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Justin Huber


February 2015

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for February 2015 is Justin Huber.

Congratulations to Justin Huber, this month’s community hero,.

Justin Huber of Kearney was nominated as this month's Community Hero, sponsored by Kearney Tire and Auto, for his quick actions and kind heart at the scene of an accident.

Wayne Olson


January 2015

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for January 2015 is Wayne Olson.

Congratulations to this month’s community hero, Wayne Olson of Kearney.

Wayne was nominated for his extensive work with the Kearney Volunteer Fire Department and his leadership in starting a food pantry at the East Lawn mobile trailer court.

Wayne, a Kearney native, was first involved at the KVFD in 1963. He spent 15 years as a volunteer firefighter. After a leave of absence to raise his family, he returned to the KVFD in 1998. Olson helped organize the department’s reserve company, which does educational outreach for fire prevention at area public schools.

“It’s really been a lot of fun doing that” he said, of writing skits and educating thousands of area students.

Olson has also been instrumental in preserving the history of KVFD. He and a fellow firefighter completely restored a 1929 pumper truck that had been in the Kearney fire fleet.

The retired businessman is also known for his work to help feed Kearney residents. Olson said he noticed a lot of food was going to the landfill. He began approaching local grocery stores with the idea of using extra perishable food for a food pantry.

With help from the First United Methodist Church, Olson was part of a team that started a pantry in a mobile home at East Lawn. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m., people in need can take home fresh produce and bakery items for no charge. Every month, over 900 people visit the trailer, which also has gently used clothing.

Olson estimates he spends around 25 hours a week on the food pantry. But, he said, volunteering isn’t about receiving glory.

“I’d just as soon do it and nobody finds out about it,” he said, noting that many other Kearneyites deserve to be recognized for their hard work.

Janis Robbins


December , 2014

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for December, 2014 is Janis Robbins.

When Arlene Johnson lost her wedding rings a few weeks ago, it was as if she’d lost her husband all over again.

Rodney, Johnson’s husband of 54 years, died in May, and Johnson had taken to wearing his wedding band with her own rings on her hand since his death. During a night out with friends in Kearney in early December, Johnson came home and realized her rings had slipped off her finger sometime during the night.

“These were my very original rings,” Johnson said. “I never had a desire to get a different ring like some people do. I’d had them for 54 years. I can’t explain my grief in losing them.”

Johnson said she stayed up until 3 the next morning, searching through drawers and under beds, upending the house to make sure she hadn’t misplaced them in her home. The rings weren’t there.

Later that morning, she retraced her steps, calling The World Theatre and Napoli’s restaurant where she’d eaten with friends the night before. No one had found the rings there, either.

“I just finally thought, ‘They’re just gone.’ Sunday, they didn’t show up. Monday, they didn’t show up,” she said. “I was just devastated.”

On Tuesday of that week, Johnson went to her appointment at Elite Chiropractic in Kearney where Office Manager Janis Robbins noticed she seemed depressed and asked her what was wrong. As Johnson told her about her lost wedding ring, Robbins realized the story sounded familiar.

“‘Holy crap,’ I said. I remembered seeing a post on Kearney Area Exchange (on Facebook) that someone had found a wedding ring this weekend,” Robbins said. Robbins quickly brought up the page and searched for the post, which included a description on where the rings had been found. While Johnson got treatment, Robbins sent a message to Madison Bressman of Kearney, the woman who found the ring, hoping it matched the one Johnson had lost.

“It probably only took about an hour, but while we were waiting, the tension was indescribable,” Robbins said.

Bressman returned Robbins’ messages and sent along a picture of the rings she’d found — they were a match. Bressman works at Napoli’s and had found the rings on the floor after Johnson had left. She told Robbins and Johnson that she hadn’t wanted to put the rings in the restaurant’s lost and found in case someone took it and had worn it until she could find the right owner.

Robbins drove to Napoli’s to pick up the rings and return them to Johnson.

“I thought she was going to cry,” Robbins said of Johnson’s reaction to seeing her rings again.

“I was ecstatic,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t have found them. I wasn’t on Facebook.”

Bressman posted the lost rings because “I just thought if I lost mine, I’d be devastated.”

Once she learned the ring had been Johnson’s late husband’s, “It made me even more happy that she got it back before Christmas.”

Both Johnson and Robbins said they appreciated Bressman’s honesty in keeping the rings and trying to locate the owner.

“There’s still good-hearted people out there, that’s the best thing,” Robbins said.

“That was what I prayed for, was that they were an honest person. Madison was definitely that person,” Johnson said. “I’m calling it my Christmas miracle story.”

Elaine Cleveland and Cathy Mohlman


November, 2014

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for November, 2014 is Elaine Cleveland and Cathy Mohlman.

Congratulations to Elaine Cleveland and Cathy Mohlman, this month’s Community Heroes winners. The two Kearney women were nominated by Rachel Leach, who said that through their personal and professional lives they are continually giving back to the community.

“Their passion to make everyone feel comfortable with themselves and to embrace and enjoy life to the fullest is overwhelming,” Leach wrote in her nomination. “They have impacted so many in such a short amount of time, and these two women will continue to shine in this community with their generosity.”

Cleveland and Mohlman own K-Town Shakedown, a donation-based fi tness studio in Kearney. But the two don’t just work to better the lives of their members. They also try to better the entire community. This summer, they hosted free classes in the park and welcomed everyone to attend. When a devastating tornado nearly destroyed the town of Pilger, they held a fundraiser where class attendees brought food and non-perishable items to help the displaced people rebuild their town. “We’re always trying to pay attention to what is going on in the community,” Cleveland says.

Some of their classes coordinate with specifi c causes. For example, Zumba classes sometimes have “Parties in Pink,” which help out local women who are dealing with breast cancer.

They agreed that getting Kearney active and moving was a part of their mission. “We want to reach other people that may not feel comfortable going to a gym,” Mohlman said.

On a personal note, the women are actively involved with the local homeless shelter and breast cancer survivors.

“We’re always looking for ways to help out and stay involved,” Cleveland said.

They encourage people to volunteer and give back to the community. “Try it,” Mohlman said. “You’d be amazed at the outcome, and just the way that it makes you feel as a person.”

Mary O’Rourke


October, 2014

When Mary O’Rourke went walking with her grandson this summer, she didn’t have the intention of saving a life. But that’s exactly what this 50-year Kearneyite did. O’Rourke’s daugher and son-in-law lost their pet, a dog named Blake that weighs under three pounds. She went walking with her grandson in the neighborhood, searching for the dog.

They quickly came across a mother and newborn baby on a house porch down the street. The mom cried for help, and said the baby, one of a set of twins, wasn’t acting right. O’Rourke saw that the infant wasn’t moving. She tried to calm the mother, but immediately took the child, tilted its head down, and started firmly patting the baby’s back.

Mary Kolstad


September, 2014

Kearney resident Mary Kolstad believes that people should be a friend to everyone. The friendly nature of Kearney is what makes our community such a nice place to live, she said, and that is why she enjoys teaching children Spanish.

Kolstad, who previously taught Spanish at Faith Christian and Zion Lutheran schools, said that a small gesture such as learning a Spanish-language greeting can go a long ways in making people feel welcomed in the community.

When combined with her other activities, Mary Kolstad's extensive volunteering in the area has made her this month's Community Hero winner.

Her nominators, Chuck and Nancy Larson of Minden, wrote that "Mary makes the world around her a better place. She is a beautiful role model and truly deserves the title of 'Hero.'"

Judi Sickler


August, 2014

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for August, 2014 is Judi Sickler.

During the workday, Judi Sickler helps improve her community as the executive director for the Kearney Area Community Foundation. But it’s the continued volunteering she performs after work that makes this Kearneyite a true role model to others. Sickler was nominated for the award by Susan Bigg, who wrote that Judi is a “hero for Kearney” for encouraging others to give and improving her community’s life.

Judi began volunteering when she first moved to Kearney after college. “I didn’t know anybody,” she said. “So I went to the chamber and asked ‘How do I volunteer in this community?’” She began by being a Girl Scout leader, an activity Sickler had participated in as a kid. Through that experience, she met people who helped her to get even more ‘plugged in’ to the Kearney community.

Sickler’s first job in Kearney was at a large manufacturing company, where she worked in marketing. There, she became involved with a United Way campaign on a business level. She enjoyed her involvement there, and eventually became the chair of a campaign and the president of the board of directors.

“I love volunteering,” Sickler said. “That’s kind of my hobby. I don’t knit or do crafts, but I do volunteer. I get a lot of joy with that. I think it’s a way to give back to a community that’s been good to me. I do feel like I make a difference and I love working with other people.” One volunteer experience that Sickler truly enjoys is her time coaching TOPSoccer, a soccer league for youth with special needs. A self-described “bench-sitter,” being involved in an athletic activity has been a rewarding challenge for Sickler. “That’s been very rich for me.”

She originally thought she would be involved in that program for a year, but Sickler has found that she “can’t get away from it.” “It’s just infectious,” she said. “When you’re having a bad day from your nine to fi ve job, (volunteering) is a way to pick you up and feel like you’re making a difference.”

Sickler encourages other Kearney citizens to volunteer. “It just adds to the whole life experience,” she said. “I think you get way more back than you put into it.”

Sickler was humbled to receive August’s Community Heroes award. “It’s quite an honor,” she said. “I don’t do my volunteering and my work for recognition, so this is a nice surprise.”

Jessie Harris


July, 2014

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for June, 2014 is Jessie Harris from Kearney.

This month's Community Hero, sponsored in part by Kearney Tire and Auto, is Jessie Harris from Kearney, a volunteer at the Frank House, World Theatre and Buffalo County Historical Society. Harris' volunteer work has positively impacted the lives of many in the community.


Belinda Schroder


June, 2014

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for June, 2014 is Belinda Schroder from Kearney.

This month's Community Hero, sponsored in part by Kearney Tire and Auto, is Belinda Schroder, a Transition Professional Partner at Region III Behavioral Health Services in Kearney. Schroder's work with youth and those in need, both on and off the clock for Region III, has positively impacted the lives of many in the community.

"I work with youth in the 17 to 25 age group, youth with serious emotional behavior disorders or young adults with serious and persistent mental illness," Schroder explained. "At Region III we utilize the Wraparound Approach. The youth and consumers we work with build youth and family teams. On those teams we access any community support the youth is willing to work with. This might be a counselor, a school person, a mentor, a friend, a parent, whoever.

Schroder continued, "Each community may or may not have the service we are looking for. We may be seeking out individuals who can meet a need that might not come under a formal service. Sometimes those services are giving youths a ride to school, or to a job interview. Sometimes those things happen in the normal 9 to 5, and then sometimes those are the things that happen after hours. Picking up a student from a therapy session, or making sure they get home safe."

"I have had the luxury of working with Belinda on different cases," said Roz Sheldon, a licensed clinical social worker and licensed independent mental health practicioner at Michael Burke and Associates. "She represents those individuals that really give a lot of their personal time and professional effort. I know she was answering her phone on her personal time, but she still smiles. She is fun to be around and a nice person. She embodies that reality of a helping professional and really balancing that, and being able to give so much and be happy about it."

"I think something that is very rewarding is when kids have struggled in their personal lives and they graduate," said Schroder. "That is very exciting because there are so many youths that are on the verge of dropping out and being done with it because they don't have home support or other reasons. I don't do anything different than my coworkers, or the therapists or the teachers that I work with. I do not deserve this recognition any more than they do."

Olivia Derr


May, 2014

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for May, 2014 is Olivia Derr from Kearney.

Olivia Derr, a Kearney resident and current social work student at University of Nebraska Kearney, is this month's Community Hero. Derr volunteers at the Kearney Animal Shelter and has fostered and cared for 30 dogs since 2011.








Delbert Sindt


April, 2014

The Kearney Hub’s Community Hero for April, 2014 is Delbert Sindt from Kearney.

Here is what Yvonne Deyle of Kearney said about nominating Delbert Sindt for this month’s Community Heroes Award, sponsored by Kearney Tire & Auto Service! “It particularly came to me that Delbert Sindt should be nominated for Community Heroes this spring because Delbert knew my elderly husband was not able to trim our rose bushes. Delbert told me, ‘I want to trim your rose bushes for you.’

“I wanted to pay him, and he told me, ‘Absolutely not, but I’d like to do that for you.’ He did a wonderful job, and everything looked like it was done by a professional,” she said with a smile.

Deyle continued, “As the days went by, I saw that Delbert was cutting and trimming rose bushes for some of the elderly in our neighborhood. Granted, we don’t have much yard at our condos, but we have a little bit. The help Delbert gave the people was wonderful.”

Speaking about the Community Heroes program, Deyle said, “There are people who are so helpful to elderly people, to anyone who is ill, people like the Sindts. I think they need to be recognized in some way, and I think Community Heroes is the way to do it. I’d like to thank the Hub and the sponsors for doing that. I think it’s wonderful.”

Natasha Kelley-Wise


On January 10th, 2014

Judy McDonald and her friends were dining together at The Lodge Restaurant when a woman at a nearby table began choking.

“Natasha Kelley-Wise got up and instantly went over to her and started the Heimlich maneuver on her,” McDonald said. “It took a little while. We were all very scared.”

“We needed to lift up some prayers. We all quietly did that,” said Kathy Pilakowski, who was with McDonald.

Pretty soon, Kelley-Wise’s efforts paid off and the food was dislodged.

Kelley-Wise was very calm, said Pilakowski, “Being a nurse, she was well trained and assisted the woman very competently.”

Kelley-Wise said she had gone to The Lodge for dinner with her three children, husband Ryan and in-laws Mick and Sue Wise.

“We were enjoying my birthday dinner. My husband said, ‘I think someone needs your help,’ Kelley-Wise recalled. “I got up really quick and ran over to the table and a lady was defi nitely in distress.”

The choking woman’s husband was attempting to help her with the Heimlich, but he was about the same height as his wife and was having diffi culty. “In order to get that done, you really have to be up higher or on a chair to get those abdominal thrusts upward,” Kelley-Wise said. “I was taller so I offered my assistance, and he gladly took that.” Kelley-Wise said the Jan. 10 incident was the fi rst time she performed the Heimlich, “but I knew what I was doing and my instincts automatically kicked in. You remember all those steps, and I am very thankful for all those instructors that have taught me these things over and over again over the last 12 years.”

Health care professionals must be recertifi ed on a regular basis. Kelley-Wise encourages colleagues to stay up-to-date on their certifi cation because they may be called upon in an emergency to put their life-saving skills to work.

“There are so many unsung heroes,” said Sue Placke, one of McDonald’s friends, “and the Community Heroes program is a great way get the word out and give them some recognition.”

Brian & Ivy Olin

The Amherst couple who helped a crash victim insist that their acts were not heroic, but that didn’t stop the wife of the victim from nominating the pair for the first Kearney Hub Community Heroes Award.

The award is intended to highlight acts by everyday heroes who make a positive difference in the community. The first award goes to Ivy and Brian Olin, who were the first to respond when the pickup driven by Tom Henning of Kearney crashed about 150 feet away from the Olins’ home on the east edge of Amherst.



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