IPL staff lead refugee training sessions about rental rights and responsibilities

netra pres
Bhutanese Nepali interpreter Netra explains a concept to a Nepali speaker at a training

After being approached in 2016 by agencies who work with Omaha refugees, IPL has a new refugee training program that is educating refugees about their rental responsibilities and rights. The trainings are geared towards reducing the number of rental housing issues refugees are having. Through research done by OTOC intern Shannon Sein this summer, a curriculum has been developed to help refugees understand what a healthy rental agreement should look like, both in what they are expected to do as tenants and what their landlord is supposed to do. They talk about the importance of paying rent on time and what a security deposit is for, as well as tips on how to get it back at the end of your lease. Refugees can be taken advantage of if they do not what to expect and what their rights are, and we want to equip refugee communities to know how to handle these issues. Several trainings were done over the summer and will continue.

greta refugee train

refugee tainshannon pres

IPL takes Omaha leaders to seminar with Glenn Loury, national expert on race and economics

On August 15 and 16th, OTOC leaders Mark Hoeger and Karen McElroy and IPL Executive Director Joe Higgs joined community leaders from across the United States in Houston, Texas to discuss how to work across race and class lines in these polarized times.  Karen, Mark and all of the eighty leaders and organizers present in Houston were part of organizations affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundations, the largest and oldest community organizing network in the United States.

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Dr. Glenn Loury in Houston

The leaders met with Dr. Glenn Loury, Professor of Social Sciences and Economics at Brown University, and  author of Race, Incarceration and American Values.   Dr Loury is a leading scholar in the fields of  economics, politics and social structures affecting African American communities in the US. Loury’s work documents the changing face of racism, from the end of Jim Crow laws, to the more recent impact of mass incarceration of people of color.

The meetings took place in the days immediately following the troubling events in Charlottesville and Loury emphasized that relying on identity politics is not going to result in meaningful change. Rather, he encouraged the leaders and organizers present to keep doing the  patient work of organizing to build relationships across lines of race, class and culture in order to develop strong coalitions of people who will seek the common good of their community, not just narrow special interests.

karen in houston
Karen McElroy asks a question during the seminar

Mark Hoeger notes that “it made me appreciate anew the importance of what we at OTOC/IPL in Omaha and all the IAF affiliate organizations across the country are doing” in regards to having structural organized efforts to equality through the democratic system.

To Karen McElroy, the experience was a way to explore what other organizations are doing and how OTOC can improve housing inequality, early voting, and post incarceration programs. On the days immediately after the racial violence in Charlottesville, we came away renewed in our commitment to the careful, patient work of building relationships.

Over 220 Donors raise $31,000 for IPL during OmahaGives 2017

Tom and Margaret Hoarty  opened their gracious Country Club home for IPL’s annual fundraiser held in conjunction with Omaha Gives!, the 24-hour community giving day.

Over 100 people dgroup scene in main roomropped by for food, drink and conversation with others who are working to make Omaha a more just community. Refugee cooks prepared great food, many contributed their favorite bottle of wine and there many fun people to meet.

IPL and OTOC leaders worked together to make this day a great success for IPL.


  • 199 people gave online through Omaha Gives and another 20 gave by checkLowen and student

  • Of the 193 medium sized organizations, IPL ranked in the top 4% for the total number of donors

  • And IPL ranked in top 3% for the total amount raised by medium sized organizations

  •  You gave over $31,000 to support our critical work training emerging leaders in our community—Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!

In one of the most exciting parts of the evening, IPL once again won a First Place participation award of $3,000. The award went to the medium sized organization with the greatest number of contributions during the last 8 hours.

Thanks so much for your generous support.


IPL First Place



IPL working with community leaders to put reasonable limits Pay Day Lending

IPL is working with leaders of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC), the Women’s Fund, Nebraska Appleseed, Voices for Children and others to educate members of the public and the Unicameral about the impact that Pay Day Lending has on working families.

Pay Day Lenders are currently allowed to charge interest and fees reaching 461% APR in Nebraska, one of the highest in the country. For instance, if you went to a Pay Day Lender to borrow $300 to fix your car or purchase medicine, it would cost you $530 in interest and fees to borrow that $300 for just 5 months.

Rev Shreve
Pastor Scott Shreve of St. Paul UMC testified on behalf of OTOC and other faith leaders about how churches have to help working class borrowers pay their bills because all their resources are consumed trying to pay back their pay day loan.
Richard Blocker Right
Rich Blocker testified how we became trapped in a Pay Day Loan he had to take out in order to purchase medicine so he could work

Some Nebraskans have paid as much as $10,000 in fees  for a $500 loan which they were not able to pay back over several years. Borrowers must pay back all of the principal, interest and fees in two weeks or renew the loan and pay only the interest–no partial payments  of principal are allowed. This is a trap for desperate families who have no other options.

IPL helped OTOC and community leaders learn about LB 194 sponsored by Senators Vargas and Linehan that would have reduced the allowable fees so that borrows could actually pay of the loan instead of becoming caught in an endless debt trap. LB 194 is currently caught in the Banking Committee and will not receive a vote this year at the Unicameral.  IPL and our partners will continue to educate around this issue.

Clergy Caucus
Members of OTOC’s Clergy Caucus met to discuss how they could educate their congregations about the negative impact of Pay Day Loans on our community


Short Month, A lot of Action

Short Month, A lot of Action



February was a busy month at Institute of Public Leadership. We helped organized 6 events at Urban Abbey in collaboration with OTOC-Omaha Together One Community. Over the course of the month, over 200 engaged citizens attended either an Issues Café or a game night of playing Mexican Bingo (La Loteria).


The Issues Cafés covered a wide range of topics and were engaging and educational. The Issues Cafes were hosted by OTOC action teams, but we invited numerous other friends and community leaders to learn and teach with us. The topics ranged from the changing landscape of immigrants and refugees, to transportation. The Transportation Issues Café was the only café that was not hosted by an OTOC action team. Sarah Johnson and Angie Eikenberry, from Mode Shift Omaha, informed us on how we can benefit individually and as a community from embracing alternative transportation options.

Follow OTOC and IPL on Facebook to see pictures and recaps of these events, and to find out about future events of a similar nature. Join us as we learn and teach, so that we can be agents of positive change in our communities.


The Following OTOC Action Teams hosted events

  • Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization
  • Pay Day Lending
  • Immigration and Refugee
  • Mexican Bingo (La Loteria)
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Transportation (Hosted by Mode Shift Omaha)

February Issues Cafe Dates and Topics

IPL trained leaders of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) will hold 4 Issue Cafes and their annual night of Mexican Bingo at Urban Abbey during February. The Issue Cafes all begin at 6:45 and Mexican Bingo starts at 6:30 p.m.OPPD Invidual Meetings

OTOC leaders have invited great speakers to inform you about these key issues:

Wed. Feb 2–Leaders of OTOC’s Housing Action team with the head of Building Code Enforcement from Council Bluffs which recently adopted an ordinance requiring registration and periodic inspection of all rental properties.

Tues. Feb 7–Nebraska Appleseed Attorney Ken Smith, Lisa Sock and others who are part of a coalition of groups working to reduce the amount of interest and fees that pay day lenders can charge from over 400% per year tMexican Bingo Nighto only about 35%.

Fri. Feb 11–OTOC’s Fun Committee will once again host this fun family event where we play Mexican Bingo, eat from a great Taco Bar and win cool prizes.

Wed. Feb 15–OTOC’s Immigration and Refugee Action Team will invite local experts to help us understand possible impact of changes in law at federal and state level and how we can get involved.

Wed. Feb 22–OTOC’s Environmental Sustainability Team will invite local experts to explain two important concerns: Carbon Fee and Dividend to properly price the impact of carbon on our environment and assuring that Omaha’s water supply is not threatened by intensive chicken production upstream.

IPL Trained OTOC Leaders Featured on KETV

350 OTOC leaders from 30 congregations and community organizations met on Monday, October 17 with Candidates for US Congress, Brad Ashford and Don Bacon, and candidates for OPPD Board Craig Moody and Tom Mulligan.

Watch the news clip and make note of peoples concerns. This is a prime example of why IPL’s role, of training leaders to build stronger communities, will be so important in 2017 and beyond.



IPL working with OTOC to organize Summer Training Academy: “Leadership in an Election Year”

OTOC and Institute for Public Leadership will hold 3 workshops this summer to help Omaha leaders prepare for “Leadership in an Election Year.” All sessions will be from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Augustana Lutheran (3647 Lafayette Ave).

Monday June 13–Listening and Telling our Story: Creating a Narrative for the change we want in our communties

Monday July 11–Sharing our narratives and agenda for change with voters; how to organize successful non-partisan voter education campaigns

Monday August 8–holding a large accountability session with candidates for office; how to make our agenda the candidate and successfully win their commitment to support it

IPL helping organize May 21 Workshop for Refugees on Women’s Health and May 24 Meeting on NE Property values

IPL is working with leaders of the Refugee Health Collaborative to organize a workshop on Saturday, May 21 from 10:30 to Noon at Augustana Lutheran for refugee leaders entitled “Women’s Health: What everyone needs to know!”  Refugee women will meet with Libby Crockett, MD of the UNMC College of Public Health while the men will meet with Dr. Armando de Alba.

JordahBoth physicians will be assisted by refugee leaders  who will interpret their teaching into several common refugee languages including Karen, Burmese, Nepali, Arabic and Somali interpreters who will assure that participants are able to understand. These are interactive workshops designed to help refugees learn how to access health care appropriately, understand the complex US health care system and how to keep their families healthy.  To download a flyer, click on the link below:

Womens Health flyer May 2016 – 2(2)

Community Meeting about Property Valuation in Northeast Omaha

IPL is also working with OTOC leaders to help organize a community meeting on Tuesday, May 24 at Clair Memorial United Methodist to discuss why tax valuations in the Northeast area of Omaha have been reduced so drastically, first by the Douglas County Assessor’s Office and again the Nebraska Tax Equalization Commission. Residents will learn what they need to do if they want to protest a valuation they consider to be too low or too high. They will also hear from Attorney Gary Fischer of Family Housing Associates about how families can build and protect the equity in their home, and how to avoid losing value.

IPL will also lead the group in discussing how congregations and community groups can work together to increase the demand for affordable housing in Northeast Omaha, thus increasing the value of that housing.

For a flyer about this meeting, click on the link below:


IPL to host May 25 After Work Gathering to Celebrate OmahaGives and Thanks our Donors

Join us Wednesday May 25 from 5 to 7 pm for 

IPL’s After Work Gathering

to celebrate OmahaGives24 

              and IPL’s work  to develop leaders among immigrant and refugee communities , school parents and OTOC Action Teams  

which you made possible this year   

Join us at the lovely home of Jaymes and Christine Salestrom

6744 Burt Street, Omaha, NE 68132

RSVP at iplomaha@gmail.com


Drop in for Conversation, Appetizers and Spirits

(Colleagues, Spouses & Friends Welcome)

IPL’s OmahaGive’s Contribution Strategies

  • Want to increase your impact by 50%? The IPL Board will add 50% more to your tax deductible contribution…so your contribution of $100 will mean $150 to IPL for leadership development.
  • Time means money! Give on line to IPL after 4:00 p.m. CST on May 25th so we can compete for a Participation Award of up to $3,000 during the last 8 hours… that means after 4:00 pm (but before Midnight) on May 25th.
  •  Split your total contribution between spouses and/or family IPL is more likely to win a Participation Award if you split your total family contribution between the members of your household, each giving on line.

To make a contribution, click on the link below:

Secure Link to IPL contribution page on OmahaGives site