On November 13, Habitat for Humanity awarded OTOC their “Spirit of Collaboration” Award to acknowledge OTOC’s collaboration with others to win creation of the Omaha Land Bank by the Nebraska Unicameral and Omaha City Council. OTOC received the award with State Sen. Health Mello, the Omaha City Council, the Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Community Progress. In their citation of OTOC’s contribution, Habitat stated “OTOC lent its skills at organizing advocacy efforts, researching benefits, and educating the public.”
In other large cities across the United States, Land Banks have been a useful tool to more quickly transform decayed property into homes and businesses than would be the case without them. Due to the potential impact for good that an Omaha Land Bank might have in older neighborhoods here, it was right that our OTOC Housing Action Team jumped into the Land Bank discussions.
In rememberance of Rich Ketter
The late Richard Ketter from Sacred Heart Catholic Church played an important role in our awareness of the Land Bank when it was first proposed by Senator Mello in the Unicameral.
Ketter approached Gloria Austerberry after an OTOC Steering Committee about three years ago and asked her if she knew about the Land Bank. She and the Housing Action Team certainly wanted to know about it, so Rich set up a meeting with Senator Heath Mello, who happened to be his senator. Austerberry subsequently testified twice at hearings in Lincoln focused on the Land Bank concept. Everyone should know that Rich’s great love for his community spurred OTOC’s involvement with the issue. This victory is another piece of his legacy among us.
Ketter witnessed the Land Bank hearing at the City Council meeting in July where OTOC organized a diverse group of speakers to be proponents for the Land Bank. He immediately publicized the unanimous City Council vote in favor of the Land Bank on OTOC’s Facebook page.
Austerberry’s last conversation with Ketter came on the heels of Habitat Director Amanda Brewer’s September talk at Urban Abbey about Omaha’s need for a Land Bank. Among the thoughts Rich shared at that time was the importance of celebrating our victories as we attain them.
We are pleased that five OTOC leaders were part of the celebration with hundreds of Habitat supporters at Habitat’s “Raise the Roof” Gala. There will be more times to celebrate our recent OTOC victories in this and other areas as we begin a season of festivities as the year draws to a close and the new one begins. Our hearts still grieve our loss with Rich Ketter’s death, but we give thanks for the joy he bestowed to all whose lives he touched, and for the hope for a better community he shared with us through OTOC.
By Gloria Austerberry