Don't let anyone tell you that angels aren't real.
More than a thousand of them donated to this year's World-Herald Goodfellows campaign, helping the charity set an all-time fundraising record of $640,571.80.
That's $65,524.20 more than the record total of $575,047.60, set in 2009, and nearly 17 percent — $91,687.15 — more than last year's total of $548,884.65.
Those Goodfellows Angels are our readers. They paid attention to daily stories about donors and the people whom Goodfellows helps and gave as never before, said Joel Long, executive director of The World-Herald charity.
“Omaha is a shining example — a rarity — of cities where people open their hearts and checkbooks to face issues in their communities,” Long said.
Goodfellows provides one-time emergency housing and utility assistance, holiday meal vouchers, and clothing and eyeglass aid. Every dollar donated goes directly to local people in need. The World-Herald pays all the fund's administrative costs.
All those things set it apart from many other local charities, Long said, and make Goodfellows attractive to contributors who thoughtfully budget their yearly giving.
“It meets needs that aren't met by other charities in the metro area and can respond quickly to keep someone in their home, keep the lights on or keep the heat on,” he said.
More than 8,000 families will be helped with aid totaling $575,000 this fiscal year, which ends in February. That includes 1,274 families who received certificates they could use to get ingredients for a holiday meal at area grocery stores.
Most of the people Goodfellows serves live in north and South Omaha, but there's not a ZIP code in the metropolitan area that hasn't been helped at one time or another, Long said.
Eighty-five percent of this year's 1,555 donors were from the Omaha metropolitan area. Other donations came from across Nebraska and from several other states.
The campaign also drew 13 percent more contributors — 180 — than it did last year. Contributions came in all sizes: This year's largest was $38,500 and the smallest was $1.
Long, who is The World-Herald's director of communications, said his work with Goodfellows is among his favorite parts of the job. Each year, he's amazed anew at how people respond to the holiday season drive — especially in a record-setting year such as this one.
“We are overwhelmed at the generosity readers have shown,” he said. “It raises the bar for us to be good stewards of their trust in us.”
And, he said, the additional income will allow Goodfellows to assist more people than ever before.
“That's the most exciting thing about setting a new record.”