Snow-packed roads and freezing conditions didn’t seem to bother the Falls City EDGE 2023 Annual Banquet and Business Meeting attendees at the Falls City Elks Club on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.
EDGE Director Lucas Froeschl gave his welcoming remarks, followed by a prayer from Charles Musil of the NorthRidge Church. As the attendees enjoyed a fried chicken dinner, Froeschl noted EDGE’s achievements from the past year.
In his opening remarks, Froeschl noted the evening’s purpose was to honor committees, volunteers, the boards, and accomplishments from the past 12 months.
“It’s a special time to recognize the hard work and accomplishments,” said Froeschl. “I really enjoyed it; it’s been a fun year. We made some good progress on some of the main goals that we are trying to accomplish and we’re going to set some new goals for 2024.”
The first accolade of the evening went to Dollar Fresh Market for the Investor of the Year Award. Receiving the award were Store Manager Clint Sailors and Cameron Olson, District Director at Hy-Vee, Inc. Dollar Fresh opened in January 2021 as Falls City’s newest 32,000-square-foot grocery store.
Dollar Fresh currently employs 32 individuals and offers benefits and a 401k program. Dollar Fresh encourages its store leaders to get involved in the community which Manager Clint Sailors has done. Sailors is on the Chamber of Commerce, the Southeast Nebraska Landbank, the Jaycees and the NFL Flag Football League boards.
Froeschl next introduced the two newest inductees into the EDGE Wall of Fame.
The first to be honored was the late Roger Kiekhaefer. Kiekhaefer was a dedicated Falls City businessman whose pride for his hometown was shown through civic leadership and neighborhood development projects. Roger, a 1954 Falls City High School graduate, attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Kiekhaefer continued his education at Peru St. College before moving home to run the family business.
Roger was involved in many businesses in town, including Western Auto, which later became Roger’s True Value, Little Duffer, Nebraska’s first Sonic Drive-In, laundromats, and apartment rentals. In 1978, while serving on the City Council, Roger was instrumental in creating Grandview Park, which converted an open-air creek bed into an underground gutter system hidden beneath the new city park. Kiekhaefer was a member of the Rulo Boat Club, Falls City Country Club, Lions Club President, Chamber of Commerce President, a council member of Christ Lutheran Church, and the Jaycees’ Distinguished Service Award winner.
The second honoree was the late Don Coupe. Coupe was a longtime business owner in Falls City and a public servant who devoted numerous hours to organizing events, supporting activities, and serving the citizens of Falls City. Coupe a 1958 graduate of Sacred Heart, returned to Falls City after a short career on missile and aircraft bases in St. Louis. Once home, Coupe worked at Miller-Monroe Company for 35 years, eventually becoming co-owner.
Don also served on the Board of Public Works for over 15 years, was on the City Council for 12, was the Chamber of Commerce President, and helped to organize Horseplay Days (Cobblestone) for 20 years, being named Grand Marshall in 2008.
Coupe served on the first Sacred Heart school board in 1967, was an Irish athletic volunteer for 44 years, often driving the bus and coached junior high football for 35 years.
Don was one of the most-likable personalities in the downtown district and his commitment to Falls City was shown through his years of volunteering, serving on public boards and committing to the community he loved most.
A short business meeting was held in which the minutes of 2023 were approved, a general director was elected to a three-year term and a general director vacancy for two years was filled.
Elected for the three-year term was Steve Severin and the two-year position was filled by Sam Scheitel.
The guest speaker, Dawson Brunswick, President of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t make it, so Falls City Public School superintendent Tim Heckenlively filled in.
Heckenlively updated those in attendance on the partnership formed between Southeast Community College and Falls City High School.
Heckenlively told the crowd one of EDGE’s biggest goals is improving workforce development. With the new partnership, students from all three schools in the county will have the opportunity to take advantage of career pathways. The Career Academy will be one of just three in the state. One, located at SCC, is partnered with Lincoln Public Schools, and the other is Bancroft-Rosalie Schools, which is partnered with Northeast Community College.
“We’re going to have career pathways, first of all in welding, looking at our local needs, the construction trades, were going to have a career pathway in teacher education and also health sciences,” said Heckenlively.
The health sciences will return the Certified Nursing Assistant Program during the school day. High school juniors and seniors can be certified and enter the workforce.
The students taking the courses offered can earn dual credits for high school and college. Heckenlively also mentioned that the welding and construction programs will offer certification programs allowing the participants to go straight into the workforce.
Jack Bangert will oversee the building of the program that will be launched in the fall of 2024. Bangert will not only be the site Coordinator but also double as an instructor in the education career courses.
The evening ended with Board of Director President Kevin Malone giving some closing remarks on the state of Falls City.
“I sometimes think Falls City has an inferiority complex,” said Malone. “We don’t think very highly of ourselves. We have a tendency to feel sorry for ourselves and don’t think we have it that great. We really do have a great community… We have a lot of great things going on, but at times, we don’t acknowledge how good it is.”