OMAHA, (Neb.) August 25, 2021 — Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska (LFS) announced today that it has been awarded $512,000 from United Way of the Midlands as part of the 2021-2022 Community Investment Grant. Thanks to the generosity of United Way donors, the award will fund LFS’s Centers for Healthy Families ($120,000); RSafe Therapies for children who have been sexually abused or exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior ($104,000); the International Center of the Heartland to support newly arrived immigrants ($120,000); and LFS Behavioral Health programs ($168,000).

These critical services help our neighbors and community address and improve mental health, heal from trauma, strengthen parenting skills, and help New Americans find safety to thrive in their new homes. These services bring safety, hope and well-being to the people who are the most vulnerable. They help make Nebraska a more resilient state by breaking cycles of poverty and bringing self-sufficiency to those most in need.

Clients requesting LFS services have demonstrated more complex needs due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stories such as Marie and Emily’s (whose real names are not used to protect their privacy) demonstrate the benefit of programs such as RSafe Therapies. Marie and her 9-year-old daughter Emily were referred to the RSafe program after Emily disclosed that she was being sexually abused by an adult male family member. Marie was struggling to make ends meet and, until the sexual abuse was disclosed, living with the abusive family member. Marie was devasted and felt responsible for putting her daughter in a situation where she was sexually abused. After Emily disclosed the abuse to her mother and her mother called the police, the family member was arrested. Marie then had to find safe and stable housing for her and her daughter as they were managing the trauma of experiencing sexual abuse. To compound matters, Marie was also facing financial strains because her work hours were significantly cut following the COVID-19 pandemic. LFS’s RSafe program offered therapy services to Emily and her mother Marie via telehealth in the home to remove an additional financial barrier of transportation while still ensuring that Emily’s therapy needs are met. The increased flexibility that telehealth offered Marie also allowed her to pick up additional last-minute shifts to ensure she could provide for her family during these times of stress. Emily has been able to build rapport with her RSafe therapist and has begun her path of healing from sexual abuse.

This is only one example of the life-changing work LFS accomplishes thanks to our partnership and the support of United Way of the Midlands. “When we announced last year’s United Way award for LFS, we never imagined one year later we would still be battling this pandemic. Nor could we have anticipated that we would be bearing witness to the urgent situation in Afghanistan,” said LFS’s new president and CEO, Chris Tonniges. “The partnership we have with United Way of the Midlands allows us to serve the people in our communities who need us most, regardless of their ability to pay for care and services, and our community is stronger because of that.” Tonniges concluded, “We are fortunate to have the United Way of the Midlands’ support, and we are grateful to be able to provide safety, hope and wellbeing thanks to our ongoing partnership.”