Helping those in our community who have fallen on hard times.

Goodfellows; Learn more: www.goodfellowsomaha.com; Photo credit: Omaha World-Herald

The Omaha-World Herald, Good Fellows program has a rich history of helping our neighbors in need. Goodfellows provides one-time emergency housing and utility aid for families in crisis, among other endeavors. That rich history of supporting people in need is what drew Marilyn Hoegemeyer to give.

 “I liked the idea that it gathered money and gave it to the people with needs, based on their times and the times we were in,” Hoegemeyer said.

The dedication on her first gift to the charity honored a family fitting that description.

Andrius and Auguste Trautrimas came to live with Hoegemeyer’s family in 1951. The couple and their children had to leave their farm in Lithuania when the Russians invaded, and they ended up in a displaced persons camp.

“Farmers and others took in these families at least for a time so they could get on their feet,” Hoegemeyer said. “Another farm family near us had a family from Estonia.”

Hoegemeyer remembers the Trautrimases as “a wonderful family.” The kids, she said, went on to do wonderful things after getting that initial boost in their new country.

Son Martin Trautrimas earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees and eventually became a professor of languages and humanities at Midland University in Fremont. Daughter Marta was a dietitian, and another daughter, Ruta, was a beautician. All proved how a little help can change lives.

This year, Hoegemeyer gave in memory of those who have died of COVID-19, though no one she knows has succumbed to the disease. “It just touches my heart,” she said. “I have watched all the news, and it’s so difficult for families, with so many not being able to be with loved ones when they die.”

United Way of the Midlands was honored to be selected by the Omaha World-Herald to help administer the Goodfellows program this year, which was established in the 1890s to help those in our community who have fallen on hard times. Since UWM launched this year’s Goodfellows fundraising campaign in November, more than 1,800 people like Hoegemeyer have donated $800,913 to continue the work of this great program. Thanks to their generosity, thousands of our neighbors will receive housing, utility and food security support.