Volunteer grassroots organizations play a crucial role in our community, as passionate and dedicated people come together to build programs that enhance the lives of us all. We see the impact of these organizations across Nebraska and the connections to all our funding priority areas (arts, education, environment, humanities and human services) and we witness how small grants used strategically can help move these efforts forward.
GREAT PLAINS WELSH HERITAGE PROJECT
Croeso! Tanslated, it means "you are welcome" in Welsh. The Great Plains Welsh Heritage Project (GPWHP) was established in September of 2000 by a Wymore, Nebraska native and the only Welsh speaking person in Gage County. The project was a way to research and preserve the local history of the Welsh pioneer settlement that formed in the 1870s in Nebraska, the Great Plains region, the United States and Canada.
Tradition includes carving, "Love Spoons" which take the place of engagement rings in Wales.
Their Heritage Cultural Centre serves as the public museum and includes one of the largest libraries of Welsh and Welsh American literature in North America, and provides archival storage for historical documents related to Welsh American heritage. To assist with genealogical research, they provide research and translations of Y Drych (The Mirror), a Welsh American newspaper published in the United States.
"In medieval Wales, one was expected to be able to recite one's ancestry to the seventh generation. We are very dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of our Welsh immigrant ancestors, and to celebrating our Welsh ancestry. It is central to who we are, and where we came from."
The Cooper Foundation provided a grant of $5,000 towards the video and exhibition project about the Welsh settlements of Nebraska, which will debut on March 1, 2017 for Nebraska Sesquicentennial Day. They will use historical photographs from their collection and on-location filming at Welsh-founded churches and historic sites in Nebraska in Wayne, Platte, Richardson, Clay, Hitchcock and Gage Counties.
LINCOLN BIKE KITCHEN
Founded in 2011 by Pepe Fierro, Lincoln Bike Kitchen (LBK) was formed out of need as Pepe relied on cheap transportation to get around the community. While walking around his new community, he noticed how many other people were also commuting by foot and began collecting and fixing up old bicycles.
LBK is an all-volunteer nonprofit bike cooperative supported by donations (bikes, parts, monetary) and their mission is to provide 'at no cost' bikes, repairs and education for all. They primarily serve the low income population and provide services without regard for race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, language preference, ability to pay or citizenship.
Two of their most widely used programs are Earn-a-Bike and Free Wheels for Kids. After 10 hours of volunteering you can earn your own bike by refurbishing one you choose with the help of a volunteer mechanic. You'll finish the program with a dependable bike and the knowledge, skills, and resources to maintain it. Donate your dusty, dirty bike and LBK will give it a new life and donate to a child 13 and under, and provide a helmet, lock and chains at no cost.
Archie and his 7-year old daughter Saryiah brought her damaged bike to LBK. It looked as if it had been hit by a car. Archie was worried about the cost but the LBK volunteer assured him that the wheel, tire, and tube replacement were free. When his daughter said she had no helmet she was supplied with one and a chain and lock. Archie was very grateful and put $2 in the donation box.
A $4,500 grant from the Cooper Foundation goes toward the 2016 operating budget. The Lincoln Bike Kitchen serves at least 750 people annually. In 2015, volunteers logged over 2,200 hours and provided over $50,000 in donated bikes, supplies and services, and distributed 190 children's bikes, 30 adult bikes, and made repairs for over 400 bicyclists.
Moving the community forward, that's how Outlinc describes themselves. Founded in 2010 through a series of World Café community conversations, they posed the question, "What do you want to see in your community in 5 years?" and the answer was an LGBTQ community center.
Outlinc is Lincoln's gay and transgender "community center without walls" with a mission to engage, educate and celebrate the lives of Lincoln's LGBTQ community. Early focus was on programming instead of physical space which led to the creation of the Prairie Pride film festival.
"The Prairie Pride Film Festival provides a safe space for LGBTQ community members to express and celebrate our culture. Together we are making Lincoln a better city, a more inclusive city, a more vibrant city."
The festival is a three-day series of feature films, documentaries and shorts focusing on LGBTQ characters and themes. The festival rounds out a month of activities organized each July for LGBTQ Pride Month.
"Support from the Cooper Foundation has served as a catalyst for Outlinc's growth. With our increased funding we have rented cubicle space at NonProfit Hub - which has grown our capacity tremendously. We're one step closer to being a fully free-standing community center."
A $2,000 grant was awarded by the Cooper Foundation towards the 2015 Prairie Pride Festival. The funding helped to pay space rental and staffing costs, increased the film budget by 33% and significantly increased advertising to inform more members of the Lincoln community of this entertaining, educational opportunity.
THE COLONEL MUSTARD AMATEUR ATTIC THEATRE COMPANY
The Colonel Mustard Amateur Attic Theatre Company all-volunteer organization has been writing and producing creative and irreverent productions since 2007. It was unceremoniously conceived when a group of college friends got together to perform an original New Year's play about the history of their mustard-colored Victorian home at 9th & D Streets in Lincoln. Today, their original summer productions regularly attract audiences of 1,000 to 1,500.
"We've become a grassroots community of people who love highbrow tragedy and lowbrow comedy, striving to live creatively and love wholeheartedly. We are united not by our skill but by our striving, not by where we've been but where we look forward to: the new, the ridiculous, the beautiful, and the impossible."
The Colonel Mustard is committed to providing free entertainment in Lincoln's historical and underserved Near South Neighborhood to give every person the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from a creative and growing artistic community.
While the Colonel Mustard is known for its quirky, off-beat plays and musicals written and performed by local writers and actors, the Mustard also creates and produces radio plays and podcasts, short films, and writers workshops.
A Cooper Foundation grant of $5,000 will be used to build a stronger organizational infrastructure, to better track and retain individual donors, volunteers, past production leadership, and recruit new volunteers.
Wachiska Audubon started in 1973 as part of an effort to create a network of Audubon Society chapters across the United States that would provide grassroots support for national conservation initiatives. They were instrumental in protecting important river habitats on the Platte and Niobrara Rivers in Nebraska. Since the early 1990s, when they led the successful effort to preserve Lincoln's Nine Mile Prairie, they have focused on prairie protection. Wachiska has preserved 25 native prairies in southeast Nebraska. They own five prairies and use them for school field trip programs such as Prairie Discovery Days for 4th graders, and make them available to the general public for hiking, bird-watching, photography and general enjoyment.
"Prairies can be compared to natural libraries. Each plant and animal species found there is something like a book. The genetic makeup of each species has been developing over millions of years and contains information that is difficult to understand but could be invaluable to us. The information in plants may provide us with new medicines, drugs, new crops, or fuels."
The prairies also serve as a resource for research. University biologists and other scientists frequently need intact, undisturbed native prairies for their research. Wachiska-owned prairies have been used for soil microbe surveys, part of a study to find new varieties of switchgrass for ethanol production and for butterfly and insect surveys. The prairies have been used as teaching sites by the NRDs (Natural Resource Districts) and the USDA for new Soil Conservation Service employee orientations.
"People find prairies beautiful and restful and restoring for the spirit. Understanding the prairie and appreciating it also gives us a sense of place, a sense of what Nebraska really is like underneath all the modern roads, shopping centers, cornfields, houses and barns."
Cooper Foundation provided $8,840 towards the acquisition of a 45-acre native prairie, the Clarence and Ruth Fertig Tallgrass Prairie in Colfax County, Nebraska near the communities of Columbus and Schuyler. The Cooper Foundation grant serves as a matching grant for the Nebraska Environmental Trust.