Gallup, New Mexico: “When your ancestors come marching into town”

_MG_7923

The tribal names are the stuff of legends. Apache. Sioux. Cheyenne. Aztec. Navajo. And many more. Their stories are told in history books and around campfires. But so long ago, it seemed as if their traditions might not be around for long. The modern world was drowning them away.

So in 1921, a group established Ceremonial in Gallup, New Mexico, “as a coming together of Native Americans for the purpose of sharing their culture, friendship and to see family.”

The locals in Gallup include dozens who work at our Pinnacle Bank branches there. And they all say that their community is authentic and unbiased, a melting pot of cultures and artistry, which makes it the perfect setting for Ceremonial.

Over four days, the town is transformed. A colorful parade dances its way through cheering throngs in the heart of Gallup. The Friday night dances. The choosing of the queen. The Totonac Pole Flyers. From all over the world, tourists flock to see these displays. And they leave with a hint of the power and energy of the Native American culture.

But even if no tourists came at all, Ceremonial would still go on. It is that important to the community and its culture.

If you’re heading to Ceremonial in 2014, here is where you’ll find details. And if you’re not, check out our film about the 2013 installment on whycommunitymatters.com.

Omaha, NE: “Life Lessons”

_MG_2409

Mark Elman came into the printing business temporarily to help his parents grow their business after graduating college. And then, just like ink on paper, he didn’t budge. “I became entrenched in the business,” explains Mark.

Working side-by-side with his parents for nearly 20 years taught Mark many things, the most important being hard work.

“When I took the company over from my dad, I remember working until 3 in the morning to get everything done; then having to be back at 8. I did that more than once a week. But that’s just what it took.”

And, as technology has progressed, drastically changing the printing industry, that work ethic, along with a loyal staff that has stuck with him through the years has paid dividends for Mark. Technology has made certain aspects of the job easier, with more advanced software, and presses. But at the same time, it has quickened the pace of printing, and heightened the customer’s expectations.

“We have crazy deadlines there’s no telling when the job’s going to show up and how fast it’s going to be turned around. But I know that if I need a pressman, or a cutter, or I need someone to fold a job, I can’t do it all myself. If I need the help, these guys are there for me,” Mark says of his cadre of employees. Even though his parents are no longer around the print shop, Elman’s is still very much a family business, “They are like family to me so I like to take care of them that way.” Mark says of his staff.

Pay Elman & Co print shop a visit and learn more about Mark’s life’s lessons at whycommunitymatters.com.

Hastings, NE: “Building a music scene in Greater Nebraska”

Pinnacle Nebraska 9-13 Day 02 The Lark_057

Hastings is a town of about 25,000, located smack in the middle of southern Nebraska. And for some reason no one can quite put a finger on, it is one of the state’s most vibrant cultural centers, with a local university, a thriving art community and a vital music scene.

This year, Hastings’ musicians gained a new home. The Lark is a performer’s dream, with acoustics that allow the audience to savor every note.

Robin Harrell is the director of the Lark and has been promoting The Listening Room concert series for years. Connecting audiences and performers is also part of her educational philosophy:

“Live music is so important to a community. I try to teach that to my guitar students. I say, “Hey! Come listen to this performer at The Lark.” And then they get all excited and they can start picturing themselves on that stage and I think it keeps them going, keeps them working on their music, their guitar work and their songwriting.”

The Talbott Brothers grew up in Imperial, on the Western edge of the state. For them, venues like The Lark are key to reaching fans:

Lark is going to be awesome in this community. The community is going to have a place that they can call their own. To come and enjoy music and share that relationship with artists and with each other is going to be a wonderful thing. For us personally, we know we’re going to love playing there. We’re really excited about it.

We filmed several of the acts that will be playing The Lark for The Community Matters Series. Watch the video at whycommunitymatters.com.

Torrington, Wyoming: “Come on over to the Leithead’s.”

WY Leitheads

Since she was only 2 years old, Craig Leithead’s daughter Brooklyn has been the darling voice in the appliance center’s radio commercials. That is, until she was joined by her two younger sisters.

“That was probably our best advertising move ever, so we’ve actually built a brand around my children,” says Craig.

Leithead’s started out as a repair service, then became a Sears store in 1980, and has kept the same retail location ever since. Though times have changed, the business has done its best to change right along with them. Now an independent family business, they’ve added beds to their inventory, and even electronics at one time to stay competitive in their market.

“For the past 30-plus years we’ve been in business, we’ve grown from a small mom-and-pop operation to eight employees, so it’s been a great experience. Part of the community thing that I really think is the most important is, when you think of community, it’s almost like a family.”

And family is exactly what Craig treats his customers like. He knows their names, their birthdays and their families. And he knows they will support him in a “bigger is better” economy. Even though big box retailers sell the same products as Leithead’s, you won’t be able to match his commitment to service.

Whether you are in the market for a new refrigerator, or just a smile, check out Leithead’s story at whycommunitymatters.com

Ogallala, NE: “Where Family and Community Meet Over Petrified Woods”

ALL Petrified

Ogallala is known for many things—its stop on the Pony Express, famous Livestock Auction and, of course, the petrified wood museum.

Petrified wood, you say? What is petrified wood? It’s when a tree transitions from wood to stone, and all organic materials in its makeup are replaced with minerals, while maintaining the same structure of wood. If you talk with the owners of the museum, you’ll learn much, much more.

Harvey and Howard Kenfield opened this museum on their family land over 60 years ago in Ogallala. They started out collecting Indian artifacts and transitioned to petrified woods. In addition to collecting petrified woods, they handcraft beautiful pieces of art using the petrified woods. In 2000, the Kenfields donated their collection to the Western Nebraska Community Foundation with the stipulation that it stay in Ogallala—the place they call home.

Their collection is known to rival similar collections at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. But rather than donate their life’s work to a far away museum, Harvey and Howard Kenfield are keeping a close watch on their collection in their hometown.

Durango, Colorado: “Homeslice Pizza, a Taste of Home”

ALL Home Slice

We have a full-service branch located right on Main Avenue, in the heart of Durango, Colorado. In every direction you look, you see locals biking past historic buildings and local cafes. Most days, you can actually see the San Juans rising over the town from our sidewalk.

Not far away from that branch you’ll find Homeslice Pizza. And when you talk to the owners there, you find that they feel about pizza the same way we feel about our location on Main Avenue. To them, pizza is a part of your childhood, a part of your neighborhood, and a powerful call to return home.

Cory and Lynn Kitch speak passionately about their respective loves for Chicago and New York style pizza. And the Colorado-style pizza they serve at Homeslice lies somewhere in between, neither razor thin nor too heavy.

They’ve grown their business over the past few years, adding a second location, plans for a food truck, and a new oven with rotating decks that bakes 169 pizzas in an hour. But they haven’t grown too fast. Instead, they seem dedicated to providing a pizza that Durango residents can relate to and feel ownership of. On August 11, The Durango World Herald named them the best pizza in town.

Check out our film about Homeslice at whycommunitymatters.com. If you’re heading towards Durango, visit them yourself. And if you’re not, do some prowling around your hometown. There is a local pizza parlor just waiting for you.

Lexington, NE: Bryan Elementary prepares students for the global economy

ALL Lexington

In the growing town of Lexington, Nebraska, Bryan Elementary created a Dual Language Program that could be a model for schools around the country. With almost 60% of the residents under the age of 19, school is important to all local families.

Lexington’s population is also tremendously diverse, so Bryan Elementary took what could have been an exceptional challenge for instructors and transformed them into an opportunity.

“We’ve got students that come from Mexico, students that come from Guatemala, students that come from El Salvador. So we really do have communities that have different backgrounds within our school. We talk about the school community, but we really are a melting pot of communities that come to Bryan and become a part of the bigger community of Bryan Elementary,” explained principal, Drew Welch.

The Dual Language Program offers students a curriculum where 50% of the lessons are taught in English and the other 50% are taught in Spanish, fostering both academic growth and cultural understanding amongst the student body.

“The program certainly brings kids together and I think it’s something special to see the kids interact with one another and have a common understanding of maybe how their backgrounds are different, but maybe how they’re the same as well,” said Welch.

Not only do students learn and grow from the exposure to multiple languages and cultures, they also graduate with a greater appreciation of people and an openness that prepares them for success regardless of whether they stay in Nebraska or travel the globe.

Ogallala, NE: When Rancher meets Burger

ALL Open Range Grill

In the middle of Nebraska on a road trip, nothing sounds better than locally made hamburgers. Pulling up to the Open Range Grill in Ogallala, Nebraska, there is a humble, down-to-earth, atmosphere that pulls you in, and with a menu that boasts burgers like El Patron (with pepper jack and jalapenos) to the Goober burger (with peanut butter), their innovative burger combinations keep you coming back.

The guys who own this joint not only built the restaurant themselves, but one owner even works at a ranch nearby that supplies the beef. Serious locals eat here. And they even carry vegetarian options (if a vegetarian dares to enter a burger joint in the middle of ranching capital of the United States).

Open Range Grill is a welcomed new gathering place for the Ogallala community. A place where adults can hang out with their friends, and also bring their kids—they have a game room in the back. They feature live music, and have a very active Facebook page filled with community events for neighbors to take part in.

The owners are living the true American dream—opened a successful restaurant, turning their passion for ranching into a passion for local foods, and loving every minute of their dream jobs.

Like Open Range Grill on Facebook at facebook.com/openrangegrillog.

To view the video about how these guys got started living their dream, visit whycommunitymatters.com.

Woodland Park, CO: Thinking globally at 8,500 feet

1301003_01_0074

This is how the Girl Scouts website describes World Thinking Day:

“Each year on February 22, World Thinking Day, girls participate in activities and projects with global themes to honor their sister Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in other countries.”

As important as that sounds, the event has even larger implications. Because while the girls are learning about issues like child mortality and global warming, they are also learning how to become leaders.

In Colorado, many troops spend World Thinking Day at the Sky High Ranch, up in the mountains near Woodland Park. You can see photos of last year’s event on their Flickr page. And check out the video we created for The Community Matters Series.

Lincoln, Nebraska: “Just a backpack?”

1303010_05_02_3614

Imagine you’re a teacher in a city school. You see kids trying to fill themselves up on whatever food they can find before they leave school on Friday. You see them coming in Monday with bigger appetites and smaller attention spans. And one day you realize something awful.

These kids are not getting enough to eat on the weekends.

Nine years ago, Clinton Elementary school and the Lincoln Food Bank began The Backpack Program. Every Friday, the school sends kids home with a backpack filled with enough food to feed a family of four for one weekend.

The program spread. Today the program sends 3,000 backpacks home in 30 Lincoln Public Schools, five Lincoln Catholic Schools, and 39 communities in Southeast Nebraska.

But the best part about the program is that sometimes kids come in and report that their family no longer needs the backpack. And the program’s volunteers share their feelings of pride and accomplishment. That community spirit is something we tried to capture in our film about the program. See it on whycommunitymatters.com.