Recognizing the Legacy of a Man Who Cared
Bills Rides into the Sunset of Retirement
By SHAUN FRIEDRICHSEN
Surrounded by friends, family members and people whose lives have been changed because of his influence, Stan Bills, executive director of the Snow-Redfern Foundation, set off on the road to retirement, leaving behind him a legacy of care.
Recently, people gathered at the West Side Events Center to give their farewells to Bills, sharing their fondest memories of the man who helped shape many lives.
“I’m shocked at the turnout,” said Bills. “There were a lot of surprises. My kids showed up from eastern Nebraska, and had no idea they were going to be here. I had some people from the Boy’s Ranch. One traveled all the way from Washington and one from Omaha. I want to thank all my friends and family and everyone who showed up here. I’ve got a lot of good friends and I’m pretty blessed.”
Bills believes that the legacy of the Boy’s Ranch, which lives on through the Snow-Redfern Foundation, will continue to carry on, working to improve children’s lives in a number of ways through the grants that they offer.
“The Boy’s Ranch was awesome, and we changed lives,” Bills said. “These kids now have their own families. I’ve talked with some who are grandparents now. That’s been amazing. The foundation now, instead of helping a couple dozen kids every year, we help hundreds of kids every year. We give out grants that help hundreds and hundreds of kids, if not 1,000 kids every year. To me, being part of making that change was huge. To see those boys become successful, will always stay with me.”
Throughout his life, Bills has spent 51 years working with children, whether it was in a classroom, or through the foundation. He is passing the torch to Sara Nicholson, who is taking over as the executive director of the Snow-Redfern Foundation.
“We couldn’t have picked a better person in the whole state of Nebraska,” said Bills. “She’s amazing. She is so sharp, and she is way ahead of me on technology. Already, she’s picked up the torch and she’s running with it. She’s going to do a fantastic job. She will be awesome at this job.”
Nicholson said the gathering was a positive event to recognize Bills for all that he has done to help children.
“Stan has touched thousands and thousands of lives,” Nicholson said. “We were trying to figure out a count of how many young people he’s worked with, and we stopped counting at about 2,700. Those are just the ones that we know about; then there’s all kinds of people he’s impacted over the years. I think this needed to happen. People needed to share their love.
“This may be the last time that a lot of these people who were affiliated with the Boy’s Ranch have an opportunity to come together. It’s almost like a reunion in some aspects, and that part is beautiful,” Nicholson said.
She is excited to take the reins of the foundation, noting that she has drawn a lot of inspiration from Bills throughout her career.
“I think it’s really about a transition,” said Nicholson. “Stan will always remain a mentor. He’s going to be doing some archiving and he’s going to write a book. Snow-Redfern is looking for the next generation. We’re looking at modernizing things, like updating our website and utilizing our social media. We’ve also revamped our grant process to focus on outcome-driven grants so we can increase the impact that our dollars have.”
Nicholson said she plans to let the changes happen organically but stay focused on reaching several milestones over the next year.
One of the people to share stories of how Bills changed his life was Jim Hayduck, who was one of the boys served at the Nebraska Boys Ranch. He said without Bills’ guidance at the ranch, he would not be as successful as he is today.
“The Boy’s Ranch really made a difference in my life,” said Hayduck. “If I hadn’t gone there, and I was there for almost three years, I cringe to think of where I might have been. It was a good program. It was a program that really meant something to me because it was my home—it is my home and always will be. I just want to thank Stan.”
Bills hopes that people will see all the good that the Snow-Redfern Foundation does for youth in the state, and will help the foundation achieve its mission to change lives.
“I just hope that people understand what a difference we’re now making,” Bills said. “We made a lot of difference in a lot of young peoples’ lives years ago, but not the numbers we now. Our donations have dropped off. People need to understand that we still count on donations. If you really want to make a difference, we can do it with your support.