meeting. “Plus you have hundreds of kids walking along the street there and you’re going to put all this traffic right along those kids. I just think it is a really bad idea and I would really recommend that the Planning Commission deny the change.”

The City Council meeting will be held within the City Council Chambers at 400 East Military Avenue on Feb. 27, 2018, at 7 p.m.