A Year to Remember

It’s difficult to find the right words to describe the past year and everything we’ve learned and accomplished as an organization. But we can also say that despite the difficulties and heartbreak that the COVID-19 pandemic and racial inequities have brought our community, we’ve seen an amazing outpouring of support and love for our neighbors who are struggling and the nonprofit agencies who work hard every day to serve them.

While 2020 has proved to be incredibly challenging so far – for us as individuals, family members, employees, organizations and a community as a whole – we know that the most important thing we can do is stick together. Together, we are stronger and can create meaningful and lasting change that is necessary for building a better future for everyone.


Our hearts go out to YOU – our donors, partners and volunteers – and your families and loved ones. Thank you for supporting our mission to impact poverty in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro by addressing basic needs and fostering success in the classroom and the workplace.


Below, explore all the things we accomplished together this year.

Celebrating Our Donors & Partners

We are honored to work with so many individuals and organizations that are committed to making the metro a better place to live and thrive. The image on the left was published in the June 28th Sunday edition of the Omaha World-Herald and printed posters will be sent to the top 100 participating campaigns during the 2019-2020 campaign. Thank you!

UWM Disperses COVID-19 Funds

With the support of hundreds of individuals and several community partners, we raised more than $1.1 million to provide relief for nonprofit programs that are on the front lines of this crisis. We also formed the Housing Stability Program to assist families with a rental or mortgage payment.

To learn more about our response to COVID-19 and how we are investing in the community to serve those affected by the virus, please visit our COVID-19 Response Page.

UWM President and CEO Shawna Forsberg Shares Statement on Equity

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and protests and riots across the country, our President and CEO shares her response.

Read her full message here.

UNL Delivers Hand Sanitizer to Local Nonprofits with Help from Werner Enterprises

A team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with material donations from ethanol partners, transportation assistance from Werner Enterprises and support from UWM, Greater Omaha Chamber and NorthStar Foundation, donated hand sanitizer to 12 local nonprofits who are serving our community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many nonprofits are experiencing shortages of hygiene supplies like hand sanitizer, which help ensure the safety and health of their clients and staff. Thank you!

211 Helpline Responds to More Than 130,000 Requests for Help This Year

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 211 Helpline specialists have responded to more than 60,000 requests for assistance. Callers’ top needs continue to be for utility service payment assistance, rent payment assistance and food pantries. If you know of someone in need of support, please invite them to call 2-1-1 or text their zip code to 898211. Learn more about 211 here.

In April the Helpline also launched a new mobile alert system. If you are interested in receiving updates and information about COVID-19 via text, simply text NECOVID to 898211.

Omaha Gives!

We asked our community to #GiveFromtheHeart on Omaha Gives!, and thanks to you, we raised nearly $45,000 for families in need. These dollars will be invested in more than 100 nonprofit programs across the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro that will provide basic needs, education and financial stability support for those who are struggling.

A special thanks to our generous corporate partner, Wells Fargo, who provided a match for $15,000 of the donations!

UWM Disperses Remaining Flood Funds

Last year, people from across the world generously donated more than $1.1 million to UWM’s Nebraska and Iowa Flood Relief Fund. We dispersed these funds to agencies for immediate crisis support and also designated a portion of the funding to long-term recovery efforts. “Long-term” refers to the need to re-establish a healthy, functioning community that will sustain itself over time.

Our board approved the disbursement of the last round of long-term funding, which totaled more than $50,000. To learn more about this investment and how it will assist flood victims, visit our Flood Report page:

KETV’s Giving Wednesday

UWM was honored to be featured as the charity recipient of KETV’s Giving Wednesday fundraiser on April 29th. With the support of corporate giving partners Fiserv and Valmont, the event raised more than $36,000 for people who have been impacted by COVID-19.

100% of the funds will be donated to basic needs programs that are providing healthcare, food, rent/mortgage assistance and utility/energy assistance during this time of uncertainty. Watch our thank you video to see just how thankful we are for your support!

KETV Nonprofit Roundtable

Thanks to the recommendation of the Omaha Chamber’s President and CEO David Brown, Shawna Forsberg, President and CEO of UWM, was featured on KETV’s roundtable segment alongside Albert Varas from the Latino Center of the Midlands and Tom Warren of Urban League of Nebraska. Together, they discussed our community’s needs and how nonprofit partners are stepping up to help. You can watch the entire segment here.

UWM Offers Virtual Volunteer Opportunities

Despite COVID-19, many of our nonprofit partners need volunteers more than ever. That’s why United Way of the Midlands continues to work with local agencies to find volunteers and provide guidance for staying safe and healthy while sharing their time. Click here to find an opportunity today!

UWM Creates Housing Stability Program For Families Impacted By COVID-19

To help families directly impacted by COVID-19 stay safely in their homes, UWM developed a Housing Stability Program along with nonprofit and corporate partners. Thanks to our generous community, we raised more than $700,000 for this program. Our team started taking requests for rental or mortgage assistance from families on May 1st, and we’ve received more than 200 applications so far. The majority of the applications were for rental assistance, with 65% of the requests coming from families impacted by COVID.

UWM Modifies 2020 Community Investment Process

Due to changing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, UWM moved to a 1-year grant cycle for 2020-2021, allowing more flexibility in addressing community needs and the changing landscape. Basic needs programs and other essential community activities stabilizing individuals and families were prioritized during the investment process, which continues to be guided by community volunteers.

UWM Compiles Education Resources for At-Home Learning

As a supporter of Raise Me to Read, a community campaign to help students achieve reading proficiency, UWM understands how vital it is to help children stay on track academically. With students out of school, at-home educational support was needed more than ever.

To help parents keep their children occupied, entertained, and most importantly, learning, UWM compiled local and national education resources in one, easily accessible webpage here.

UWM Creates COVID-19 Resources Page

To help keep our community informed and healthy, we created a COVID-19 resource page with information from Nebraska Medicine, Nebraska and Iowa health departments and our 211 Helpline.

This page continues to be updated. You can explore local resources here.

211 Day

Every year on February 11th, or 2/11, we celebrate the wonderful work that our 211 Helpline team does 24/7 to connect people in need in our community to vital resources. Thanks to funding from the state of Nebraska, we have been able to promote 211 services across the entire state and will continue to do so to spread awareness and connect more people in need to assistance.

You can learn more about 211 in these blog posts:

6 things to know about 211

What’s 211?

2020 Community Investment and Karnett Trust Grants Open

In January of 2020, we opened up our grant applications to nonprofit agencies across the community. Agency awards will be announced in July of 2020. Community Investment and Karnett Trust grant awards offer funding for nonprofit programs whose work closely aligns with UWM’s 2025 goals and those of the Karnett Trust. Nonprofit programs that provide care, education or training to children and youth up to age 24 with intellectual disabilities and their families or caregivers were eligible to apply for Karnett Trust grant funding.

Our team prioritizes funding for programs that enhance efficiencies, collaborate with other organizations, measure success, utilize prevention strategy, apply an integrated approach and remove barriers to service access.

Giving Tuesday

On this global day of giving, United Way of the Midlands and the Emerging Leaders raised funds to provide more than 5,000 books to children enrolled in the Book Trust program. To celebrate the students’ reading accomplishments, Creighton University also generously donated 165 tickets so Book Trust students and their families could attend the men’s basketball game that evening. Special thanks to Cobalt Credit Union for providing matching dollars for the fundraiser.

Photo L-R: Garrett Sellhorst, Steve Esch, local parent, Brayton Hagge, Book Trust Students, Gail DeBoer, Courtney Kastelic, Shawna Forsberg, Kylie Gumpert, Ali Larsen

Blue Collar Boxing

Thanks to Omaha Federation of Labor President Mike McDonnell, United Way of the Midlands and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) joined forces to host the first annual Blue Collar Boxing. This exciting and competitive event featured local labor union members boxing it out in the ring. Proceeds from Blue Collar Boxing supported the efforts of United Way of the Midlands and the Nebraska Center for Workforce Development and Education.

Visit our blog post to learn more about the big night and view photos.

Kellogg’s, Boxed and United Way Support Flood Victims

United Way of the Midlands teamed up with Kellogg Company Fund and Boxed to provide a fun, engaging event for families who were directly affected by spring flooding in Omaha and surrounding communities in Nebraska and Iowa. The event was held at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, and activities included interactive animal exhibits, face painting, goodie bags, a photo booth and appearances by Kellogg’s characters.

Photo L-R: Shawna Forsberg, Kellogg’s employees, Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Belinda Weidner, Ben Schorr To read more about this event click here.

10,000 Villagers

United Way of the Midlands was a proud sponsor of the Omaha Public Schools’ “10,000 Villagers Drive,” which provided children with the hats, gloves and scarves they need to come to school on time every day. When OPS distributed the winter gear to children and their families, United Way of the Midlands and our 211 Helpline were on hand to share information about available resources in our community, pass out books and provide attendance materials.

Photo L-R: Shawna Forsberg, Lisa Utterback, Ian Rose, Heidi Bartles, Jennifer Di Ruocco, Matt Wallen, Dr. Cheryl Logan, Heather Tomczak, Kathy Buso Healy, Pam Schwalb

Annual Meeting

At the 2019 Annual Meeting, sponsored by Cobalt Credit Union, United Way of the Midlands was proud to give a progress report on its 2025 goals and share goals for future impact. In the past four years, with the community’s support:

  • 4.5 million services, including access to healthy meals, safe and stable housing, physical and mental health services, domestic violence services and referrals, were delivered to people living in or at risk of poverty
  • 88,390 students were able to access education supports like mentoring, out-of-school time programs and early childhood education programs
  • 57,988 people were able to access job training, personal finance classes and post-secondary education

View our 2025 Progress Report at UnitedWayMidlands.org/progress-towards-2025. View our comprehensive online Annual Report by clicking here.

Campaign Recognition Awards

We were honored to present the second annual “United Way of the Midlands Campaign Recognition Awards” to six businesses who went above and beyond to support our community: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, Midwest Maintenance, Co. Inc., IBEW Local 22, Lindsay Corporation, SCHEELS and Valmont Industries, Inc. Our 2018 Campaign Chairs, Terri and Tim Burke, presented the awards.

Citizens of the Year

Barbara and Wally Weitz received the “Citizens of the Year” Award for their generosity and community leadership. Annette and Paul Smith, the 2018 “Citizens of the Year,” presented the award to the Weitz’s.

To view their video, visit UnitedWayMidlands.org/2019-citizens. Photo L-R: Paul and Annette Smith, Barbara and Wally Weitz

Tocqueville Society Reception

Tocqueville Society members attended the annual reception, hosted by Mary and Rodrigo Lopez, where they were celebrated for their immense generosity and commitment to our community. Special thanks to Mutual of Omaha for underwriting the event.

Photo L-R: James and Paula Blackledge, Mary and Rodrigo Lopez To view additional photos click here.

Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (Raise Me to Read) & Attendance Matters Campaign

The Omaha metro took a major step toward improving student success by joining the nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR), a collaborative effort to improve reading proficiency and early school success for children. Known locally as “Raise Me to Read,” the Campaign focuses on three key areas proven to impact grade-level reading: school readiness, school attendance and summer learning. Raise Me to Read partners include United Way of the Midlands, the Metropolitan Omaha Educational Consortium (MOEC), the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties and the Iowa West Foundation. The partners kicked off the Campaign and highlighted the importance of school attendance at an event held at University of Nebraska – Omaha.

Tocqueville Community Forum

At United Way of the Midlands’ Tocqueville Community Forum, attendees had the opportunity to hear from insightful and dedicated community leaders who shared why they are so passionate about serving in the community and giving back to those who need it most. The panel included Clark Lauritzen, Chairman and President at First National Bank; Dr. Cheryl Logan, Superintendent at Omaha Public Schools; Mayor Jean Stothert, City of Omaha and Thomas Warren, President and Chief Executive Officer at Urban League of Nebraska. It was moderated by James Blackledge, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Mutual of Omaha and United Way Campaign Chair.

Photo L-R: Shawna Forsberg, Thomas Warren, Mayor Jean Stothert, Marian Andersen, James Blackledge, Clark Lauritzen, Dr. Cheryl Logan

Day of Caring

More than 1,000 volunteers participated in the 18th annual Day of Caring, completing 100 projects at nonprofit agencies across the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro. For many local companies, Day of Caring is an annual tradition. Many run United Way of the Midlands fundraising campaigns, and volunteering on Day of Caring allows them to see firsthand the impact their donations are making in our local community.

Click here to read more about Day of Caring and view photos.

Birdies for Books Golf Tournament

The UWM Emerging Leaders affinity group helped plan and host a golf tournament at Tara Hills Golf Course that raised $8,200 for the literacy program Book Trust and put more than 1,200 books in the hands of local students. Click here to view photos from the event.

Special thanks to Fidelity National Title Group, Omaha Public Power District and Metropolitan Utilities District for sponsoring this fun event!

Campaign Chairs

We were honored to have Paula and James Blackledge chair the 2019 campaign. James is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mutual of Omaha, and Paula is an active community volunteer.

Campaign Kickoff

United Way of the Midlands kicked off its annual fundraising campaign and recognized community members who contribute their time, talent and resources to the metro during a celebratory breakfast. The program featured a panel presentation with representatives from United Way-funded agencies: Completely Kids, Family, Inc. and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands. Special thanks to Malorie Maddox, chief communications and marketing officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, for moderating and to Mutual of Omaha for underwriting the event.

Photo L-R: Panelists Claire, Jaylyn, Nicole and James and Paula Blackledge, Shawna Forsberg, Malorie Maddox Click here to read more about the kickoff and the wonderful, brave panelists.

Hats Off Campaign

The community rallied together to participate in a new social media fundraising promotion, #HatsOff4UnitedWay. People from companies and nonprofits alike had fun taking off their hats and sharing the pictures with the hashtag on social media. Mutual of Omaha, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska and First National Bank donated to help families in need, resulting in a total of $25,000 being invested into our community.

Click here to learn more about #HatsOff4UnitedWay.

Good on the Go Launch

We were so excited to launch our new volunteer opportunity, Good on the Go. During a Good on the Go project, the United Way team brings a volunteer opportunity straight to an organization, where employee teams work together to assemble kits for people in need. United Way handles the logistics and delivery of the kits, making it easy for organizations to make a difference in a meaningful way.

Special thanks to companies who participated in 2019: Buildertrend, GreenSlate Development, National Indemnity Company and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, TSYS and HDR, Inc.

Click here to read more about GOOD on the Go.

Campaign Leader Workshops

At these workshops, which were hosted at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, attendees had the opportunity to hear from several campaign leaders as they shared their campaign ideas and results. These innovative best practices helped many local companies take their campaigns to the next level.

Opportunity Youth

In our community, there are approximately 8,000 youth ages 16-24 that are disconnected from school or work. In order to help these “Opportunity Youth (OY)” become connected, credentialed and employed, United Way of the Midlands is proud to serve as the convener of the Opportunity Youth Alliance (OYA) in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area. The OY Hub, which is housed out of Project Everlast-Omaha at the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, helps youth navigate the local services provided by the OYA partners. United Way is honored to have its Women United affinity group raise funds for OY over the next two years.


Special thanks to Mutual of Omaha and James and Paula Blackledge for supporting this year’s fundraising campaign! We are so thankful to have worked with such generous and community-minded leadership. Watch the video to see all the things our partnership accomplished this year.

YOU are the Heart of United Way.

YOU demonstrated your genuine love and care for everyone who lives here by giving from the heart, volunteering and advocating for those who are struggling during this difficult time. Your unwavering commitment to helping those in need is truly remarkable, and we feel honored to call you a supporter, partner and friend.

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