My life has been changed by United Way

When Mo Shakir was fourteen, his mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

When Mo Shakir was fourteen, his mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“Everything was going great in our life,” Mo said. “My parents were working two jobs. We were living a great life. We had a home. And life hit us with a big curve ball.”

Mo’s mom passed soon after being diagnosed. On top of the grief, Mo and his family members struggled to make ends meet. His father’s income alone could not support the family’s needs.

“Thank God for United Way being there, because if they weren’t, it would have been very rough.”

The family got connected to a network of agencies funded by United Way which wrapped the family in support and gave them access to much-needed food, clothing, housing assistance and grief support.

The support given to families like Mo’s is not uncommon in Lincoln and Lancaster County. Last year, United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County raised $6.35 million to support area non-profit agencies. United Way focuses collective community support on health, education and financial stability. These three separate yet interconnected areas have been identified as the building blocks of a quality life.

Now as a successful member of the workforce in Lincoln, Mo feels like he is living the American Dream. And he’s giving back through United Way. “When we were at our lowest, United Way was there to pick us up. And if I could do the same with my small donation and it could help someone else out at their rock bottom—that’s my why.”

When Tammy Gebers started her career at the age of eighteen, her workplace invited her to join their United Way campaign by making a donation. At the time, Tammy thought she would never use one of the services funded by United Way, nor would she ever know someone who would need those services, so she declined to donate.

It wasn’t too many years later, that Tammy, as a newly divorced mother of two boys, needed help with before and after school care. Tammy connected with a before and after school program funded by United Way. Her boys not only had a safe place to stay while she worked, but engaged in educational enrichment opportunities they might otherwise not have had access to.

Every year, United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County invests over $1 million in educational programs in Lincoln and Lancaster County because of its importance in giving children the foundation they need to become successful community members.

Once Tammy realized that the services she and her children were receiving were funded by community donations through United Way, she joined her workplace campaign and became a United Way donor. But it was not her last time her life would be touched by the important services offered by local non-profit organizations.  

“My mom started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s at the age of 64 and my father, my siblings and I could pick up on little things that just wasn’t quite right for my mother – personality changes,” said Tammy. “Things just weren’t clicking like they had in the past.”

Tammy felt helpless and alone. She did not have the tools or knowledge to effectively care for her mother through this illness.

United Way partners with 41 human services agencies that form a vital safety net of services for the Lincoln and Lancaster County community. These agencies are on the front lines to deliver life-changing and life-saving services to those who are most in need. Additionally, United Way’s partnership with Combined Health Agencies Drive (CHAD) allows funding to an additional 23 health charities addressing chronic health conditions. Of the ten leading causes of death, seven are chronic illnesses. Together United Way and CHAD invest in the critical safety net of health and human services programs that keep families, like Tammy’s going through tough times.

When Tammy and her family connected to resources funded by CHAD, she said it was a relief to know they weren’t alone. They found a support group for family members and learned the dos and don’ts of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

“Never, would I have expected that I would--or my family--would have been touched by four United Way agencies in our life,” said Tammy. “My young, naive self thought that happened to other people. But life doesn't take us on the journey we think we're going to go on when we're young. And we as a community need to thank United Way and CHAD for what they deliver to our community every single day.”

When Glenn Friendt signs his giving form each year, he says it is an outward example of his commitment to making the community better and helping others.

“I have an amazing daughter that I would not have without United Way,” said Glenn.

In 1975, Glenn had just started a business and he and his wife had decided to adopt. Thanks to the support of a United Way funded agency, they had the support they needed to welcome a daughter into their lives.

Shortly thereafter, he made sure that employees at every company he owned had the opportunity to give back to the community through United Way.

“What they did for us is priceless,” Glenn said. “What they do for so many is critical. I hope you never need it, but your neighbors might or other family members might.”

Now retired, Glenn continues to encourage community members to remain involved.

“Even though you are retired, you are still part of this community,” said Glenn. “After you retire, there’s a big sigh of relief. You get focused on other things. On the other hand, the need has not gone away. And you are also in the financial position where it can be easier to make those donations. All you have to do is take a look around at your nieces and nephews and your grandkids and realize we have to keep doing this for the future.”

To community members who are still working, Tammy encourages the idea of giving up one cup of coffee or one burger a month to contribute to the common good. “If everyone just gave a little bit, just think of what we could do,” she said.

“Everyone thinks it needs to be a large amount but it doesn’t need to be,” says Mo, “Donating is something I feel like everyone should do to get a sense of fulfillment.”

If you are interested in helping United Way meet the need in Lincoln and Lancaster County please consider contributing through your workplace campaign. If your workplace doesn’t offer a giving campaign, please donate at