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Omaha Magazine

Responding to the Needs of Many: September 2020 Editor's Letter

Aug 25, 2020 11:22AM ● By Daisy Hutzell Rodman
managing editor Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

The presidential election of 1920 saw Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding won in a landslide over Ohio Gov. James M. Cox. The total vote for 1920 was roughly 26,750,000, an increase of 8 million from the 1916 election. While that number cannot be attributed to any one thing, it was the first year that women were allowed to vote in the presidential election. The suffragists—including Amelia Bloomer, who lived in this area, and Carrie Chapman Catt of central Iowa—fought for the right to vote for nearly 70 years. Chapman Catt created a national organization in February 1920 that has become a nationwide civic group with more than half a million members—League of Women Voters. The story of Nebraska’s League of Women Voters is Omaha Magazine’s history story this month.
Also paralleling the early 20th century this year is a pandemic. When influenza struck the United States in 1918, the nonprofit American Red Cross, started in 1881 by Clara Harlowe Barton, was one of the first organizations to respond. In fact, when U.S. Surgeon General Rupert Blue decided on Oct. 1 that year the nationwide outbreak of severe influenza warranted a national response, he telegraphed the American Red Cross’ national headquarters in Washington, D.C. The organization recruited a total of 15,000 women to respond to the deadly outbreak by January of the next year.
Nonprofits today are still a significant part of educating voters, responding to the front lines of disasters, and more. When the COVID-19 pandemic began to gain speed in March this year, the nonprofit community quickly banded together and began to figure out how to procure and distribute resources. A couple of months later, the popular virtual fundraiser Omaha Gives! successfully saw 23,000 individual donors contribute to the event, their highest count by about 5,000 donors.
Omaha is one of the most philanthropic cities in the nation. A July 1 article in the Los Angeles Times revealed comparisons of charitable giving between Omaha and Wichita, Kansas, home of billionaire Charles Koch. The data revealed that Omaha gave the arts $361 per capita compared to a national $125 per capita (and $49 per capita in Wichita); human services such as food insecurity and sports programs $984 per capita compared to a national $687 per capita (and $810 per capita in Wichita); and health services other than hospitals $860 per capita compared to $1,040 per capita (but $376 per capita in Wichita).
As much as the income itself, the people of Omaha who run charities, volunteer for charities, and sometimes need to use these charities, are what make Omaha special. I spoke with Scott Brown for our Adventure article. Brown retired from the military and could have taken a job in the civilian sector, but he decided to officially retire. Instead, Brown spends his time working for the Salvation Army Omaha and Team Rubicon as a volunteer—feeding others for the Salvation Army and felling downed trees with Team Rubicon is places such as Kansas and Puerto Rico.
Another article that intrigued me this month was that of Tara Maco-Guillen, a mother who was so appreciative of the time she spent at Ronald McDonald House a few years ago she committed to giving back to them. Maco-Guillen arrives at RMH about once a month with a stack of pizzas that she provides to the residents simply because she understands the gift of a hot meal after a long day of visiting a hospital to be with loved ones.
Omaha youth also play a big role in philanthropy. This spring, high school junior (now senior) Jackson Heller learned he won the Prudential Spirit of Community Certificate of Excellence, one of 450 students nationwide to be awarded this certificate, and the only person at his school, Mount Michael Benedictine. He won this award by serving hundreds of volunteer hours at Scatter Joy Acres, the animal rescue ranch in North Omaha near Forest Lawn Cemetery.
The Omaha Magazine team has a soft spot for animals—Zoom meetings frequently feature dogs and cats popping in and out of the video, and everyone on the creative team has at least one beloved pet. That’s why the subject of this month’s Obviously Omaha came easily to us: animal charities. There are so many great animal charities in this city, it was hard to pick six to spotlight.
Strike that last sentence. With so many great charities in Omaha, it was hard to write only the stories we chose for this Giving Issue. It’s one of my favorite issues to work on throughout the year, and I hope it’s one you enjoy reading.
One last note: With all the great art, history, and culture Omaha offers, one activity I know I have missed is visiting museums. Many large local museums re-opened in early August. These museums all require a scheduled visit to maintain social distancing, and visitors can schedule their time on their websites or call for more information.
Bemis Center
402.341.7130 | bemiscenter.org

The Durham
402.444.5071 | durhammuseum.org

El Museo Latino
402.731.1137 | elmuseolatino.org

Great Plains Black History Museum
402.932.7077 | gpblackhistorymuseum.org

Joslyn Art Museum
402.342.3300 | joslyn.org

Omaha Children’s Museum
402.342.6164 | ocm.org

* Note: The hotel edition of Omaha Magazine has a different cover and does not include all of the editorial content included in the magazine’s full city edition. For more information on our city edition, visit OmahaMagazine.com.

This letter first appeared in the September 2020 issue of Omaha Magazine.