The Fremont Area Community Foundation (FACF) acknowledged and honored the philanthropic work done by members of the organization throughout the past year at their annual dinner on Tuesday night.
“It seem fitting that we gather together as a community before we gather together as family to celebrate Thanksgiving and consider our blessings and freedoms,” Melissa Diers, executive director of FACF, said at the event.
At the event, held at Fremont Golf Club, Diers spoke about many of the causes that the foundation has championed throughout the year.
“Through grant making, collaboration and non-profit leadership the FACF continues its work to build and strengthen the Fremont area,” she said. “FACF invites everyday people with a vision and passion for community to come together to create something good. We translate collective giving into big local impact. We give everyone access to the power of endowment and we are devoted to the people and the places that you love.”
According to Diers, in the past year the FACF reached $24 million in community assets, established 11 new funds to improve life in the Fremont area bringing the total number of funds administered by the foundation to 173. The foundation also granted over $310,000 to organizations and causes in the community like homelessness, school readiness, and generational poverty.
The foundation also provided a record number 86 scholarships totaling more than $76,000 to Fremont area students pursuing post-secondary education.
“As many in our community grapple with limited resources and a growing need for services we are more determined than ever to bring our community partners together to find innovative and effective solutions to some of our most challenging social challenges,” Diers said.
At the dinner, the FACF honored Loren Nothwehr with the Betsy Mulliken Award for Philanthropy for his many years of service to the community, as well as Paul Johnson with the Professional Advisor of the Year award.
“If philanthropy means giving of your time, talents, and treasures there is no better example than Loren, the man has meant so much to so many organizations here in Fremont and it is just incredible the things he has done,” Greg Haskins, who presented both awards, said.
Nothwehr helped establish the Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity and served six years as its volunteer director. He also helped rehabilitate the old Downtown Motel to create the homeless shelter now called Care Corps Family Services, and also served two terms as the Care Corps Board President. He was also played an integral part of creating Rebuilding Together-Platte Valley East.
“I want to thank God especially for providing me the time, ability and resources so that we have been able to accomplish a lot of different things in Fremont,” Nothwehr said. “I encourage you to continue to support the non-profits and the FACF here in Fremont.”
The dinner was capped off with a keynote address from current U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, who is also the former president of Midland University and graduate of Fremont High School.
“When it comes to happiness, statistically work matters, family matters, friends matter and worldview anchoring matters,” he said. “Turns out all of those things are tied to place, social media can do all sorts of wonderful things, but it can’t replace all the hollowness of not having place.”
“It turns out places like Fremont are really the center of the world, things that you are investing in at the community foundation are really the things that are going to bring joy to known neighbors that you can know. Not people that you can scream at or think you are taking joy because you think you are on the same tribal side on something that is happening on distance on politics on TV, its actually people you break bread with. It turns out it’s a way to really love your neighbor and really get self-satisfaction out of what you are doing.”
During Tuesday’s Legislative session, District 15 Senator Lynne Walz of Fremont called for an investigative committee to examine the conditions and practices of State-licensed facilities that continue to operate with a history of continued and repeated violations.
Her request stems from the death of a veteran that died Sept. 3 at Life Quest in Palmer, Neb. The deceased resident, who suffered from multiple health problems — including mental illness — developed uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea during the last three days before her death, released information from Walz’ office says.
The Department of Health and Human Services completed an inspection and issued an 80-page report during the month prior to the woman’s death; however, no action was taken to correct the violations or shut down the center until Oct. 5.
Life Quest was shut down officially on October 20 after no appeal was filed.
“I feel like this is a death that could have and should have been prevented,” Walz said through a released statement. “These violations posed an immediate danger to the residents of Life Quest. Yet, there was no action until a tragedy happens. We need to take care of our most vulnerable citizens. I plan to introduce a legislative resolution to create an investigative committee to not only look at this case, but to examine why our State continues to rely on assisted living facilities and mental health centers that segregate, congregate, and unfortunately warehouse people with mental illness. Instead, we need to pursue strategies and practices that support best practices in the field. This includes providing supportive housing and the services people need to live as independently as possible in the community.”
The veteran who died at Life Quest in Palmer told workers at the facility she needed assistance and was denied the opportunity.
“They basically wanted her to wait for her VA (veteran affairs) meeting the following week,” said Brandon Bayer, Sen. Walz’ legislative assistant during a Tuesday interview with the Tribune. “Before that happened though she fell off of the bed and was found deceased.
“We have been working with quite a few groups to address services provided to people with disabilities, and it’s something we’ve been watching closely. After talking with those groups we believe this is something that needs to happen.”
During the last four years, three state-licensed facilities have closed their doors because of neglect, abuse and mismanagement, released information says.
“This is happening across Nebraska, many of which are last resorts for families in rural and urban areas,” Walz said. “This investigation will identify the problems and provide oversight to ensure the department makes the necessary changes and to make certain we are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
What can be done to help people access the right computer at the library?
And how can the library help students who need to use the Internet to complete their homework, but whose parents won’t fill out the necessary paperwork allowing it?
These topics involving computer and Internet access were discussed when Keene Memorial Library’s advisory board met Monday.
Tina Walker, library director, said the library has 16 computers. Of those, six are for email and Internet use; four are for gaming and the Internet; and three are for gaming only with no Internet. The children’s portion of the library also has three computers.
Walker said staff and patrons have trouble keep straight which computers are to be used for which purposes. She would like for all computers to have the same access, except for the three in the children’s portion of the library which are child safe and don’t have Internet access.
She questioned other libraries and learned that Keene is the sole library in the state that has computers with specific purposes.
“We’re looking at making access easier and less complicated for staffing and patrons while maintaining a level of control over the access to meet the needs of the community and patrons,” Walker told the Tribune.
She believes the library advisory board will need to take time to discuss what can be done with respect to what the community needs —and that community input is needed.
Walker said the board and Fremont City Council must approve any changes to the policy.
The library board will need to talk about limits and restrictions on computer access and Internet accessibility.
Walker also pointed out a situation where students who need Internet access to complete their homework can’t access them, because their parents won’t come into the library to fill out the paperwork.
Anyone under age 19 must have signed parental permission to access email and Internet on the computers. They still may play games on the computers, however.
Children under age 13 must have a permission form signed by a parent even to receive a library card.
Youth ages 13 and older may obtain their own library card without parental permission. However, students ages 13 to 18 are minors and technically can’t sign a contract for liability of the materials — which a library card application is, Walker said.
Parents must come to the library to complete the paperwork and must bring proof of their identification and address, because they are responsible for the damage or loss of any materials being checked out.
Keene is one of the few libraries in the state that limits Internet accessibility by requiring a library card or guest pass to use one. Walker sent a 16-question survey to all Nebraska libraries asking if they limit Internet access. She is tabulating those results.
Walker also said the Keene library uses Internet provided through the City of Fremont, which has a filter. A child who logs onto a library computer won’t be able to look at a porn site, because the city has it filtered, she said.
In addition, the library uses Barracuda, a filtering software system that filters out harmful sites, including those with pornographic material.
However, youth would have access to Facebook and chat sites.
Walker noted that when surveying other libraries in the state, she said that in their opinion, the Fremont library’s computer access is the most restricted and filtered.
The Rev. Earl Underwood, an advisory board member, also inquired about the library’s liability if someone should get on a computer and access a terrorists’ site.
Walker said computers have a screen in which would-be users must agree to follow the library’s terms before having access to that machine, which places the liability on them.
More discussion on these topics is anticipated at future meetings.
In other business, Walker also said a local resident also is interested in donating funds to purchase materials and help provide classes for children with dyslexia.
The library will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Friday.
The next advisory board meeting starts at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 18 in the library. The meeting is open to the public.