Building quality of life centers in Columbus

Originally published by 10/11’s Pure Nebraska Program

Columbus is known for being “the city of power and progress.” You can also say the community is known as a place for collaboration.

As a member of the Quality of Life Committee, Don Heimes played a big role in coordinating the mission to create four new quality of life centers in Columbus. “It was the result of a community-wide planning session held by the chamber,” Heimes said. During that session, there was a lot of discussion about community improvements. “Four different entities spoke up,” Heimes said. “It was the YMCA, the school, the East Central District Health Department, and the library. They all said they needed to have improvements in their facilities.” A quality of life centers committee was created, with a goal of working together to support the projects.”

East Central District Health was here, but they were split among several different locations, all of them older,” Heimes said. “Right now, they have a brand spanking new facility. 9,000-plus new patients are seen there a year.” The Columbus YMCA also had an older facility that wasn’t meeting community needs. Today, the facility is new, with a swimming pool, track, and plenty of exercise options. “We were very blessed to have the Columbus Community Hospital come on board to do something for wellness in the community,” Corey Briggs with the Columbus Family YMCA said. “K.C. Belitz was our chamber director at the time. I’ll never forget the day when he sat in my office and said, we found the money for your facility. We needed a new facility. We were aging, out of space, and out of parking.”

Thanks to the improvements, the Columbus school now offers a STEM program that is second to none. “And we didn’t have that before, now we do,” Heimes said. As for the library, the current building is going to be torn down to make way for a new one. The empty lot just to the west of it, is another part of the new footprint. “I think it’s important to note this is happening in what is essentially considered small town Midwest,” Karen Connell with the Columbus Public Library said. “We are growing, we are getting bigger, and people are interested in seeing how we work together. They want to see how we improve our community, and it’s really about meeting the needs of our community.”

Dee Hanson is with the Columbus Area Future Fund. The fund is affiliated with the Nebraska Community Foundation. She feels the big take-away from this effort to build quality of life centers, is the community was able to focus on long-term goals. “It wasn’t so much that we needed to raise this money and see a new facility get done right now,” Hanson said. “Committee members were very forward thinking, and very future thinking. They wanted to see something happen that would benefit us five, 10, or even 20 years down the road.”

Quality of life committee members say the team effort helped make securing donations for all four projects easier. “When we went in and talked to donors about a project, it was mentioned there were other projects, too, so there were no surprises,” Heimes said. “I think that collaboration effort, quite frankly, is why we are here today.” And that spirit of collaboration will no doubt continue into the future in Columbus.

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