KC Belitz: Cheers to the future

Originally published in the Columbus Telegram

This will, I believe, be the 20th year The Telegram has given me the opportunity to share New Year’s wishes and resolutions as we turn the calendar. Never in those two decades has the prior year gone so differently than what we together envisioned 12 months ago. The irony is obvious that 2020 was the year that so confounded our vision. So, first, a look back at how the hopes shared last year played out.

The first 2020 new year’s wish was for Howells Community Fund and Columbus Area Future Fund to complete successful campaigns. The Howells team announced they had reached the goal a few weeks ago and the Future Fund is hoping to announce the same after a meeting next Monday! Through local donations and matching funds from the Sherwood Foundation, both of these groups now have around $1 million in their endowments, bringing nearly $50,000 every year, forever, to their hometowns.

For the Boone County Foundation Fund, we wished for them a successful completion of their effort to raise funds to launch the Boone Beginnings early childhood development center. Not only have they broken ground on the center, but also this year opened the new Ag and Education Center on the Boone County Fairgrounds! And, by the way, set a new record for the Boone County Big Give. That’s an extraordinary list of accomplishments for any year, but truly amazing in 2020!

In Butler County, the Fund reflected the changes brought on by 2020. Much of their work went differently than they anticipated, events were cancelled and the committee had to pivot. But they worked effectively and aggressively to help organizations in their county respond to the pandemic and brought funds to Butler County that helped their neighbors.

Greater Nebraska’s wish from a year ago was for increased partnership that would lead to steps forward on some key issues. This is a hard one to evaluate as we reflect on 2020. Virtually none of the partnerships envisioned a year ago really got activated as anticipated, for obvious reasons. And yet, new partnerships were formed through necessity—and fundamental societal changes occurred. Due to those occurrences, it is possible a window of opportunity has opened wider for rural Nebraska than at any time in memory. Now, will we see serious progress on universal Nebraska issues like people attraction, broadband, childcare and housing? 2021 holds that promise, but it’s only untapped potential until a statewide team of organizations, communities and volunteers come together to make it reality. The stage is set.

The last New Year’s wish offered a year ago was that people across Nebraska would rediscover the joy of giving and re-learn that helping others actually helps ourselves. On this one, Nebraska passed with flying colors! Just imagine, in the year we’ve just had, that numerous Giving Days would set records as in Boone County. That donors would step forward to provide funds to NCF communities to Bridge the Learning Gap and Connect Elders. That people would support local business so much that local sales tax in many places would exceed projections. Clearly those who were in a position to give did so, in spades, and so I hope they did experience the joy of giving to their communities!

This year brought us changes we would never have believed at the end of 2019 and plenty of things we’ve never experienced before. After all that, I’m a little gun-shy about offering many bold predictions for 2021.

So I’ll just say “Happy New Year!” Here’s to a year that is more “discovery than recovery.” One that builds on the resilience and relationships born out of the fire of 2020, and one that will be seen as a turning point toward an unprecedented renaissance in Greater Nebraska.

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