Dreaming about the future in Southwest Nebraska


Originally published by 10/11’s Pure Nebraska program

From the Fox Theater, to the Kiplinger Arena, to the Senator George Norris State Historic Site, the city of McCook has much to offer.

“There have been groups come through that say rural America is dying out,” McCook Community Fund Coordinator Ronda Graff said. “We feel that it is sustainable, and that you can lead a good life here. It’s a great place to raise families. We don’t have traffic jams!”

No traffic jams, but plenty of opportunities are found in McCook. “We’ve learned that we can’t do things on our own, and that it’s easier if we work together,” Graff said. The community fund hands out grants to non-profits and organizations that work to make McCook a great place to live. It turns out the community foundation is getting a new influx of dollars from a McCook native who wanted to honor her parents who opened Sehnert’s Bakery.

“Susan Sehnert Stuart came back and wanted to recognize her parents Walt and Jean who moved here in 1957,” Graff said. “She came to the McCook Community Foundation and challenged us to raise $200,000.”

That idea became known as the “Sehnert’s Challenge”. It didn’t take long for the community to raise the $200,000 dollars needed to meet Stuart’s challenge. “People stepped up so quickly that we raised the $200,000. We went back to her and asked her if we raised another $200,000, would you give us another $100,000?” Graff said. Stuart agreed, and so when McCook is finished with the Sehnert’s challenge, residents will have raised $600,000 for the McCook Community Foundation.

“The people of southwest Nebraska and McCook are very generous and they see the value of this with the community foundation, and how it makes McCook a better place to live,” Sehnert’s Bakery owner Matt Sehnert said. The money raised through the Sehnert’s challenge will go toward supporting local arts and culture. Sehnert says that is something his parents would like.

“The money is going to the general fund of the McCook Community Foundation, but there is a gentlemen’s agreement that because my parents were into arts, and culture and music, there will be some grants made for cultural arts,” Sehnert said.

The Sehnert’s challenge is coming to a close now. “We are actually hoping to be done with the campaign in February 2019, and then it’s a 3 year time frame for people to fulfill their pledges,” Sehnert said. Residents in town are looking forward to how the money raised will enhance the community. “I think it’s time for McCook to dream and think about how we want McCook to look, and what we want to do with McCook to make it an even better place to live,” Sehnert said.

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