We Are O.NE. Jackie Chavez

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I have always been someone who likes a challenge. I have lived in Omaha most of my adult life. I left for LA in 2011 after graduating from UNO and lived there for a few years to see what big city life was like. It was amazing, it was hard, it was exhilarating but ultimately not a place I felt like my most authentic self. I see myself as a passionate and ambitious individual who tries to make the most of opportunities and challenges as much as possible.

Living in Omaha has shaped me into being a person with authenticity – a genuine down to earth woman that has discovered how much Omaha can offer and the gem it is.

Since leaving and coming back I have come to appreciate Omaha more for what it has given me, how it has shaped my life and how my family and friends here are the most beautiful people I could have in my life. Being in Omaha is being rooted in family and close friendships.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I like to think I make a difference for the company I work for, the volunteering I do and the people I come into contact with every day. I helped form a Latina Youth Leadership Camp in Omaha 10 years ago called LIVE (Leading Individuals, Voicing Equality). Since its inception in 2007 it has given young Latinas in Omaha and surrounding areas a place to grow in leadership, education, culture and faith. I am very proud of this camp. It has been a gift to be able to give back to my community and to be able to make a positive difference in young women’s lives.

Posted in We Live |

Back in the Driver’s Seat

Imagine if we all tried to not coast.
If we all did a little, think how much better we would all be.
Let’s make it a place where we lift others up and help others over.
A place where We Don’t Coast.

Excerpt from 2016 We Don’t Coast magazine:
Photo: Courtesy of QLI

Don’t tell Josh Jackson to coast. At only 18, the New Mexico-based sprint car driver slows down for nothing. He’s a relentless talent as determined as ever to make it to the national scene of stock car racing.

In August 2015, a future at full throttle collided with a moment of terror – a violent, high-speed crash mid-race that nearly took Jackson’s life, fracturing his skull, causing traumatic brain injury that impaired his vision, speech, and cognitive and physical abilities.

Jackson arrived at QLI in early 2016, where rehabilitation helped him regain the skills necessary to not only accomplish everyday tasks but return to his life-defining passion. After months of intensive therapy, QLI got Jackson back on track – this time, in a race to rebuild his life.

Partnering with local Joe’s Karting, QLI’s expert clinical team transformed Jackson’s zeal for racing into a platform for recovery. QLI customized racetracks for him, creating exciting new ways to target his most critical therapy goals. Each lap around the course motivated this drive to recover. Each lap signaled his astounding potential to rise above hardship. Racing helped him set the pace for a life beyond injury.

Jackson, who has since returned to New Mexico to manage his own race team, says,

“The best therapy is the kind that gets you back to what you love.”

Read more stories like this here.

Posted in We Care |

We Are O.NE. Riley Wilson

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

Each one of our world views is shaped by our lived experiences. However, understanding what others experience is vital to engaging with those around us and in our community. One of my biggest motivators for helping others is listening to their stories and developing empathy. From a young age, I was taught to help those who needed help, in whatever way I could. This internalized sense of brotherhood with members of my community constantly drives me to be a servant for those in the Omaha community.

I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, but my time in the Air Force, which gave me the opportunity to leave the state for some time, truly gave me a sense of gratitude for my state. When I was brought back to Nebraska while stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, the Omaha community became my home. Omaha is the perfect blend of living somewhere with most of the amenities of a larger city, but without sacrificing what is known here as “Nebraska Nice”.

Though Omaha is not my hometown, I am now proud to call myself an Omahan.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I currently work at the Nebraska Department of Labor as a Veteran Workforce Coordinator. In this position, I am able to work with veterans who have significant barriers to employment – homelessness, poverty, disability and being previously incarcerated, just to name a few. As a veteran, I am able to communicate with veterans through some shared experiences and help them with both employment readiness and veteran issues alike.

Posted in We Live |

We Are O.NE. Brittany Story

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I am 22 years old and have lived in midtown Omaha my entire life. As a teen, I started to express my creativity through crazy outfits, make up and hair. A lot of my inspiration comes from people, color, nature and pop culture. I believe we should all live life with a pop of color. Whether that is making a statement through an article of clothing or creating a piece of art to make others feel. I’m big on feeling. With my main interests being in beauty and wellness, I want to teach and inspire those to feel physically, mentally and spiritually better. The more I experience life, the more I learn that true happiness comes from helping and healing others. Oh! I’m also a Leo so I love attention and can appreciate detail like no other.

A wise woman also told me “Don’t get lost in the details.” That’s so important to me as a creative. I just want people to know that they can make it doing something they love with people they love.

How has living here shaped your life? 

Living in Omaha has been interesting. People would think that there’s only a certain kind of person that lives here. I’ve met and worked with some of the most amazing people here. My high school experience definitely helped shape my life. Central High School had every kind of person you could imagine. Artists, non-conformists, stereotypical “cool kids”, punk rockers, you name it! Although I am preparing to move to a much bigger city to propel my career, Omaha has given me great practice for what’s to come.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I feel like the difference I make in this community is that I am an open book. I share all of my secrets! Anywhere from how to start modeling to wellness tips! I want people to feel comfortable talking to me. My favorite line is “Ask as many questions as you want!”

Posted in We Live |

Field Trip Fridays: light at KANEKO

We’re exploring our community and experiencing the sights, sounds, creativity and tastes that typify our region. This month, Eric Francis and his son, Wyatt, take over the blog as they embark on their own Field Trip Friday.

light at KANEKO is an interactive and visual art experience that allows us to explore the emotional ties and science behind light. Each piece was hand-picked and curated in house.

Taking my youngest to art displays and museums is always an interesting exercise. We like to play a game where I ask him to identify one thing he likes about each exhibit and articulate what it is. No rules. No guidelines. It can be anything from a composition to a feeling.

Naturally, as a photographer, the light exhibit is very interesting. It pretty much covers every characteristic light can display. Audience participation is a must as you move throughout and interact with each display. Escape into a cocoon light hut or create your own masterpiece with UNO’s giant unofficial light brite replica.

The focal exhibit, and probably the most recognizable (it has been nicknamed the “selfie capitol of Omaha”) is Triph by Circus Family, an audiovisual design studio in Amsterdam. Inspired by Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, this installation allows you be immersed in the light and sound, creating a sense of peace and tranquility. Motion sensors placed throughout make the exhibit come to life. Each light pattern is uniquely coded with no two sequences being the same.


Another highlight includes Refik Anadol’s Infinity Room – a fully immersive experience where the state of consciousness and physical self is transformed.

light runs until March 23 and is free and open to the public. Don’t miss this opportunity to see, experience and think about light in a different light (pun intended).

About Eric Francis

Freelance editorial and commercial content provider serving local, regional, national, and international clients ranging from the Fortune 500 to Mom and Pop around the corner. I’m a father, husband, friend, coach and a man who enjoys the simple, everyday things in life. There is beauty in all of the little daily moments that I fear most people miss searching for the big moments.


KANEKO is an art & culture nonprofit with the mission to encourage and explore creativity through exhibitions, performances, lectures and education.

Posted in We Entertain, We Explore |

Nourishing Mind, Body and Spirit

Imagine if we all tried to not coast.
If we all did a little, think how much better we would all be.
Let’s make it a place where we lift others up, and help others over.
A place where We Don’t Coast.

Excerpt from 2016 We Don’t Coast magazine:
Photo: Scott Drickey

Providing a healthy meal to someone in need. It’s one of the most basic and most important ways we can reach out. Add a dash of innovative thinking – and two of our local nonprofits are showing how they can make a significant impact.

Beth Ostdiek Smith’s Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue partners with more than two dozen restaurants and grocery stores to “rescue” left-over food and channel it to almost 20 nonprofit agencies. They, in turn, use it to feed their clients. Since its founding in 2013, the organization has redirected more than 388 tons of food valued at more than $1.3 million.

One of Saving Grace’s food recipient partners is Table Grace Café, a downtown eatery that serves meals “in a graceful manner” to anyone who walks through the door. No bill at the end of the meal – just a free will donation if one is so inclined.

CEO Matt Weber, who attended New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute, opened the establishment in 2011. Situated at the intersection of two of his passions – food and local mission work – Table Grace Café serves about 350 patrons a week and offers on- and off-site catering services. Its menu includes scratch-made pizzas, salads and soups.

“Seeing people being nourished in body, mind, and spirit; seeing socioeconomic barriers being broken; watching people in difficult life transitions use Table Grace Café as a stepping stone to improve their life situations – those are the great rewards of what we do,” Matt says.


Posted in We Care |

We Are O.NE. Chrisna Clark

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I’m Chrisna—just a burst of positive energy! I’m a professional encourager; one who gives support, confidence and hope to others. Building people up and spreading positive vibes is what I love to do. I want to be able to mentor people and provide encouragement so they can acknowledge their personal worth!

I’ve always done things the non-traditional way. It was like I saw the world through a different lens. As much as I tried to change myself to get others to accept me. The idea of conformity kept reminding me of my originality. When you believe in your potential, that’s when you achieve greatness! Through life lessons and prayer, I discovered grace, self-love and confidence which allows me to continue to push for my dreams and live life to the fullest.

I’m a creative nutcase, in a nutshell! – I’m a creative director, producer, videographer, host and singer-songwriter. I see my life as a sketch book. I can draw anything! What will you create in yours?

How has living here shaped your life? 

I remember when I first moved to Omaha, I told myself that I was staying for only 5 years tops. It’s been nearly 10 years now! I fell in love with this place, simply because of the people. Omaha is the “land of opportunity”! I have had the opportunity to make long-lasting friendships and wonderful professional relationships throughout the years. I love the diversity and authenticity of this city. People truly genuinely care for one another in Omaha.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I’m the Marketing Manager for the Salvation Army Kroc Center and I can put in very long hours. But that doesn’t phase me. I love what the Kroc stands for…”People are inspired to discover their God-given talents and develop their potential through artistic, educational, physical and spiritual experiences in a Christ-centered atmosphere.”

I’m able to work at a place that aligns with my morals and beliefs. I even get to share my musical talents during our Kroc Sunday Worship Services.

The time and marketing work I put into the Kroc Center has a positive impact on our members. Sharing stories on how people’s lives have changed because of a video I produced or a print piece I created, means that I’m making a difference and supporting the Kroc mission.

Posted in We Live |

Field Trip Fridays: Orpheum Theater

The Greater Omaha Chamber marketing team is on the move – experiencing the sights, sounds, creativity and tastes that typify our region. We’re exploring our community and encourage you to check out these Greater Omaha gems – because best-kept secrets are best uncovered.

It was Field Trip Friday on foot when the Greater Omaha Chamber’s marketing team took the two-block walk through the region’s historic Downtown Omaha district to visit the Orpheum Theater, home to Omaha Performing Arts, as well as host to a variety of celebrated local, and traveling, productions.

Built in 1927, on the site of the former Creighton Theater, the Orpheum Theater has a storied past that includes a 16-month, $2 million inaugural budget, and authentic French Renaissance touches, fully restored in 2001 by Omaha Performing Arts.

From the mainstage, where vaudeville acts have taken a bow to Broadway performances, 2,600 orchestra, loge, grand tier and balcony seats greet guests. The hanging Czech crystal chandelier is original to the building.

Backstage, rigging (hundreds of levers and pulleys) controls the theater’s curtains and drapes. At one time, exclusive dressing rooms, reserved for production stars, extended multiple stories stage left, behind the curtain, and were accessible by elevator. Theater renovations ultimately removed the private rooms, clearing a path for a high-performance HVAC system, and further modernization. Currently, performers prepare in spaces adjacent to, and below, the mainstage.

As vaudeville tap-danced into obscurity, and motion pictures gained ground, the Orpheum Theater added screens, projectors and film. In the theater’s renovated light booth, vintage projectors eye the mainstage as a throwback to a bygone era. No longer a movie theater, Omaha Performing Arts has invested more than $20 million in the venue since 2002.

In 2017, the Orpheum Theater celebrated its 90th anniversary, complete with more than $3 million in 2016 renovations funded by Omaha Performing Arts. Updated seating, fresh paint and new carpet ushered in the organization’s ninth decade, and set the stage for continuation of the region’s largest Broadway series, as well as home to a host of dance, comedy, operatic and theatre performances.

Check out some more behind-the-scenes photos.


It’s a wrap!

Posted in We Entertain |

We Are O.NE. Edward Saunsoci

We Are O.NE. Series. Let’s make this a place where I get to be me and you get to be you. Let’s make this a place where together, we are O.NE. Put your hands in the middle and share your story.

I am the oldest of 7 and grew up in North Omaha. Coming from a harsh background and tough upbringing, I never knew the opportunities I had here in Omaha. Of course, we are in a segregated city (North, South and West Omaha) but understanding that now, we’re on the cusp of making Omaha a destination for minds everywhere – and this has me pumped to help create that destination. I’m Native American and African American. Having those two cultures has shaped my creativity which has been so valuable.

The Omaha community is expanding and accepting the different cultures – it’s amazing to see!

How has living here shaped your life? 

Seeing the expanding of cultures in Omaha, and seeing other neighborhoods embrace those cultures has been such a dope community collaboration.

How do you make a difference in this community? 

I work for a nonprofit Abide and our mission is to “build culture to transform broken communities”. In working there, I’ve learned that where ever I am, I bringing my culture everywhere I go. So, with that in mind, my upbringing, my city and my culture has me operating in a loving and understanding mode with everyone I come in contact with.

Posted in We Live |

Using a beautiful thing – to do a beautiful thing.

Excerpt from We Don’t Coast magazine:
Photo: Admiral District

Every September, to celebrate national Good Neighbor Day, Alisa Roth and her team at Bloom Works Floral give away 10,000 roses – one dozen to each person who walks through the door. Here’s the twist: They ask that each person give away 11 of those roses to 11 people to create many, many random acts of kindness. Bloom Works has been doing this for 13 years now.

“It’s by far our favorite day of the year,” Alisa says. “We see lots of our loyal customers, but we also see a lot of new faces that just want to join in the giving. … Flowers make people happy, and it’s awesome to see the great response the community gives to us and each other in return.”  

Alisa won the 2017 Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award presented by America’s Small Business Development Centers Iowa. She was praised in her nomination for “putting her heart and soul into making Council Bluffs the best place it can be.”

Posted in We Care |