In a Gretna neighborhood already glowing with Christmas lights, one front door wears a defiant Thanksgiving banner.
“It makes me crazy we blew by Halloween (to Christmas), and there isn't even a Thanksgiving thing to be seen,” said Connie Lowndes, who owns that front door. “It's a time to reflect on blessings of the past year and be thankful for friends and family. Our culture blows by that too fast.”
For Connie and her husband, Bill, gratitude means sharing their blessings, including annual donations to The World-Herald's Goodfellows charity.
Goodfellows offers one-time emergency aid and provides holiday meal certificates to needy people in the area.
“We love the fact that it's for our community,” said Connie, who volunteers with the Literacy Center in Omaha. “This isn't from far away or for unknown people. And all gifts seem to be gratefully accepted — from the fourth-grade class that collected change to Omaha's wealthiest philanthropist.”
The couple said giving back should inspire a chain reaction.
“Our philosophy on giving is that it needs to be an example to others, too,” Bill said. “It's putting a challenge out there.”
The most important challenge is to their children. When Ben, 26, and Emily, 23, were toddlers, Bill and Connie started donating to Goodfellows in their names each year. Now that Ben and Emily are adults, their Christmas gifts from their parents include donations to organizations they select, most recently Heifer International and spring-break service trips for students.
“They have to choose, it has to be legit, and they have to check it out,” Connie said. “We challenged them, 'Throw in more of your money now. This isn't just our gift, it's your gift.' ”
Bill and Connie, meanwhile, have continued to give to Goodfellows.
The couple said they are inspired by the White Envelope Project, an effort four siblings founded to encourage worldwide giving (http://www.whiteenvelopeproject.org/). Giving is an opportunity “to put our money where our mouth is,” they said, and influence the next generation to value community.
“We've always felt that for us, it's important to give back, no matter how much or how often,” said Bill, a physician with Alegent/Creighton Health in Gretna. “Our job as parents is mentoring our kids that way, too.”