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Omaha Magazine

Family of Three Serves as Mighty Force for Food Bank for the Heartland

May 27, 2022 03:18PM ● By Karen Campbell
franzluebber family at foodbank for the heartland

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

Karla and Jim Franzluebbers were childhood friends who became high school sweethearts, and ultimately became bride and groom. They grew up in Beemer, Nebraska, about 85 miles north and west of Omaha.

Karla is a nurse and patient advocate in the cardiology arena at Novartis. Jim works in medical sales for bioMérieux. Their most notable title, however, is that of volunteer. The Franzluebbers offer their time to the Food Bank for the Heartland about twice a month, typically on a Tuesday and on a Saturday with their church group from St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Gretna.

“Volunteering at the Food Bank is just such a simple and easy thing to do,” Jim said. “Everyone is busy, but if we could each carve out just a couple hours a month to volunteer, we can collectively make a big difference.”

They have helped the Food Bank BackPack program, which runs throughout the school year. Volunteers assemble packages of nutritious, ready-to-eat or easy-to-prepare weekend meals for children in need in the community. School counselors and teachers determine which children receive the bags of food to take home. 

“We distribute approximately 8,400 backpacks each week during the school year to 256 schools in our community,” said Joanne Kamppinen, director of development for the Food Bank for the Heartland.

Jim estimated they, along with their church group, have assembled between 4,500 and 5,000 backpack meals in a matter of two-and-a-half hours. 

“Those smaller pieces add up,” he said. “Small amounts of time, small amounts of all adds up.”

The Franzluebbers are instilling the same values in their 13-year-old daughter, Sophia, who just finished seventh grade at Elkhorn Valley View Middle School. 

“I love that they have made volunteering a family experience,” Kamppinen said. “The Franzluebbers each give their time, talents, and treasures, and they are wonderful ambassadors for the Food Bank.”

As a sixth grader in May 2021, Sophia was inspired to pitch the idea of Elkhorn Valley View partnering with the Food Bank for a competitive, yet friendly, classroom monetary donation drive. The organized young woman even asked Kamppinen for statistics on community hunger so she could reinforce the importance of the campaign to principal Chad Soupir. She also asked Kamppinen to supply several of the plastic bags used in the BackPack program to serve as donation bags.

Sophia was successful, and the goal of the campaign was set at $500, which the principal enthusiastically kicked off by donating a dollar to each classroom’s Food Bank donation bag.

“It was so fun to see the kids hauling in baggies of coins and loose change,” Karla said. “Every little bit helped, even a dime, and we were just hoping it would all add up to our goal.”

The campaign raised $5,000.

“We were really surprised and happy,” Sophia said, giving an enormous smile. 

She spearheaded another friendly Food Bank competition in April between her school (Elkhorn Valley View Middle School) and Elkhorn Ridge Middle School, this time with donations of food and money. Ultimately, Sophia and her parents hope to involve as many schools as possible in the community to support the Food Bank.

“If we, as adults, can leave a legacy of giving of ourselves to our children, who are our future leaders, the world will be full of kindness and compassion for others,” Karla said. 

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This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.