Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the generosity of Nebraska's state employees. This year, more than 4,000 workers contributed to the Nebraska State Employees Charitable Giving campaign, which raised over $526,000 for charities across the state -- a 19% increase from last year's efforts. For the last three years, the State of Nebraska has been the largest donor for the United Way, and this is the first time the State Campaign has raised over $500,000.
I appreciate what our state employees do to help Nebraskans every day in their jobs, and their donations to important charities throughout our great state are to be commended. I want to personally thank Beverly Neth and her team for this extraordinary success. Bev is the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles and our leader of the Charitable Giving Campaign. She has done an outstanding job.
For the last three years, the State of Nebraska has been recognized as the number one overall campaign by the Lincoln and Lancaster County United Way and has also received additional honors including recognition for leadership giving. Since 2003, the State's campaign has raised more than 3.5 million dollars to support more than 400 charitable organizations throughout Nebraska. This year's 19% increase is in part attributed to some large increases in agency donations. For example, Nebraska Game and Parks increased their contributions by 264%.
Employees have the option of supporting one of 17 local United Way chapters or local partners, giving to one of the 37 non-profit groups registered with the Community Services Fund, or directing their contribution to one the 23 health-related groups affiliated with the Community Health Charities of Nebraska.
The annual charitable giving campaign is just one of the many ways that State of Nebraska employees continue to give back to their communities. Besides monetary gifts, State Employees are also generous with volunteer work.
In 2011, employees from the Nebraska Department of Revenue served in the community through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This volunteer group provides assistance in the filing of individual income tax returns for low income individuals and families. Overall, 221 volunteers assisted in filing 4,676 federal and Nebraska individual income tax returns resulting in $6,327,825 in refunds to these citizens. It is one of many ways state employees use the expertise they gain on-the-job to go above and beyond.
Additionally, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture each year "Adopts a Family for Christmas." They fill all family members' wish lists, along with a few extras as well as gift cards for gas, groceries, and even paid the propane bill for a second family to ensure they had heat.
In April, state offices in Lincoln collected food and cash contributions to benefit the Food Bank of Lincoln. The State Campaign Against Hunger raised over $42,000 in cash donations and more than 11,000 pounds of food.
I am very proud of what our employees do each year during the Charitable Giving Campaign, but more important is what they do for their neighbors each day.