CRETE, Neb. -- Shay Smith is News Channel Nebraska’s Community Hero Award winner because of her dedication to her community and a drive to want to see it improve. 

Smith is currently working on reopening a theater in Crete that closed down in 2018. She had no idea that she was nominated for the award but was grateful to receive it. 

“I’m the Executive Director of the arts council here in Crete and I didn’t know that the board was doing this," Smith said. "They asked for my resume a couple of months ago and said it was for a fundraiser. I found out later that they worked out with one of my daughters to fill in some blanks and submit this nomination.”

The Isis Theater was opened in the early 20th century in Crete but was closed in 2018 after going through multiple owners. Smith said the theater was ahead of its time. 

“So the Isis Theater was actually opened first in 1926," Smith said. "It was the first movie theater in the Midwest built for Talkies. They weren’t even released in Nebraska until 1930 so it was always ahead of its time.”

Since the closing of the theater, Crete has not had a movie theater. Smith wants to open it back up and give the small town an opportunity to view new films released. 

In her dedication to the project, Smith went back to school to get the certifications she needed to get the project going.

“At that point, we realized that the project was significantly more than we had understood when we started so I actually went back to school and got a nonprofit leadership certification so I could really learn how to write grants and how to approach funders and do the fundraising necessary to have this happen,” Smith said.

The special thing about the Isis Theater is a $5,000 grant given by the Nebraska Art Council. Smith said she will use the grant to have hearing loops, for those who are hearing impaired. It would be the first southeast Nebraska theater to have that.

Smith is grateful to win this award and hopes others can help make their communities better in their own towns. 

“I think the one thing I would try to tell everyone is that you can make your own world better in simple, easy ways every day," Smith said. "It doesn’t take years of practice and raising $2 million. You can make your world a little better by smiling at your neighbor or by providing a hand out. There are all kinds of opportunities. So philanthropy really is something that everyone can do and if everyone does in a community, then you can build big things like this as well.”

The theater in set to open in the early summer in Crete.

You can nominate a person to receive this award through News Channel Nebraska.