Setting an example in Valley County

Decades ago, members of the Valley County community decided it was time to do something bold. The region had been hit hard by crisis after crisis – the farm crisis, loss of its role as a service provider in a globalizing world, economic recession, and rural depopulation.

It all started with a generous bequest by a local couple, John and Alice Wozab. That snowballed into dozens of new opportunities and experiments, among them HomeTown Competitiveness (HTC) – a community development framework that focused on four pillars: leadership, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and youth engagement. It was the investment and belief in this model that would change the future of Valley County forever.

“We learned to play well together, and we learned about people crossing the aisles collaborating all for the greater good,” said Bob Stowell. “These are the things that shifted the culture in the community.”

It wasn’t easy, but little by little, momentum grew, and things began to change. The collective mindset shifted from one of deficit to a culture of abundance. Local businesses, government, entrepreneurs, artists, innovators, and philanthropists started working together and collaborating.

Before they knew it, Valley County had become a thriving ecosystem. Valley County had changed its destiny.

“When you have trust, then you get to vulnerability,” said Melani Flynn. “People come to the table with ideas.”

Listen as Melani and Bob discuss how the transfer of wealth is being put to work in Valley County:


Today, Valley County is continually raised up in national circles as a model for what a rural economy can look like. Young people are returning home to raise their families and newcomers are flocking for the promise of a quality of life they can’t find in urban places. The local approach to community development and economic development are one in the same.

Reach out to your professional advisor to learn how you can give and consult Nebraska Community Foundation’s Planned Giving resources for more information. You can also contact NCF’s Office of Gift Planning by calling 402-323-7330 or sending an email to

When we all leave five our hometowns thrive.

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