Democracy is not a
spectator sport


Urban Abbey events in February encourage Leaders to get politically active

March 5th, 2018


Julie K group

Urban Abbey hosted three different Issue Cafes in the Month of February for OTOC Leaders and community members learn more about relevant issues happening in Omaha.

Michael O’Hara from the Sierra Cluenviron croppedb (pictured left) spoke about the logistics of the city’s upcoming solid waste policy. Why do we need to care about the trash system? 1. It really affects the environment- methane outputs from landfills, trash trucks driving around, etc. 2. How many trash bins fit in your garage- we would like choices about what size and how many bins each household needs. The OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team urges citizens to contact their city council members to ask for community involvement in the planning process and for the council to be engaged and aware when reviewing and choosing a proposal. For talking points about how to contact your city council members, click here

Julie Kalkowski (pictured above) also came and presented about the importance of financial independence- and how that can actually affect your health. Julie has developed a Financial Hope program that is helps single mothers to become financially independent. Julie is currently recruiting 400 single mothers to join her program as part of a study about the effects of financial independence on health. Through Julie’s experience and expertise onJo Giles financial independence she also encouraged the Predatory Lending Action Team to keep working to get limitations put on predatory pay day lending. Julie sees the affects of these debt cycles in her anti-poverty work. Want more information about Julie’s program, click here. To learn more about Pay Day Lending regulation, click here.

Jo Giles, Policy and Training Director for Strong Nebraska (pictured right), was OTOC’s guest speaker at the March 27 meeting of the Urban Abbey Series.  The Coalition for a Strong Nebraska  is a coalition of  85 non-profits who are committed to ending poverty through public policy engagement.

Ms. Giles biggest message was that non-profits can lobby.  While the coalition does not lobby itself, it will train people in lobbying skills.

The discussion then turned to an overview of some bills being considered currently in the Unicameral in the areas of Property tax, Healthcare, Education and Civic Engagement.  Ms. Giles noted that a big factor influencing the passing of a bill is the ability of the state to pay for it.  As of Tuesday, Nebraska is experiencing a $200M budget shortfall.

Those bills that have a priority designation have the best chance of getting out to the floor. Sen. Vargas’s LB194 about Pay Day Lending has been named his priority bill, but has still not left the Banking Committee. We will have to wait and see if it will make it to the open  floor. 

For additional information on learning how to lobby, receiving a weekly update on legislation, or finding a tutorial on using the legislative website, look here.


Warm Energy at Feb. 12 Steering Committee Meeting

February 16th, 2018

crowd closer upOn Monday night, February 12, fifty people representing the OTOC Steering Committee packed the meeting room at First United Methodist Church.  Following the opening prayer and introductions of all attending, Convener, Cheri Cody, set the framework for the gathering.  She noted that the work that OTOC engages in used to be referred to as “the ministry of public life”, a description that she remains fond of. 

Pamela Owens

 A spokesperson for each congregation shared, in turn, the vision and plans they had for growing their presence within their own congregation.  Each person was forthright about their congregation’s unique situation and the challenges confronting them. Each expressed their resolute intention to move forward with their vision.  The acts of some smaller congregations offered challenges to larger ones. Three congregations in various stages of considering joining OTOC also reported their progress. 

Vicki Pratt, new Chair of the Finance Committee, reported that both the Individual Contribution Campaign of last summer, which comes from within each congregation, and the Year End Appeal which is sent from the OTOC Office, had received monies that exceeded what had been budgeted. Thank you for your continued contributions through the years.

Pamela Owens of Metropolitan Community Church gives a positive, exciting report for MCC’s goals this year

Charlie Gould laid out the strategy for this year- Congregational Trainings in March and April, Core Team work in May,Summer Organizing Training in June and July, House meetings and Neighborhood walks in August and September, and Get Out the Vote Campaigns leading to a Candidate Accountability session in October just before the November election. Using these organizing fundamentals, we build power from people, which is needed for a productive and potentially game-changing Accountability Session. This means we are certainly building power through our relationships and growing in effectiveness for the common good.  

Pay Day Lending house meetings make a difference

January 31st, 2018

Leaders from OTOC’s Predatory Lending Action Team have been leading house meetings about LB194, a Nebraska Unicameral Bill that would put some regulations on predatory pay day lending (see below for details about LB194). The house meetings are focused on Legislative District 8, where Senator Burk Harr was just appointed to the Banking committee for this legislative session after the previous Senator Craighead from District 6 resigned from her position. Burk Harr has just become the swing vote needed to get the helpful LB194 out of committee. The timely house meetings invited participants to email or call Sen. Harr encouraging him to vote yes for LB194. Dozens of OTOC leaders have called or written in, and Harr is reported to have changed a probable “no” vote into a “still considering” stance. 

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

Concerns about the ill effects of the payday loan industry on folks in Nebraska brought a dozen guests from 4 OTOC congregations to the home of Chuck and Gloria Austerberry in Legislative District 8 on January 27. All were eager to understand how the system works and what we can do to limit how much profit can be made from people needing small amounts of money to meet emergency needs through passing LB 194 this session of the Unicameral.

LB 194, sponsored by Senators Vargas (D) and Linehan (R), improves Pay Day Lending practices by requiring:

1.      Reasonable Payment: Maximum monthly payment is capped at 5% of borrower’s Gross Income—so the monthly payment is manageable and the debt is fully repayable over a longer period of time.

2.      Reasonable Charges: Total charges for the loan can only equal 36% annual interest AND the monthly maintenance fee is proportional to the size of the loan and cannot exceed $20 per month.

3.      Reasonable Total Expense to Borrower: Maximum total charges can be no more than 50% of the principal over the life of the loan (e.g. total charges for a $500 loan would be $250 over the life of the loan.)

If you would like to be a part of the efforts to get LB194 through committee, please call or email Sen. Burk Harr at   (402) 471-2722 or urging him to vote “yes” for the bill to get it out of committee.                                                                                                                           

If you contact Sen. Harr, please let us know by emailing

If you are interested in attending a house meeting, please email Vicki Pratt at 



Sign our online form to tell your representatives to protect Dreamers and TPS recipients!

January 9th, 2018

To sign an online petition telling your representatives to act NOW for recipients of TPS and Dreamers, please click this link: Online Petition

On Monday January 8th, Homeland Security announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Salvadorans will end on September 9th, 2019.  Over 200,000 Salvadorans and their families are now at risk, so it is now up to Congress to find a legislative solution. OTOC calls on Congressmen Bacon and Fortenberry, Senators FisJeanne in basementcher and Senator Sasse to get involved and craft a solution which provides permanent residency for law abiding, productive residents who have lived among us  for many years with only Temporary Protective Status.

OTOC leader Jeanne Schuler says, “OTOC calls on our members of Congress to  show leadership.  Find a solution.  Support the bills that have already been introduced or develop new ones.  We need leaders who will serve the people of Nebraska and act.  Now.” 

OTOC leader Kathleen Grant says, “TPS recipients have lived in Nebraska for almost 20 years. They own homes and businesses.  They work in factories, farms and meat packing plants.  Their children, most of whom are US citizens, will move our state’s economy forward. They are neighbors.  They are at risk.” To see Kathleen Grant in the news speaking about this issue, follow this link to Channel 7’s coverage of Monday’s decision in Omaha



Jeane Schuler calls on assembly goers to “Call every day!”

OTOC is calling on Congress to provide permanent residency  to law-abiding, long-term residents who have had Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Since 2001, these residents have had to pay to renew their status and undergo extensive security checks. 

Please call your congressional representatives today and urge them to find solutions for Salvadorans in Nebraska.nat rep contacts



OTOC in the News after Monday’s Announcement:

Channel 7’s coverage of Monday’s decision in Omaha

Lincoln Journal Star’s coverage of TPS recipients in Nebraska and OTOC’s work with them

Omaha World Herald’s coverage of Monday’s decision in Omaha


OTOC’s continued work on TPS and Dreamer awareness

On Monday, December 18th at St. John’s Catholic Church, 120 OTOC Leaders, Community Members, and TPS Recipients gathered for a traditional Latin American Advent ritual- the Posada, a portrayal of the journey Mary and Joseph took to finding the manger and being turned away at the inns. This journey mirrors the journey of immigrants to their homes as documented people here in the United States. The bilingual and Interfaith Posada and Prayer Vigil was hosted by OTOC, the Nebraska Dreamers group, and Alianza del TPS Nebraska. Participants sang the traditional songs imamwhere Mary and Joseph ask for lodging and are eventually allowed to stay in the stable where Jesunews vigils was born. Stories from Dreamers and TPS recipients were heard, and prayers were lead by Fr. Lorn Snow of St. John’s at  Creighton, Dr. Maryanne Stevens, RSM of the College of St. Mary and Imam Jamal Daodi of the American Muslim Institute. The assembly was then invited to the basement for the celebration and cal to action. Pan dulce (sweet bread) and champurado (traditional Salvadoran chocolate drink) were served while the crowd wrote post cards, were urged to call their senators, and heard from more Dreamers and TPS recipients, and then a pinata was broken by the many children in attendance. This event was another opportunity to stand in solidarity with immigrants in Omaha and learn more about how to support them.

Several area reporters attended the event, including Chanel 3’s Maya Saenz. Please click here to see her story on Chanel 3 News Now

Imam Daoudi and Dreamer Amor lead the closing prayer in English and Spanish

OTOC 2017 Delegates Congress

November 28th, 2017

An enthusiastic room of 215 people from thirty five member congregations, solidarity members and guest congregations filled the Parish Hall at St. Pius X Catholic Church on November 13th for OTOC’s 2017 Fall Delegates Congress. They arrived eager to learn how OTOC can become a stronger organization with a more powerful voice for the common good, through expanded membership, financial support and diversity.

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Marshall Johnson presenting about what organizing is

Following a lively roll call and focus statement, Rev. Marshall Johnson engaged the room using props to recall the Joshua story and getting everyone to join in singing the familiar Jericho tune. He went on to remind everyone that since biblical times, people seeking justice have had to confront “giants,” just as we do today, and that takes power.crowd 1

Speakers’ stories told of how OTOC has successfully brought people together to achieve common goals for over 20 years—from organizing meat packers and improving the legal process for immigrants to getting the city to devote more money to demolition of condemned houses.  In the stories we heard that frequently people involved in one issue lend support to additional action groups because we know that together we are stronger and our relationships form a bond.

Looking forward, leaders offered ideas to expand the organization as a whole and within individual congregations. They included having more one-on-one meetings, developing core teams, reaching out to additional institutions and others. Cheri Cody and Pat Bass shared specific plans already in place at Second Unitarian and St. Benedict the Moor.  The room welcomed OTOC’s newest member, San Andres Lutheran Church, and its pastor, Rev. Sergio Amaya, who presented the church’s first commitment payment.

Pat Bass Presenting about next steps

The evening culminated with an inspirational final blessing, led by more than 30 clergy and religious womenhigh energy agenda covered a lot of ideas in a stimulating way. It left people so engaged that when it ended early, they stuck around to discuss their congregations’ commitment to build OTOC. Each promised to report back at the February Steering Committee meeting.

Don’t forget that the work isn’t over- meet with your congregation’s core team, fill out your commitment card, and let’s keep the momentum of this event carry us through the growth of people for power.


Written by Susan Kuhlman, Holy Name Catholic Church

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