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Lending a Helping Hand


By Governor Pete Ricketts

October 22, 2018


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Limited government is one of the central features of the American republic both at the state and federal level.  In his farewell address,  President Ronald Reagan observed, “I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited.  There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” 


Government at the state level plays important roles in building infrastructure, funding education, protecting public safety, and caring for some of our most vulnerable among other priorities.  Government, however, cannot and should not be responsible for every aspect of life.  Churches, non-profits, and many other private organizations lend a helping hand in the lives of our communities.  They help build the fabric of society here in Nebraska that has helped create and grow the Good Life and make Nebraska the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family.


Nebraska stands out nationally in the area of civic engagement and volunteerism.  In the latest study from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Nebraska ranked 6th among all states and Washington, D.C.  with an estimated 58 million hours volunteered.  Furthermore, over 56 percent of Nebraskans give to charity on an annual basis.


Much of this work goes on quietly in our communities every day:  Parents coaching Little League baseball.  Caring friends preparing meals for a family grappling with a long-term illness.  A neighbor raking leaves for an elderly couple.  We want to recognize people like this.  This week, Serve Nebraska and Lt. Governor Foley will honor some of Nebraska’s outstanding volunteers.  In this column, I will highlight two examples of Nebraskans lending a helping hand and giving back to their communities.


Take for example the Team Jack radiothon, which is broadcasted on radio stations from Omaha to O’Neill and from Lincoln to Scottsbluff each year to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research.  The event is hosted in conjunction with the Team Jack Foundation, launched by the Hoffman family from Atkinson.  You may know Jack Hoffman for his 69-yard touchdown during the 2013 spring game, which has garnered over 8.8 million YouTube views and international attention.  This radiothon is a great example of private businesses stepping up to give back to an important cause with a local foundation focused on finding a cure to a terrible disease.


You can find Nebraska’s spirit of volunteerism in communities across our state.  The Norfolk Daily News recently highlighted the work of Linnea Steinhauser of Keya Paha County.  One community member explained to the paper that Keya Paha County is “just one big happy family.”  To help make Keya Paha County an even better place to live, Linnea and her family have volunteered their time for a number of causes, including the Keya Paha County Foundation, which helps support first responders and develop young leaders among other causes.  To help the foundation’s work grow, the foundation members have pooled their resources together and issued a challenge: If community members contribute $100,000 to the foundation, they will match their contributions with $50,000.


These are just a couple examples of Nebraskans stepping up to give back to their communities and working together to take responsibility for local opportunities and challenges they have identified.  Conservative thinker Russell Kirk once wrote that, “A nation which consists merely of a central government and an incoherent mob of private individuals, without local and voluntary associations to protect identify, cannot be free.”  The work of people like the Hoffman family and Linnea Steinhauser have built the fabric of a free and growing Good Life over the last 150 years.  If you have stories of volunteers who contribute to your community, I want to hear them.  Email me at or call 402-471-2244.