United Way of the Midlands reported its accomplishments for 2017, shared its goals with the community and honored notable benefactors at its annual meeting and luncheon Friday.

More than 500 people attended the event at the downtown Hilton Omaha hotel, forming the largest annual meeting to date, according to emcee Ariel Roblin.

In its 2017-18 campaign, United Way handed out $36.1 million to help people with basic needs, education and financial stability.

United Way granted its Citizens of the Year award to Omaha philanthropists Annette and Paul Smith, who promote the arts and support youth development. Last year’s Citizens of the Year, Gerry and Bruce Lauritzen, presented the couple with the award.

Annette Smith serves as president of the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands and formerly served as chairwoman for the Women’s Leadership Council for the United Way.

Her husband, Paul Smith, is on the board of directors of Tenaska. He is chairman of the board of Joslyn Art Museum and past chairman for boards overseeing Film Streams, Omaha Conservatory of Music and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.

“It’s very humbling to have received (the award),” Paul Smith said. “In everything we’ve done, it’s always been a whole network of people that have recognized that something was important. We’re thrilled to be part of all that and we love doing it, but we never do it alone.”

Annette Smith emphasized that the reason for their involvement in the arts, humanities and youth development is because “the youth are the future.”

“They are going to be our next leaders, and if we don’t help them and people who need help at that age, how are they going to be the next generation that leads the community to good things?” she said.

United Way President and CEO Shawna Forsberg also expressed her desire to get more young people involved in United Way.

She said the organization’s Emerging Leaders group plays a big part in making that happen.

Several other organizations and companies received awards, including:

  • Volunteer Organization of the Year: Sojern
  • New Business Partner of the Year: Nebraska Total Care
  • Corporate Partner of the Year — Under 100 Employees: Columbia Insurance Group
  • Corporate Partner of the Year — 100-199 Employees: ACCESSbank and The Harry A. Koch Co.
  • Corporate Partner of the Year — 200-800 Employees: Security National Bank
  • Corporate Partner of the Year — 801+ Employees: Lozier

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