Employing Every Available Resource
Local Nonprofits on the Front Lines Attempt the Impossible
The final segment of this four-part series features nonprofits that foster health and wellness for special communities or the general population. Universally, volunteer activity was curtailed for an extended period and 2020 fundraising events and drives were limited due to the pandemic. Every organization profiled has expressed the urgent need for direct financial support, but community members can help in many ways; organizations’ websites provide information on how to contribute: monetary donations, material donations, onsite or from-home volunteering, virtual or in-person fundraising events, community advocacy and more.
Visit SpiritofOmaha.com for the most up-to-date information on nonprofit fundraising events and community activities.
Serving Our Health Organizations
“Our mission is as important as ever and we continue to need supporters by our side.”
~ Jennifer Redmond, Executive Director, American Heart Association - Nebraska
American Heart Association - Nebraska
A relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives
For nearly 100 years, the American Heart Association has been fighting heart disease and stroke and helping families and communities thrive. Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke, remain the number-one killer in the U.S.“As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult time for our organization. But we are committed to continuing our lifesaving work...This includes meeting the emerging and urgent needs right here in Nebraska,” Executive Director Jennifer Redmond said. “The global pandemic has impacted businesses and nonprofits worldwide and the AHA is not immune to that. Our mission is as important as ever and we continue to need supporters by our side.”The organization provides trusted, science-based tools and resources to empower people to take charge of their health and well-being, Redmond said.“We are still learning more and more about COVID-19 each day and its effects on patients, especially patients who are impacted by heart disease and stroke. Much of our attention will be focusing on the health impact on COVID-19 patients long after their diagnosis,” she said.COVID-19 has also shined a spotlight on the significant barriers to health that exist for people of color, Redmond added.“The AHA has championed health equity for all people for nearly a century, and we are more determined than ever to eliminate racial and class disparities by redoubling our commitment to overcoming barriers to health, and to addressing social inequities,” she said.
Angels Among Us
There are angels among us. Be one.
Angels Among Us provides financial and emotional support to families whose children are battling pediatric cancer. Eligible families include any one living in or being treated in the state of Nebraska who has a child with cancer.“Despite a global pandemic we are currently supporting a record number of pediatric cancer families, so we must move forward,” Director of Community Relations/Development Aly Theilen said. “As another result of COVID-19, our cancer families are experiencing additional stress financially due to potential additional loss in income, et cetera, as well as more emotional stress than ever due to extreme isolation because they have a child who is immune compromised.”Angels Among Us provides assistance to families for up to 36 months so they can pay critical bills during a child’s treatment such as mortgage or rent and utility bills. This keeps the family focused “on what truly matters: their sick child,” Theilen said. Thus, the organization has made filling the funding gaps perpetuated by the events of 2020 a priority.“Every dollar matters more than ever…Angels Among Us has been able to provide some emergency funding to the pediatric cancer families that have needed it during this time,” Theilen said. “In addition, staff has regularly been checking in with our families since March to be sure they are all doing okay and if there is any way we can connect them to other resources, connect them with other families to feel a sense of community, and to let them know they are not alone and we’ll all get through this together.”
“Despite a global pandemic we are currently supporting a record number of pediatric cancer families, so we must move forward.”
~ Aly Theilen, Director of Community Relations/Development, Angels Among Us
Autism Action Partnership
Education, advocacy and support for persons on the autism spectrum and their families
“In addition to providing high-quality direct services, Autism Action Partnership (AAP) also serves communities across Nebraska by supporting employers in their efforts to identify and retain employees with the unique talents that individuals with autism often possess,” Autism Action Partnership Executive Director Justin Dougherty said. “AAP is dedicated to creating a more inclusive, sensory-friendly community for those affected by autism by focusing on three areas: education, workforce development, and enrichment and inclusion.”
Social events stopped during the pandemic and other activities moved to a virtual format in 2020; the programming changes and reduced fundraising resulted in a reduction in staff and a pause in planned initiatives. Nevertheless, the organization found ways to serve its clientele, Dougherty said.
“Our workforce program, PACE (Partnership for Autism Career Employment) saw an increase in demand. Nearly 65 percent of employed participants experienced employment change (such as) layoff, furlough, hour reduction. Many of these impacted employees contacted PACE for guidance. The PACE team answered these calls by offering over 70 virtual trainings, as well as one-on-one support. We are pleased to report that by September, 34 of 36 employed participants had successfully returned to work.”
AAP’s pandemic support program included a pandemic response fund providing needs-based financial assistance, navigation services to individuals and families experiencing hardships, an online resource guide to community services, and activity kits for families to use at home with their children with autism. These kits were created with input from experts on autism and distributed to 90 percent of Nebraska counties and six counties in western Iowa.
"AAP is dedicated to creating a more inclusive, sensory-friendly community for those affected by autism."
~ Justin Dougherty, Executive Director, Autism Action Partnership
CHI Health Foundation
Supporting and strengthening health care in our community
CHI Health is a division of CommonSpirit Health, the largest faith-based nonprofit healthcare system in the country.
“Our organization’s vision is a healthier future for all, inspired by faith, driven by innovation and powered by our humanity,” CHI Health Division Vice President of Philanthropy Kathy Bertolini said. “The CHI Health Foundation strengthens health care in our community and the region by facilitating supportive relationships with individuals, corporations and foundations interested in advancing the CHI Health mission of healing the body, mind and spirit of every person.”
The organization has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since before the first known case was even diagnosed in Nebraska,
“Our leaders, healthcare providers, staff—everyone in our organization, no matter what their role—came together to plan for and respond to tremendous healthcare needs in our communities as a result of the pandemic,” she said.
Teams worked with state and local governmental entities to address capacity, testing capability, safety measures and protocols, delivery of care and more, Bertolini said.
“The delivery of health care has been impacted and will never be the same. This presents both a great challenge and a great opportunity for our organization to deliver value-based health care,” she said. “This pandemic has served to highlight some of the health inequities among vulnerable populations. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on providing high quality, affordable health care to all populations within normal and unforeseeable circumstances such as a pandemic.”
"The delivery of health care has been impacted and will never be the same. This presents both a great challenge and a great opportunity for our organization to deliver value-based health care."
~ Kathy Bertolini, Division Vice President of Philanthropy, CHI Health Foundation
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Foundation
Improving the life of every child
“As the region’s pediatric health care leader, our team is dedicated to providing exceptional clinical care, advocacy, research and education,” Executive Director & Chief Development Officer Beth Greiner said. “Whether we’re providing care for critically ill children or championing child-centered legislation, we strive to improve the lives of children, families and entire communities.”
The dedication of healthcare workers, who are navigating entirely new conditions and unprecedented challenges “while continuing to serve children and families with unwavering strength, dedication and dignity” has been inspirational, Greiner said. “COVID-19 has not impacted our strong commitment to fulfilling Children’s mission to improve the life of every child. However, it has created enormous financial challenges in our ability to fund important mission-critical services. Yet, we remain ever-faithful to our founding principal that no child be turned away for an inability to pay.”
Implementing measures to keep patients, families and staff safe are just one of the ways Children’s has responded to the pandemic.
“We are educating community partners and collaborating with schools, providing tracking tools to help prevent the spread of illness. We are growing our behavioral health offerings as we see the need escalating rapidly. We are a trusted resource for our community, offering a COVID-19 Help Line, a COVID-19 Symptom Checker online assessment tool as well as helpful videos, podcasts, articles and more on our website ,” Greiner said. “Founded in the midst of the polio epidemic, Children’s has been steadfast in meeting the needs of the children and families in our region and beyond since 1948.”
"COVID-19 has not impacted our strong commitment to fulfilling Children’s mission to improve the life of every child."
~ Beth Greiner, Executive Director & Chief Development Officer, Children's Hospital & Medical Center Foundation
"We serve on the front lines caring for the well-being of children which cannot be done remotely with foster children, children in residential care, in a special education classroom, or in a daycare setting."
~ Debbie Orduna, President & CEO, Children’s Square U.S.A.
Children’s Square U.S.A.
Caring for children and families in need
“Every day, over 1,000 children, youth, and families in Iowa and Nebraska are served as Children’s Square U.S.A. works to help recognize and treat the physical, emotional and psychological needs of each child—birth to 23 years—we serve,” Children’s Square U.S.A. President & CEO Debbie Orduna said. “Our programs include counseling, emergency services for children, early childhood care, foster care, residential treatment, and special education for children with serious emotional and behavioral disorders.”
During the pandemic, the organization kept programs open and accessible to those in need, Orduna said.
“We serve on the front lines caring for the well-being of children which cannot be done remotely with foster children, children in residential care, in a special education classroom, or in a daycare setting,” she said. “Working parents still needed childcare and we kept ours open and welcomed first responder families. This school year instruction has been in person all days knowing children with special education needs do better with stability. Transitioning mental health services to telehealth was necessary to maintain continuity for families. We provided families with PPE gear to ensure they continued to work toward self-sufficiency. Children aging out of the foster care system experienced new stressors with employment and housing and we helped them navigate those challenges.”
The organization expect lingering effects of the pandemic, Orduna said. ““We have seen an increase in family stress and mental health needs as a result. We anticipate children and families will need greater access to services to be well and thrive.”
JDRF, Nebraska-Iowa Chapter
Leading the fight against T1D (type 1 diabetes)
“We primarily fund research through event-driven fundraising. This year, amid great mission progress came a global pandemic, which disrupted our event-based fundraising model and forced us to reimagine many of our annual fundraisers to keep our community safe,” Nebraska-Iowa Chapter Executive Director Laci Naber said. “During this time, it became clear that to continue funding critical, life-changing research, we would have to make some significant changes to our organization. JDRF is now fast-tracking new strategies to drive mission momentum in the current challenging fundraising environment.”
To protect promising, life-changing research, JDRF cut staff nationwide and is expected to be a “leaner” organization moving forward, with area chapters merging to support larger geographic areas.
“We have made a promise to the T1D community to ease the burden of T1D until it no longer exists, and we still intend to keep that promise; however, we cannot do it alone,” Naber said. “In the current economic environment, we need the help of community partners in order to ensure that life-saving research can continue (and) to continue to provide outreach and support for our T1D families.”
COVID-19 can pose a serious risk for people living with T1D, she added, making JDRF’s work even more important.
“The CDC and WHO have listed diabetes as a significant risk factor for COVID-19 complications,” Naber explained. “Additionally, our T1D community needs our support to ensure they have the latest information regarding insulin and diabetes supply access, including potential supply-chain issues.”
"We have made a promise to the T1D community to ease the burden of T1D until it no longer exists, and we still intend to keep that promise."
~ Laci Naber, Executive Director, Nebraska-Iowa Chapter, JDRF
Methodist Hospital Foundation
Supporting excellence in health care and healthcare education
Methodist Hospital Foundation, established in 1977, is the primary fundraising arm for Methodist Health System.
“We serve the entire community. Our goal is to help Methodist improve the health of our communities by the way we care, educate and innovate,” President & CEO Tracy Madden-McMahon said.
The foundation raises, protects and distributes funds that improve health care for the community, Madden-McMahon said. During the pandemic, activities focused on addressing immediate needs.
“We created a crisis response fund to help fight the impact of COVID-19. We are assisting front-line caregivers, patients and students who are impacted by the pandemic. Early on we experienced an 800 percent increase in requests for financial assistance,” she explained. “At this moment we are working on efforts to show appreciation to our front-line caregivers. We are grateful for their hard work and commitment during this stressful time. Once a week we are making deliveries of self-care items, snacks and gift cards. They need us now more than ever. We have donors in our community who want to help and are eager to show their appreciation, too.”
The foundation is also looking at the long-term, Madden-McMahon said.
“For example, there is a huge shortage of Certified Nursing Assistants.
We are raising money to give full-ride scholarships to people who want to become a CNA,” she said. “This will not only help Methodist, but the entire community.”
"Our goal is to help Methodist improve the health of our communities by the way we care, educate and innovate."
~ Tracy Madden-McMahon, President & CEO, Methodist Hospital Foundation
Jennie Edmundson Hospital Foundation
Supporting healthcare needs in the community
“The Jennie Edmundson Foundation has been dedicated to helping Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital fulfill its mission to ‘build a bridge between the community and the hospital to enhance the resources that support Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital in meeting the healthcare needs of our community,’” Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer Tara Slevin said. “We serve employees and patients who are in need of assistance including (but not limited to) those who are uninsured and underinsured in addition to leading capital campaigns to support new equipment and various programs.”
Staff members have had to work longer shifts and care for more patients as the pandemic raged on, Slevin said, and the foundation has developed support systems for staff including financial assistance as well as respite spaces and even meals for staff who need a quick break. “We want to make sure our Jennie family is supported and healthy so that they can best support our patients.”
The work goes on.
“We are doing everything we can to adapt to the needs of the public. Medical staff have been cross-training to help in various areas of the hospitals. We have also hired screeners to take temperatures and greet patients when they enter the hospital and direct them where they need to go. We have also developed hotlines for patients to call with questions,” Slevin said. “As we look to the future we have begun to engage our donors on how best to support COVID patients who will experience long-term health concerns such as heart and lung conditions.”
"We are doing everything we can to adapt to the needs of the public."
~ Tara Slevin, Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer, Jennie Edmundson Hospital Foundation
"Our work absolutely impacts public health and the well-being of the whole community."
~ Andrea Skulking, CEO, OneWorld Community Health Centers
OneWorld Community Health Centers
Providing culturally respectful, quality health care with special attention to the underserved
At 13 clinical locations, OneWorld Community Health Centers provides comprehensive primary health care, dental care, mental health/substance abuse services, affordable medications and supportive services for the community.
OneWorld began offering COVID-19 testing early on in addition to its standard array of services.
“In a word, it’s intense,” CEO Andrea Skolkin said. “Especially for those who are working face-to-face with patients who are testing for COVID-19, but also for all our staff. The months of a down economy are taking a real toll on our patients…Patient stories weigh heavy on our staff and we remain cognizant of their stress and work to provide outlets and breaks.”
The organization’s campus and clinics changed “quickly and dramatically” to continue offering community healthcare in the safe, welcoming environment on which clients depend. Some of the team’s innovations have included the speedy implementation of telehealth services; discovery of new sources for personal protective equipment (PPE); COVID-19 testing follow-up; and opening a walk-up pharmacy and delivering medicine to high-risk and elderly patients. The staff even delivered food, clothing and essential supplies to families in need and hosted drive-up food pantries.
“Unfortunately, what we all thought was a sprint is a marathon. Pandemics are not normal. And all our new procedures, protocols and extra efforts will remain in place for some time,” Skolkin said. “This pandemic has challenged all of us in so many ways, but our work absolutely impacts public health and the well-being of the whole community.”
Delivering life-changing rehabilitation and care
QLI helps survivors of devastating brain and spinal cord injuries get back to life, providing industry-leading physical, cognitive, and psychological rehabilitation. QLI also supports clients’ families through a spectrum of services includes on-campus housing, counseling and education, and transition planning to foster both a successful return home and positive long-term outcomes.
“As an organization serving a population of medically vulnerable individuals, QLI had to take the unfortunate step of limiting non-essential visitors to campus, including the friends, family and volunteers our residents relied on,” Director of Development and Public Relations Mike Joyce said. “This has resulted in a doubling-down of on-campus efforts to provide meaningful programming to our clients. As such, QLI has experienced significant increases in staffing, programming, and communication device expenses. Additional operational costs include PPE (personal protective equipment), employee screening and testing, overtime and added FTEs (full-time employees), and providing services free of charge for those clients whose insurance benefits have run out, but for whom traveling home is too large a risk…The health and safety of our clients remain our priority.”
Costs associated with increased staffing and PPE equipment will continue to be burdensome in the coming weeks and months, Kearns added.
“We also anticipate a continued increase in providing free services to clients whose insurance benefits can no longer pay for services, but traveling home is too great a risk,” she said. “For team members whose family has been financially impacted by the pandemic, QLI will continue to provide support as necessary to ensure they make it through without undue hardships.”
"The health and safety of our clients remain our priority."
~ Mike Joyce, Director of Development and Public Relations, QLI