A LETTER FROM THE WLC CHAIR
MARY LOPEZ WELCOMES YOU
Welcome to the inaugural issue of the Women’s Leadership Council newsletter. As United Way of the Midlands begins its 90th year of service to our metro Omaha community, it celebrates a rich history of caring for our most vulnerable neighbors. Members of the WLC are proud to support the safety net of services that help people become safe, strong, and independent.
In addition to this critical, basic support, our membership is also one of the driving forces in an evolution – while keeping the safety net strong, United Way prepares to focus a portion of its funding on a critical goal: to make a measurable and lasting impact on the local neighborhoods and people who suffer from crushing poverty.
Members of the WLC, through their charitable support and high level of civic engagement, are committed to exploring the issues our neighbors face, while supporting the human service responses that will make a positive impact on people’s lives, and enhance the overall strength of our community.
We invite you to join us at United Way’s table as UWM and the WLC help our community identify and solve these challenges in a collaborative environment – rooted in solid information and data and fueled by the generosity of so very many caring people.
Thank you for all you do to support UWM and the WLC. It is because of people like you that our community continues to become a more positive place for all people to live.
Members of the Women’s Leadership Council were inspired to take action on what they heard at the November 2013 Lunch & Learn on violence. Although the roots of violence are many, all three of the panelists mentioned a common belief that success in school – and specifically, reading at grade-level – greatly reduces the chance that a youngster will turn to gangs and crime.
On Monday, February 17, 2014, WLC members are invited to read to children at three local Boys and Girls Clubs in the Omaha metro area. The audience members, ages five to nine years old, are exposed to reading and writing at the clubs, to support their work in the classroom. But guest readers help reinforce those lessons, and inspire a love for books and the written word.
The Presidents Day reading events will take place from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the North, South and Westside units of the Boys and Girls Clubs. Volunteers are also needed that day to help serve lunch and interact with the young club members. These projects present a great opportunity for WLC members to see the United Way-funded youth programs in action. To sign up for this project, please contact Matthew Reinarz at 402-522-7910 or mreinarz@UWMidlands.org. Registration deadline is February 12.
United Way and its local partners are entering the second phase of a robust community assessment, with a common goal in mind: more effective investment of donor and community funds to promote measurable change in the most pressing areas of local need.
United Way launched the comprehensive effort in 2013 through thousands of online and mailed surveys that asked local residents for feedback on the needs they see in their neighborhoods, and across the metro area. Many thanks to Omaha Community Foundation, Iowa West Foundation, and ConAgra Foods Inc. for providing generous support of these efforts.
Community conversations were held at four sites around the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area, where participants were invited to speak up about the problems and opportunities they see on a daily basis.
These outreach tools and events provided the three nonprofit partners with timely and valuable “neighborhood-level” feedback on local conditions.
In early 2014, we will share what we’ve learned so far with local focus groups, and ask the participants – who face life’s harsh realities every day – for their feedback. Then, we’ll engage key local leaders in collaborative “world cafés” to focus their collective strength on practical, and effective solutions based on our area’s current needs and conditions.
“By listening to the voices of local neighborhoods and organizations, and providing a space for our leaders to address those realities together, United Way will have a data-rich assessment of current needs and viable responses,” said Rodrigo Lopez, chair of United Way’s board of directors, and President/ CEO of AmeriSphere. Lopez says the next step will be to set goals that aim for a future where more of our neighbors have the opportunity to prosper – lead a truly independent life – and help others to do the same.
The November 21 Lunch & Learn kicked off a series of panel discussions geared towards informing our members on the issues
we face as a community. Our first event featured a three person panel discussing Violence and Prevention Efforts in the Omaha
metro area. We were extremely fortunate to have the following panelists and moderator share their experiences with violence in
- Dr. Mark Foxall served as the moderator – he is the current Director of the Douglas County Department of Corrections and an adjunct faculty member for the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
- Francisco “Paco” Fuentes is the unit director for the South Omaha Boys & Girls Club, serving the club for 13 years
- Thomas H. Warren, Sr. serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Nebraska, Inc., a position he has held since 2008. Prior to that, he served as Chief of Police with the Omaha Police Department
- Sergeant Teresa Negron is a field sergeant overseeing homicide investigations in the Omaha Police Department. She joined OPD in 1992.
There were many questions for the panelists: How is local law enforcement involved in violence prevention? What criminal offenses have become common over the past years? What are the root causes of violence in the Omaha metro? How do local gangs influence crime in the community? Here are a few key takeaways:
- When kids are in school, they’re not involved in those delinquent activities, those at-risk types of behavior, and certainly they’re not getting involved in criminal activity. – Thomas Warren
- Just look at what we’re doing right here – listening to what is going on. I’ve seen more of that in the last ten years. It takes a community that can listen. Reaching out and talking to other organizations to find out what’s going on is so important. – Teresa Negron
- It’s critical for a young person’s development to be a part of a healthy, stable family unit that adheres to traditional values aligned with society. In case after case of the kids that are getting in trouble and falling prey to gangs, they’ll look at their model and they don’t have a healthy family unit with these values. – Francisco “Paco” Fuentes
To view a video of the November event, visit www.unitedwaymidlands.org/wlc.
SANDY’S STORY OF CHANGE
The WLC’s November event focused on violence and its presence here in our community. Here’s one way that United Way of the Midlands and the Women’s Leadership Council are helping rebuild the lives of local victims.
Sandy’s home life had become unstable from an abusive relationship and she needed help rebuilding her life. As a native-Spanish speaker, it was difficult for her to navigate the legal system and to get the necessary protections and resources for her and her son.
That’s when she turned to a United Way funded program at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Omaha that helps Latina women recover from violence. They gave her the resources for a better life and helped her become confident in herself and her future. Sandy and her son are safe now and she has the support network she needs to move towards a stable, successful future for her family.