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.
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.
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.
“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.
Route 66 runs right through the heart of our town. And along the northern sidewalk, you’ll find Richardson’s Pawn Shop.
Pawn shop. That’s not a term you hear very much these days. But to the people and the Native American tribes in Gallup, it has a proud heritage. It signifies a trading post where valuables can be secured, business can be done, and fine art decorates the walls.
Bill Richardson has owned his business for decades. And he helped define the proud heritage of the pawnshop in this part of the nation. The trust he has built among people from all walks of life has led to a business that deals a dizzying array of goods.
A room on one side holds hundreds of leather saddles. A vault in back has walls piled with thousands of turquoise necklaces. Meticulously stitched Navajo rugs worth upwards of $100,000 drape over chairs and across walls.
We have three banks in Gallup and Richardson is one of our customers. But in a way, his pawn shop is a bank of its own, one that harkens back to an earlier day when people pawned their possessions, artistry and valuables not just for cash, but for safekeeping.
It is a window into a culture that survives to this day because of business owners like Bill Richardson.
It’s hard to capture the scope of Richardson’s in a video. YouTube is filled with attempts. But that didn’t stop us from trying. Our video of Richardson’s Trading Post is on whycommunitymatters.com.
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.
The old saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Kerry Cornelius, Director of the Ranch Management program at Texas Christian University tends to agree with this statement. He told us TCU’s program is the ONLY program in the world that teaches ranching with a multidiscipline approach, which includes classes in animal health, business and finance. Because the program is so unique, students from all over the country, in addition to 22 countries have enrolled.
As part of the global-reach program, TCU Ranch Management has partnered with Panama, Brazil, and Ghana, bringing the skills of ranching to their agriculture departments; parts of the world who are in need of assistance.
Students not only learn in a classroom. Rather, the Ranch Management program blends classroom education with real field experience, visiting up to 70 different ranches over the course of the year. The “get your hands dirty approach” is true to life in ranching, where much knowledge doesn’t come from a textbook. According to Kerry, the goal of the program is for students to become not only leaders in agriculture, but also good stewards of the land; to learn to balance the production of food, while maintaining resources that will be available for future generations.
“When you think about your kids and grandkids; how are we going to maintain these resources to maintain productivity so we can feed the world, “ Gary says rhetorically. And that’s a lesson worth learning.
Learn more about what make TCU’s program such a special community at whycommunitymatters.com. For more information about courses and classes, check out their website.
Old pictures of the Durango Wheel Club sitting on Baker’s Bridge in 1895 offer pretty historic proof that Durango has a special place in its heart for bicycling. And in 1972, that love manifested itself as the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, a race between the coal-fired steam driven train running between Durango and Silverthorne, and the passion-peddled engines of men and women around the community.
From there, the event grew, garnering support both locally, and eventually across the nation. Ed Zink, race founder and owner of Mountain Bike Specialists in Durango, Colorado attributes the race to much of the still-standing enthusiasm for cycling in the Mountain town, as well as world-class trails and bikeways and a plethora of biking programs and organizations based in the community.
Patti Zink, Ed’s wife explained that this year, the races 42nd, had 2500 riders (a cap which they set) and sold out in just 36 hours. All of the money raised supports local non-profits like the Mercy Medical Center, buying the new equipment for the Cardiac Care Center, the Breast Cancer Center, and most recently, the building of a hospice care center. The race has raised nearly a half million dollars in donations in its decades-long history.
Not only does the race support charities and foster a healthy lifestyle, it also brings health to Durango’s economy. “Every year, during the Iron Horse Bicycle classic we have about 3,000 people that come from out of town, most of them bring at least one person with them, They stay in hotels, they buy gas, they buy food, they buy souvenirs,” explains Patti, “So it has a huge economic impact on Durango at the beginning of the summer season.”
See more of the bike-friendly town of Durango at whycommunitymatters.com. If you’re interested in participating it the next Iron Horse Classic find more information here.
It’s hard to miss the enormous, shiny metal grain bin right in the parking lot of Behlen’s headquarters in Columbus, Nebraska. But grain systems are only one of hundreds of products this international steel fabricator makes and sells globally. The Columbus plant is filled with metal stitching presses, craftsmen welding farm and ranch equipment, shiny new stock tanks being loaded for distribution and plenty of other activity that imbues the vitality of the place.
Relationships are what make this company successful in its march forward. Focusing on the thought that “teamwork and change make customers and employees better off”, Behlen talked about how they involve their people and customers to generate new ideas that drive new products. No wonder they keep growing in spite of the varying economic conditions over their 77-year history. They don’t talk about their people as employees; they talk about them as “partners in progress.” That kind of respect and trust has to be a key component of Behlen’s quality products and continuing growth.
No visit to Behlen is complete without seizing the opportunity to climb all those stairs to the top of that awesome million-bushel grain bin. At the top the perspective dwarfs the Columbus water tower and opened up a view of the entire community in this Platte River valley. The 35-mile Loup Canal that was built as a WPA project during the 1930’s. And the Union Pacific Railroad that initiated the town. It makes one think about how vision creates community. And how community can expand vision.
Started in the 1940’s, Snyder Construction Company is a fourth-generation run family business that has always been highly involved in building their community. But, in late May of 2011, Snyder construction realized just how important their community was to them as well.
On May 22 the town of Joplin, Missouri experienced destruction in the shape of an EF5 tornado. The effect of the tornado was pure devastation, as it wiped out entire sections of town, including the Snyder Construction main offices and a large portion of their construction fleet.
At that time, no one understood just how much community matters more than Jim Zerkel, President of Snyder Construction Company.
“There were a lot of businesses that needed help after the tornado to help get people back on their feet, we were in need of such help…fellow contractors even they were on the phone asking: what do you need, what can we do to help?”
With the town left in shambles the community was stronger than ever. They bonded together to clean up and heal. All the while, Snyder Construction has been busy rebuilding their business, as well as the beautiful community that they have impacted for decades. Meet the family behind Snyder Construction and see all the other stories that show why community matters at whycommunitymatters.com