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Entire community receives 2021 Charity Award at Foundation’s annual event
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Entire community receives 2021 Charity Award at Foundation’s annual event

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The Lincoln Community Foundation (LCF) hosted its annual Donor Recognition virtually on May 6, honoring donors, nonprofits, funders and partners for coming together as one community during the most challenging of times. The virtual event also included presentation of the 2021 Charity Award.

“The year 2020 is one we will never forget, especially because of the generosity of our community,” said LCF President Barbara Bartle. “You can see that in the record-breaking numbers of gifts, but you can especially feel it in the spirit of our city.”

In 2020, a record-setting $21.1 million was granted to 1,184 nonprofit organizations, and $2.2 million was distributed for programs, including CARES Act funding for those who needed support more than ever. The community raised $1.2 million for the COVID-19 Response Fund, which was distributed to 66 local nonprofits on the frontlines of the pandemic.

LCF established the Charity Award as a gift to the community. The award was intended to provide the community with an opportunity to recognize individuals for their leadership and philanthropy.

Unprecedented community response to COVID-19 crisis

Because of all the people and organizations in the community that came together and responded in unprecedented ways to an unprecedented crisis, the 2021 Charity Award was presented to the Lincoln community.

“There are so many stories of neighbors coming together during uncertain times to take care of each other,” said Bartle. “You volunteered, made masks, started community conversations, bought local, donated to provide basic needs with our goods and our philanthropic dollars. For this, we are honored to present the 2021 Charity Award to the entire Lincoln community.”

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird joined the event virtually and spoke about the collective efforts of many during the pandemic, including health care professionals, families, neighborhoods, businesses, educators and City of Lincoln employees.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work of the Lincoln Community Foundation and the choice this year to honor our entire community with the prestigious Charity Award,” said Gaylor Baird. “What a fitting and fantastic way to recognize the people of Lincoln for their generosity, resilience, grit and community spirit during a year that has asked so much of each and every one of us.”

The education sector has been highly impacted by the pandemic during the past year. Dr. Steve Joel, superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools, gave testimony to the efforts of teachers and staff members who took on the challenge of first virtual learning, then in-person learning and keeping schools open.

“I want to take my hat off and put my arm around our teachers and our staff members that never once backed away from this incredible challenge,” said Joel. “The pandemic has been the most challenging time for all of us, but never did we feel as if we were doing this ourselves in Lincoln. I cannot say thank you enough to the community for the fantastic support they gave us on an ongoing basis.”

Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez spoke about how the health care sector and the community adapted to changing conditions throughout the past year.

“We moved from being prepared for a pandemic to actually experiencing a pandemic in our community,” said Lopez. “Then we went from not having enough sites for testing individuals to providing vaccines for thousands. I am so proud of our community that we were able to do what we needed to do in the best possible way.”

Nonprofits serve community’s most vulnerable on the front line

Local nonprofits have been on the front line of the pandemic, serving the community’s most vulnerable residents. Scott Young, former executive director of the Food Bank of Lincoln, expounded on how the community stepped up when nonprofits were taxed like never before.

“2020 was a remarkable year for the way the Lincoln community supported nonprofits,” said Young. “Donors recognized immediately that this was a crisis that they needed help with. It really affirmed to the nonprofits that their work was important, and people were here to help.”

Beyond the ongoing pandemic, 2020 also challenged the nation and local communities to address racial and social unrest. Lincoln City Councilwoman Sändra Washington shared her passion behind creating the Together, One Lincoln platform, which focuses on how each person can help create a community of racial equity by starting a conversation.

“We need to be able to bring the temperature down and have conversations with each other about the things that are on our minds,” said Washington. “Someone must talk in a conversation, but I think the most important piece is listening to each other. I’m a strong believer that if we are compassionate and kind with each other, we are going to find a way to work through any problems we have.”

The virtual program also featured Steve, Nancy and Paige Gade, who worked together as a family on the Washable Masks for All Fund, providing washable masks for vulnerable residents. Bill Stephan, executive director of the Lied Center for Performing Arts, spoke about how the community found creative ways to enjoy and support the arts throughout the pandemic.

Diane Temme Stinton, CEO of TMCO Inc., shared how the people of Lincoln participated in the conversation surrounding early childhood education, and how their support of access to quality early childhood programs impacts the current and future workforce.

Ava Thomas, president and publisher of the Lincoln Journal Star, shared the collective impact the community has when it comes together to support local businesses and nonprofits.

Extraordinary actions of Lincolnites

Whether responding to COVID-19 or seeking solutions to economic disparity and racial inequity, the extraordinary actions of Lincolnites in the past year show that we truly are better when we extend a hand and come together as one community.

“Thank you for being a city where each of us and all of us enrich the life of our community,” said Bartle. “We are a city of action: Lincoln loves. For this, we applaud you and present the 2021 Charity Award to all of you in the Lincoln community.”

The full program can be accessed online at LCF.org.

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