World-Herald readers demonstrated, once again, why this region is noted for its giving spirit, contributing a record amount to the 2015 Goodfellows campaign.
The charitable fund, managed by The World-Herald, took in $699,694.12 during the holidays. The money will be used to assist those locally who are in financial crisis.
This year's donations exceeded last year's total by $40,771.32, or 6.2 percent, said Joel Long, executive director of Goodfellows.
Every dollar donated goes directly to people in need because The World-Herald pays all administrative costs.
This is the third straight year that World-Herald readers have contributed a record amount to the fund. Donations ranged from a $1 bill stuffed into the hand of a World-Herald employee to a $39,000 distribution by a local charitable trust.
Donors ranged from Omaha philanthropists to an inmate in a federal prison in Arkansas.
"One of the most exciting things about this year's campaign is the increase in number of donors," Long said. A total of 1,697 donors gave to Goodfellows, an increase of 201, or 13.1 percent, over last year.
More than 90 percent of Goodfellows funds are collected during the holidays. Although the holiday fund drive has concluded, running Nov. 16 through Dec. 31, contributions can be made year-round at Omaha.com/goodfellows.
Find the final list of donations and see how other charitable drives did in 2015.
In the first 10 months of this fiscal year, which ends in February, Goodfellows provided emergency aid to 1,171 families, Long said.
"We were able to help 110 more families compared to the year before," he said.
In addition, 1,350 families received a holiday meal certificate.
Four local social service agencies screen applicants for the aid: the United Way of the Midlands, ENCAP, Together Inc. and Heartland Family Service. Most people assisted live in the metro area.
Most donors — 84 percent — live in Omaha and its suburbs. Another 12 percent come from elsewhere in Nebraska and 4 percent hail from other states.
The far-flung places from which donations come illustrate the charity's enduring reputation, Long said. Usually out-of-state donations come from people who've lived in Nebraska at some point, he said.
"They know what Goodfellows does and want to contribute to that," he said.
This year's record amount ensures that Goodfellows can assist even more people this year.
That's a testament to the compassion and generosity of those 1,697 donors, Long said.
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"We were able to help 110 more families compared to the year before."
Joel Long, executive director of Goodfellows
Raising funds to assist those in poverty
Local charities report mixed results in their year-end drives to raise funds to serve those in crisis.
More than 103,000 people — a third of them children — live in poverty in the Omaha metro area. A substantial share, about one-third, are employed but don't earn enough to make ends meet.
Candace Gregory, president and chief executive officer of the Open Door Mission, said the interconnected nature of the metro area's safety net makes it important for all agencies to meet their goals. A shortfall, should it remain, reduces the expertise and resources available to provide help.
OPEN DOOR MISSION
Fell $265,000 short of the Hope for the Holidays $2.2 million goal. The good news: more than 1,400 people volunteered in December, and supporters provided gifts to more than 6,200 homeless men, women and children through two programs.
Exceeded 2015 annual goal of $1,415,000, by nearly $32,000. Demand for its services is up 250 percent over past three years; year-end giving also up substantially.
About $200,000 shy of the Tree of Lights' $3 million goal. Campaign runs through Jan. 31, and organizers are hopeful that they will meet the goal. Factors reducing donations could include: the campaign period was shorter by several days; people carry less cash and are less likely to toss money in the kettles during warm winter weather.
Exceeded internal December goal of $1 million by about $100,000. Fourth-quarter donations constitute 50 percent of the shelter's budget.
— Nancy Gaarder