While honoring National Hispanic Heritage Month, its important to remember not only the rich Latino history in Omaha but also those who are making a big impact on the future for Latinos in our community. Throughout the month we will highlight nonprofits making a difference in the areas of education, arts, culture, youth development, healthcare, human services, and community involvement. All of the nonprofits highlighted were awarded grants from OCF’s 2023 Futuro Latino Fund.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is unusual because it doesn’t follow a standard calendar month, instead running from September 15 through October 15. These dates honor the Independence Days for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which are all celebrated on September 15; as well as Mexico and Chile, which celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
The Hispanic and Latino population in Omaha began growing more than 100 years ago. In 1860, there was one person from Mexico who claimed Omaha as their home. From 1910 to 1925, the population grew from five people from Mexico to more than 1,000.
Over the years, as Omaha and Nebraska continued to grow, our population continued to diversify, with 11% of the state’s population identifying as Hispanic. In a recent WOWT interview, Yesenia Peck, the president of the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Omaha’s diverse community is attracting more Latinos.
“We now have 70% of Mexicans, 10% of Salvadorans, and 4% of Guatemalans,” Peck said. “The community is changing.”
Futuro Latino Fund
In 2023, OCF’s Futuro Latino Fund committee awarded $175,000 to 12 organizations serving the Latino community. We received 25 applications with grant requests totaling $442,900. The next grant cycle opens January 1, 2024.
Here is a look at a few of our grant recipients:
DIBS for Kids is a literacy nonprofit founded by a former first-grade teacher. They believe every student should have a great book to read at home every night, regardless of family income. DIBS actively seeks native language authors and books to support dual-language and English Language Learners. They were awarded $10,000 for DIBS Bilingual School Support Coordinator to help fund a Spanish-speaking, bilingual School Coordinator to support seven OPS schools with 50% or higher Spanish-speaking students to assist in maintaining native literacy while providing nightly independent reading opportunities to accelerate Spanish and English reading proficiency.
Matters On Tomorrow supports burgeoning nonprofits with back office and data management and helps them stay successful with community engagement and donations. They received a $15,000 grant for their partner organization True Potential Scholarships, which works to increase access to quality, affordable education for immigrants in Nebraska. True Potential supports immigrant and refugee students of all ages, high school graduates, non-traditional college students, adults seeking a GED, an English as a Second Language program, or any class or certification the person believes will help them achieve a higher quality of life.
Arts and Culture
H2O Collective was founded a group of young multicultural urban artists with a mission to share art techniques and teachings, learn through technology, and experiment with forms. They converted a school bus into a mobile gallery providing workshops, art classes, exhibitions and more. The Collective was awarded $15,000 D’Colores to support for their mobile gallery, which will allow them to travel to more festivals in Omaha and in rural areas of the state.
The Mexican American Historical Society of the Midlands has a mission to discover, maintain and protect historical records that chronicle the sum of the Mestizaje Mestizo experience and share this legacy across generations of a combined European and Indigenous ancestry. They were awarded $10,000 for Mestizaje: Nosotros Somos Todos, a historical exhibit and stage production in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The production, “Cinco de Mayo is American History,” was staged at the Benson Theater. It included multimedia presentations, music and dance, and locals who wanted to express their familial stories.
Grants made through our Community Interest Funds are strategic investments meant to increase access and equity. We ask community members to lead the grant process using their own power and understanding. Each committee is made up of residents who come from or identify with the population being served. They review proposals and decide which projects to fund based on the needs they are seeing in their community.