The descendants of Nick Jamson are pleased to make available a building that will become the Literacy Council’s permanent home.
Jamson built the structure, at 115 W. Charles St., in the 1960s, and it has been in the family ever since. Many Grand Islanders know it as the former Social Security building.
The structure will wind up going to the Literacy Council, with the help of developer Ray O’Connor.
“I called Ray and I said, ‘I’ve got this beautiful building and maybe you can help me figure out what we can do with it,’” said Paul Jamson, Nick’s grandson.
O’Connor came over, looked it over and said, “It’s a great building. I’ve got something in mind. Give me 24 hours,” Paul Jamson recalled.
The next day, O’Connor called back and said, “Here’s what we can do,” if Jamson liked the idea.
The Jamson Family Trust is making the lead gift of $200,000 in a campaign that will kick off Tuesday morning. The drive will raise $250,000 toward the $450,000 goal.
“It sounded like a great idea, and I knew my family would be tickled pink about it,” Paul Jamson said. “They’re all very, very happy that we’re doing something for Grand Island.”
Nick Jamson “came to this country as an immigrant. He escaped religious persecution over in Greece,” Paul Jamson said. “He just thought this was the greatest country in the world. He was a good citizen. He made some money here, and he became a successful man. When he started selling some of his property, he wanted it to go to the city. There are quite a few parking lots downtown that were his buildings that he sold back to the city before he passed away.”
Nick Jamson died in 1976.
The family he left behind loves the idea of helping the Literacy Council.
“We’re all for it, and we’re very, very proud to do it,” his grandson said.
They are “thinking about my grandfather and my father and mother every time we talk about this stuff,” said Paul Jamson, who runs the Peacock Lounge.
The office building totals 4,500 square feet. The project includes a 20-stall parking lot. The fund drive will include putting a new roof on the building.
The kickoff breakfast begins at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday at Boarders Inn and Suites.
The campaign chairmen are O’Connor, his wife, Jennifer, Vikki Deuel and Carolyn Rasmussen.
Rasmussen’s late husband, Densel, “was a dedicated tutor and did so much for us,” Deuel said.
The Rasmussen name is a revered one at the Literacy Council, she said. He died last year at the age of 62.
Kurt Stoppkotte, the Literacy Council’s executive director, said the project will mean a lot to Grand Island.
“We understand the power of education and the importance of community,” Stoppkotte said. “And that’s really what the Literacy Council is all about.”
Right now, one in seven Grand Islanders is limited in English proficiency, he said.
“Oftentimes, they’re refugees or immigrants,” Stoppkotte said. “Other times, they’re folks who slip through the cracks in the public schools,” or “might have a developmental disability. But we’re open to everyone in Grand Island. And we know that there’s a big need to invest in education.”
The Literacy Council has been around more than 35 years.
“But we’ve really just seen tremendous growth in the last few years,” Stoppkotte said.
When he started work there almost three years ago, the council had about 100 students. Now the number is more than 660.
“I think that’s a testament to the need in the community, and also the fact that we’ve just outgrown our space,” Stoppkotte said. The current location is 312 N. Elm St., Suite 101,
“We’re a nonprofit organization, but we’re more than that. We’re really a school, and we’re a community center,” he said.
Space is important in order to have classes, but also so that “people can connect, have conversations and learn and grow together.”
Over the years, the Literacy Council has always leased its locations. Having its own building would be “a big deal,” Stoppkotte said.
The Literacy Council has more than 175 tutor-student matches — people who work one on one. About 200 students attend group classes.
“We have a Community Connection Center, which is right now a small space in our school,” Stoppkotte said.
The Literacy Council is trying to “grow the events that we do,” he said. Some of those events “are of interest to everybody in the community.”
People who contribute to the capital campaign are “really going to help us build a stronger, better-connected, more prosperous Grand Island,” Stoppkotte said.
Literacy Council leaders “are extremely good stewards of people’s investments,” he said, so supporters will see a “tremendous return on that investment” down the road.