insideWLC – Summer Edition, August 2016


The Women’s Leadership Council’s new chair is a business executive, community volunteer, wife and mother. Sarah Waldman will guide the WLC for the coming year.

Waldman is senior vice president of administration for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, overseeing areas including legal, compliance, customer service, privacy, and security. Her previous roles at BCBSNE included staff attorney and vice president of HR and ethical practices.

She is a member of the Nebraska State Bar Association and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). She was a member of Leadership Omaha Class 29 and was a 2007 recipient of the Midlands Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” Award. Waldman received her undergraduate degree at University of Nebraska Omaha and her juris doctorate’s degree from Creighton University.

Waldman is a longtime member of the WLC. Her other volunteer experience includes serving on the boards of AmeriHealth Nebraska Inc., Community Alliance, the Greater Omaha Business Ethics Alliance and TeamMates, for whom she is also a mentor.

She is married and the mother of three daughters, age four to 17. Waldman says “I am deeply passionate about helping to make a difference in people’s lives, and keep that in mind in everything I do.” As she begins to frame goals for the WLC’s work in the coming year, Waldman thanks outgoing WLC Chair Jess Pate for building a solid foundation for this results-oriented affinity group.


Every day, just out of sight, human beings are bought and sold – for forced labor or for sex. Human trafficking takes place across our country, including Nebraska and Iowa, and will be discussed at the sold-out WLC Lunch & Learn on August 17th. A panel discussion will be moderated by Meghan Malik, Women’s Fund of Omaha Trafficking Response Coordinator. Panel members include: Dr. Shireen Rajaram (Associate Professor University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health), Anna Brewer (Former FBI Special Agent and Women’s Fund of Omaha Sex Trafficking Training Consultant), Rachel Pointer (Movement Liaison Free the People Movement and Survivor), and Alicia Webber, (Human Trafficking Task Force Coordinator/Project Manager for The Salvation Army’s Fight to End Trafficking Program/SAFE-T).

Katrina’s story is one of far too many on the subject. She was working in a restaurant when a customer paid her a compliment. He visited often, and the praise grew every time. When he promised her jewelry and designer purses, she finally quit her job and went with him. “He was physically abusive, he was emotionally abusive. He isolated me from my family so there was no contacting anyone,” she told Omaha television station KPTM/Fox 42 in 2013. “He threatened to harm my family if I were to walk away.” Fortunately, she did break free.    (KPTM/Fox 42: “Sex Trafficking in Nebraska: Kids Bought & Sold Along I-80” Nov 21, 2013)

There are federal and state laws (Nebraska and Iowa) that address human trafficking, but because of its very nature, the crimes are very challenging to recognize and prosecute. Already marginalized individuals – children and those in poverty – are often the targets of traffickers. While out of sight, officials say there’s evidence that trafficking is prevalent at large national and community events, including those held in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area.

A number of local organizations and law enforcement agencies are working together to address human trafficking on a collaborative basis. But citizen awareness on the issue will help cast a bright light of hope for victims and their families.


  • Human trafficking is modern-day slavery in which people profit from exploiting others through force, fraud, coercion or deception. (Lincoln Journal Star, 3/11/15)
  • Humans can be sold multiple times a day, seven days a week for several years, while drugs and weapons can only be sold once. (Nebraska Family Alliance)
  • Nebraska is embedded in a regional trafficking network largely defined by I-80 and I-29. These interstates facilitate national movement (of victims). (Women’s Fund of Omaha; Creighton University’s Human Trafficking Initiative)


  • Worldwide, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise generating an estimated $150 billion per year. Over 2 million people are trafficked every year; 70% are women and young children. (Rejuvenating Women-Omaha)
  • 50% of transnational human trafficking victims are children; 80% are female. (Trafficking In Persons Report 2007)
  • For every 800 people trafficked in 2006, only 1 person was convicted. (U.S. State Department)


With a zoo-related theme “An Elephant Never Forgets & Neither Do We!”, United Way of the Midlands’ Women’s Leadership Council held its first annual summit on May 5, 2016. The event took place at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s new African Lodge, located in the African Grassland exhibit.

With the new African elephants nearby, members pledged they “will never forget” the donors’ generosity and dedication to “The Train to Gain for Student Success” initiative.

Welcoming remarks delivered by Jess Pate, WLC Chair, and Shawna Forsberg, UWM President & CEO, set the stage, expressing their heartfelt appreciation for the support and commitment of the WLC and the “Train to Gain” donors. Through a highly successful fundraising initiative, and in just seven months, the WLC achieved its three-year goal to raise $450,000 to fully fund the initiative. Without a doubt, this demonstrates what committed WLC members can do when they are “united” towards a cause.

The “Train to Gain for Student Success” initiative is a partnership between UWM, WLC and Collective for Youth, an organization that leads and supports a network of Omaha out-of-school-time (OST) programs. OST programs provide quality K-12 learning experiences and trained staff for our community’s vulnerable children who live in poverty, to help them succeed in the classroom. The initiative has the potential to impact over 3,700 students at 21 metro area sites.

The primary goal of the Summit was to provide a progress update on the “Train to Gain” initiative. This was achieved through an informative and inspiring panel presentation led by Megan Addison, Executive Director of Collective for Youth, and moderated by Anne Herman, Ph.D., who is Senior Vice President of Analytics and Performance at United Way of the Midlands.

Panelists who joined Addison in the discussion were:

  • Jennefer Avant – Site Director, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands
  • MarQuita Seastrong – Youth Development Staff Member, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands
  • Katie Weitz, Ph.D. – Director, Weitz Family Foundation

Highlights of the panel discussion focused the first year’s main focus areas, and an overview of projects and accomplishments to date.

Three Focus Areas

  1. Identify specific staff training needs
  2. Provide high-quality, research-based OST staff training
  3. Measure impact of new training

Accomplishments Year One

  • Youth Program Quality Assessment completed at 9 nonprofit agencies
  • Data Collection Methodology developed
  • “Planning with Data” workshops presented
  • Online Data Access Tool implemented for Agency Youth Club Directors

Attendees report the inaugural summit was an amazing success, and as it came to a close, there seemed to be an overwhelming sense of pride and compassion throughout the room. To be part of such a powerful group of women that “can and do truly make a difference in our community” was a special feeling of camaraderie, inclusiveness and collaboration. The WLC is 550 members strong, and although there are many needs in our community, one could argue that there’s no greater need than investing in our children – to keep them safe, prepare them to be “Classroom Ready”, and to one day be “Workforce Ready” as well.

To quote Jess Pate – “Women, united through the Women’s Leadership Council, can lead the way”.


Thanks to members of the Women’s Leadership Council and other contributors, United Way of the Midlands is investing a total of $20.4 million in local programs and human service efforts across the Omaha-Council Bluffs area that address our neighbors’ basic needs and human service challenges.

The amount includes $11.1 million for the Community Care Fund, which is now supporting 127 programs at 57 metro area nonprofit agencies. Of that number, 12 organizations are receiving UWM support for the first time. United Way is committed to providing the same level of funding next year as well. The intent is to give the programs a longer runway to create impact, and to give them added financial security. By supporting the carefully-vetted local services, UWM aims to reduce local poverty.

The programs were selected after rigorous evaluation of all funding requests. A team of more than 150 local volunteers and subject matter experts – including a number of WLC members – spent a collective 3,400 hours in agency program presentations and CIRT deliberations before submitting their evaluations on each program. The UWM Board of Directors reviewed and approved the funding package.