This Week in Serviceship 2018: Week Six!

Broken Bow, Neb.

Since we are at the halfway point in our internship, we have realized a couple of things. First, we have gotten a lot done on our projects and have met a lot of people who are very willing to help us out. Second, we have a lot left to do before we leave at the beginning of August.

Our last two weeks have included attending more economic development meetings, attending another radio talk show, having lunch with Chuck, Theresa and Helen and continuing to enjoy Broken Bow, Neb. We continue to host our weekly coffees, and this past Monday, we tried something new. We hosted ‘Refreshments and Feedback’ at a local bar and grill to try to draw more of the younger population out. We had our last coffee with the community on Wednesday morning which was a great way to tie up loose ends and get some final feedback.

Moving forward with our major projects has been very rewarding. After some phone calls we have finally obtained banners from Budweiser and Coca-Cola for different locations in town welcoming the Sturgis bikers. In addition to our signs, we are working on a wallet sized promotion card for the Bikers which will allow them to use this coupon to get great deals and discounts at different locations around town.

“Getting to tour the small towns in Custer County has really opened my eyes to the issues that a lot of small communities have in common. These issues include keeping businesses going and affordable housing which are two solvable problems. Not only have I seen the problems but I have seen so much innovation and creativity which is really assuring.”


We will be meeting with the CEO of the YMCA in Kearney next Monday to get a better idea of what an updated recreational facility could look like for the community of Broken Bow. This will be a great opportunity for the steering committee that we have complied to ask questions and see what the next steps to improve recreational services in the Broken Bow area is.

Broken Bow Serviceship Interns featured in story in the Custer County Chief.

We have decided to start getting to know the surrounding communities more. On Monday, Jun. 25, we went to Arnold, Neb. We were able to meet business owners, enjoy local food and discuss local housing issues with Cheryl Carson who is the economic development director in Arnold. On Thursday, Jun. 27, we ventured again to a different community in Custer County—Sargent. We were able to tour some of the businesses there including the new bar, Mr. Rudy’s, and the recently updated grocery store. Chris, the economic development director there, showed us most of the town which included some of the housing projects, the school and many of the antique shops they have. The community hosts many antique based celebrations that bring hundreds of visitors to the town.

Jessica is making strides on getting Broken Bow listed as a Leadership Certified Community and is volunteering for the local 4H. Leanne has started to write for the Custer County Chief with her first article in this week’s newspaper.

We finally got to try to the local taco truck which was totally worth the hype that we have heard from several people around town. In other food news, the editor of the Custer County Chief, Donnis Hueftle-Bullock, invited us over for a grill out Tuesday evening and it was the first time we cooked while in Custer County as we are lucky enough to have our meals provided by the Hospital.

“I have really appreciated seeing other towns in Custer County. You can see all of the aspects that need work but also the aspects that community members pride themselves on. These are all things that I get me thinking about what I will need if I were to move back to a rural community in the future.”





Columbus, Neb.

Clayton discusses his RFI Serviceship experience in Columbus on air with KLIR Radio.

As KC Belitz would say, “HEY TEAM!” That is exactly how we have tackled our projects at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce—as a team. From brainstorming sessions to listing jobs for chamber members to recruiting campaign partners to pulling weeds for a streetscape project, there has been no shortage of opportunities for teamwork. The Chamber is never boring! Or maybe it’s just Clayton’s excitement for the unexpected stint in the sun, “… and then we get to pull weeds, I’M SO EXCITED!” Those weeds didn’t stand a chance.

The Young Nebraskans Week Committee met last week for the first time. We are working to incorporate their best suggestions from the meeting into our plan for the event. The next step is to create a budget and find sources of funding. This is a great group to work with and we hope to plan a successful event for them and the young professionals of the Columbus area.

“Columbus is unlike anywhere I have ever worked. People are creative, innovative, and forward thinking–they don’t mind paving a new trail, as long as the destination is worth it.”


Over the past three weeks, we have toured and visited different places in the community, including Behlen Manufacturing, Scotus Central Catholic High School, Nebraska Public Power District and KLIR Radio Station. These visits have opened our eyes to the challenges the community faces and what is done to address those challenges.

There is also no shortage of forward-thinking. “Columbus is unlike anywhere I have ever worked,” Amber noted. “People are creative, innovative, and forward thinking–they don’t mind paving a new trail, as long as the destination is worth it.” And that destination includes diversity and inclusion. Columbus hasn’t always been diverse, yet their attitude towards it has always been inclusive. “It doesn’t matter where you came from,” Kara Asmus explained, “it matters where you are going.”

That means moving forward as a team, which brings us back to KC’s comment at the beginning. It takes more than one key player to make things happen. While KC is an incredible chamber president known throughout the entire state of Nebraska, he cannot do what he does without the incredible team behind him. We are really fortunate that we work with such a great group of leaders. The same for the City of Columbus. Community development takes a village—a team.




Norfolk, Neb.

As we begin our sixth week in our serviceship experience, we begin our time with the Norfolk Visitor’s Bureau and Chamber of Commerce. We have still found ourselves very involved with Daycos’ day-to-day projects and still have some of our own projects with them at the last stages. In this summary we will outline our remaining commitments to Daycos and give a brief overview of what we believe our next four weeks will look like the Bureau. Lastly, we will update you on the personal takeaways that we have both gathered thus far.

Before I (Cheyenne) left for Iceland and Norway we came up with a list of deliverables we could hand into Daycos at the end of the summer. The first deliverable we wanted to make sure that we would have three videos done for them explain who is Daycos, how they do what they do and why they believe in giving back. The next project we will finish for Daycos is a “Wall of Aim” bulletin board project we have come up with to create internal and community pride. We are also working on to systemize and reorganize the hiring process that Daycos is currently using and make sure it is in line with their culture and values. Lastly, we are holding an all company meeting to create a company answer to the question “What is Daycos?” because we’ve found there’s a lot of variety in the answers we get to this question.

At the end of the summer we will create two project portfolios—one for the Bureau and one for Daycos. These four projects will be highlighted in Daycos’ portfolio so that they can use the products of our internship long after we leave.

In the next four weeks, along with tying up loose ends with Daycos, we will be working on creating a marketing strategy for Norfolk’s retail sector. We have been tasked to answer the question, “How do we cross-promote the entire community’s retail?” This is a problem specific to Norfolk because they have two main retail areas­—one is downtown and one is based out of a mall.

“The serviceship experience is so rewarding because you’re expected to truly become a part of someone else’s community — to live and learn and laugh just like the other community members.”



We have many modes of answering this overarching question. One way is by doing Secret Shopper surveys and Windshield Assessments of Norfolk’s retail areas and businesses. We are also working to schedule interviews and meetings with all of Norfolk’s retail top stakeholders, including business owners, committee members, and community leaders. We then have a massive brainstorming session scheduled for this Friday to come up with a way to strategize the next steps for retail and what our deliverables for Norfolk’s Visitor Bureau will be. An additional project we’re starting to pick up is to develop a customer service training service that the city could provide for its retail businesses to improve the visitor experience.

As far as personal gains go, Sam truly feels like her passions have really related to the culture and team building that we have had the opportunity to experience from our time at Daycos. She has also noticed that there’s such an abundance of wonderful people here in Norfolk. We have had many conversations about how communities can cultivate such strong groups of people because of what cool things we have experienced this summer. I feel like I have strengthened a lot of strengths that I have had. I’m never driven by numbers or hours, but rather by objectives. Since I missed two weeks of work this has been something I have had a great time expressing. While I will probably come close to making up the hours that I missed, I will make the objectives that I set. The goals that I made were considering 10 weeks of work, not 7 or 8. So hard work and drive is something that this internship has made me take even further.

“One of my favorite things about the serviceship experience is that I can apply my education and experience to the work that I am contributing in Norfolk every day. I love that I am able to better my leadership, knowledge and skills through my work to constantly learn and grow. It is exciting to think about how I can apply my experiences in the future!”


When we asked Brandon Day, the CEO of Daycos, for his thoughts on our serviceship, he said, “Daycos has been very fortunate to have Samantha Guenther and Cheyenne Gerlach as Rural Futures Institute interns this summer. In a short time, they have become a part of the organization, blending in well with our people and culture, and becoming a valuable part of our team. Having these smart, capable young women come in to our organization, and look at everything with a fresh set of eyes, and new ideas, has been invaluable. They have offered unique perspectives, probing questions, and great suggestions. A number of employees have commented how much they have enjoyed getting the chance to talk to them about our company, and how much value they got from the interactions. Despite only being here a few weeks, they have made a lasting positive impact on our organization. My only regret is that they can’t stay longer.”




Omaha Land Bank

Kyle and Sydney visit the office of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert.

Week five and six at the Omaha Land Bank has been a learning experience for both Kyle and Sydney. Sydney has started to help in the foreclosure process by helping the team generate documents to assist in the ten-step process of foreclosure. The land bank is a busy place in efforts to transform Omaha’s distressed properties into positive community assets. Every day, Sydney, Kyle and their co-workers are making huge strides in the success of many Omaha neighborhoods.

Sydney has been busy with various meetings. One that stuck out the most was when she had the opportunity to visit the Scooters that was recently opened in North Omaha. She had the opportunity to meet with the owner of that store location, Julian Young, who is a North Omaha advocate and entrepreneur. The opening of Scooters in North Omaha was more than just a coffee shop, it was a way for Young to tell the people of North Omaha that they mattered, and it was a place for the community to come together. It was inspirational for Sydney to hear Julian Young talk about his love and passion for his community. It made her question, what if everyone had a love for the community like Young? How would our communities look today?

The College World Series has been making our office location very busy. We are only blocks away from the number one destination in Omaha currently—TD Ameritrade. Our office had the opportunity to go tour the downtown area with all the pop-up shops, food trucks, and a top-notch train the Governor of Arkansas has been living in the last two weeks. While the unfamiliar faces have been very welcomed by our staff, we are ready to have our morning and afternoon commutes back to normal!

“It feels good coming to work and knowing that I will be transforming not only many of Omaha’s rundown neighborhoods but also many individuals lives. Day by day, the Land Bank is giving opportunities to those individuals who had no hope in owning a house. It’s a great group to be a part of.”


Sydney and Kyle have been taking quite a few more trips with professional staff this week to various events around town. After the Board meeting we were able to visit several floors of the city building including a quick trip to the mayor’s office. We have gone on trips to the planning department and have seen various meeting with our legal teams in dealing with the foreclosure team.

Dealing with the foreclosure team has really shown me a lot more of the actual day to day work of those around the legal field. The eye-opening experience has definitely solidified my choice in the program I have gone into and made me glad I have gone the current route I am on. We have entered a new process of the acquisition of 500 properties for the Land Bank and knowing that we made so much progress towards getting these lots and homes ready for new life is a rewarding experience.




Red Cloud, Neb.

Trenton and Trevor are in Red Cloud, Neb. for their serviceship. These past couple of weeks, we have spent a lot more time in the office working on the economic development plan. We spent the earlier part of our serviceship being truly immersed in the community and participating in all the events they had going on. Having that initial experience was a great way to build our understanding of the community, and really see what it has to offer. Being able to spend more time devoted in the office as given us plenty of time to work on the economic plan, which is great because that’s what we came here to do!

“It’s exciting to hear both visitors and locals say, ‘There’s a lot going on in Red Cloud!’ I’m hoping that our work here can be the compass which guides that energy into tangible outcomes.”



Trevor hangs up a poster promoting the Good Living Tour which is coming to Red Cloud on Jul. 7, 2018.

This week and last week we worked on reviewing our second draft of the plan, and then finishing the third draft, which is currently waiting on review from our lead mentor and members of the Economic Development Advisory Board.

We really focused on expanding the plan beyond just a basic structure and added plenty of guiding materials like a future land use plan, a marketing strategy, action plans for all public groups, and a few other things we are still working through. Altogether I think we have come a long way with our plan, and I hope when it is all said and done that the city has a clear and cohesive direction to move towards.

We have had some opportunities to step outside of the office though! The Good Living Tour, which is a concert series put on across a handful of towns in Nebraska that feature local Nebraska based bands, is coming to Red Cloud on July 7th. We were tasked with going around to different businesses in the community to seek sponsorships for the event to help cover the cost to not have it all came directly from the tourism department. We did have some luck with a couple businesses and some generous individuals, but we happened to be placed right at the end of a donation frenzy. There were a few major events in Red Cloud in the month prior, and little league baseball had it’s season start, so most businesses were already tapped out from these event, making it very hard to contribute to this cause. Luckily there should be enough sponsorship money overall to cover the event when all things are accounted for!

We met with the city superintendent and the organizers for the Good Living tour in the city park to decide where to place the stage, food vendors, mobile skate park, and other components of the tour.

We also had an opportunity to meet with Jeff Armstrong, a school board member, to get a better understanding of the state of the school system. We value the quality of education in any town setting, and we hope to give the school board and administrators a clear path forward to grow within the community!

“I really think everything is coming together for this community. They are growing, changing and becoming the town they were always meant to be. I cannot wait to see the progress Red Cloud makes in the future, and I hope the work we do here this summer will have a positive impact on the community for years to come!”