Martin Braun spoke no English when he came to the United States in the early 1900s.
The German-born immigrant faced only ridicule and frustration as he struggled in school in Norfolk.
Then an uncle helped Braun learn English.
Braun graduated from high school and college and became a Methodist minister who served as a chaplain overseas during World War II.
His daughter, Genevieve, married a Methodist pastor, the Rev. Melvin Shafer.
Their son, Ted, became a Methodist minister and his son, Benjamin, is worship leader at Omaha's Westside Baptist Church.
Four generations of people benefited from an uncle who took the time to teach English to a young, struggling student.
Now - decades later - a member of Braun's family tree is helping a new generation of people learn English. And because of her work, Karla Shafer was instrumental in helping the American Library Association obtain a $750,000 grant for a literacy project that encompasses more than 20 states. That means 75 libraries across the nation will get much-needed materials to assist English Language Learners.
Shafer, whose husband is Ted, is director at the Hooper Public Library in a town of about 825 people. Two years ago, she applied to the ALA for a grant and her library won $5,000 for the "American Dream Starts @ your library" project offered with funds from The Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
Hooper's library was the smallest in the nation, and the only Nebraska library, to receive the 2008 grant. Shafer used the funds to buy books for people wanting to learn English and books for enjoyment in Spanish. She also purchased provisions to help people become American citizens and found sites where library patrons could go online and learn English.
Shafer invited area residents to an open house. Library board of trustees' members made and served food. Shafer also enlisted the help of Hooper resident Guadalupe "Lupe" Lugo for the event.
"I knew Spanish, but I was afraid that someone would come in who spoke very quickly or with an accent and I didn't want them to not feel welcome," Shafer said.
Lugo also comes to the library to help when Shafer has a Spanish-speaking library patron. At the same time, Shafer helps the Texas-born Lugo improve her own English reading skills. Shafer also helps Lugo's daughter, Sandra, with her elementary school homework when needed.
After purchasing the materials, Shafer sent a final report stating how she'd used the funds. She included a photo of Lupe and Sandra.
Dale Lipschultz, literacy officer for the ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services, used reports from Shafer and other librarians when making a Power Point presentation to show Dollar General foundation representatives to obtain funding for a second literacy project. Lipschultz told stories of various libraries, including one in a doublewide trailer in Athens, Ga., but she said Shafer's work was essential in helping secure the $750,000.
"Hooper is an example of what can be done in a small library, serving a small community," Lipschultz said from her Chicago office. "From my perspective and the ALA, Karla Shafer is the kind of library director that can move mountains and change communities."
Due to Shafer's work, she will get an expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she'll speak and also be on a panel at the ALA conference.
Hooper's library will get another $5,000, which she will use to buy more materials. This summer, she plans to teach ELL classes at the park in Nickerson, where Shafer believes she can help several families. She intends to send out mailings and put notices in newspapers when the ELL classes will be available; child care will be provided.
Shafer said she'll be glad to share her passion for books and reading at the event.
"Literacy changes lives forever - and for generations to come," she said.
Those interested in the ELL classes may call the library at (402) 654-3833.