This article was originally published by the Catholic Voice.
Kathy Gaines, center, works Oct. 23 with Missionary Benedictine Sisters Jane Nyaki, left, and Deana Case at Our Lady of Fatima Thrift Store in Macy.
About six times a month Kathy Gaines travels from her home in northwest Omaha to Our Lady of Fatima Church in Macy – a 138-mile round trip – in a Honda CRV loaded with donations she’s gathered.
Once in Macy, she and her helpers unload the clothes, toiletries, blankets and other essentials. And twice a month, they set up a temporary thrift store at the church, with tables filled with items.
"It’s a very gypsy operation," Gaines says with a laugh. But the thrift store is a godsend for many people in the area of Macy, which has a high poverty rate and no other places to shop except a convenience store.
Gathering the donations, shopping at stores for discount items and organizing the thrift shop has been a labor of love for the volunteer and longtime member of St. Cecilia Parish in Omaha, who often uses her own money to help.
That dedication recently earned her the title of AARP Nebraska Volunteer of the Year.
The person who nominated her for the honor, Missionary Benedictine Sister Deana Case, said Gaines is "a true disciple of Christ," who "gives her time and energy very selflessly."
Gaines said she had no idea she had been nominated for the award and was surprised last summer when AARP officials notified her that she’d won. An Oct. 6 ceremony was held at the church thrift store, amid the tables, clothes and other merchandise.
She began her volunteer work in late 2015, shortly after retiring from the Siena/Francis House Homeless Shelter in Omaha, where she worked for 19 years and helped organize donations.
Gaines had driven some leftover donations from the homeless shelter to the St. Augustine Indian Mission in Winnebago and saw dire poverty along the way.
"I saw the conditions in Macy and Winnebago," she said, and she knew she wanted to help.
Her timing was perfect. In early 2016, the Winnebago Indian Mission established the thrift store as an outreach program to the neighboring Omaha Nation. And in March, Gaines began volunteering at the shop, bringing her experience from the homeless shelter and a talent for organizing, Sister Deana said.
Another volunteer, Pat Bovee of Omaha, who volunteered at Siena/Francis for many years, soon joined her. "They’re a good team," Sister Deana said.
Gaines said that for many years at the homeless shelter she relied on Bovee and other volunteers – and she learned from them. "I wanted to give someone else what my volunteers gave to me," she said.
She said health problems have slowed her down at times, but she continues to volunteer. Gaines also organizes candy giveaways twice a year at Siena/Francis and volunteers every Thursday at the butterfly and bug exhibit at Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium in Omaha.
But with the thrift shop, she said, she believes God directed her to a volunteer job where her skills might best be put to use.
"We’re all directed where we’re needed most," Gaines said. "It’s up to you whether you hear the call."
God also has a hand in the thrift store donations, she said, because items always arrive when needed.
"It’s a God thing," she says. It’s her favorite phrase.
The store sells new and used items at low prices. Most clothes, including coats, are $2 or less. A parent, grandparent or great-grandparent can buy a child a toy for just a quarter.
The store has had about 2,000 customers visit since it opened and continues to attract new shoppers. The purpose of the thrift store, Gaines said, "is to put things into their hands in good condition, things they can’t afford, and make them affordable."
Right now, the store needs winter items: blankets, hats, gloves, coats, socks and boots for all ages. And Gaines said she would be willing to pick up donations. Gift cards also come in handy, she said.
Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can call Gaines at 402-979-0584.
This was originally published on the AARP website.
Kathy Gaines of Omaha has been selected to receive AARP Nebraska’s highest volunteer award. She is the 16th volunteer to be honored with the annual AARP Nebraska Andrus Award for Community Service since 2002.
AARP Nebraska selected Gaines for her exceptional record of service, and for the impact she has had on the lives of others and the community she serves.
Since 2016, Gaines has volunteered with St. Augustine Indian Mission’s Omaha Nation Outreach Thrift Store at our Lady of Fatima Catholic Worship Center in Macy, Neb. The non-profit store provides quality clothing, household items and toys at very low prices to members of the community.
As Sister Deana Case noted in her award nomination, Gaines’ volunteer work with Omaha Nation Outreach has been pivotal in creating a place for people to find basic necessities at affordable prices and also gather and socialize. Most of the shoppers are elders of the tribe, many raising grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Several times a month, Gaines travels 80 miles from Omaha with donations she has secured of new and gently used items to stock the thrift store. She helps set up, staff and take down the store, and makes the layout attractive and welcoming to customers. More than 2,000 customers have visited the store since its opening.
In addition, Gaines obtains toys and educational materials for the St. Augustine Indian Mission School, and periodically finds sources of food, mostly meat, to bring to the food pantry in Walthill, which serves the Omaha nation.
Prior to her volunteer service with Omaha Nation Outreach, Gaines worked for the Siena/Francis House Homeless Shelter in Omaha for 19 years as director of donations and volunteers until her retirement in 2015.
Nominator Sister Deana Case summed up Gaines’ powerful impact as a volunteer in Macy and beyond.
“Kathy’s volunteer work is to tirelessly and enthusiastically search for, obtain and deliver some of the basic needs of food and clothing to the poor and often elderly residents. In a very real sense, Kathy’s volunteer work has provided hope to a struggling community and those who strive to serve it.”
Dave Holmquist, state president of AARP Nebraska, praised Gaines for her commitment to volunteering and her efforts to improve the lives of age 50-plus residents on the Omaha nation.
“Through her exemplary record of service, Gaines demonstrates what it means to make a difference in the lives of others. The Andrus Award acts as a symbol to the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” Holmquist said. “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions volunteers make to their communities, neighbors and the programs they serve.”
The award was formally presented to Gaines at a ceremony on Oct. 6 at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Worship Center. During the program, AARP Nebraska also presented the worship center with a check for $2,500 on behalf of Gaines, who designated it as her charity of choice.
Andrus Award recipients across the nation were chosen for their ability to enhance the lives of AARP members and prospective members, improve the community in or for which the work was performed, and inspire others to volunteer.
The Circle of Dreams Annual Fundraiser for St. Augustine Indian Mission will be held at “A View on State” venue in Omaha, NE on Saturday, March 25th, 2017. We are very excited to have, as this year’s Honorary Chairs, two board members and their wives, Justin and Nicole Vossen, and Ryan and Rachel Schroer. Invitations will be mailed out in early February. We hope you will be able to join us and help support the Mission. If you have any questions or would like to register for the event, please call the Mission office at 402-878-2402.
Directions to “A View on State” venue located at 13467 State Street, Omaha, NE:
- Take 144th St and go to State St. and head East – venue will be on your right
- Take 120th St and go to State St. and head West – venue will be on your left
This article was originally published on the Black and Indian Mission Office Website.
Have you ever been at Mass when a Missionary Priest was visiting and listened to him speak about his mission trips? Perhaps you learned just how far your dollars could go to help those in need in places in Africa or Latin America? Maybe you realized that sometimes missions are domestic, serving those in the United States. that are impoverished. No matter where missionaries serve, they are working to evangelize and care for physical needs of God’s people. So you reach into your wallet and give what you have and consider sending more later.
All summer long, the Office of the Propagation of the Faith sends missionaries to parishes across the U.S. to gather prayers and funds to fuel the missions work. While these are two important components for the missions, we have been hoping to inspire a different type of contribution. Have you ever thought about doing more than just sending money and saying a few prayers? How about giving some time and talent? Yes, even the laity serve in the missions and with the dwindling numbers of priests and religious, the future of the mission field may depend on lay men and women just like you.
Let us share the story of Jeff and Kathy Foley, a religious Catholic couple who joined St. Augustine Indian mission for hands-on service:
“We had wanted to go into the mission field when we were young but that didn’t work out. Instead, we worked in our parish, raised our children and wondered what we would do in retirement. As we neared that ‘golden age’ we began to seriously think about what we would do. You can only play so many rounds of golf or read so many books. Something reminded us of our desire 30 years ago to be missionaries. We decided to see what we could find here in the States. We did a lot of research and finally found the Office of Black and Indian Missions right in our backyard. The director checked with a few Bishops and found a few missions who were willing to talk to us. Long story short, we visited the St. Augustine Indian Mission that serves the Winnebago and Omaha tribes in Northeastern Nebraska and fell in love. We didn’t even know there were reservations in Nebraska. And here’s a secret – many Nebraskans don’t know there are reservations here, either.
We’ve been here for two and a half years of our three year commitment. The time has rushed past as we have learned so much about the wonderful cultures of the different tribes. We’ve helped at the school and helped set up a thrift store for the Omaha Tribe. We met people we would never have come across otherwise and learned to look past appearances to find amazingly resilient people of faith. We’ve enjoyed living on this beautiful land with buffalo and wild turkeys as neighbors. We’ve been amazed by the contrasts which abound: the struggles of everyday life in this food desert in the middle of the breadbasket of the world, schools housed in beautiful buildings but ranked at the bottom of the list of Nebraskan schools, besieged families in a culture that values family and reveres elders. The sharp contrasts of life on the reservations continue to amaze us.
We’ve been in awe throughout our time here but now it is time to get ready to return to our six children and four grandchildren in Maryland. One of the things we learned here was the value of grandparents passing on tradition and knowledge and love and we know that is where we need to go next. But we leave behind a place of great need just waiting for someone to say ‘yes, I’ll help.’ While we’ve been here, Kathy worked in the office where the important work of fundraising to keep the school open goes on. Jeff has partnered with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters who serve here to develop an outreach program which has started the thrift store and hopes to do more to assist the residents. We’ve served as lay ministers and even run RCIA. We have tried to be available to do whatever needs to be done but that has no one to do it.”
If you’re interested in having a similar enriching and servient experience, please contact the St. Augustine Indian Mission. The mission is looking for Catholics willing to commit to one to two (or more!) years of service on the reservation. As a volunteer, you will be able to serve the community through your God-given talents, be compensated with a nicely furnished home, food per diem, and be surrounded by a faith- filled community of priests, missionaries and of lay men and women.
Thinking about it? Would you like to hear more? Please give us a call at our mission office: 402-878-2402 or drop us a line. Our mailing address is: P.O. Box 766, Winnebago, NE 68071. We look forward to hearing from you!