Feeling isolated? Omaha Gives! 2020 has launched. Here’s why you should give

Michael Young knows the importance of giving, how it can change a life.  Young grew up in a family that struggled financially. After his father died prematurely, his mother had trouble coping with the loss, and the family dealt with worsening housing and food insecurity. Even in the midst of the economic hardships his family…

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Michael Young knows the importance of giving, how it can change a life. 

Young grew up in a family that struggled financially. After his father died prematurely, his mother had trouble coping with the loss, and the family dealt with worsening housing and food insecurity. Even in the midst of the economic hardships his family faced, one gift changed the direction of his life. When Young was 10, his elder siblings joined their money together to buy him an old IBM that dimmed the lights in their basement.  

“I probably broke that computer 900 times and kept it going 901,” Young said. The gift changed everything. He became obsessed with computing, learning all he could. 

This was in the early 1990s. At the time, the IT workforce in Omaha was so barren that, when the downtown Omaha Public Library received a grant to teach people how to use a computer and set up an email account, the City had no one to be the program tech. Young, a library volunteer at the time, was offered the job. He became the first public computer program tech in Douglas County. He was 14.

Today, he works as vCIO for ICE Technologies of Pella, Iowa; owns a cloud computing firm, Technology Consulting Solutions; and was founder of the erstwhile Omaha tech firm Q3 Systems.   

He’s also a civic activist, serving on a number of boards and committees, including Metro Transit Omaha, 100 Black Men of Omaha and Carol’s House of Hope, a nonprofit transitional living service for young women and mothers. And he’s an elected official, District 2 Governor of Metropolitan Community College.  

Young’s whole life might have taken a different course had he not been given that early gift of technology. He may not have gone on to develop the skills necessary to gain an IT job or become a tech entrepreneur or break out of the cycle of poverty. That’s why he gives.   

Starting at midnight tonight, Omaha Gives! will raise money for over 1,000 nonprofits.

Omaha Gives! is a year-round online giving platform that culminates in a 24-hour online giving event. This year’s event takes place Wednesday, May 22, and people can give to any of 1,005 participating nonprofits. The minimum donation is $1. There is no maximum.

Organized by the Omaha Community Foundation and presented by American National Bank, Omaha Gives! is designed to inspire the community to give as much as possible to 501(c)3 nonprofits in the Omaha area. Since 2013, Omaha Gives! has raised over $49 million from 300,054 donations. During last year’s giving day, 18,612 unique donors raised $6.7 million.

Young is raising money for 6 nonprofits this year, including The Empowerment Network, 100 Black Men of Omaha, Carol’s House of Hope, College Possible and Kids Can Community Center. He’s even reluctantly growing a 30-day mustache for Mustache for Kids Omaha, which raises money for local children’s charities.

How will the pandemic affect giving? Maybe not the way you’d expect.

It’s unclear how the coronavirus will affect this year’s giving day. While one might expect rising unemployment and a battered economy to dissuade people from donating during the pandemic, research suggests the opposite. The nonprofit-tracking firm Candid found that $10.4 billion in large charitable gifts has been given to 2,811 recipients so far. That’s not counting the myriad small-dollar contributions that people have made.

Perhaps disaster reshapes one’s values away from money and toward community. Young said he’s noticed an increasing trend of generosity. 

“For the first time in modern history, one specific issue is affecting every home. People realize we’re all in this together,” he said.

Though people may understandably feel isolated from one another, Omaha Gives! provides a way to support the community. Not sure where to donate? The website contains a searchable index of local organizations and causes to support. There’s also a Cheers page feature that allows individuals to raise money on behalf of a cherished nonprofit. Users may donate at any time, but the official day of giving, where donors may have their contributions matched by sponsors, begins Wednesday at 12 am and ends at 12 am Thursday.

Additional Omaha Gives! sponsors include Mutual of Omaha, the Mammel Foundation and TD Ameritrade. Visit omahagives.org to donate.

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