Santa Claus came early this year for Kennedy Elementary’s pre-K to fifth-grade students.
But, rather than make an entrance with a red suit or a sleigh, he arrived much more modestly — and he looked a lot like Omaha businessman Tom McNeil.
McNeil is president of Mainelli Mechanical Contractors in north Omaha, which has been in operation for 49 years. This year, the company decided to present each Kennedy student with a gift and give each family a $100 Visa gift card.
McNeil said his son’s girlfriend is a paraprofessional at Kennedy, 2906 N. 30th St., so he and his wife have donated their time to the school before.
“We just saw 250 kids that we wanted to help,” he said.
McNeil reached out to Kennedy Principal Tony Gunter shortly before Thanksgiving and told him he wanted to “adopt” Kennedy. The teachers went into action, interviewing each student to find out what they wanted for Christmas.
“If you had $100, what would you do with it?” the teachers asked. The children, unaware that these wishes would come true, let their imaginations run wild.
The Mainelli office staff worked to purchase all the gifts, which included bikes, skateboards, Chinese checkers and Barbie dolls.
“I can pretty much say, 99 percent, if they had it on their list, they got it,” McNeil said.
Many families came for the school’s winter program Wednesday afternoon. When the concert was over, Gunter took the stage to make the big announcement.
Upon finding out there were presents waiting for them, the children jumped and shouted for joy. After finding out there were gift cards as well, parents gasped, before giving the Mainelli team a standing ovation.
Parent Jeremy Cruz was grateful. His daughter, Wren, was ecstatic to receive a Paw Patrol Tower, based on her favorite show.
“It’s nice that there are good people out there to do nice things for children and those in need,” Cruz said. “It was a very nice community thing to do.”
Many Kennedy families have faced difficulties since the school year began. About one-fourth of students, Gunter said, lived in the Yale Park apartment complex and were displaced when it was shut down in September after housing inspectors found widespread code violations.
“(Mainelli) chose us, they chose you,” Gunter said in his announcement. “They chose your children to support this year.”
Nebraska Nice in action: More than 5 dozen stories of everyday folks helping each other
Every day, people around Omaha lend a hand to help their neighbor or complete strangers. Take a look at a few examples of Nebraska Nice in action.
The inspiration was a story about a couple in North Carolina who opened a coffee shop run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Marilyn Hinkle’s work is part of a collaboration between Gotta Be Me, a nonprofit that works to include people with disabilities in everyday activities, and Opera Omaha’s Holland Community Opera Fellowship, designed to introduce people in all areas of the city to the 400-year-old craft.
Every year, Larry Hutchinson of Council Bluffs delivers hundreds of dictionaries to third-graders in several Iowa schools.
Since its start, JAVELAN has paired up more than 30 veterans with a dog. Each week, about one pair graduates from training.
Children's Hospital & Medical Center will welcome a second facility dog later this month.
By the time the doors opened at about 8 a.m., a line of people had wrapped around the corner of the church.
Salvation Army assistant social services director Don Winkler says he expects to send out about 1,000 of the gift cards this year, about as many as each of the past 15 years.
The club's goal isn't to race or set personal records. The goal is to keep girls moving forward.
A Florida woman anxious about getting medical care for her brother back in Columbus, Nebraska, accidentally dialed the Jimmy John's in Columbus. And workers there come through for her.
Thanks to donations from the community, roughly 80 kids who were forced out of the Yale Park Apartments last month were treated to a shopping spree Monday afternoon.
The lunch served as outreach for the refugee center, which has had its finances thrown into question as the Trump Administration cuts refugee admissions into the United States.
Fourteen employees from Lincoln Electric System went to Florida along with a six-man crew from Grand Island Utilities.
Nebraska Methodist College, Suburban Rotary of Omaha and Open Door Mission teamed up to provide foot health screenings, shoes, diabetes screenings, flu shots and a variety of other health checks to about 150 homeless people Saturday.
For her 13th birthday, Lilly Maddox of Council Bluffs, is asking for shoes — not for herself — for homeless and near-homeless kids.
Rabbi Mendel Katzman and wife Shani, who have 12 children and run the Chabad House, came to Omaha 32 years ago. Thursday night more than 200 people attended Shani's pre-High Holy Days "Challa Bake" at the Hilton. Only one of their eight daughters has married, but Mendel says he is optimistic.
Terri Smieja, owner of Omaha’s Cinderella Dress Outlet, is driving 700 dresses to the high school cafeteria, giving them away to many teenage girls who might have otherwise skipped the dance.
Abbey Dyer, a Girl Scout for 12 years who then was a sophomore at Millard South High School, was searching for a project for a Gold Award — the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. She reached out to Heartland Hope’s volunteer coordinator, Amanda DeVries, asking if she could revamp the play area, free of charge.
Local law enforcement agencies are banding together in an effort called Operation NETS, or Neighborhood Engagement Through Sports.
The late-night relay of a rare, lifesaving medication from Omaha to a children’s hospital in Colorado earned high praise for eight Nebraska State Patrol troopers Monday.
When Elaine Cox came to, the medical receptionist she was speaking to — who happened to be more than 200 miles away — was still on the line, telling Cox she’d sent help.
Doane for years had used the Fillmore County property, which was willed to the college, for education and research into prairie dog behavior. But this spring the university sold the rural property — 320 acres in all — to farmers for $2.63 million. The prairie dog colony has become a soybean field.
The people behind Table Grace Cafe, the pay-if-you-can restaurant that aims to serve the greater good while serving good food, are rolling out a food truck.
About half a million pets are involved in house fires each year, said Dr. Rod Van Horn, a veterinarian at Omaha Animal Medical Group. Of those pets, about 40,000 die from smoke inhalation, he said.
Lisa Engelkemier felt like she was flying. An SUV had just smashed into her Ford SUV at a west Omaha intersection. Her first thought: How is my baby?
“I told it to somebody and they said, ‘This is one of those feel-good things about the College World Series,’ ” Joan Hindman said.
Thad Beaty, one of the guitarists for the country group Sugarland, met with about 22 families impacted by pediatric cancer.
When Tyler Howard arrived in the neighborhood this month to set up the Omaha-based stand, his own kids befriended those living nearby who hung around the pop-up tent, curious. He began to give them tasks in exchange for a few dollars and has since watched them take on the cleanup project with an ambition and excitement of their own.
Still recovering from a heart transplant, Rick Ganem wouldn't be able to make her wedding. So she brought the ceremony to his hospital room at the Nebraska Medical Center.
A crowd of more than 100 heeded the Omaha National Cemetery’s call to attend a burial service on Friday for two Vietnam-era veterans — Eugene …
The United Way of the Midlands Day of Action offered a relaxing form of action on Thursday: reading. Corporate and community volunteers read a…
For his ninth birthday, Jack Gallagher could have asked for more books, the latest video game or a new Lego set. Instead, he asked for stuffed animals, all of which he donated Wednesday to the Bellevue Police Department.
For Father’s Day, Matt said to his dad, they would watch the Bulldogs’ game. His dad, of course, assumed that meant on television. As Matt handed his dad a new Mississippi State T-shirt, Matt said they could do better. They would go see the Bulldogs in person.
Raphy is named after an angel, but thinks he's the king. That's the update from his former foster mom, Bobbie Brooks.
"He's so stinkin' cute,' she said. "I wish I could have kept him."
More than 30 kids with special needs attended a basketball camp with members of the Creighton University men’s basketball team and physical therapy students.
Almost 74 years to the day after the landing at Normandy, a handful of other veterans were back on the water for a different purpose.
On Friday, Tonja Downey and six other living donors and the seven people who received their organs gathered at the medical center with transplant staff to celebrate what the new chain had wrought and marvel at the ripple effect of the gift her family received long ago.
At 7:07 a.m., the total donated passed $1 million. It passed $5 million before 3 p.m. Before today's totals are added, the giving day had generated a total of $35 million since it began in 2013, with $7.8 million raised in 2017.
Ryan Lingelbach knew the perfect way to honor his Grandma GG.
The ATI Foundation donated $5,000 to Maddox Hobbs, 11, of Omaha. Hobbs has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive disorder that affects muscle use and significantly impacts mobility.
The six baby squirrels were found last week in Elkhorn with their tails tangled together, so much so that they became a six-headed animal cluster.
Alice Pirnie takes orders at the counter, serves as a greeter and is considered by some the "Mother of McDonald's" because of her caring nature.
Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. The organization’s mission is to improve the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled military veterans through fly fishing.
Lincoln police officer Luke Bonkiewicz has dubbed the event a "Runza Rendezvous."
“Those women took the action to jump in and help her,’’ Jackie Nelson said. “They are heroes to Hazel.”
Like Wonder Woman combating super villains, Neena Nizar fights to find a cure for Jansen’s metaphyseal chondrodysplasia, a rare progressive form of dwarfism that afflicts her and the boys, which they were diagnosed with in 2010.
Brian Wilson received an invite from senior Alyssa Bagley, a close friend who’s also his student partner.
Students, teachers and parents have always accepted Caitlin Adams, and the vote for queen was a powerful example, her mom said.
Ashli Brehm, a life blogger, put the word out to her social media followers last month to please send flowers, in particular paper flowers, for Daisy.
The bar has been using the letter for a couple of years, but it gained attention on social media this spring and went viral.
A photo showing Trooper Jonathan Kroeger carrying one of the girls — an 8-year-old with cerebral palsy — is drawing attention on social media as an example of the everyday good works carried out by law enforcement.
Collette Nero, an assistant principal at Omaha’s Fullerton Magnet Center, had 2 feet of her thick, dark hair cut off and will donate it to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that provides hairpieces to needy children with hair loss from medical conditions.
Five new gaming kiosks, called GO Karts, were added to the Omaha hospital’s existing fleet of video game systems.
Brothers Rusty and Justin Moore have shared a love of basketball and now their hoops bond has grown more powerful.
The longtime teacher and coach has a reputation as a caring man, and now the school community is returning the favor after his home was severely damaged in a February blaze.
"He likes the idea of heroes helping others,'' said his mom.
About 30 moms chipped in nearly $400 to buy the food, Vacek said.
Inner Beauty’s staff of four clinical cosmetologists helps thousands of women (and men and children) reclaim the beautiful features that cancer has taken away.
In an act observers called true sportsmanship, Austin Middleton invited the wrestler with Down syndrome to hit the mat, complete with a ref, during a break at a district tournament this weekend in York. For Grant Fehlhafer, a member of the Seward High School team, it was his first match.
The handmade pillows have a practical purpose, but they also serve as a comforting symbol to patients struggling through the pain and loneliness of a cancer diagnosis.
Kara Holden didn't expect anyone to care about her lost wedding rings. But when she made a post in the Bellevue 411 Facebook group about losing her rings at Immanuel Medical Center, it was shared more than 3,000 times.
It took a village, and then some, to transport two patients to hospitals through snow drifts and whiteout conditions during the height of Monday’s blizzard in northeast Nebraska.
Three players from the team visited Jackie Johnson at Primrose Retirement Communities in Council Bluffs to thank her for her support over the years.