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The Salvation Army Western Divisional Headquarters 10755 Burt Street Omaha, NE 68114 salarmyomaha.org

A Chronicle for Leadership Donors

Vol. 2, No. 2 Summer 2017

D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon Raises Record-Breaking $500,000 to Support Youth Programs Building Hope

Campaign Leadership Carl Mammel

Honorary Co-Chair Back row, from left to right: Major Greg Thompson, scholarship recipients Pah Bwai and Michaela Dehart, Major Lee Ann Thompson, event co-chairs Paula and James Blackledge, and scholarship recipient Tyler Paul. Front row, from left to right: scholarship recipients Mashaya Dierking, Tayler Klassen, Nyabeel Chut, Tanner Stalsberg, and Fayth Jackson

This year, thanks to the support of Mutual of Omaha and the generosity of David and Peggy Sokol and many others, The Salvation Army raised a record $500,000 at the D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon, which was attended by 1,100 community and corporate leaders on May 9 at the CenturyLink Center Omaha. The funds raised support eight $10,000 scholarships and The Salvation Army’s youth programs. Over the last 19 years, the event honoring D.J. Sokol, who died in 1999 at age 18, has raised more than $6.2 million. “D.J. often focused his energy toward looking out for the less popular or challenged young men or women he encountered,” remembered his father, David Sokol. “He taught us to look out for those who do not have a voice, which is why it was a natural fit for our family to become involved with The Salvation Army

through the D.J.’s Hero scholarship and recognition program.” “The too-short life of a remarkable young man inspired his family to carry on his selfless commitment to helping others through this wonderful scholarship program,” said Joleen David, The Salvation Army Omaha Advisory Board Chair. “I am privileged to join The Salvation Army in celebrating the scholarship recipients’ courage, resilience, and devotion, and to witness their inspirational stories.” This year’s D.J.’s Hero scholarship winners are: Pah Bwai of Omaha, Nyabeel Chut of Omaha, Michaela Dehart of Scotia, Mashaya Dierking of Davenport, Fayth Jackson of Lincoln, Tayler Klassen of Hampton, Tyler Paul of Papillion, and Tanner Stalsberg of Milford. Continued on page 8

Gene Spence

Honorary Co-Chair

Jim Landen

Honorary Co-Chair

Steve Martin General Chair

Mike Cassling Co-Chair

Campaign Executive Team Bennett Ginsberg Fred Hunzeker Steve Seline Nick Taylor 1


Letter from the Divisional Leaders delighted to have them at the helm of the Kroc Center as we complete the expansion and renovation this summer. You can read more about Captains John and Tracy, as well as details about the expanded Kroc Center and its many new amenities, in this issue of Building Hope Chronicle. We’d also like to offer our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Majors Todd and Cathy Thielke, who have served the Omaha community for the last 7 years as Senior Kroc Center Officer and Officer of Program & Youth Development. We wish them many blessings in their new ministry opportunity at the St. Louis Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. Dear Friends, Spring and summer are a time of new beginnings and growth in the Heartland. Fields are plowed and planted, seeds sprout, and by mid-summer, corn and soybeans are flourishing as far as the eye can see. Likewise, this time of year is traditionally a season of change and new beginnings for The Salvation Army, as we welcome new officers and bid farewell to leaders who have served us well. We’d like to extend an enthusiastic welcome to Auxiliary Captains John and Tracy Gantner, who, as of May, assumed leadership of the Kroc Center. The Gantners come to Omaha from The Salvation Army’s Central Territory Headquarters in Chicago. They bring a wealth of experience, and we couldn’t be more

As Scripture reminds us, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) We wait with confident hope for what God will reveal through the direction and guidance of our new leadership at the Kroc Center, knowing that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Have a great day in the Lord!

Majors Greg and Lee Ann Thompson Divisional Leaders

Save the Date! The Salvation Army Chicago Staff Band to Perform Free Concert in Omaha When: Friday, October 13, at 7:30 p.m. Where: Holland Performing Arts Center What: The Chicago Staff Band is The Salvation Army’s principal brass concert band of the Midwest. Enjoy this veritable feast of music, designed to take the listener on a musical journey while offering an inspirational, sacred message.

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For more information, contact:

Jeff Beckman

Executive Director of Development The Salvation Army Western Division Work: 402-898-5902 Cell: 402-326-8790 Jeff_Beckman@usc.salvationarmy.org


Gift to the Winter Night Watch in Memory of Susan Conine Will Help Expand Valuable Service Susan Enyart Conine spent much of the last weeks of her life housebound or in the hospital, but that didn’t stop the 81-year-old from continuing her volunteer work. “She was putting together the schedule of volunteers for the Winter Night Watch, and she took the sign-up sheet with her to the hospital,” recalled her daughter, Anne Baxter, longtime member of The Salvation Army’s Omaha Advisory Board. “She was always very active, very involved and enthusiastic, and she didn’t slow down. She wasn’t one to just sit there,” said Baxter. Conine grew up in Des Moines and graduated from Vassar College in New York. After she returned to Iowa and married Edwin Conine, the couple moved to Omaha and then later opened the first J. Bragg’s women’s clothing store in Lincoln, followed by stores in Omaha and Des Moines. Conine became sole owner of the stores when Edwin died suddenly of a heart attack in 1993.

“She was small but mighty,” said Baxter, “a real dynamo.” Baxter acknowledged that the work The Salvation Army does in the community was particularly important to her mother, which is why, after Conine passed away in September 2016, she and her two siblings, Julie Koeplin and Jim Conine, made a gift in their mother’s honor to support and expand the Winter Night Watch. Baxter and her mother often volunteered on Winter Night Watch shifts together, riding in the mobile unit to deliver hot meals, winter coats, gloves, and blankets to the homeless and near-homeless at five locations in Omaha from December through the end of February. Conine was also responsible for creating the weekly schedule of Night Watch volunteers. “My mother always felt the Winter Night Watch embodied the essence of The Salvation Army and its mission,” Baxter said. “Delivering food and clothing on a cold night to the people who need it the most – to her, that’s what The Salvation Army is all about.”

When the last J. Bragg’s store closed its doors in 1998, Conine turned her attention to serving myriad non-profits and service organizations, including The Salvation Army, where she was a longtime member Baxter and her sister and brother see an opportunity of the Women’s Auxiliary and a recipient of the to expand the Winter Night Watch. “We have more Evangeline Booth Award; volunteers who want to the Junior League of participate and more people Omaha, where she was who need to be fed, so we a member of the board; are looking at the possibility and Omaha’s Henry of adding another night or Doorly Zoo, where she additional locations to the was a lifetime trustee schedule or perhaps even and involved with the expanding into breakfast,” Omaha Zoological Society she explained. “People are for 30 years. Conine hungry in the morning, too.” also supported the arts, serving on the boards for Whatever expansion the Joslyn Art Museum ultimately results from the and the Friends of Lied gift to the Winter Night in Lincoln and actively Watch given in Susan involved with the Omaha Conine’s honor, Anne Baxter Community Playhouse and knows one thing for certain: Omaha Symphony, and “My mother would be so she was on the altar guild pleased. The Salvation Army at All Saints Episcopal always had a special place in Susan Conine was a longtime member of The Salvation Army Women’s Church for decades. Auxiliary and a dedicated volunteer for the Winter Night Watch. her heart.” 3


Kroc Center: New Leadership, New Renovations, New Corps Advisory Council

Finishing touches are being completed on the new entrance to the Kroc Center. The Kroc Center’s grand re-opening celebration will take place Sept. 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

If you haven’t visited The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in a while, chances are, the next time you walk through the front doors, you won’t recognize it as the same place. That’s because the Kroc Center is in the midst of an 18,000-square-foot addition, plus a remodel of 30,000 square feet of the existing 122,000-squarefoot space. “We’ve learned what the community wants and needs over the last seven years since the Center first opened,” said Jonathan Kuebler, Director of Operations for the Kroc Center. “We’re adding back in components that had to be removed from the original design due to budget constraints, and we’re adding enhancements after listening to our members to better meet community needs. We are grateful for the additional Kroc funds gifted by The Salvation Army Central Territory Headquarters for these enhancements, an acknowledgement of the Army’s continued commitment to this community.” 4

The Kroc Center also has new leadership at the helm. Auxiliary Captains John and Tracy Gantner arrived in May from Central Territory Headquarters in Chicago (see the sidebar story for details). “We are thrilled to answer the call to ministry as Auxiliary Captains assigned to The Omaha Salvation Army Kroc Center,” said Captain John Gantner. “We are committed to leading the continued growth and development of the Center and are eager to work with staff, the Corps Council, and the community to help make the Kroc Center the best community resource possible.” Highlights of the Kroc enhancement project include an updated fitness center with an indoor walking track – the only one of its kind in the area; improved party rooms and KidZone; an upgraded Education Center for after-school programs and summer day camps; a newly refurbished lobby offering a welcoming, comfortable environment; and an updated aquatics center featuring sound proofing, a new sound system


for public announcements, and a new, larger water slide. By mid-August, R.J.’s Adventure Zone – a custom-crafted soft active play zone for toddlers through pre-teens – and The Loft – a new social space designed for all ages to interact with technology and each other – will also be complete. “We have a wonderful space here, and I look forward to working with leadership to integrate the facility into the community and help realize Joan Kroc’s vision,” said Ryan Horn, chair of the newly formed Kroc Corps Advisory Council. “There’s so much potential here to collaborate with area high schools, colleges, and the arts community to integrate our training and tutoring programs in order to augment learning.” Salvation Army Omaha advisory board member Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado recently joined the Kroc Corps Advisory Council, and Horn noted the Council is still forming and will likely grow in the future. “We’ll be reaching out to Omaha’s philanthropic community and building partnerships locally to help facilitate this process,” he said. “The Kroc Center is a local community resource, and so it’s important that the advisors are active in the local community.” The Kroc Center’s grand re-opening celebration will take place Thursday, Sept. 14, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Kroc Center Welcomes New Officers

Auxiliary Captains John and Tracy Gantner assumed leadership of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in May.

Auxiliary Captains John and Tracy Gantner arrived in Omaha in May to assume leadership of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. Captain John will serve as Senior Kroc Center Officer, while Captain Tracy will serve as Officer for Program Development. A native of Waukegan, Illinois, Auxiliary Captain John Gantner served and was a member of The Salvation Army’s church there. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served eight years at various locations from England to Hawaii. After working at The Salvation Army Kroc Center in Chicago, Captain John transitioned to a more extensive role as Assistant Director of Operations for the six territorial Kroc Centers (including Omaha) at the Central Territory’s Headquarters. He has also served on seven global mission trips, which included construction projects in Haiti and Kenya. Captain Tracy worked in the optical industry for over twenty years, where, as a trailblazer for women, she was recognized in Vision Monday magazine as a mentor and one of the most influential women in the optical industry. She has also participated in several global missions initiatives, implementing optical programs in Jamaica, Sri Lanka, and Turkey and working to provide vision care to children in Haiti.

The new lobby of the Kroc Center will offer members and guests a comfortable, inviting space to wait for transportation or meet up with others.

Captain John and Captain Tracy met in Hawaii and were married in Tracy’s home state of Minnesota. Their daughter, Francis, is currently a licensed counselor on the East Coast. 5


Renaissance Village Offers Residents the Opportunity to Build a Life of Hope being completed this summer. The former Methodist Midtown Hospital building is being demolished, and a new parking lot and landscaping is scheduled to be finished in early September. In addition to MHR, a 28-day residential program that offers psychiatric stabilization, counseling, resources, and independent living skills training to men and women age 19 and older, the 70,000-squarefoot Renaissance Village also houses the Early Head Start program, for children from birth to age three; Wellspring, which helps Renaissance Village resident Daniel Grimes enjoys cooking and connecting with other residents. people escape prostitution; a community counseling center; and veterans’ Nine months ago Daniel Grimes hit rock bottom. services. Renaissance Village now offers 49 apartments, Addicted to crack cocaine, suicidal, unemployed, an increase from 27 in the former facility. homeless, and suffering from kidney disease and other health problems, he had lost all hope. “The new building is less square footage, but it’s a much more useable space, and it’s well-designed for Today Daniel is in recovery and thriving. His health our specific purposes,” said Divisional Leader Major has dramatically improved, he is living independently Lee Ann Thompson, the officer in charge of the in his own apartment at Renaissance Village, and he Renaissance Village project. has recently completed training to become a peer support advocate. For the first time in many years, Major Thompson, who previously worked as Daniel is able to see a future for himself, and he credits The Salvation Army’s Renaissance Village and Women’s Ministry Secretary when the Lied Mental Health Respite (MHR) program for helping Renaissance Center was housed in the former him get back on his feet. Methodist Midtown Hospital, recalled her office had a sink in it, and a former surgical O.R. served as a storage room. “It was dark and dull and not Renaissance Village (formerly known as the Lied very inviting,” she remembered. In contrast, the new Renaissance Center) was previously housed in Renaissance Village building is much lighter and Omaha’s Methodist Midtown Hospital before moving brighter and is a more energizing space. “To someone into its newly constructed building this past winter. in crisis, a comfortable, inviting, light environment Clients and staff moved in during March, and the finishing touches on the building and interior are is essential,” Major Thompson added. 6


Daniel was one of the first people to move into the brand-new residential apartments at Renaissance Village in March. He has a studio apartment, where he enjoys cooking in his own kitchen. Daniel appreciates the fact that he can come and go as he pleases while still benefitting from the support of MHR staff, who ensure he is taking his medications properly and offer assistance when he needs it. Living in close proximity with other residents has positively impacted Daniel as well. “We support each other and rely on each other,” he said. “As the saying goes, I’ve had to change my playmates on the playground. I don’t hang with the people I used to. Now I’m close with the other residents.” Daniel is preparing for his first presentation as a peer support advocate. He’ll be talking to residents at MHR, and he couldn’t be happier about that. “If I hadn’t come to The Salvation Army, I’d be either in my grave or in prison,” he said. “I thank God I met the staff at MHR. Anything I need, they help.”

Omaha’s Methodist Midtown Hospital, former home of The Salvation Army’s Lied Renaissance Center, is in the process of demolition. The brand-new Renaissance Village will officially celebrate its grand opening on Oct. 27.

The Renaissance Village grand opening will take place Friday, Oct. 27, at 10 a.m.

The new Renaissance Village is lighter, brighter, more energy-efficient, and offers more useable space than the former facility.

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D.J.’s Hero

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rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” followed by her ’90s hits “Hands,” which she dedicated to the “resilient and heroic” scholarship recipients, and “Who Will Save Your Soul.” Jewel, who talked candidly about her own struggle with homelessness, reminded the scholarship recipients, “No one gets out of life without pain, but it’s what we do with the pain that’s important.” “Jewel’s unique message was powerful and brought an awareness about the challenges families living in poverty face every day,” said Blackledge.

D.J. Sokol’s passion for helping others inspired his parents to launch a scholarship program in partnership with The Salvation Army.

The 2017 D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon was chaired by James and Paula Blackledge. “Paula and I appreciated the opportunity to help The Salvation Army raise funds that support our community’s most vulnerable young people,” said James Blackledge, CEO of Mutual of Omaha. “We are grateful for the generous financial contributions from so many businesses, foundations, and individuals for this year’s event. We were especially inspired by the scholarship winners. While each student has overcome tremendous personal adversity, their individual stories of triumph confirm that the future is in strong and very capable hands.” “Paula and James were exemplary chairs,” said Jeff Beckman, The Salvation Army Western Division Executive Director of Development. “Paula did a masterful job of leading the selection committee and event management, and James and his fundraising committee raised a record amount of corporate support. The Salvation Army appreciates our long-time partnership with Mutual of Omaha, which has been one of our largest corporate supporters for many years.” Governor Pete Ricketts served as Honorary Chair of the event. Major funding was provided by David and Peggy Sokol, Mutual of Omaha, James and Paula Blackledge, CQuence Health Group, and UltraAir. Four-time Grammy-nominated singer Jewel performed and spoke at the event, opening with an acapella

Jewel also commended The Salvation Army for its work with underserved populations. “I’ve been a fan of The Salvation Army for a long time. Any organization that stands up for those who can’t stand up for themselves is a hero,” she said. “To truly live you have to understand the gift of giving, and The Salvation Army does that so well.” Mark your calendars for the 20th annual D.J.’s Hero Awards Luncheon, which will be held May 8, 2018. Jill and Bruce Rasmussen will chair the event, with John Elway, general manager of the Denver Broncos, as the keynote speaker.

Singer and songwriter Jewel, pictured here with Majors Greg and Lee Ann Thompson (left) and D.J.’s parents, Peggy and David Sokol (right), said at the event that she was moved to tears by D.J.’s story and legacy

Building Hope Chronicle - Summer 2017  

Updates on the Omaha Salvation Army's Renaissance Village, donor recognition, D.J.'s Hero Awards Luncheon, and program news