There’s a smell of fresh paint lingering through Orchard most days. But that’s just a touch of what’s going on in the community thanks to a rejuvenated economic development organization.
An organization in Orchard has been unnoticed for a few years, but recently some new improvements to the community has shed some light on the group.
The Orchard Economic Development Association has a lot of goals in mind, but their mission is to “revitalize the Orchard community and enhance the quality of life by building new and improving existing properties while creating a safe and attractive place to live.” And they are doing just that.
The group began around 1996 nearly when Ashfall Fossil Beds came near the area. They became persistent in trying to grow the community of Orchard. Eventually, the group purchased the Elizabeth Place in 1996. The Elizabeth place is a 4 unit low-income housing unit. The OEDA is in charge of the management which includes a yearly budget, maintenance and grounds upkeep.
In 2014, the OEDA became a full executive board who had a new vision in mind.
“There were four of us on the OEDA board to approve the budget, then we stepped it up a little bit,” said Lucy Ferguson.
The vision came with an idea to eliminate and replace avaliable run-down housing with nice, affordable housing. A few other visions included attracting new, main street businesses, facelifting the existing businesses, developing parks and recreation and developing a community center.
The group has done just that. During the summer, the organization has completed many tasks to improve the community. A few projects include fixing up a few businesses and buildings around main street. Some improvements include the Orchard Public Library, the fireworks stand and other vacant buildings.
“The fireworks stand turned out really nice and we have had a lot of comments on it,” said Rachael Cheatum. “I think that’s the point of what we’re doing; to make things look nicer and obviously people are seeing it. Someone from out of town even noticed it was different and complimented it.”
The group has also made it a point to meet with other area economic development groups.
“We can talk to other towns and see what they’re doing,” said Carrie Wickersham.
With help from Nicole Sedlacek of North Central Public Power, the team made a list of some strengths of Orchard. While the list included lots of young families returning, the Orchard Young Men’s Club, community support and agriculture as a main business; the organization feels that they can improve on their weaknesses. This included gaining more local volunteer help and improving the local shopping. Many in the community have noticed a huge improvement to the look of the town including a few that are just passing through.
Now, the OEDA is asking for your help in member participation. Only a $10 member fee can give you rights to attend meetings and vote on pertinent items. Everyone can become involved whether it is being on a committee or receiving input at meetings on issues discussed to help the community.
The OEDA is also campaigning to increase the membership for more brainpower and manpower to complete the vision for the Orchard community. Current Executive Board officers are: President Lucy Ferguson; Vice President Kerry Wickersham; Secretary Brittany Finch; Treasurer Sally Finch and board members Rachael Cheatum, Laura Ferguson and Angela Gray. An election of officers will be held this November.
Ultimately, the organization is making positive changes to the streets, parks, downtown area and housing. With three sub committees, the OEDA has a bigger plan for the future of Orchard.
“We are looking into grants or any type of funding that could help us,” said Kaleb Finch. “Whatever we can do to get any type of housing.”
All in all, the OEDA is looking to make the Orchard community stronger and better than it has ever been before. It looks like this town isn’t going anywhere, but up.
314 M Street
Neligh, NE 68756