Fourney column: Southwest Iowa giving stuns Giving Tuesday organizers, sets global example

Katie Fourney | Share Omaha The Daily Nonpareil, 12/21/2021

I had a front row seat to something stunning on Nov. 30 and I have yet to grasp the full meaning of what our community did.

At SHARE Omaha, we organize local nonprofit efforts to raise support for Giving Tuesday, known as #GivingTuesday712 in southwest Iowa. Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving following Thanksgiving, and for the third year we prepared for months in advance with our partners at the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation and sponsor TS Bank. All this work was in hopes that Council Bluffs metro individuals, families and businesses would hear our collective urging to support the causes you care about with time, dollars and needed items leading into 2022.

To say the generous souls of our region responded is an understatement. Pottawattamie County Community Foundation raised $2.26 million dollars, comprised of public gifts and sustaining nonprofit endowment contributions as well as a 20% match from the foundation. We hoped for a 40% growth in giving metro-wide over Giving Tuesday 2020. Instead, PCCF achieved a 1,267% growth.

You did this, with gifts of $10, $25 and $50, each meaningful to you and the organizations you choose to receive your gifts of love. Every dollar of the $5.49 million raised across the Council Bluffs-Omaha metro is the beginning of a story. Giving at this monumental level will improve lives. I know I’ll hear tales of the good things these dollars are doing far beyond the campaign.

Donna Dostal, president and CEO of PCCF shared with me, “We are excited by the outpouring of support and true philanthropy to our nonprofit partners and southwest Iowa community. We applaud our southwest Iowa community for coming out in force to make true, durable impact a reality for generations to come.”

So many givers in Council Bluffs put our city motto into action, proving that we are unlike anywhere else. The surge in local giving even caught the attention of the global Giving Tuesday organizers. Celeste Flores, United States communities director for Giving Tuesday, kept saying “phenomenal” as she watched the outpouring of selflessness happening in our region.

“I’m energized by the example set by southwest Iowa this year! You all come together, giving what you could to move mountains for the special nonprofits in the Council Bluffs metro that I’ve heard so much about. I’ll be sharing your generosity as an example of what’s possible when I talk to other cities preparing for Giving Tuesday 2022,” Flores said.

Heather Beekhuizen, community liaison at New Visions Homeless Services, was not sure prior to Giving Tuesday if they would be able to provide diapers for families attending their holiday event. TS Bank employees and customers came together to collect diapers and fill their need.

TS Bank employee Jacque Jerkovich was inspired to do more. Many years, Jacque organizes her network to join her in giving back to a cause. This year, she called on friends to help assemble “Advent calendar boxes” to be delivered to Care & Share House on Dec. 22. Each day of December, Jacque and 30 friends are adding a food item to their boxes, slowly building a nourishing bounty for local families. When I asked her why she was motived to do this she replied, “I’m not rich, but I can still give.”

Staff at Express Employment Professionals of Council Bluffs realized that Promise 4 Paws and New Visions needed new and used blankets, towels and sheets. They organized a drive and invited others to join in their collection. The kindergarten classrooms of teachers Rebecca Liston, Jennifer Pearce and Kevin Maxcy of College View Elementary School donated blankets for the drive as a part of a class project.

Liston shared, “Through our Unit of Inquiry, we studied and learned what living things need to survive. One of them is warmth and shelter, as you know! We thought this was a perfect opportunity to help people and animals. At College View we encourage kids to ‘take action’ and this was a way they could take action and help.”

Pam Myers, owner of Express Employment, was astonished by the number of blankets the children had collected to donate, filling two entire cars. She put out the call to give, and like us, was stunned by the response.

Volunteers helped Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development process seeds on Giving Tuesday at Iowa Western Community College’s Dodge Hall greenhouse. They gave their time and experienced the work of Golden Hills firsthand as they learned the uses for different native plants.

At the end of the day on Tuesday, Nov. 30 I saw the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge turn its lights to purple and red, symbolizing the Iowa and Nebraska Giving Tuesday campaigns coming together to meet in the middle of the river, celebrating our community’s cross-river effort to fill nonprofit needs going into the new year.

Thank you, each of you, who gave for Giving Tuesday and are still giving end of year donations. You are needed, appreciated and a true example of what it means to share.

Fourney is the marketing and communications manager for SHARE Omaha.