insideWLC – Winter Edition, February 2015


Annette Smith Welcomes You

Community groups form every year. Their members come together over a common concern, and their intention is to make a positive difference. Our group, the Women’s Leadership Council, serves as a shining example – with strong roots and exciting “next steps” just ahead of us. The secret ingredient, if you will, is our membership.

I’m thankful that the WLC’s original members continue to serve at such a high level of engagement – that so many strong and smart women remain committed, year-in and year-out, to United Way’s mission to build a stronger community.

From the start, we placed “information” and “education” at the top of our priority list, examining the impact of crime, mental health and education on our metro area’s quality of life. Perhaps, because we ourselves have learned so much about our community’s challenges, we have now chosen “education” as a focus for our work.

Thanks to information from our Lunch and Learn series and the input from area experts, some of whom are WLC members themselves, we’ve identified a specific area in which to take action: improving the school success rate for children who attend out-of-school-time (OST) programs.
Research has shown us that when OST staff members are well-trained, their young clients do better in school. But many nonprofits cannot afford to provide their employees with additional training.

Our strong group aims to raise the funds and awareness necessary to make that critical instruction available, which will help more of our community’s children succeed. With the commitment of the WLC’s original members and the strength of those who have joined along the way, let’s demonstrate our commitment to positive community change.



A good job is one of the key elements of a financially-stable and independent life. But being ready to enter the workforce is a big challenge for many who live in poverty; addressing that gap is now a key part of United Way’s work to empower the most vulnerable of our neighbors in the greater Omaha-Bellevue-Council Bluffs area.

It’s also the topic of the Women’s Leadership Council’s next Mary C. Lopez Lunch and Learn event on Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

A panel of local professionals in the education and employment fields will examine the topic “Workforce Readiness: What It Means and How We Get There.”

Ken Bird, president and CEO of Avenue Scholars Foundation, will moderate the discussion. Panelists will include Accelerate Nebraska’s president and executive director, Greg Adams, Cathy Lang, the organization’s vice president, and Erin Porterfield, executive director of Heartland Workforce Solutions, Inc.

Members of the Women’s Leadership Council and their friends or colleagues are invited to attend this event, which will lay out some of the groundwork necessary to reduce and eliminate poverty from our community.

RSVP by February 18th to Matthew Reinarz at United Way, (402) 522-7910 or



Citizen participation is one of the elements that sets United Way apart from other nonprofit organizations.

125 members of the Community Investment Review Teams are starting their important work now, as they review program funding requests from numerous human service agencies across the greater Omaha-Bellevue-Council Bluffs area.

The CIRT volunteers consider the funding proposals while keeping in mind those of our neighbors who are at-risk-for or live in poverty. This includes individuals or families with limited or no access to food, housing, safety or health because of unmet needs or crisis situations, or those with barriers to academic success, employability or self-sufficiency. In addition to serving people’s needs, donor funds will be granted to programs that help people work toward financial independence and success through classroom and workforce readiness programs.

The volunteers also will interview program representatives to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the proposals and the clients served.

United Way is particularly interested in programs that enhance efficiencies, foster collaboration, measure success, address prevention, apply an integrated approach and remove barriers to service access.

CIRT teams will finalize their funding recommendations and deliver them to the Community Impact Cabinet for review. The United Way of the Midlands Board of Directors will then vote on the recommendations. Funding under the updated CIRT process will be released on July 1, 2015, to run through June 30, 2016.


As United Way of the Midlands continues the evolution from “serving” the community to “solving” problems, members of two key task forces have made significant progress on defining the best use of UWM’s strengths to benefit the greater Omaha-Bellevue-Council Bluffs area.

A team led by Dr. Mary Hawkins, president of Bellevue University, and Diny Landen, president of Vantage Communications, has wrapped up its detailed work reviewing the organization’s past approach to Basic Needs, and has set the direction for its future impact on the lives of local residents who experience urgent needs in the areas of food, housing, health and safety.

Kate Dodge, president of NEI Global Relocation, and community volunteer Kathy Gerber continue to lead their team of task force members as their group helps United Way study the local landscape of Classroom Ready and Workforce Ready programming. The team is now determining UWM’s areas of focus in these two United By Strength priorities, and recommending the approaches that will best utilize the organization’s resources and skill sets.

The task forces’ findings are already being used to enrich this year’s Community Investment Review Team (CIRT) process, which is currently underway for 2015.

We thank members of the task forces for their “above and beyond” participation, including WLC members Sarah Waldman, senior vice president of administration at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, and Angela Jones, vice president of human resources at ConAgra Foods.

This critical process will help reduce poverty in our metro area, and take United Way to the next level of community impact.



Investing in Classroom Readiness: Training for Out-of-School-Time Staff

THE PROJECT: A three-year initiative in partnership with Collective for Youth to provide high-quality, research-based professional development for
out-of-school-time (OST) program staff that serve children who live in poverty.

THE GOAL: To strengthen learning experiences provided to vulnerable children during OST programs.

WHY THIS FOCUS? Evidence strongly suggests a direct link between frequent attendance at OST activities and positive outcomes, including increased academic achievement, school attendance, time spent on homework and extracurricular activities, enjoyment and effort in school as well as better student behavior.

Positive youth outcomes, including academic, social and emotional growth, are directly linked to high-quality programming combined with strong relationships with OST staff.