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Goodfellows raises more than $673,000, tops last year's campaign

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The 2021 Goodfellows fundraising campaign raised $673,824.20, about $30,000 more than the previous year, said Shawna Forsberg, president and CEO of the United Way of the Midlands.

The campaign, administered by the United Way in partnership with The World-Herald, ran from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, with the total reflecting all donations received through Thursday. Last year’s total was $644,798.

This year’s drive got a major boost at the last minute with a $70,000 gift from “sunny ... Florida,” according to the note sent in with the donation.

“He wanted to be anonymous,” Forsberg said of the donor. “He spent the majority of his life in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area and wanted to make a gift back to those in need.”

His donation was the campaign’s largest. The smallest was $5.

The World-Herald, which founded Goodfellows about 130 years ago, began working with the United Way to administer the charity right before the 2020 campaign.

“It has been an amazing partnership,” Forsberg said, with the United Way handling the accounting and The World-Herald writing stories about the donors, recipients and purpose of Goodfellows.

All Goodfellows donations go toward one-time emergency aid for struggling Omaha-area residents, including rent and utility assistance. The charity also distributes holiday meal vouchers and provides coats, mittens and clothing for schoolchildren.

Forsberg said the need remains great in the Omaha area.

United Way statistics show that many local residents are having a hard time rebounding from the ongoing pandemic, she said. Before COVID-19, the United Way 211 helpline received 60,000 to 70,000 calls each year. In 2021, the line received about 240,000 calls.

“The top four things (callers) need are housing aid; utility aid; health services, including mental health; and food security,” she said. “Those are all things Goodfellows helps with.”

She credits a generous community in Omaha and surrounding areas for helping Goodfellows exceed last year’s total. Many donors give year after year, some to honor or remember loved ones, some in thanksgiving for blessings and some just because they believe in the Goodfellows mission.

Many, like Roland “Red” Timmerman of Beatrice, Nebraska, are examples of all three.

In 2016, Timmerman, then 86, gave $52 in gratitude for a Goodfellows care package he received as a soldier in Seoul, Korea.

“Dear Friends, in 1952 I was in Korea (combat zone). You sent me a great care package. Great gift! Thanks,” he wrote in a note accompanying his donation.

This year, he gave $69 because it had been 69 years since he received the package. Now 91, he still remembers that the box held candy, cookies and other goodies and that he shared it with four buddies and an orphaned child “adopted” by some of the soldiers.

With his wife, Joyce, he gives to Goodfellows because he has been a regular World-Herald reader for many years and has been touched by stories about the charity during the holidays.

“The money goes to those who need it most,” he said in a recent interview. “And I needed that care package bad.”

He gave $52 for the same purpose in 2017, ‘18 and ‘19 and $200 in 2020 in honor of son Gary, who died of complications from Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, that year.

“It’s not much, but I hope it helps,” he said.

This year’s gift still was in the name of both Red and Joyce, though she died Dec. 13 at age 90. They were married for 69 years.

“It was a great honor that (The World-Herald) mentioned it (in the donor list) on Christmas Day,” he said.

Timmerman also represents Goodfellows benefactors who live outside the Omaha metro area. This year, the campaign had 1,343 donors, including people from 17 states in addition to Nebraska: Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, South Dakota, Montana and Kansas.

United Way recently aligned Goodfellows’ accounting with the United Way’s fiscal year, which begins July 1, meaning that the last half of the year remains. From July 1 through Thursday, Forsberg said, Goodfellows raised $887,000.

In the last half of the previous fiscal year, she said, donations to Goodfellows totaled about $50,000, so she thinks that the charity will end up with about $900,000 in gifts by July 1.

Forsberg said the United Way will continue to look for ways to promote Goodfellows now that it has successfully completed two holiday campaigns.

“We are hoping to keep momentum going throughout the year,” she said.

She thinks that Omaha’s generous spirit is unique among other cities she has observed and that residents here fully embrace The World-Herald’s charity.

“We just have a very special community,” she said. “They know Goodfellows is effective and efficient and know that their money is going to their neighbors. We are happy to be a conduit.”

To make donations:

Online: Omaha.com/goodfellows

Mail: World-Herald Goodfellows, c/o United Way of the Midlands, 2201 Farnam St., Suite 200, Omaha, NE 68102


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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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