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Common Grounds

Showing the heart of community engagement inside the Papillion Landing

The Papillion Landing puts the "community" in "community center" and continues to find ways to include everyone in that open community.

"The recreation department has a long history of great programs," said Tracy Stratman, Director of Recreation for the City of Papillion. "The benefit of the Landing is having a space to house it all."

Before opening in 2020, Stratman said the city's recreation department offered programs, including the Daddy Daughter Dance at a local hall, and aquatic exercise classes at the high school pool. Having the Landing has given the city a central location. While the facility does have a paid membership site comparable to a commercial gym and an events area available for rent, a good portion of the Landing is open to all Papillion residents.

"Now that we have a community space for community activities, it's another step in building that positive relationship with the places you live," she said.

A goal of this positive relationship is welcoming everyone, including those with cognitive disabilities. For instance, the 55+ Club, Papillion's senior services program, launched its Bingos with Buddies event.

"They've always had bingo during the week. As more participants were coming to the Landing, we noticed that individuals with cognitive disabilities wanted to take part," said Stratman.

The 55+ Club invited these individuals to participate and donated prizes such as snacks. After only a few months, Stratman said they have more than 50 people playing bingo every first and third Thursday from 1-1:45 p.m. 

The Landing also partnered with 360 Community Services, an organization dedicated to the holistic care and development of those with developmental disabilities, to open the Common Grounds coffee shop.

"They're individuals who want to have that sense of community like anyone else, and be treated like anyone else, and hold a job like anyone else. What better place to do that than a community center?" Stratman said. 

360 Community Services CEO, Bill Ehegartner, echoed this sentiment of the Landing being the perfect place to unite everyone.

"For us, it's about providing a place and a space that brings the whole community together. Hence the name, 'Common Grounds,'" said Ehegartner.

Citing a three-year-long partnership through the Fitness with Friends program, Ehegartner said he and Stratman recognized a need for a coffee shop. As a part of the day services for 360 Community Services, working at Common Grounds allows its employees to gain work experience, learn appropriate workplace behaviors, build confidence and self-esteem, and create communication skills.

"The people who've been down there, interacting, it's just a coffee shop for them—but that's what we wanted. It's finding common ground with the community," he said, adding the community response has been incredibly positive and welcoming. When asked how the employees have responded to the program, he said, "All I'll ask you to do is go down there and grab a cup of coffee. You can tell by the smiles on their faces."

The program has been so successful that 360 Community Services is in the works to launch two more similar coffee shops in other community centers soon.

Ehegartner encourages readers to visit the Common Grounds coffee shop, which is open to the public in the community portion of the Landing from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

Stratman said she is proud of the Landing's inclusion and the community's response.

"When people think of a community center, obviously community is part of the name," she said. "To be able to have a community center that has not only ongoing programs for those with disabilities but also job opportunities for those with disabilities, makes me very proud of my staff and what they do on a day-to-day basis."

"It's about providing a place that brings the whole community together."

"Grab a cup of coffee"

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