The nonprofits worked together to provide resettled refugees with new beds and other necessities.

Between September and December 2021, approximately 500 Afghan evacuees relocated to Omaha after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, and an additional 700 Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in Omaha by October. This influx of refugees in need has stretched local resettlement agencies to their limits. One of those agencies, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFS), reached out to Goodwill Industries, Inc., Serving Eastern Nebraska & Southwest Iowa (Goodwill Omaha), asking for assistance in providing beds, furniture, clothing and other household necessities for refugee families. Goodwill’s retail operations team was happy to help.

“As the largest refugee resettlement agency in Nebraska, Lutheran Family Services has agreed to help welcome more than 800 Afghan allies and refugees to Nebraska,” said Sharon Brodkey, director of public relations and marketing at LFS. “This is in addition to more than 1,000 people who will be coming to Nebraska and eastern Iowa from other countries in the next year. This monumental task would not be possible without the generosity and help LFS is receiving from Goodwill Omaha. Goodwill is helping LFS fulfill our mission to provide safety, hope and wellbeing for all people.”

Janelle Ellis, director of retail operations at Goodwill Omaha, worked with LFS to find out what items Goodwill could help provide. “They desperately needed beds, but LFS didn’t have the ability to purchase or store a large quantity of mattresses,” Ellis said. “So, we purchased over 300 beds from our bedding supplier at the time, Omaha Bedding, at a deep discount and passed along the savings to LFS. We also stored the mattresses, and LFS picked them up as families needed them.”

Afghan refugees also needed clothing and household goods. Donors in the community reached out to LFS to help, but LFS is unable to accept, process and distribute donated goods.

“When people asked LFS how they could donate material items for the refugees, LFS directed them to Goodwill,” Ellis said. “By the end of December, LFS had sent more than 20 donors to Goodwill. As a thank-you to LFS, we provided over $12,000 in vouchers that refugees can use in Goodwill Omaha stores to purchase necessities.

“We also were able to donate four truckloads of furniture for refugees,” Ellis added.

Tobi Mathouser, president and CEO at Goodwill Omaha, said the organization is committed to seeking out ways it can help other nonprofits in their efforts to assist those in need in our community. “We see opportunities like this as another way to give back to the community,” Mathouser said. “But, more importantly, we see doing good in the community as our responsibility as good stewards of the community. And, after refugees have some time to settle, once they’re ready to take steps toward finding work, Goodwill’s job training and placement program teams are here to help them every step of the way.”