Nancy Black has been donating to The Bridge Behavioral Health for years.
And while she gave $400 to the nonprofit center for last year's Give To Lincoln Day, the owner of Midwest Insurance Group had even bigger plans for the fundraiser this year.
She asked her friend Mary Gordon to get a couple of baseballs signed by her stepson, former Husker and three-time MLB All-Star Alex Gordon, to start a raffle associated with the event. But Mary Gordon took the idea a step further, donating several items signed by Alex Gordon as well as Derek Gordon, who is a pitcher for the Lincoln Saltdogs. There was also a jersey signed by the entire Saltdog team and Saltdogs tickets included in the raffle.
So with baseball being such a key theme on Thursday, it was fitting that Black used an analogy from the sport to describe the success of this year's Give To Lincoln Day, which set a record with more than $4.5 million being donated — about $28,000 of it going to The Bridge.
"This year I think we knocked it out of the park," she said. "… It's just going to get bigger and bigger."
Those items joined other prizes, like hotel certificates, at the raffle.
"Nancy was talking about how wonderful (The Bridge) is and I thought I could help by just getting a couple things signed," said Mary Gordon, who donated the items in memory of her husband, Mike Gordon, who passed away in February.
In addition to starting the raffle, Black offered to donate up to $1,200 this year. She gave out 60 certificates to her clients for a car wash and lunch that The Bridge hosted Thursday, and donated $20 for each one redeemed.
Men in residential treatment washed the cars, while other employees and volunteers served lunch.
"Our car washes and burgers are our largest fundraiser of the year," said The Bridge director Tammy Stevenson.
Donations to The Bridge have helped the agency grow and transform into something bigger, Black said. The downtown center, which offers residential and outpatient treatment, withdrawal care, protective custody and recovery support, used to be in a state of disrepair before it was renovated in 2016.
"It went from being like a jail to a five-star hotel," Black said. "It's incredible what they've done, and it was all from donations."
Joe Wright was at the lunch Thursday to support The Bridge. He was a police officer for 27 years and was on the agency's board. He used to work the night shift and visited the center almost every night, usually to bring in people for detoxification.
"The Bridge has always been a good friend of the city," Wright said. "The most important thing to know about them is (the fact) they have so many levels of care. I could bring a guy having a bad night and they could be put in care at any level that is needed."
Final donation totals reached $4,559,774 for Give To Lincoln Day, easily surpassing last year's total of $3,693,307.
"It was an amazing day for our nonprofit community," said Barbara Bartle, president of the Lincoln Community Foundation. "We broke all of our previous records. That's a tip of the hat to a really generous community with a good heart."
The seventh annual donation day also had more participating nonprofits than ever before — 404 — and its largest challenge match pool.
The Food Bank of Lincoln, which pulled in the most donations last year, held the top spot throughout the day Thursday as well.
Donations to the Food Bank neared $173,000, topping its 2017 total of $150,000.
Every donation will be boosted by the match pool, which is distributed proportionally after all donations are tallied. This means if a nonprofit brings in 1 percent of the total amount donated, it receives 1 percent of the match pool. Last year, every dollar donated drew an 11-cent match.
This year's match pool is $400,000, bolstered by a $25,000 donation from lead sponsor West Gate Bank.
Since its first event in 2011, Give To Lincoln Day has raised more than $19 million.