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Omaha Magazine

Up to Spec: Local Company Helps Nonprofit Building

May 27, 2021 02:07PM ● By Chris Bowling
connie martin in front of specpro trailer fleet

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Connie Martin has a special scrapbook. Like a lot of keepsakes, it’s lined with loving notes and pictures of smiling parents and their kids at Christmas, Easter, or Halloween.

But these aren’t memories to pull out at family get-togethers. They are photos of women who’ve stayed at Bethlehem House, a housing and social service program for mothers in crisis, and they remind Connie why it’s important to give.

“I have to tell you, the pictures, the thank-you notes, the little quotes from ladies saying how thankful they are to have somebody there [means a lot],” Connie said. “Of course they don’t know me from the man on the moon, but we’re there helping and supporting them so that they can have a better life.”

Connie said she and her husband, Gary, were raised to give. Gary is vice president of SpecPro, a commercial skylight and wall panel maintenance and repair company based out of Omaha. Connie’s mother was a nurse, and Gary was raised by a single mom. Over the years, they’ve supported Habitat for Humanity, the Omaha Children’s Museum, Sienna Francis House, and the Salvation Army.

When Gina Tomes, the daughter of longtime friends of the Martins, opened Bethlehem House in 2005 they immediately connected with her vision.

“We like the idea that the Bethlehem house really focuses on helping women help themselves to get to a better place for both themselves and their baby or children,” Connie said. “That really resonates in our hearts.”

Bethlehem House has room for 12 mothers, with each person staying an average of eight to 12 months, said Tomes, family life director at Bethlehem House. Through education, case work, and other programming, Bethlehem House helps them find stability.

“These are women that are breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty, addiction, abuse…everything,” Tomes said. “We’re really creating a foundation for their life where they’re able to thrive, go to college, buy their first homes, even, and just really tackle the world and achieve their goals.”

That costs a lot in time, energy, and money for the nonprofit’s staff of five. Fortunately they have help from several donors, but none quite compare to the Martins, who’ve given about $70,000 in the last 16 years, Tomes said. But they don’t just give money. Whenever SpecPro’s crew has downtime, they fix up Bethlehem House, a two-story brick building in South Omaha, built in the 1940s to house a covenant of nuns. Whether it’s wiring, plumbing, or fixing a door that won’t shut, they keep the place up and running.

Literally and figuratively, Bethlehem House stands on the generosity of people like the Martins, and it’s the reason the nonprofit can be ambitious.

The nonprofit is adding 16 three-bedroom apartments so it can serve more mothers. It also started an after-care program to serve mothers for years after they leave.

“It’s families and companies like this that define Omaha,” Tomes said. “I always say Omaha is absolutely rich in love, resources, and community, and that shows our families what love is...It shows them what unconditional love is and what support is and [what it means to] walk through this journey during difficult times. It truly is what the
world needs.”

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This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.