WAKEFIELD – 401 Maple Street in Wakefield was a buzz on Thursday afternoon as community members from northeast Nebraska filtered into the garage of the new residence now owned by Adrian and Maria Ruiz. Project Home Plate has been completed and Thursday was the day for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts joined the Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation to do the honors. The beautiful blue home that sits on Maple Street in Wakefield is the first project completed in the state utilizing funds from the Nebraska Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act (LB518).
“It is our first project for the rural workforce housing fund that has been completed,” said Executive Director of WCHDC Megan Weaver. “It was a project that has taken about a year to get completed. We started this process in March of last year with Adrian and Maria and once we got this funding, we were able to pull the trigger and get it done for them.”
Adrian and Maria Ruiz are the new homeowners who welcomed all the guests on Thursday afternoon. Among those in attendance to speak along with Governor Ricketts were Paul Eaton who is the current Mayor of Wakefield, the Executive Director of Wayne Community Housing Development Corporation, Megan Weaver, as well as Brady Weaver who is the Operations Manager of Michael Foods, Inc. and Chris Hardy, the Community Relations Manager representing ENEL Green Power of North America. ENEL Green Power of North America is the leading owner and operator of Rattlesnake Creek Wind Farm located near Allen, NE and were major contributors along with Michael Foods, Inc. towards the development of workforce housing in this area.
Governor Ricketts announced on May 1, of 2018 the recipients of the newly established Nebraska Rural Workforce Housing Investment Act. WCHDC was one of 14 recipients and was awarded $639,000 in grant funds that were also coupled with $1,000,000 in matching funds that came from state and local partners. Those funds are being used for construction and rehabilitation of residential units in the communities of Wayne and Wakefield. With this being the first project completed in the state of Nebraska, Governor Ricketts came to see the house in person and cut the ceremonial ribbon along with seeing how those funds have helped small town communities like Wakefield.
“Projects like this are huge. Where this house stands was formally a dilapidated property that the city bought and tore down,” said Weaver, “so this is really renewing the neighborhood when you can build something brand new like this.”
The Executive Director of the Wayne Area Economic Development, Luke Virgil emceed the event that saw a rather large crowd on the chilly winter afternoon. After the ribbon cutting, guests were invited to a networking reception sponsored by Michael Foods at the Wakefield Civic Center. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments were served from 1-3 p.m. while people were able to take pictures and chat with Governor Ricketts and others. At the reception, Wakefield Mayor, Paul Eaton presented Governor Ricketts with an old baseball glove and had him sign a few baseballs before he departed for his next stop.