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Omaha based non-profit to receive $6 million grant

OMAHA — You could say that the Simple Foundation got its start in a pretty straightforward manner some twenty years ago.

According to Osuman Issaka, founder and CEO of the company, he and his brother Sal began playing soccer with refugee and newcomer children in the eastern side of Omaha at that time.

“We noticed adolescents that needed supervision and were bored,” he stated. “They didn’t have anything to do.”

A team was formed through practices and pickup games, which developed to competitive play and eventually a network of soccer teams. Issaka legally created the Simple Foundation as a charitable organization in 2014 in order to receive financial support from philanthropic organizations. Six years later, he purchased a building that had once been used as a YMCA in order to use it as the home base for the multifaceted skill-building enterprise.

Now, the Simple Foundation has been given a grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development in the amount of $6 million for internships and crime prevention. This grant will further grow the Simple Foundation’s programming, in addition to the programming of twenty-two other nonprofit organizations.

We make room for them to develop here, and we give them the tools they need to be successful in whatever they do.

— Osuman Issaka, the founder of the Simple Foundation

According to the current plans, the American Rescue and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will make the Simple Foundation the primary administrator of the grant money that will be distributed. Issaka stated that his organization will distribute a portion of the funds to approximately 25 organizations with a similar mission, such as Girls Inc. and Save, so that they may improve their services.

Developing one’s careers

While athletics served as the impetus for the Issaka brothers’ enterprise, Osuman Issaka emphasized that career development and character development were the enterprise’s primary foci. According to him, participating in soccer or another sport acts as a carrot that encourages pupils to attend after-school tutoring sessions or a group that learns how to sew, how to construct, or how to produce a podcast.

“If they are involved, it decreases the potential for them to get involved in something negative,” Issaka, a native of the West African nation of Ghana who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, said. “If they are participating, it lessens the chance for them to get into something unpleasant.”

Sen. Justin Wayne of Nebraska, who represents the state of Nebraska, was a primary architect of the Economic Recovery Act, which authorized $335 million and allocated $6 million specifically for internships and for the prevention of crime. He explained that the plan was to identify a primary organization that would collaborate with other groups in order to achieve the same objective of reducing crime.

He stated that “we are looking at collective impact” as our current focus.

15 countries apart from each other

According to Issaka, the kind of youth programming that is offered by the Simple Foundation can be equated to the prevention of crime.

The organization’s headquarters may be found at 3003 Q Street, in a brick structure that once housed the LaFern Williams Center for the Omaha Housing Authority. This center hosted a variety of social service activities that were made available to OHA’s low-income families.

In later years, the building was utilized as a YMCA fitness center.

As of today, the gymnasium, basketball court, and the little community theater are all still standing.

According to Issaka, Simple gives its services out for free to approximately 750 young people. The majority of these young people come from refugee, immigrant, and low- to moderate-income families, and they hail from 15 different countries.

Items such as clothing, spikes, and jerseys

A tour of the facility highlighted many different areas, such as a room filled with brand-new clothes donated by local stores for people of all ages, as well as a variety of educational supplies and housewares.

In a separate area, there was branding equipment that students could use to make items with the Simple logo on it, such as mugs or hats, or they could use it to design their own brand and apply it to merchandise.

The sewing machines and fabric needed to make gowns and accessories were located right next door.

Boxes of brand-new athletic shoes and a variety of brightly colored team shirts were crammed into one of the storage nooks.

Issaka stated that the teen tech center that will open shortly is a partnership with Best Buy, and one of the classrooms held recording and other technological equipment for the center.

According to Issaka, the new grant will allow for the expansion and improvement of career-building programs that has already been established.

Mobile kitchen

One more proposal for the grant is to stock a food truck with the essentials, with the intention of enabling aspiring entrepreneurs to transport the truck to different locations and sell their culinary creations. Issaka, whose undergraduate degree is in economics, believes that this would eliminate some of the costs associated with launching a business and provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to pursue their ambitions. His master’s degree is in management information systems, and he is an information management expert.

According to Issaka, one goal is to increase participation, and he added that Simple makes arrangements for van transportation for young people who do not live in close proximity to the South Omaha headquarters.

Issaka was quoted as saying, “We make space here for them to grow, and we give them with a tool kit for success.”

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