It is hard for me to believe that the Heart Ministry Center’s 11th Annual Holy Smokes is just a few days away and that this will already be my second Holy Smokes as the Executive Director of the Heart Ministry Center.

Holy Smokes serves as the Center’s main fundraising event and the monies raised go directly to benefit the Center and the many clients we serve. Holy Smokes is a time to celebrate the good works done by the Center’s hard working staff, volunteers and Board of Directors. It is also a time to celebrate all those that support the Center because without that support we could not do the work that we do.

This year’s Holy Smokes is very special although a little bittersweet. Earlier this summer we saw an end of one era and the beginning of a new one as Fr. Tom moved on from the Sacred Heart campus after 18 years and Fr. Dave joined it. Fr. Tom has been instrumental in the growth of the Center and helping it become what it is today. He and his straw hat have been fixtures at Holy Smokes.

In recognition of Fr. Tom’s contributions to the Center we asked that Fr. Tom serve as the Honorary Chair of Holy Smokes this year. And true to form, Fr. Tom used this role to continue to make an impact on the Center.

Through Fr. Tom’s leadership we have been able to raise $300,000 in sponsorships and this has been our most successful Holy Smokes to date. We received our two largest Holy Smokes donations (and two of the largest donations ever to the Center) ever. Dan and Laura Monen donated $100,000 and Jack and Stephanie Koraleski donated $50,000 to the Center.

I am very thankful for all the money that has been given to support the Center this year because I know how many clients we can help.

When we are gathering at Holy Smokes next week here are some of the things what I will be thinking of:

  • The 800,000 meals the Center will provide in 2016 through its choice food pantry.
  • That one-third of those meals will go to feed children.
  • The continual growth of the Center and finding people in poverty a “way forward”.
  • That we are helping more and more people through case management by helping people with short- and long-term needs. We have gone from 250 people in case management in 2014 to 1,200 in 2015 and are on pace for over 1,800 this year.
  • The young man that was in the Center’s mentoring program and then became a participant in the Center’s Fresh Start job training and placement program. He has worked at Food Bank for the Heartland for five months now.

There are many things to be thankful for this year at Holy Smokes. We are thankful for all of the support we receive at the Center in many ways. We are thankful for what Fr. Tom has done for the Center and know he will continue to be an advocate for the Center on the other side of Omaha. We are thankful for Fr. Dave and look forward to how he will contribute to the Sacred Heart campus.

It is a night to celebrate and be thankful. It is also important to remember how much need there is in our community and that we will continue to need support to make a lasting impact in the North Omaha community.