Georgie Scurfield hands Mario Hatcher framed artwork Friday expressing the core mission of Lift Up Sarpy. Hatcher is assuming leadership of the countywide organization from Scurfield, who is retiring.

Lift Up Sarpy County, which since its founding in 2005 has grown into an organizational hub for private and public agencies that provide social and charitable services, has new leadership.

Georgie Scurfield, who has led the organization formally since 2015 after closing out 19 years leading Sarpy County Court Appointed Special Advocates, will be replaced by Mario Hatcher, who served as an associate pastor at Bellevue Christian Center and most recently worked as a case manager and homelessness prevention coordinator at the Open Door Mission in Omaha.

Scurfield retired June 28.

Hatcher, a native of Texas, has lived in Bellevue the past 34 years.

He said Lift Up Sarpy represents an opportunity to continue serving people.

“I really saw where Lift Up Sarpy helps bring people together to help people,” he said.

“That’s really what it comes down to for me, to be able to point people in the direction of help.

“People don’t know what’s out there, and this lets them know.”

Lift Up Sarpy was created in 2005 as the Safe Policy Corporation. It was conceived as a private corporation that would receive and manage funds donated to aid Sarpy CASA, which is a private child advocacy agency whose county funding covers the basics but does not meet all its needs.

Its duties quickly grew to cover agencies across the county that seek to provide relief to those in need.

In 2014 it changed its name to Lift Up Sarpy County, which Scurfield said better describes its mission than the nondescript “Safe Policy Corporation.”

In 2015, Scurfield became Lift Up Sarpy’s director and has guided it to significant growth from its offices in Olde Towne Bellevue.

She said a big break came some five years ago when the Lincoln-based Nebraska Children and Families Foundation approached with an offer of financial support.

NCFF is a nonprofit founded in 1997 to receive private and federal funds to be used to support organizations that protect and strengthen children and family life. Lift Up Sarpy fit the bill, and NCFF came knocking.

“They said, ‘We want to give you money to do it better and to do it bigger,’” Scurfield said.

Lift Up Sarpy today serves as an organizing hub for charitable groups, some government sponsored, some private, some church-based, who previously had no way to know what services were available beyond their own.

Representatives of various agencies gather Monday mornings in Bellevue and Tuesday mornings in Papillion to discuss the needs of specific families and to decide which agency, or combination of agencies, can offer help.

Prior to the advent of Safe Policy Corporation/Lift Up Sarpy, the ability to track who needed what and who could answer the need was limited.

Scurfield said that opened the potential for abuse.

“You’d have one church where a family would go to them and say ‘I can’t pay my electricity bill, can you pay my electricity bill?’ and the church would pay and then the family would go to to the next church with the same electricity bill and say ‘I can’t pay my electricity bill.’”

While such cases of “working the system” are few, she said, it’s important to ensure that funds are properly channeled to the truly needy.

“Now we have a system where we begin to know the families with absolutely genuine struggles, some with persistent problems such as mental or medical issues who often get themselves into enormous debt,” she said.

Lift Up Sarpy, she said, is not content simply to pay bills and walk away. The goal of its constituent agencies, she said, is to get families on a sound footing so that they may stand alone.

“We all work long term to give financial education, help with day care, help them to find jobs,” she said.

“Most of our families have $2,000 in debt, some $8,000 to $10,000 in student debt for degrees they never completed or courses they never started.

“Medical debt could be $15,000, $25,000, $50,000, $60,000, $70,000, just beyond hope, so they just turn off and stop answering the phone.”

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.