Repairing Damaged LivesMar 17, 2023 12:26PM ● By Jeff Lacey
Photo by Bill Sitzmann.
Each day, the Open Door Mission campus offers 917 safe shelter beds to people experiencing homelessness. They serve over 4,747 nutritious meals to feed the hungry and provide resources aimed at preventing homelessness to more than 1,000 people living below the poverty line, empowering them to remain in their own homes.
The nonprofit’s goal is to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty in Omaha, and their mission depends on community support—especially from partners like Dingman’s Collision Center. ODM has been in partnership with Dingman’s—which provides auto body reptair and painting at its four locations in the metro—for more than two decades, and it’s been a felicitous match.
Dingman’s Collision Center, first established in Waverly, Iowa, has operated in Omaha for 25 years. Darcie Dingman, the marketing and human resources director at Dingman’s, explained the family-owned company has had a heart for people from its inception.
“Our company still has a small-town feel, and we care about people,” Dingman said. “We care about our community and the people, and we want to support it.”
Why ODM? Dingman said that while the work the Mission does is inspiring, its people are, too.
“To us, the mission is obviously amazing. Candace [Gregory] is a really hands-on CEO, and she’s really involved in the day-to-day operations,” she said. “It feels like everybody is 100% onboard. We like that about her. You just believe Candace when she talks.”
Dingman’s commitment to the Open Door Mission is more than just financial, and that’s what makes it unique. Not only has Dingman’s provided monetary support to ODM campaigns like Kids to Kamp, Hope for the Hungry, and Project Santa; the company has volunteered its time and talent as well. For example, when COVID hit in 2020, Dingman’s employees completed a no-contact Stuff a Truck campaign, which filled the Mission’s storage capacity within a few weeks.
“Many companies had to decide what to do with employees during COVID,” Dingman explained. “We decided to keep all employees on staff and pay them what they got the year before, and we put them to work volunteering. We made that choice even before the federal loans were announced. We made sack lunches, lots of things. For us, that was the best of COVID during that rough time.”
In this age of increasingly competitive employment, and a workforce looking for meaning (a 2022 report from consulting firm McKinsey stated that “63% of people we surveyed said they want their employer to provide more opportunities for purpose in their day-to-day work”), Dingman’s decision to reach out to the metro’s disadvantaged was an easy choice.
The company’s years of commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed. Candace Gregory, whose tenure at ODM is 28 years, said that Dingman’s Collision Center has provided invaluable service to the Mission’s work.
“They are hands-on. It’s incredible,” Gregory declared. “They were integral in building community support through the Stuff a Truck program for our existing Elkhorn location. Dingman’s has given us opportunities and sites that are convenient, so other people can have a meaningful impact on the Open Door Mission. They are always asking what are your greatest needs and how they can be involved.
“They are an excellent advocate [for us] in the community, and we need people who are willing to be that advocate,” Gregory explained. “There are many worthy charities in our community, and we are thrilled that Dingman’s chooses to partner with Open Door Mission.”