Kiewit Lodge was built with funds from the Peter Kiewti Foundation and numerous other donors. Should you ever take a moment to walk through the halls of The Leadership Center, you’ll be quick to notice that we have a number of plaques hanging up commemorating the donors that helped make the dream of The Leadership Center a reality. I love that they hang in the halls because it is a great reminder of the generosity, the passion and the heart that built this place. Seeing them daily, helps to spur me in my work along with my staff. While we focus on our business and our future, it is never far from our minds the legacy we have been given the honor to protect. (For more on our history, please click here.)

Those individuals, groups and businesses listed on the plaques throughout the buildings, are aware of our story. Many are not. In all the workshops or marketing meetings I have attended and even brainstorming sessions with my staff, we always come back to the fact that we have to do a better job telling our story. As we enter a very concentrated fundraising season, that fact becomes ever more apparent.

Before there dorms/cabins or lodge rooms, we had tents.Our story is rooted in the dreams and desires of three Nebraska Agricultural Education teachers: Irv Wedeking, Dr. Ted Ward and Norval McCaslin. They mortgaged their homes to purchase our original 27 acres. Founded for the Nebraska FFA to host there summer leadership camps, The Nebraska Youth Leadership Development Center (now known as The Leadership Center), became a reality. Placing the property into the care and ownership of the newly founded Nebraska Vocational Agricultural Foundation (NVAF), things began to take shape. In the beginning, we were open a couple of weeks a year to serve a couple hundred FFAer’s. During their time here, they learned leadership skills, camped in military tents and spent hours working on turning the property into a proper camp.

AK-SAR-BEN Lakeside addition in the building process.Under the direction of the NVAF and the first executive director, Cliff Jensen, our property blossomed and slowly became what we are today: a 43.5 acre property with 3 dormitories/cabins, 60 lodge rooms, over 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, a full service kitchen and lots and lots of recreational opportunities. Through all this, the NVAF has operated the property as a 501(3)(c), serving the FFA, numerous groups, schools, families, businesses and individuals by providing affordable meeting, lodging and food services. All the memories, lessons, relationships and stories that have happened here wouldn’t be a reality if it hadn’t been for the vision of three men and all of the generosity of SO MANY that helped build this dream. (Click here to see many of our donors.)

The Nebraska FFA Alumni Association with the help of many, re-shingled all three of our cabins over two summers through their "Raise the Roof" fundraiser.As mentioned earlier, we are heading into a concentrated fundraising season here at The Leadership Center. We kick it off with Go Big Give on May 3rd. This summer, we’ll host our “An Evening Stroll: Progressive Dinner & Auction” on July 16th and end with our “Harvest Gala: An Evening of Elegance and Charity” on November 19th. The funds generated from these three events go to help us do things like purchase new dishware, refurbish our lodging facilities, and improve numerous things on our property such as our tree line, new tables and chairs, recreation, etc.

Through our FFA Picnic Table Drive, over 50 chapters helped sponsor, construct, engrave signs, stain and deliver over 50 picnic tables for our guests to use and enjoy.I know that we are quick to boast that we serve over 40,000 guests from all over Nebraska, the United States and the world annually, so the question may arise, “Why do we need to raise funds?” While our guests pay to be here, we have multiple facilities on a very large acreage. We have an ebb and flow of clientele, the upkeep and improvements needed aren’t necessarily covered in our fees. Certainly, we could raise fees to do all of that, however, if we did, we’d cease to be able to serve a number of our groups due to affordability and care. Or, we’d have to lower our level of service, which for us, isn’t even an option. We pride ourselves on the level of care we offer our clients when they are here on our beautiful property.

Much like our pride in the level of care we offer our clients, we also pride ourselves on stewardship. We have been entrusted to care for this beautiful property which includes so many things such as:

  • Three dorm buildings that sleep a total of 156 people
  • 60 hotel style lodge rooms
  • 12 meeting rooms
  • A full service kitchen
  • A fully stocked pond
  • Indoor pool
  • Gymnasium
  • Fitness Room
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Bonfire Pits
  • Native Prairie
  • Walking Path
  • A bridge
  • Sand volleyball pits
  • Several acres of grass and trees
  • 2 outbuildings
  • A house
  • 3 wells
  • …and so much more.

The Centennial FFA Chapter spent a day here volunteering by chopping wood and cleaning up brush.We don’t have a lot of new things and most of our equipment has been donated. Our gratitude for all the generosity cannot even be put into words, but it is put in action as we care for the equipment, facilities, clients and legacy we’ve been given to protect, build and serve.

I hope that as you consider whether to donate, volunteer or even as a client, you’ll see that our purpose and mission is a worthwhile one to support. I do invite you to become a part of continuing our legacy through your gift of either money or time and resources. The impact you will make will go far beyond the purchase of dishware or trees or recreational items, your gift will impact guests for years to come.

Here are a few ways to give:

  • Visit between today and May 3rd, 2016 to donate!Go Big Give– May 3rd, 2016: Go Big GIVE is a 24-hour, online giving event organized by the Grand Island Community Foundation and Heartland United Way to grow philanthropy in Hall, Hamilton, Howard and Merrick Counties.
  • Our goal is to raise $25,000 and we hope to be able to do that with your help. Every dollar donated to an organization goes to that organization. Matching funds and prize money are available to amplify charitable donations. To donate, please visit
  • You can donate through May 3, 2016.  Donations through Go Big Give, will go towards:
    • $25.00- would allow us to purchase a new basketball or volleyball for the gym or 2 new life jackets for the pond.
    • $50.00- would allow us to purchase some kitchen dish ware or a set of linens for one of our lodge rooms.
    • $100.00-would allow us to purchase a new table or banquet ware or chairs to be used in our meeting rooms.
    • $250.00- would allow us to plant a new tree in our windbreak which needs several new trees.
    • $500.00- would replace windows in our upstairs gym or conference room or purchase a new kayak.
    • $850.00-would help us to purchase new AV equipment for our meeting rooms or a new canoe.
    • 8 donations of $1000.00-would allow us to install a playground for all our guests to enjoy.
    • $1,200.00- would redo a lodge room or allow us to purchase new sound equipment.
  • The T.L.C. Staff at The Evening Stroll Fundraiser in 2015.An Evening Stroll: Progressive Dinner & Auction-July 16, 2016 @ 5:30 here at The Leadership Center: This casual and relaxed but beautiful event will held here on our property featuring a cocktail hour, silent auction, delicious meal prepared by our talented staff, live auction and roast-able desserts fireside, under the stars on the island. All funds raised at this event will go to refurbishing our lodges and facilities. Tickets and sponsorships are available by calling 402-694-3934. We are also accepting auction donations.
  • The beautiful place setting at the 2015 Harvest Gala.The Harvest Gala: An Evening of Elegance & Charity- November 19, 2016 @ 6:00 p.m. here at The Leadership Center: This incredible evening will showcase The Leadership Center in a light most have not had the opportunity to see. Hors d’oeuvres and a lovely 3 course meal prepared by TLC’s Sous Chef Ryan Dente will be served paired with your choice of either a beer or wine pairing. We’ll have a delectable dessert auction featuring the talents of a number of Nebraska bakers. (You can even have them boxed for use at Thanksgiving.) After a lively auction, we’ll end the evening with dancing. All funds raised at this event will go to refurbishing our lodges and facilities. Tickets and sponsorship are available by calling 402-694-3934. We are also accepting auction donations.
  • Other Donation Options Available:
    • Gifts of Cash
    • Gifts of Commodities
    • Bequests, Memorials, & Honor Gifts
    • Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual Funds
    • Land or Gifts that Can Be Used or Sold
    • Volunteering and Community Service

Donations to The Leadership Center and our efforts are tax deductible. We’ll make sure you have the necessary paperwork. Should you ever have a question on how to give or volunteering, just give us a call at 402.694.3934.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and support. Thank you for investing in our work and our legacy.

Maile Ilac Boeder, IOM
Executive Director

Here are four other blog posts that might help you see the impact of your gift and the work of The Leadership Center. Click here, here, here or here.

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