The events of the last three months have changed us all; they have changed our community, our businesses, and nonprofits. How we work, where we work, and how we live is different, new and unchartered. And there is historic unrest locally and around the nation as we grapple with untangling decades of systemic racism.

I took the helm of the Omaha Community Foundation in mid-March, just as the country—and this community—was starting to feel the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Though a challenging time to start a new role, it was also a rewarding time to join the Foundation at this period in its 38-year history. OCF has earned a reputation for helping direct strategic investment throughout the region, and for cultivating philanthropy and making it accessible to more people through programs like Omaha Gives. We have spent the past four years learning through The Landscape, our community indicator research that has shed light on where there are opportunities as a community for us to make progress.

I’m proud of the Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, which was launched within days of the arrival of the coronavirus in our community and has now raised well over $1 million. It’s a great example of how an innovative and nimble organization should work. The grants made through the fund are a reflection of the Landscape research, addressing those basic and urgent needs such as food, rent/mortgages, financial assistance, health care, mental health and PPE (personal protective equipment).

We immediately understood that many of our most vulnerable residents would need support at a level not seen in modern times. Our work has given us a deep understanding of our community, specifically our residents at risk during this time and the nonprofits working to address their needs. Support of our nonprofits and the work they do has never been stronger, as was evident by the number of donors and donations during Omaha Gives.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only amplified some of the disparities that already existed in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metropolitan area; disparities such as health outcomes, education, housing and more. We are learning every day from our nonprofit community, many of whom are on the frontlines of the pandemic. They are sharing not only what they are seeing on the ground, but how their organizations are adapting and responding to this unprecedented need.

In addition to the pandemic, our country and community has shared tremendous grief in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by law enforcement officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and many racially motivated crimes in our country and in our own community.
We stand in solidarity with movement leaders and community members in their call for justice on behalf of George Floyd, the anguish over the death of James Scurlock and others in our own city, and the loss of far too many other black lives in America.

We understand that a thriving community cannot exist where all are not welcome, protected, and regarded as equals. Therefore, our team will continue to use our power and thought leadership to support the most vulnerable in our community, ensuring all can lead a life by their own design.

Understanding and promoting equity will drive our work for the foreseeable future. We will continue to share our knowledge with the community and use it to guide decisions and investments. And we will continue to inspire a new generation of philanthropy with equity and justice as cornerstones of our efforts.

How we do our work may never be the same, but why we do the work endures: to strengthen this community and provide opportunity for all. I am fortunate to be leading the Foundation through this next chapter and working alongside you to create substantive and equitable change.

We invite anyone to join us in learning more about the work of the Omaha Community Foundation, and our COVID-19 Response Fund by emailing or calling (402) 342-3458.