The distressed, the downtrodden, the despairing and those whose troubled lives were shaped by traumatic domestic circumstances are now Mario Hatcher’s daily charge.
The Texas native and 34-year Bellevue resident was recently appointed the new executive director of Lift Up Sarpy County. As such, he is now responsible for guiding the private, countywide social services into a future that is likely to become even busier as Sarpy County steams toward the 200,000 population mark. It is a responsibility Hatcher is well prepared to meet.
Raised in a family plagued by multiple divorces and remarriage, difficult or indifferent relationships with a string of ever-changing parent figures, cheating on his own wife in the early years of their marriage, and eventually transformed by his wife’s insistence that she would never abandon him, Hatcher knows what it is to feel lost and defeated — what it’s like to dance with despair, and what it’s like to emerge into the light.
That knowledge should serve Hatcher well as he addresses the plight of persons from across Sarpy County who struggle with problems he knows well, as well as issues of hunger, lack of transportation and debt that often impede the poor.
Lift Up Sarpy County coordinates the services of several leading social services organizations across the county, matching persons and families with agencies who can meet their needs.
Hatcher, 50, has spent his adult life helping people in one way or another, whether helping students complete accelerated degrees at Grace University, serving for eight years as a pastor at the Bellevue Christian Center, working the past two years at the Open Door Mission in Omaha or, now, leading Lift Up Sarpy County.
“You begin to see people and hear their stories,” he said. “I am a firm believer that how you’re raised in the home at a very early age really shapes how you will be in the future.
“As a kid and as a teenager I had no one asking me really, until my wife, ‘Mario, what can I help you with? Let me walk with you for about six months. Let me help you.’”
His job, Hatcher said, is to be that person for Sarpy County residents who lack life’s necessities and don’t know where to turn, who perhaps have despaired of their situation improving.
That hope remains alive even in dire circumstances is a lesson Hatcher said he drew from his high-school-sweetheart wife’s constancy in the face of his infidelity, back in 1994, a couple of years after they married.
“She said, ‘Mario, I’m not giving up on my marriage, and I’m not going to give up on you. We’re going to see this through,’” Hatcher said. “And that moment was the turning point. That was when I found a new direction in faith.”
In the years following, Hatcher earned a bachelor’s degree in management and leadership and a master’s degree in ministry. He spent eight years helping to plant a church in South Omaha and became a pastor at Bellevue Christian Center in 2008.
Twenty-seven years after his marriage began, with two daughters and a son testimony to its endurance, Hatcher said he is ready to help others overcome their travails.
“There’s so many hurting people here,” he said. “It’s not just the physical stuff, the floods, the homes being removed but now people are dealing with stress and anxiety and worry and depression because they don’t know where they’re going to go.
“So how can we support them and our communities? That’s the question we ask.”