Published On: Wed, Mar 23rd, 2011

St. Helena is bucking population trend

ST. HELENA — St. Helena is not your typical small Nebraska town.
While all other communities in Cedar County, and most of rural Nebraska saw population declines with the latest U.S. Census Bureau report, this tiny northern Cedar County hamlet is more than holding its own.

The village, which sits just a little over a mile from the Missouri River in northern Cedar County, experienced a small growth spurt in the past 10 years.
The Census Bureau reports St Helena’s population is up by 10 percent since the 2000 Census figures came out a decade ago.
St. Helena population in 2000 was at 86 – it was close to 100 in the 2010 Census numbers.
St Helena Mayor Victor Paltz said it was great to see St. Helena has grown some more – especially when it isn’t the trend in the rural areas right now.
According to Paltz, there are several things that attract people to live and stay in St. Helena.
He said the community is quiet, scenic, well-maintained and housing is affordable. The location is also important: St. Helena is close to other communities where residents work or go to school and it is close to the Missouri River for hunting, fishing and  recreation.
“We try to keep the town looking nice. Residents keep the grounds and yards looking nice. We try to do a good job with the streets,” Paltz said.
A number of improvements have been going on in St. Helena during the last few years.
The Social Club/Dance Hall, which is the pride of the community, has been remodeled inside and out.
A new roof was put on and the floors re-done and there is a little more work that will still be done in a couple of areas Paltz said.
The Social Club is used for celebrating community events, birthdays and anniversaries. It’s also a popular place for wedding receptions and dances.
The majestic Immaculate Conception Church, which captures travelers’ attention as soon as they come over the hill and make their way into town, has made some major improvements, as well.
A new heating and cooling system was installed, along with a new roof and other work that was done on the interior of the church. Improvements were also made at the Parish Hall. The work was tied in with St. Helena’s 150 birthday celebration which was held in 2008.
The latest project at the Catholic Church involves reconditioning the organ, which is close to 100 years old.

The historic church has and continues to be the center of the community, Paltz said.
The next big improvement for the town will be made on the water tower. An application for a grant has been submitted to help with the cost.
“The residents and those who live around the town – the people who call St. Helena their home – have invested in this town,” Paltz said. “We are proud of St. Helena.”
Retired people, as well as some younger families, make their home here.
Some of the residents work in Hartington, while others drive to Yankton for employment.
There are very few empty houses in St. Helena, according to Paltz.
If someone moves and a house becomes unoccupied – someone moves in right away, he said.
According to Paltz, there are four new houses in St. Helena since 2000 — two of those houses were moved to St. Helena and replaced existing structures.
There are also four homes that had major improvements or additions done in the last decade.
People who live in the country and are ready to retire move into town and others are coming back to a familiar place to live according to St. Helena resident Loren Bender.
“Some of them grew up here and then left. I guess they liked St. Helena because they have moved back. Some have bought houses that were here – a few built new houses. The lots are low enough and the taxes are reasonable,” Bender said. “St. Helena is a typical small town. No crime and it’s a good place to raise kids.”
The close proximity to a fishing spot does offer another advantage for the small village.
One resident, who had lived in another state, found out St. Helena was close to the Missouri River.
“The fishing possibilities helped him make the decision to move to St. Helena,” Bender said.
Bender owns and operates the St. Helena Store – one of a handful of businesses in the town.
The Store offers a light line of groceries and hardware, sells beer and other liquor and customers can fill their vehicle up at the gas pumps.
In the mornings local residents gather for a cup of coffee and catch up on the latest news at the St. Helena Store.
St. Helena still has a Post Office – other businesses in town include Harold Zimmerman’s Repair Shop, The Hair Port and St. Helena Storage, a storage facility that Loren and Ruth Bender constructed and opened for business since 2000.
Renae Jansen, who owns and operates, The Hair Port, grew up in the Menominee area but had family who lived in St. Helena.
After graduating from high school she lived in Omaha for a while and then purchased The Hair Port and moved to St. Helena.
Jansen relishes the small town atmosphere in St. Helena and loves the people.
She enjoys going to the Post Office to get mail – everyone is so neighborly.
“People here all wave to you – it’s not like that in Omaha,” Jansen said. “Here, they wave to you with their whole hand – they are so friendly.”
She remembers the time a guy came in for a haircut at her shop – he pulled up out front in a tractor and left it run while he got his hair cut.
St. Helena is definitely my favorite place to live she said.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Cedar County saw an eight percent decrease in population between the 2000 and 2010 Census.