Romance of Omaha, Chapter XXX

Welfare and charitable work plays so large a part in the life of Omaha that the serial story of the city would not be complete without a chapter devoted to the organizations which do so much to relieve the suffering and lighten the burdens of the less fortunate people of Omaha.

Some of these organizations have been in existence for 50 years or more; others are of comparatively recent origin, but they all serve to alleviate the hardships and sorrows of those who have been unable to meet life's problems without assistance of others.

For several years following the founding of Omaha there was no thought of organized aid for those in need. Warm-hearted neighborliness took its place. When illness or misfortune visited a home, neighbors and friends rallied promptly and with generous hands did everything that could be done to aid.

As the time passed and the city grew, this neighborly feeling began to pass away. It was impossible to retain the customs of the small town in the fast-growing city. It was then that thoughts of men and women turned to organized methods of aiding the sick and unfortunate.

As early as 1859, talk of establishing a county home for the indigent and a county hospital was to be heard. It was years, however, before anything definite was done. The present county hospital did not become a reality until 1890.

Orphanage is First

Various societies and organizations, supported by philanthropic citizens, were formed between 1854 and 1875, but it was not until the 70s that organizations which have lasted until the present day came into being.

One of the earliest charitable institutions in the city was that which is now known as St. James Orphanage of Benson. It began as a little Catholic orphanage, in which a few children were housed. It grew steadily to its present proportions and has long been one of the worthy institutions of the city.

About the same time the Omaha City Mission was founded and within a short time the Nebraska Humane society was organized.

Omaha had but four churches in 1875 and the district east of Fourteenth street was virtually without facilities for religious worship. It was to fill that need that the Omaha City Mission was started. Mrs. J.B. Jardine was the moving spirit. The institution gradually expanded until almost every phase of welfare and charitable work was carried on.

Under Miss Nellie Magee the City mission broadened its activities and moved into its present home on Pacific street, where it continues to do a vast amount of good.

Organized in 1875 for the purpose of protecting animals against cruelty the Nebraska Humane society also has broadened its activities until it now does welfare work in many lines.

Sisters of Mercy

For many years the Visiting Nurses' association of Omaha, organized in 1897, has been caring for the less fortunate people of the city. Before the association was formed visiting nurses were supported by private individuals, who sought to alleviate the troubles of those who were handicapped by illness.

Too great a tribute cannot be paid to the nurses who day after day go into the homes of Omaha. Paid very modest salaries, working all hours of the day and night, never shirking calls, out in all kinds of weather, they rank among the leaders of those who carry on welfare work in the city.

The Woman's Christian association, forerunner of the Young Women's Christian association was active years ago in many lines of charitable and welfare work.

The Creche, a home for children, was founded in 1887 by a group of Omaha women, members of the Unity club. Mrs. T.L. Kimball was made president and still holds that office.

The Associated Charities has been in existence for 40 years. It was founded by Dr. A.W. Clark, who had begun welfare work in this city five years before. The organization has gone through some trying times during its existence, but through the years it has held fast to the ideals of its founders and has done an inestimable amount of good.

End of Tag Day

For many years charities and welfare organizations of Omaha were on a rather dubious financial basis. They were kept alive by contributions of those interested and depended upon fetes, lunches, card parties, benefits and tag days for their public support. It was an unsatisfactory method and developed to a point where life in Omaha was very much "just one tag day after another."

During 1923 the Community Chest was organized and the more scientifc method of raising money for charitable and welfare work was adopted. Thirty-one organizations now are members of the Community Chest and approximately $450,000 is raised each year for them. Last fall Omaha for the first time raised its full Community Chest quota and the period of the tagday and benefit seems to be gone forever.

As a result of the adoption of the Community Chest, welfare and charitable organizations have been able to adopt a budget system and to plan their work by the year and devote all their energies to fulfilling their purpose instead of having to spend time and energy in raising funds.

Many organizations, both those affiliated with the Community Chest and those not connected with it - all doing a great work - are entitled to mention.

Among them are Father Flanagan's Boys' home, the Fontenelle Boulevard home, formerly the Old People's home, the Child Saving institute, House of Hope, the Christ Child society, the Catholic and Jewish welfare and charitable societies, the Augustana Lutheran Women's Home society, the Salvation Army, the Volunteers of America, the Orthopedic association, which conducts the Hattie B. Monroe Home for Crippled Children, Minerva Cottage, the Masonic Boys' home, the Y.W.C.A., The Y.M.C.A., the Red Cross, the Negro Women's Christian association, Society for the Friendless, Nebraska Tuberculosis society, Nebraska Children's Home society, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Junior League day nursery, and others.

Pioneer Generosity

The work they do is supplemented by private charities of which the world hears little. Omaha is a city of warm-hearted, generous men and women who give freely when the call for aid comes.

Many instances can be recalled of donations for specific purposes. When troubles come Omaha always answers the appeal for help.

Especially at Christmas time the heart of the city opens wide and through many agencies the less fortunate people of Omaha are assured a merry Christmas.

Organizations such as the Elks, Masons, Knights of Columbus, the Noonday and civic clubs, women's organizations, churches, Sunday schools and school children of the city all play their part in relieving want and woe. The neighborliness of the pioneer has not been entirely lost. The cry for aid is still answered in generous fashion. Thanks to organization, there is less duplication and more persons are aided than was possible under a less efficient system, but the spirit of generosity is still alive.

Chapter XXXI
Return to Table of Contents Homepage