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My Little Part

Forty-eight years ago, Elvin Siebert stood outside of his rental home looking at the house at the top of the hill.

“I’m going to buy that house when it goes up for sale,” Elvin told his wife.

Six months later he spent the 4th of July moving into the North Omaha home he had been admiring from the street below. Elvin has lived in that home for almost five decades and although he has seen many friends and neighbors move, he said he doesn’t plan on leaving.

“I’m not tempted to move out west because I’ve found my calling here,” he said. “My little part is to be a bridge in North Omaha and help with race relationships.”

Before moving to Omaha, Elvin worked in New York. His passion to help others and to “serve in alternative ways” is what took him there and then brought him back to Nebraska. He proceeded to earn a master’s degree in social work from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Social workers—we are people of community,” Elvin said.

Once in Omaha, he became a community activist after experiencing multiple break-ins. He realized how important it was to communicate with his neighbors, so he joined the Belvedere Point Neighborhood Association and has been the president for nine years.

Over the years, he has seen improvements in the neighborhood. He said stealing is not as extensive and the presence of gangs has dropped, but there is still a lot more work to do.

“If homeowners, renters and landlords cared for their homes then they wouldn’t hurt the neighborhood,” Elvin said.

He believes increasing homeownership and having responsible landlords and renters would transform Omaha’s Belvedere Point neighborhood. In order to support quality, affordable housing, he said the cost of childcare needs to be addressed.

“If we lowered the cost of childcare, families could use that money on their home,” Elvin said.

He thinks organizations such as Habitat for Humanity of Omaha can help their efforts by continuing to support homeownership and by demolishing blighted homes. He appreciates organizations that “keep tabs on abandoned properties and help transform them.”

Meanwhile, he is working with eight to ten active association members to improve their area. They organize block parties, collaborate with nearby neighborhood associations and attend bimonthly Omaha Police Department meetings. He said they could achieve more if younger residents joined them.

“We have ideas and would like to clean areas in our neighborhood, but we’re all retired and have health problems so we physically can’t do it,” he said.

He plans to continue recruiting neighbors and would love to have 20 active members. Elvin especially encourages first-time homeowners to get involved. He said it is a great way to be part of their community.

“Some people might not be as comfortable as I am going door-to-door to introduce themselves,” he said. “I suggest they attend a meeting because it’s important to connect with others in the community.”