CEHS Staff Council donation drive benefits Omaha's Refugee Empowerment Center

Six people hold a sign in front of two moving trucks full of donated items. Outdoor photo.
Members of the CEHS Staff Council loaded two moving trucks full of donated items to help refugees settling in Nebraska.

CEHS Staff Council donation drive benefits Omaha's Refugee Empowerment Center

19 Nov 2021     By Joe John, CYAF

The College of Education and Human Sciences Staff Council partnered with the Refugee Empowerment Center to host a donation drive on Nov. 13, benefiting new and settling refugees in Nebraska.  

In total, the Staff Council collected nearly $1,000 in gift cards and monetary donations, along with two, 16-foot moving trucks filled with new or gently used donations from the community. Donations included items like kitchen supplies, mattresses, bedding, small appliances, winter clothing and more. All items were delivered directly to the Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha following the drive.  

“I wanted to donate to help people in the Nebraska community,” Moore Middle School teacher Anna Potthoff said. “I hope that the donated items help these families feel welcomed in Nebraska.”  

The four-hour event also featured a Refugee Empowerment Center information table, an opportunity to meet with members of UNL’s Afghan Student Association and The Corner Kitchen, a food truck serving Afghan cuisine.  

The Refugee Empowerment Center works to resettle refugees who are transitioning from vastly different backgrounds into American life. The Center focuses on an all-encompassing view, helping clients live and work productively, further their education, and achieve a better life for themselves and their children.  

Once sorted by The Center, donated items will be distributed to refugees and their families across the state on an as-needed basis.  

The idea for the donation drive took off earlier this fall when CEHS Staff Council member Madison Woltemath learned of approximately 775 evacuees from Afghanistan who were expected to settle in Nebraska.  

“As a mother of two toddlers, I can’t imagine trying to support my family in a place where I don’t speak the language and don’t have any allies,” Woltemath said. “With the winter season quickly approaching, there was an immediate need to provide our new neighbors with warm clothing and coats.” 

The group is part of the first wave of evacuees resettled across the country following the announcement of U.S. troops withdrawing from Afghanistan this August.  As more refugees continue to settle in Nebraska in the coming months, those who would like to donate their time or resources should contact The Refugee Empowerment Center in Omaha, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska or Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska in Lincoln. 

 “Lincoln should be very proud of our impact and the lives we are helping,” Woltemath said. 

College of Education and Human Sciences