insideWLC – Summer Edition, August 2014


Annette Smith Welcomes You

So many great people and organizations come together at United Way’s table to strengthen our community. As I begin my term as chair of the Women’s Leadership Council, I am inspired by our members’ dedication – not only to contribute at the leadership level, but to volunteer their time in local programs, and to engage in learning opportunities so we may work toward solutions for our community’s greatest challenges.

Members of the WLC have a strong commitment to the basic need services that have received United Way support for 91 years. Together, we have spent time in volunteer service to the youth-serving programs that support a child’s school success. And we recognize the importance of preparing our young people to succeed in the workplace. I’m proud that our group is well-positioned to support United Way’s work in these areas. Truly, we are “United By Strength.”

Although following Mary Lopez as WLC Chair is a daunting responsibility, I am grateful beyond words for the strong and thoughtful leadership she provided our group. She has been present since the WLC began, and will always be a driving force for our work to “Educate, Volunteer and Invest” in our community.

Now, as she and Rodrigo prepare to lead the 2014 United Way fundraising campaign, I know they can count on the Women’s Leadership Council’s support. I invite you to attend the Campaign Kickoff on August 26, and spread the word about the campaign and United Way’s work in your circle of friends, family and colleagues.

Together, in the year ahead, I’m confident we will make our community even stronger.


New direction unveiled; Citizen of the Year honor to Susie Buffett

More than 400 donors, volunteers and community partners were on hand for United Way of the Midlands’ annual meeting on May 30.

For many, it was the first opportunity to hear details on United Way’s evolution. President and CEO Karen Bricklemyer reported that basic needs would remain a priority for the organization, continuing a 90+ year tradition of serving the most vulnerable members of our community. An advisory council will determine how best to address them, going forward.

Bricklemyer said the community assessment conducted over the past year uncovered important information on current needs in the metro area, and helped the Board of Directors set a focus on two critical areas where United Way is best-equipped to battle the cycle of poverty.

In an effort called “United By Strength,” resources and expertise will be invested in programs that help children become Classroom Ready, and prepare teens and young adults to be Workforce Ready. The goal is to help more of our neighbors become independent and financially stable, which benefits all who live and work in our community.

Bricklemyer noted that a shared community vision is critical to the success of this kind of effort. United Way is already part of a team of nonprofit, public and civic organizations working together to develop community-wide goals and ways to use each group’s unique strengths to achieve those goals.

Grant funding to programs under the new priorities will begin on July 1, 2015.



United Way of the Midlands bestowed its “2014 Citizen of the Year Award”  upon Omaha philanthropist Susie Buffett.

Through her leadership of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Sherwood Foundation and the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the Omaha Central High School graduate has invested substantial support in local and national efforts to improve education and alleviate poverty.

Buffett is working to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds improve their lives by supporting programs that help children prepare for and be successful during their academic years. She was a member of the pivotal strategic planning committee that called upon United Way to focus its efforts on setting bold goals for positive community change.



Volunteer leadership of the United Way of the Midlands Board of Directors is changing hands. Lance Fritz, President and Chief Operating Officer of Union Pacific Railroad assumed the position of Chair of the UWM Board in July.

He succeeds Rodrigo Lopez, who will now lead the 2014 fundraising campaign with his wife, Mary Lopez. Rodrigo Lopez is president and CEO of AmeriSphere. Mary Lopez has served as the chair of UWM’s Women’s Leadership Council since 2011. The Lopezes are longtime donors, and they have served in many volunteer roles for United Way over the past two decades.

Joining the Lopezes on the Campaign Cabinet are Jim and Anne Greisch, who will chair the Tocqueville Society campaign for a second year. Jim Greisch is managing partner of McGladrey LLP.

In 2015, George Little, chairman and CEO of HDR Inc., will serve as UWM Board Chair. The fundraising campaign next fall will be led by Dana and Danielle Bradford. Dana Bradford is CEO of Waitt Corp Investments LLC.


The August 21 event will focus on education, a UWM priority

Early childhood education figures heavily into the school success of our community’s children. On Thursday,
August 21, the Women’s Leadership Council will host another event in its Lunch and Learn series on this important topic.

WLC member Annie Bird will moderate a panel discussion. Annie is an independent education management
professional, whose background includes service as the Special Education Coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Education, and Autism Coordinator at Munroe Meyer Institute-UNMC.

The panel will include Dr. Samuel Meisels, founding director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska. Meisels is a nationally-recognized authority in the field. Previously, he served as president of the Erickson Institute, the country’s premier graduate school for early childhood teachers.

Fawn Taylor is Executive Director of Early Childhood Services, a local non-profit organization developed from a Building Bright Futures initiative to address early learning in our community. Fawn will discuss issues like social-emotional development and language development in pre-K children, and how they relate to success in school and greater economic prosperity.

Buffie Somers is a veteran teacher with a lifelong career of teaching kindergarteners and children with disabilities. She is an active advocate for education, and devotes her time to volunteer service for children and families in need.

Please join us for a lively exploration of a topic that impacts thousands of local children, and our community as a whole. The event takes place at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and begins at 11:30 a.m. Please RSVP by August 15 to (402) 522-7910 or email



Chair: Annette Smith

Vice Chair: Jessica Pate

Advisor: Mary Lopez

TWI Advisory Council Chair: Karen Hawkins

Community Impact Committee Chair: Annie Bird

Programming and Engagement Committee Chair: Carolyn Diamond

Membership and Marketing Committee Chair: Sarah Waldman

Membership and Marketing Committee Vice Chair: Nancy Wolf