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Group of 500 Helps Empower Local Citizens

Shelley Russell

OMAHA (KPTM)-It's an organization that's been helping empower local citizens to make their communities better for 15-years.

Omaha Together One Community, also known as OTOC, has spent years working to make Omaha a better place to live.

Sunday afternoon, nearly 500 OTOC members met with City leaders to present their concerns.

"We had over 125 small group meetings with 8-12 people where they had a chance to share stories of what was bothering them, what kept them up at night and what pressures their families face," said OTOC Co-Chair Brianne Kemp. "And through those stories, we hear in different parts of town that there are people having a hard time with housing, people don't know how to interact with the police, people are having a hard time finding a job."

Kemp said OTOC listens to individual stories and creates an agenda.

From that agenda, an individual signs up for what's called an "Action Team" where they research the problem and present solutions to City leaders.

"It's about individual citizens taking responsibility for their community and taking collective action to make things better," said Mark Hoeger from OTOC's Leadership Council.

Kemp said OTOC believes in what they call the 'iron rule.' "Never do for others what they can do for themselves. So, I'd like to think that OTOC is giving people the opportunity to participate in the democratic process, to really find out the politics can work for them, and that together, we have a collective voice. And that collective voice is power."

Sunday, individuals focused collectively on things like refugee support, police collaboration, job training and youth activities.

"It can be anything, but it's their concerns that they want to voice and it truly does empower them when they do that," said Father Frank Baumert of Holy Name Parish.

"People realize they have a voice," he said.

"They're angry, and they're passionate about it," said Kemp.

Kemp said the action groups will turn their passions into problem-solving.

"It's a really tough time to be living right now. Hopefully we'll continue to make Omaha a better place to live," she said.

More information about the OTOC organization can be found online at www.otoc.org

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