Anyone who has called the Chamber of Commerce or stopped by the corner office in the last couple of weeks has found either a voicemail or a locked door. With an office of one, when family matters dictate, the lights stay off.
You see, I spent last week plus working from home while caring for my mother in the final days before she earned her angel wings. Mom had cancer ... twice. She thought she beat breast cancer the first time around and lived cancer free for about three years. Then this second round hit about seven months ago and she decided not to do treatments. She entered the hospice program toward the end of March. She came from Indianola to live with me on April 9.
I have always respected folks in the health care industry. It was not my calling, so I admire those able to do it day after day. Now I have an all new appreciation for a different set of caregivers, from the nurse who works as part of the hospice team to the bath aide and the guy who delivers the medical equipment. They come into homes as strangers and leave as family members. No matter how much we attempt to prepare for it, losing our parents is never easy. These folks do everything they can to ease the pain.
I am forever grateful to everyone who has offered patience while I was away from work and especially those who have freely given moral support to me and my family over the past few weeks. This is an amazing community and I appreciate all of the kind words and precious prayers.
We'll be back in the swing of things soon...
Laura A. Miller, 79, of Indianola, Nebraska, formerly of Scottsbluff, NE, died May 7, 2019, at her daughter's home in Brady, NE.
She was born October 24, 1939, in North Platte, NE, daughter of Merwin Barfoot and Ima (Callahan) Barfoot Roberts.
Laura moved from North Platte as a child to Scottsbluff. She graduated from Scottsbluff High with the class of 1957. She later got her associates degree in accounting from Western Nebraska Community College. She lived in Nebraska, Texas and Kansas. Laura enjoyed creating things with her hands, sewing and quilting. She also loved her pets and gardening.
Surviving are daughter, Deb (Buck) Egenberger of Brady, NE; daughter, Jennifer Johnson of Indianola, NE; son, Jim (Deb) Huber of Garden City, KS; son, Joe Huber of Maine; sister, Myrna Cassel of Brackettville, TX; brother, David Barfoot of Brackettville, TX; brother, Bryan Barfoot of Texas; seven grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.
Laura was preceded in death by father, Merwin Barfoot; mother, Ima Roberts; brother, Fredrick Barfoot; brother, Edward Barfoot; and granddaughter, Jessica Huber.
Memorials are suggested to the family and will be donated to a charity to be chosen later.
We've all heard it ... one man's junk is another man's treasure. It's true. For real. And it will come to life in a huge way this weekend.
It's garage sale season and Saturday is Gothenburg's Citywide Garage Sales, organized by the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce. Folks spend $15 and the Chamber advertises their garage sale on a map in the newspapers, on the Chamber website and social media sites. Then the work begins for the folks at home.
Some go to a tremendous amount of work to clean out their closets, toy rooms, storage sheds or attics every spring, then price each item with a sticky tag or simple strip of masking tape. Others know they're going to have a garage sale at least once a year and they plan ahead, collecting their wares in one location throughout the year. Either way, why not get a few bucks for the things you no longer want or need?
I'm always amazed at how many people look forward to the Citywide Garage Sales every year, both those shopping and those selling. For buyers, it's often about the "find," and there are certainly some treasures to be had out there. For sellers, it's about the liberation of purging. For the Chamber, it's an opportunity to serve the community and to show off for the many folks who come from other towns just for the sales.
An added twist this year is that Chamber member businesses could put their address on the garage sale map for free, allowing them to entice some some shoppers into their stores. Charm, Dee's Floral & Gifts, Mind.Body.Balance.Breathe., Ribbons & Roses and Sander Furniture will all have specials on Saturday. A couple of other Chamber members — the YMCA and Banner Church — are having actual garage sales. All the funds raised by the Banner Church sale, a multi-family affair at 820 Jefferson, will go toward the church's elevator fund.
Get out there and see what kinds of treasures you can find!
The ag industry is a tough place to be right now, especially in Nebraska where hundreds of farmers and ranchers on both ends of the state lost most or all of their livelihood to Mother Nature's wrath. Thankfully, even when commodity prices are low and trade agreements are sketchy, Nebraska producers are the ultimate optimists and they keep believing in a better tomorrow.
The Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce Ag Committee has collected $4,150 from local and area donors for the Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund to offer financial assistance to ag producers across Nebraska who were affected by an unprecedented combination of rain, blizzard and flooding. Several of those donations came from ag producers themselves. Neighbors helping neighbors.
The Ag Committee put out a challenge, promising to match up to $5,000. While that goal fell just short, the committee is choosing to contribute the full $5,000 pledged to match donations, making a total contribution of $9,150 to the relief fund. The Nebraska Cattlemen Disaster Relief Fund will distribute 100% of all contributions to Nebraska cattle producers affected by the recent natural disasters.
The Ag Committee has worked hard to raise money to not only host events like Beef, Wine & More and the Hand Cornhusking contest, but also to provide a high school senior with a nice scholarship.
When the need became apparent that Nebraska's ag producers were in trouble because of the crazy weather we've had the past couple of months, Ag Committee members were quick to offer assistance. Some folks in this group are producers themselves. Everyone is tied to agriculture somehow.
Thanks to all who donated to this cause. It seems small in the grand scheme of things, but dollars add up and every little bit of help counts.
Donations may still be made directly to the organization online via PayPal at the Nebraska Cattlemen's website.
It's all about who you know, right? We've all heard that many times. But maybe it's not so much about who we know, but rather who we tell. Let me explain.
There are businesses here in Gothenburg that came because of a chance conversation. For instance, a Gothenburg banker meets a Cambridge businessman at the boat dock during a fishing trip. The two hit it off, chat about their towns and business dealings. The next thing you know, Gothenburg has gigabit fiber available to every home and business. It didn't happen with the snap of a finger. A lot of hard work went into that recruitment. But it wouldn't have happened at all had one person not been willing to share Gothenburg's story.
That's how community leaders expect to come across the next occupant of the former Baldwin building. Your neighbor might have a friend or a relative who has close ties to a manufacturing business that's looking to expand or relocate. Your daughter or granddaughter could have been in a sorority with the CEO of a business in eastern Nebraska that was devastated by the flooding and needs a new place to land. Maybe your uncle is an entrepreneur just waiting for the perfect location to mass produce his next invention. You never really know what's possible if you don't ask, right?
Gothenburg Improvement Company believes strongly enough in this city and its opportunities that it purchased the former Baldwin building so local leaders can pursue an occupant that provides jobs rather than turning it into a warehouse. But GIC needs everyone to be on board, sharing Gothenburg's story and encouraging those we know to take a look.
GIC will host an open house from 5-7 pm on Tuesday, April 30, at the Baldwin building. Board members will be on had to answer questions, give tours and show off the possibilities. There's free food and drinks, so come take a look. Then tell your friends, your neighbors, your relatives what you saw. Share your ideas with GIC members, city officials, the Chamber.
Think how cool it would be if YOU were the one who could say, "I helped make that happen!"
We did it! We made the finals! Check out the news release below!
Gothenburg is proud to announce the city has been named one of 20 finalists for the National Civic League’s 2019 All-America City Award (AAC).
Communities large and small from across the country vie for this annual recognition. This year’s finalists represent the diversity of Americans and share a common bond of working to create healthy communities through inclusive civic engagement. They are among the largest cities to the smallest towns, from east to west and north to south. Finalists include the fourth largest city in America — Houston, Texas — and Gothenburg, Nebraska, a city of only 3,500 people.
The application for the AAC award was submitted by a team from the Gothenburg Improvement Company board of directors, who will also organize Gothenburg’s presentation to a jury of judges during the finalist competition in Denver, Colorado, June 21-23. The 2019 spotlight for the award focuses on efforts of inclusive engagement practices that create healthy communities for all. The three projects the Gothenburg team chose to focus on for this competition are the expansion of Gothenburg Health and addition of the YMCA; the local food access initiative that includes Gothenburg Shares, Lunch Buddies, home-delivered meals and the Backpack Program; and Gothenburg’s Early Childhood Learning Coalition.
“Our community is one that recognizes and acts on the evolving needs held by our residents. These become action plans, and those action plans become results. The involvement of our community members makes these goals a reality and sets the stage to continue Gothenburg’s vision of making sure ‘All Means All.’ ”
— Gothenburg’s AAC application
This is not the first time Gothenburg has experienced the All-American City competition. The city received the award in 1991 and shared in the award when Dawson County received recognition in 1993.
In addition to Gothenburg, the other 2019 finalist cities are:
Battle Creek, Michigan
Clinton, North Carolina
El Paso, Texas
Hallandale Beach, Florida
Livingston County, New York
Rancho Cordova, California
Rock Hill, South Carolina
San Antonio, Texas
West Hollywood, California
The All-American City award, given to 10 communities each year, celebrates and recognizes neighborhoods, villages, towns, cities, counties, tribes and regions that engage residents in innovative, inclusive and effective efforts to tackle critical challenges.
To view the full release from the National Civic League, go online to https://conta.cc/2JGOeuz.
Rescheduling a public event that involves a rented venue, a caterer, a liquor license and a long list of award recipients is no small task. That's a lot of moving parts to try and realign. In the darkness of my home, which had no electricity from 3 am to 9 am, I fretted last Thursday morning about how the Chamber and GIC Business After Hours & Awards event might all come together again (or
simply fall apart).
Amazingly, just like the privacy fence around my yard, all of the pieces fit
back together (with only minor flaws) and the event was a go once again. Please, come celebrate with us tonight!
When all of the rescheduling details were worked out, I spent about two minutes being proud of myself for not having a nervous breakdown during the realignment process. Then I opened Facebook to share the new details for the Business After Hours and I was instantly mad at myself.
Rescheduling this celebration had become such a big deal to me that I was blind to what was happening on both ends of my state. In the Panhandle — where I grew up — folks were buried under FEET of snow. The losses, especially to the cattle industry, are enormous. In eastern Nebraska, three people lost their lives due to FEET of gushing water that has caused destruction beyond BILLIONS of dollars.
It seems a little unreal here in Gothenburg where a few washed out gravel roads have been an inconvenience. But to no surprise, our generous residents have already begun delivering help to take care of our neighbors. There have been loads of hay, water, food and other personal items already delivered from here. More loads are being collected.
The Governor has declared Friday, March 22, as #NebraskaStrong Day, urging those who can donate financially to give via a phone call to 844-278-8555. Giving online is also available through an American Red Cross relief site at www.RedCross.org/donate.
There's not a quick fix. No doubt, though, neighbors will continue helping neighbors until everyone is back on their feet, because we are ... #NebraskaStrong.
If you want a little crazy weather, ask the Gothenburg Community Development Office to plan the annual awards presentation event. At least that's been the case the past two years, and it proved true again in 2019. We've postponed our Business After Hours & Awards until Thursday, March 21, at the same time and same place.
There are still folks out there confused by the Gothenburg Community Development Office, Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce and Gothenburg Improvement Company. Are they all the same thing? How are they different? Why are there three? Let me explain.
The Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization designed to promote the businesses in town and growth of our community. We also work to make connections with new residents, plan events such as Harvest Festival, advertise our attractions to tourists and take a seat at the table whenever discussions warrant. It's a nonprofit organization run by 12 board of directors. That's just a snippet. It would take far too many characters to explain it all.
Gothenburg Improvement Company is an organization of stockholders who volunteer their time toward economic development. These range from recruiting new businesses and working toward business retention to leading efforts such as passing a school bond issue, developing an economic development sales tax plan and pushing the fundraising for a new YMCA across the finish line. Right now, GIC is heavily involved in new housing development and early childhood learning, on top of marketing the former Baldwin Filters building to find a new community partner. It is run by a board of directors made up of 16 community leaders and the tasks they take on vary as much as the talents each brings to the board.
And simply put, the Community Development Office is the umbrella. The Community Development Office manages the day-to-day operations of both the Chamber and GIC under one roof.
So when the Community Development Office has its annual awards event — this year in a Business After Hours format — both the Chamber and GIC come together to honor a few folks that make Gothenburg the fabulous community that it is. All of this year's award recipients exemplify "The Gothenburg Way." A few kind words and a pretty plaque seem small when compared to what these folks have done for the community.
The event is free and open to the public. No tickets and no reservations required. We'll have some hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and lots to fun. I hope you'll join us to recognize what's great about Gothenburg.
We're all getting a little bit grumpy. We've had enough of messy hair from heavy stocking caps and squished toes from always wearing two pairs of socks. We're over the slippery dance, scraping windows and burning cheeks from the icy wind. This winter thing has gone on far long enough.
Just the other day, a woman came into my office with a bit of a strange look on her face. As she reached to tug her gloves tighter on her hands, she said perhaps the cold is getting to her brain. When she stepped out of her car, she found herself listening for the Christmas music that the city plays downtown during the holidays. Oh honey, this is much colder than it ever got at Christmas time.
And it doesn't look like Mother Nature is in any hurry to crank up the thermostat. The extended forecast keeps us below freezing through at least the middle of March. Doesn't she know spring arrives on March 20? That means the temperature should be at least above 32 degrees, right? The ever-popular Farmer's Almanac predicts spring will take its sweet time coming and when it does finally arrive, temperatures are likely to be cooler than normal across much of the U.S.
Well I think a couple of gals at the bank had a great idea to warm things up. What if we all opened our doors and let a little heat out? All at once — let's just say at noon on Friday — we open the front door of our home or business for one whole minute and we'll see if we gain a degree or two.
Meanwhile, bundle up.
Being a business owner or manager
in small-town Nebraska isn't easy.
Anyone who says it is, likely just wants
to convince themselves.
So what keeps you up at night? I don't
mean the chili dog you ate for lunch, the
neighbor's barking dog or the dripping faucet left on just a little to keep pipes from freezing in this never-ending winter. I mean, what occupies your business mind before you fall asleep?
With an unemployment rate below 3%, finding and keeping good workers has to be one answer. Warm bodies is one thing. Folks who fit into the team and are trustworthy is another. If you're hiring, let me know. You'd be amazed at the number of people who call my office asking about available jobs. While the Chamber is not a job service, I like to be helpful wherever I can. I can't help if I don't know what's out there. The Chamber website also has a classified ads section where members can post jobs for free. If you need help with that, let me know.
The need to recruit employees can be related to an overwhelming workload for owners and managers who pick up extra duties just to keep the boat afloat. Trying to juggle customer service while also handling the bookkeeping, marketing and cleaning the toilets can quickly lead to burnout. I'm not saying I will come clean your toilets, but the Chamber may have some ways to help ... or at least some ideas to share.
Then there's that little aspect of work-life balance. You want the business to be successful. You NEED the business to be successful so you do what it takes. And it probably feels like you're always trying to come up with the next best thing to make a bigger profit. It doesn't take long before you find yourself feeling drained and detached. It may seem like "just one more thing to do," but getting involved in a Chamber committee or attending an event might be just what you need to refuel. Networking with other business men and women who feel your pain could possibly bring about a magic connection and one or more solutions.
So, what keeps you awake at night? If you're willing to share those thoughts, your Chamber is willing to work toward a solution.
I would be lying if I said I haven't fretted ... A LOT ... since the announcement that Gothenburg's Shopko Hometown store will be closing in May. It's a blow to our community to lose a retail business that can't be easily replaced, and it comes on the heels of the Baldwin plant closure. It feels like another sucker punch to the gut.
Our Shopko Hometown began as a Pamida store, built from scratch in 2009. At the time, it was one of the Omaha-based company’s 193 stores in 17 states. In 2012, the Pamida company merged with Shopko Stores Inc., and our Pamida transitioned to Shopko Hometown, re-opening under the new brand just before Christmas of that year.
In the past six years, we've become accustomed to having a large retail outlet right here for a last-minute birthday gift, supplies for a class project or a replacement for the coffee pot that brewed its last java. We've also likely made friends with the employees — the customer service rep who helped us find the baby Tylenol, the shelf stocker who loaded the bookcase into our car and the cashier who reminded us about our coupons.
That's all about to change. And it's scary. But don't lose hope.
Community leaders and city officials are already exploring options. We were proactive with the Baldwin building, putting measures in place quickly to be able to market the facility ourselves and attract the "right fit." No doubt the same dedication will hold true for Shopko.
In the meantime, be a little extra kind to the folks working at Shopko through May 5. They were not the decision makers in the process to close this store. And they're facing the last months of a job on top of listening to customers lament about the closing.
Show some love to the other retailers in town too. We want to keep our charming shops and our personal service, but you have to shop local to keep local. It might require more energy than a keyboard click followed by a package delivery, but the customer service and relationships you get in return will be well worth it.