At Bright Horizons in Norfolk, the Norfolk Area United Way is “the mortar that keeps everything together,” according to executive director Linda Olson.
That’s because it’s flexible enough to accommodate needs that pop up throughout the year, such as costs exceeding grant funding amounts.
“Our funding is primarily government grants. Those are very restrictive and each year get more and more restrictive. If I don’t write for it in January, I don’t get it,” she said. “United Way … meets the needs I didn’t think of in January.”
Bright Horizons serves survivors of domestic violence, stalking and human trafficking, spanning 10 Northeast Nebraska counties in its service region. It has been around since 1978, employing 12 full-time and five part-time employees.
The organization also has expanded its services to meet area needs. Last July it started a new transitional shelter program to provide more than 30 days for families living in an emergency shelter, and it is now serving eight families.
“With this new program, we’re able to assist families a lot longer. They can be in the program a year or two,” she said. “We can help them really get established and build a violence-free home for them.”
Bright Horizons also works with youths to prevent domestic violence relationships and bullying behaviors — “so hopefully someday services like ours won’t be needed,” she said. In addition, it has a campus advocate at Northeast Community College to provide support, awareness, outreach and prevention.
Without the services Bright Horizons provides, some victims wouldn’t be able to break through cycles of abuse and violence, Olson said.
“We have one woman that has no income at all; she’s not able to work,” she said. “Through the shelter program, she tells us all the time she wouldn’t have had any option but go back to her abuser. This gives time to get things in place for her safety long-term.”
Olson stressed that these kinds of stories are more common in Northeast Nebraska than some may realize.
“We like to think this doesn’t happen in our small rural communities, and unfortunately it does,” she said.
Bright Horizons supports the United Way because it allows local nonprofits to thrive.
“We really believe in the United Way because we see the benefit of the recipients — we see that firsthand every day,” Olson said. “ … You can give to one place and it stays in the area and supports so many organizations in the community, not just Bright Horizons.”