United Way of the Midlands Awards Karnett Trust Grant to Goodwill Omaha

The grant will enable Goodwill Omaha to offer virtual learning options for the Work Experience program

Goodwill Industries, Inc., Serving Eastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa, (Goodwill Omaha) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded the $70,000 Karnett Family Trust Grant by United Way of the Midlands Karnett Trust.

The Karnett Family Trust Grant is administered by United Way of the Midlands and is open to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie counties to fund programs that are focused on the care, education and training of children with intellectual/developmental disabilities in the Omaha metropolitan area. The grant will provide vital funding for Goodwill Omaha’s Work Experience program, which gives developmentally disabled high school students opportunities to gain exposure to work situations in supportive environments.

“We are incredibly thankful to United Way of the Midlands and the Karnett Family for this grant,” said Linda Kizzier, director of mission programs at Goodwill Omaha. “Goodwill began developing basic virtual-learning curriculum for our programs prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns in March 2020, and the Karnett Family Trust Grant will enable us to put more time and resources toward that initiative, so we can offer our Work Experience students a more standardized curriculum that’s available and accessible if there are times when they cannot attend in-person learning at schools.”

Goodwill’s Work Experience program has provided training services to developmentally disabled high school students since 1965. As Goodwill’s oldest program, Work Experience has professionals who work with local school districts in eight retail and community-based locations in the metropolitan community.

When most schools closed in March, students participating in Goodwill Omaha’s Work Experience program were forced to end their training abruptly. “With the help of this grant, the Work Experience program will move closer to providing a more robust virtual training platform,” Kizzier said. “We’ll develop the virtual platform to help our Work Experience students maintain a more consistent pace and scope of our traditional program, so they’ll be able to continue the program with as little interruption as possible.”

COVID-19 has presented many challenges for students at schools that haven’t yet returned to in-person learning, parents’ reluctance to allow children to return to a classroom, or whose underlying health concerns make returning to a classroom undesirable or unsafe. Goodwill Omaha is adapting its service delivery with a flexible online training system designed to help bridge the gap until schools and students can return to more normal learning environments.

Kizzier said the Work Experience team has been developing videos demonstrating the various skill sets they teach during face-to-face training, so students who cannot attend classes in person still have the opportunity to learn certain social and work skills. Following video training, students will answer questions to demonstrate their understanding of the task shown in the video.

“By using the Karnett Family Trust Grant to offer virtual training to students, Goodwill Omaha can provide an introduction and better understanding of various tasks when face-to-face classroom activities are not feasible,” said Tobi Mathouser, president and CEO at Goodwill Omaha. “Access to virtual training will also help students remain connected to their trainers, the training program and their peers, helping to ensure that ongoing learning takes place and students are in a good position to return to face-to-face training.”

About United Way of the Midlands:

Thanks to donors, volunteers and community partners, United Way of the Midlands is not only focused on addressing our community’s human needs today; it is focused on what can be and what should be. It is building on today’s strong partnerships to create even more comprehensive human service efforts tomorrow, so our community can solve some of the root causes of poverty. United Way of the Midlands is community-based, community-focused. Thanks to those who share their strength, United Way of the Midlands is COMMUNITY STRONG. Please visit UnitedWayMidlands.org for more information.