This Week In Serviceship 2018: Week Four!

Black Hills Energy

Black Hills’ Technicians Ashley and Ryan, 10/11 meteorologist Brad Anderson, Serviceship intern Emily Coffey, Black Hills’ Community Affairs Manager Brandy Johnson and 10/11 Reporter Lance Shwartz at 10/11 News’ annual “Can Care-a-Van” food drive.

Over the last few weeks, Black Hills has welcomed a number of new interns to the company. Although many are located at the corporate headquarters in Rapid City, South Dakota, there are interns throughout the region, specializing in everything from Human Resources to engineering. In July, headquarters will be hosting all of us for their annual “Intern Week,” during which we will have the opportunity to network, present our individual projects and learn more about Black Hills.

One of the internal programs at Black Hills is their Ambassador Program. These employees are the face of the company at volunteer events and present to various groups throughout the community about natural gas safety. Recently, I was able to join them for 10/11 News’ “Can Care-a-Van,” an annual food drive which takes place in communities throughout Nebraska.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy here in Nebraska! My main focus over the past few weeks has been building out a communications schedule for Black Hills, including news releases and social media. I’ve been especially interested in sharing safety and energy-saving tips to Black Hills’ customers via Twitter. As a natural gas consumer myself, I’ve already begun to implement some of these habits. For instance, if you run a full cycle in the dishwasher, you’ll save more hot water and energy than if you did the dishes by hand; who could complain about that?

“Service and Operations Technicians are the cornerstone of Black Hills Energy. Shadowing one of Black Hills’ Service Technicians was an absolute blast, and it gave me greater appreciation for them, both as an employee and as a customer!”



While my typical work day takes place in the office, I finally got the chance to do a “ride along” with a Service Tech earlier this week. I spent the morning assisting him with meter turnoffs and appliance inspections. I was even able to help him replace a furnace motor and fan! I had so many questions and so much to learn; I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and wish that I could do it again.



Broken Bow, Neb.

Leanne and Jessica get interviewed by NTV. Check out their interview >>>

Things in Broken Bow are still going great! We have met more and more people, and it is getting easier for people to recognize us. Our main project with recreation is still coming along. We hosted our first coffee with the community event on Monday, Jun. 4, and two more that following week. Meeting members of the community and different organizations, such as the Rotary Club, has been very eye opening. It is great to hear their opinion and how much they love their town. We have decided to do a recreationally focused survey to get more input that people would rather give anonymously. We met with stakeholders from Adams Land and Cattle, as well as Sargent Pipe, to get their opinions on what recreational additions would help the community.

NET came to the community of Broken Bow for a segment on the new library here but stuck around for something they call “Town Talk.” During this talk, community members came together to talk about the things they are most proud of and some of the “jewels” in town and county that people may not know about. This was a great time for everyone to voice their opinions about the station.

NTV visited the town and did an interview of us for the news. We were able to talk about the RFI Serviceship program, as well as our projects, our upcoming coffees with the community, and future goals when we graduate college.

“I have really learned how to have conversations with different demographics about the same topic. This is a life-long tool that I will use in future careers. It’s really the little things that we are all learning in our communities that are going to pay off the most.”



Leanne and Jessica pose with the community listeners of the NET Town Talk in Broken Bow, Neb. Photo credits: William Anderson, NET

Our project with tourism and Sturgis has taken off as well. We have been in touch with many of the main sponsors of the rally such as Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame. Our next step is going to businesses around town to see if they would be willing to participate in a coupon book that we can send to vendors in South Dakota to pass out. We have also been doing surveys with small groups of motorcycle friends and reached out to several Christian Motorcycle Association groups in Grand Island, Kearney, North Platte and Lincoln.

We have also been keeping busy with various community events. We attended Summer Celebration one evening where awards were given out to some local businesses and people on their achievements and work in the community. Last weekend our community hosted “Hear Nebraska” which featured live bands, and the community made it a weekend celebration with various events they put on. Events ranged from a community quilting project at the visitors’ center, to a skateboard demonstration, to a local street dance.



Columbus, Neb.

“The Serviceship experience has offered me a chance to dig into the industry and learn what it takes to be a community developer, in a city of 22,0000 people. To do it–and do it right–you really have to have a passion for it.”


Columbus continues to inspire, entertain, and impress us. Each day brings a new face, a new opinion, and a new idea.

We were able to attend the Diversity and Inclusion Summit hosted by the Chamber. We got to hear about recruitment, inclusion, how technology is making a difference in inclusion and innovative problem solving. KC Belitz, president of the Chamber, said that the goal of this summit was to encourage Columbus to “create one community instead of two.” Then he joked, “We can’t afford two!” Diversity and Inclusion will be a focus during Young Nebraskans Week here in Columbus.

Clayton and Amber celebrate national doughnut day in the Columbus Chamber Office!

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” So, we have made sure to have some fun. The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce sponsors a monthly Interns’ Night Out for all interns in the area during the summer. This month’s activity included a catered dinner and line dance lessons by a local dance instructor. About 25 interns joined us for this great night out on the town!

Finally, we spent the last week touring schools in Columbus. Not only did we build some important relationships, but we saw that the community has been able to build a market-driven curriculum for the schools. Each school has responded to a separate need demonstrated by the businesses in Columbus, resulting in impressive classrooms and labs, including STEM, STEAM, robotics, agriculture, and even hydroponic programs. As Kristen Hoesing, Admissions Director of Central Community College, said, “CCC will not do something unless it is needed by the industry.” From growing food for their own kitchens to growing trained employees for the local industries, these schools are making Columbus a self-sustainable community.

“Some days are ultra-productive while others are, well, less than stellar. But ultimately, the one question you should ask yourself at the end of the day is whether or not you have set yourself up for success the next day.”




Cozad, Neb.

Christy and Shelby meet with University of Nebraska–Lincoln Husker Volleyball head coach John Cook.

Hustle – that’s what the last two weeks have been like for us. Between our first and second rounds of Music Monday and the Nebraska Economic Developers Association (NEDA) Conference in Gothenburg, Neb., we have been constantly on the move.

Music Mondays have had absolutely rave reviews. It is so encouraging to see a community come together for music and food – not just once, but weekly. The concerts have attracted people of all ages; everyone from young children to the residences of the assisted living facility, Meadowlark Pointe. We are very grateful for the many community members and city workers who volunteer to help us set up and tear down the temporary fencing and picnic tables. The attendance of Music Mondays has been outstanding and is continuing to increase. The first week we had 275 guests and this week we had almost 400! Music Mondays have been so successful we’ve had to book additional food trucks to accommodate everyone. The musicians we have hosted so far are Formally Three, Samantha Schutte and Lana Greene.

We are building some strong relationships with our lead mentor and other community members which makes the hard work we are doing purposeful and fulfilling.

The Biz Kids launch their businesses at Music Monday.

Our lead mentor, Jen McKeone, was the host of the annual NEDA conference held this year in Gothenburg. Over 150 economic developers from across the state and investors from across the country attended. During this jam-packed week, we had the opportunity to go on the Central Public Power District water tour. We saw several facilities responsible for providing irrigation water for farmers, as well as the Keystone Hydroelectric Plant at Lake McConaughy. We toured the Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg where they research how to best crop crops under different stressors. NEDA conference was a great networking opportunity and a time to exchange unique ideas with other developers.

Friday we will be hosting our three finalists for ‘Pitch It Cozad: Win This Space’ for their final presentations. We have a selection committee of 11 sponsors and partners that will be judging the proposals. Each finalist has submitted a completed business plan and will explain how they would launch a successful enterprise in downtown Cozad. The overall goal of ‘Pitch It’ is to attract unique and sustainable businesses to Cozad as well as support and encourage local entrepreneurship. This is done by providing space, capital, and start-up professional assistance. The total prize package is valued at over $20,000.




Omaha Land Bank

The Omaha Land Bank Staff eating at a locally owned café, Harold’s Koffee House, in the Historic Florence part of Omaha, Neb.

Sydney and Kyle are ending week four in Omaha, NE with lots of new knowledge and meetings under their belt. Sydney and Kyle’s colleagues took them for a tour around Omaha last Friday afternoon and Omaha was even bigger than they had imagined. Between the busy traffic and large amount of ground to see it took them four hours to see only one part of the big city, North Omaha. Sydney and Kyle saw boulevards with gorgeous houses lining both sides of the street, revitalized neighborhoods with booming businesses, and new parks being built in multiple places. This redevelopment and progression in these North Omaha neighborhoods are in large part due to non-profit organizations like the Omaha Land Bank.

Sydney had the opportunity to attend the United Way of the Midlands, Heartland 2050 Summer Summit on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus where she had the privilege to meet and hear many of the non-profits involved in the revitalization of Omaha neighborhoods speak. Sydney learned that there are multiple organizations that are involved in making Omaha neighborhoods a desirable and family-oriented place to be.

“Everyday is a new adventure at the Omaha Land Bank. There is not a day where I am doing the same thing. Between meetings, conferences and consulting appointments, I am learning more than I had dreamt of.”



Kyle and Sydney take a tour around the Metro Community College campus’ new Construction Education Center.

The two interns also had an incredibly busy morning on Wednesday this week with the monthly mandated meeting of the Omaha Municipal Land Bank Board of Directors. The Board met to discuss the acquisition of new properties and the strategy that would go with the new development as well as approved the sale of the homes we earlier watched go on auction. It was enjoyable to see the end process come together. Being at the board meeting we were able to meet both voting and nonvoting members who all hold important roles within the community from nonprofit organizations, bankers, developers, and the president of the city council.

Following the OMLB board meeting we were able to tour the Metro Community College campus’ new Construction Education Center. This brand-new building is a way that students working towards their certifications in trades like plumbing, and HVAC have the opportunity to work on a capstone project in which a full-scale home is built and then sold to the community. In partnership with the landbank, the first house out of the new building will go on a Land Bank vacant lot and be a 1600 sq. ft home with a two-car garage.

This will help in the redevelopment of North Omaha and the area around Metro Community College’s Fort Campus. The partnership will enable new homes to be put out at a competitive rate and eventually get up to three homes per year out into the community. What we saw this week was a much closer look at the governing structures of the land bank and various ways in which it is a key player in revitalizing areas of North Omaha and the city at large.

Individually, Kyle was able to spend a great deal more time diving into the foreclosure process and develop additional responsibilities in the overall process. By the end of the summer the first batch of 500 new properties will be coming into the Land Bank and be up for sale to the community to help spur redevelopment. Looking even further into the future, Kyle will be using this opportunity to stay involved in the Land Bank as he will be doing a project next summer for his MPA capstone project to help highlight the actual impact the land bank has had in the city in a short period of time.

“My favorite part of working at the Land Bank is knowing that every day my work is actually making a difference in creating a better community to live in. By working towards acquiring these properties for transformation shows just how much goes on behind the scenes to make the city a better place to live.”




Norfolk, Neb.

Cheyenne Gerlach and Samantha Guenther are in Norfolk for their RFI serviceship internship. For the first five weeks, we are working to tell the story of Daycos. Daycos is unique in that they are a for-profit AND for-good business. It is our job to capture what Daycos does, how they do it, and why they do it in hopes of informing and inspiring others to possibly do the same. The overarching goal of our project with Daycos is to come up with a way to re-brand Daycos’ for-good movement, Daycos4Good, as simply intertwined with Daycos as a whole. We will be creating video, web content, and written publications to help portray this message.

For the second five weeks, we are working to promote the retail and service sector of the Norfolk community for the visitors bureau. We will be acting as “secret shoppers” to get an inside scoop on how business owners and employees are welcoming and promoting Norfolk through their business. We will also be doing a “windshield assessment” of businesses in Norfolk to gain a better understanding of how it can be improved. Then, we will be working to help make those improvements to strengthen the retail and service sector.

“By being surrounded by rural leaders with a vision and drive to make an impact, I am challenged to think innovatively, act on opportunities and build my leadership skills every day.”



During the past two weeks, we have finished the interviews with Daycos stakeholders and have a solid grasp on the impact that Daycos is making on customers, employees, community, and in the company. Our next steps will be creating three videos that capture who Daycos is, how they do it, and why. Additionally, we have set goals to systemize the hiring process to be in line with the Daycos company and culture and have plans to create a visual map of goals and accomplishments. To wrap up our time with Daycos, we will be facilitating a company meeting to present our work and develop a solid understanding within the company of what Daycos is.

We have also become involved in the Norfolk community. Norfolk hosted a “Welcome Week” where we participated in many events like a picnic at Tahazouka and fun at Skyview Lake event. Community members have reached out to us many times to invite us to young leaders meetings and have made a welcoming and supportive impact on us.

Overall, we have dived into our work at Daycos with new opportunities and skills to take advantage of everyday. We are building skills like communication, innovative thinking, and videography through our daily work. We are excited to share our work with the entirety of Daycos and look forward to seeing the difference we can make with the visitor’s bureau.



Red Cloud, Neb.

Trevor discusses grant writing and non-profit work with Red Cloud, Neb., bookstore owner Peter Osborne.

The third week in Red Cloud was just as exciting as the first two. We attended and helped with the 63rd annual Willa Cather Conference. The theme for the conference was the 100th Anniversary of My Ántonia, arguably Willa Cather’s most successful book. It was the most attended conference in history, as around 200 English teachers, college professors, and well-read citizens came to town. We had an exciting day Saturday as Trevor drove all the way to Lincoln at 6 in the morning to retrieve the banquet’s entertainment, John Reed-Torres, a ragtime piano player out of Los Angeles. Then, Trenton drove him back to Lincoln late that night.

In the beginning of the next week we began preparing for the Bike Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN). A whopping 350 bike-riders, 50 support staff, and 50 family members were going to be tent-camping in the city park on June 6th after a 50-mile ride from Alma. The day before they arrived, we took a trip to Alma to hand out fliers about Red Cloud’s activities awaiting the riders. We helped coordinate with local businesses and groups who would be setting up food stands or hosting many of the night’s guests. The first riders crossed the city limits just before 9:00 Wednesday morning and were all in by 3:00 in the afternoon, increasing Red Cloud’s population by 50%!

We got to drive a tour bus around the city and surrounding areas showing off some of Red Cloud’s historic sights. Two of the other Serviceship pairs are hosting the riders in McCook and Seward. We will see soon who wins best host community!

“It is incredible how much activity there is in a town of 1,000. The amount of time and effort given by the community is just as astounding and the biggest reason the city has been making such positive strides”


Starting this week, we got rolling on economic development. Now that we’ve learned just about everything there is to know about Red Cloud and experienced some of the biggest events in the community, we began plotting a path forward. We are tackling three problems the city is currently facing: housing, business development, and quality of life. There are a significant number of vacant and run-down homes in the community along with drastically low home values. Dealing with this problem will take coordination from many of the city’s organizations including the City Council, Board of Public Trust, and Historic Preservation Commission. As for businesses, we are looking to fill main street with small businesses and remain competitive for any other opportunities that might come. The city’s incentive package will need to be greatly bolstered to develop this. Finally, we’re making recommendations for increasing the number of parks and trails, improving infrastructure, and helping the school system prosper.

Trenton and Trevor snap a selfie on the “selfie spot” in the Willa Cather Center.

This week we met with Brian Hoff the Red Cloud Community Schools superintendent and discuss coming changes with the school system and issues they have had to face in the past including low enrollment, near consolidation, and renovating a 100-year-old high school.

The prevalence of history in Red Cloud and the development of a strong tourism industry add a unique element to the housing issues here. Razing every abandoned house isn’t an option because so many have historical relevance. The brick streets which make up a few blocks downtown are cherished by many local residents but despised by many others. And, maintaining century old storefronts is not an easy task, especially for small businesses without a significant budget. We are trying to balance the historical presence with advances in modern housing and infrastructure.

Our final event of the week was going around to local businesses asking for donations and sponsorships for the Good Living Tour. In early July, four bands from around the state will be performing for the city—the third year in a row the event has come to Red Cloud!