Passion comes in many forms. It often arises when someone sees a need that isn’t being met. Everyday, people generate ideas for ways to enrich our community but often face hurdles—primarily financial—to fully develop their vision. But a group of volunteers that belong to the Omaha Chapter of Bread for the Journey has made it their mission to raise donations and help individuals turn their passion projects into a reality.
Bread for the Journey’s Board of Directors, Delana Rauterkus, Laura Roccaforte, Marc Ferguson, and Kathleen Berg, were first introduced to the organization during a leadership program they attended called Bringing Spirit to Leadership, which is based on the book How Then Shall We Live by Wayne Muller. The concept is simple: support those who seek to uplift the community and do so with trust and generosity. The volunteers decided to start an Omaha Chapter and have been instrumental in helping seed numerous individuals and organizations for the past six years.
Not only is the concept simple, but the process is as well. There is no formal grant application and you don’t have to be an established 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In fact, many individuals use their grant money to establish that status. Most of the grantees learn about Bread for the Journey through word of mouth and are invited to attend an informal meeting. The grantee shares their idea and plan with the Board, answers any questions, and then steps out of the room while the Board discusses the project. If they decide to award a grant, a check is written on the spot and given to the grantee.
“We look for whether or not they have passion in what they want to do and enough of a vision to accomplish it,” Rauterkus explained. Trust is at the core of the belief system for the organization and the volunteers themselves, calling part of what they do building “trust muscles.” The board trusts people before they even know them, which in turn helps foster that trustworthiness long term. In fact, once a grant is awarded, Bread for the Journey doesn’t require the grantee to provide a report on how they spend the money. “We trust whole heartedly that they will do something wonderful with the grant,” Roccaforte added. “All we ask is that they come back and speak at our annual fundraising event.”
That event is held in October and is the primary fundraising event for Bread for the Journey. “Our donors are like-minded in their desire to support individuals who have the drive to do something that makes a difference in the community,” Rauterkus said. To date, they have awarded a total of $30,000 to 22 grantees. The grants range in size from $500 up to $3,000 with the average grant right at $1,500, and they award four grants per year.
One of their recent grants was awarded to Kinesha Roach with O.U.R. Gathering Place (see story in the April 2019 issue of Edge). Roach shared her mission with the Board to host community meals for families with special needs children. “Bread for the Journey’s support was meaningful to me because they were willing to invest in countless families,” Roach said. She used the grant to fund an O.U.R. Gathering Place Easter egg hunt and lunch, to purchase much needed office equipment, and it will go toward the organization’s upcoming one-year anniversary event. “By them pledging their finances to the vision of O.U.R. Gathering Place, success has happened. Bread for the Journey helped to alleviate the burden of providing a memorable event for special needs families.”
Cheri Dickmeyer with FIT Girl, Inc. (see story in the August 2018 issue of Edge) was also a grantee of Bread for the Journey. She used the funds to create a website and market her services for empowering girls through friendship and fitness. She said Bread for the Journey was the first organization she was able to share her story with and ask for help. “They believed in me and my mission and were incredibly supportive,” she said. “It’s imperative to have a strong support system and surround yourself with those who believe in you and cheer you on. Bread for the Journey gave me hope and the confidence needed to push forward.”
Bread for the Journey is truly “bringing spirit to leadership” to Omaha. Everyone involved in the organization, from the Board members to the donors and the grantees all want to extend community as far as they can. “Every day there are people driven to make a difference in the community, and we are just one step in the process to get it off the ground,” Rauterkus said. “If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to reach out. Even if your idea isn’t totally formed, we can help with that. We are blessed to have the opportunity to support these individuals who have a desire to make a difference in our community.”
To find out more about Bread for the Journey, read about their stories, and to make a donation, visit www.breadforthejourneyomaha.org.