Women Investing in Nebraska awards $168,000 to support veterans, students in Nebraska

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Women Investing in Nebraska (WIN) has awarded two grants that total $168,000 to help Nebraska’s veterans with legal services and help University of Nebraska students with the cost of learning materials.

Legal Aid of Nebraska received an $84,000 grant to assist in its services to military veterans in the care of the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. The University of Nebraska received an $84,000 grant to assist a program that is lowering the cost of textbooks and other materials for students at three of its campuses.

The grants were announced in an online celebration with members and guests from across the state. It brings WIN’s cumulative grants to University of Nebraska and Nebraska community projects to nearly $1.39 million.

This year, 178 members contributed to make the grants possible, and grants were awarded through a proposal review process. WIN’s membership is comprised of women with an interest in using collective giving and grantmaking to positively impact issues of concern to Nebraska.

“In our own way, we are responding to the problems and challenges that the pandemic brought us,” said WIN Chair Candy Henning of Lincoln. “Both programs are aimed at easing the financial challenges faced by veterans, students and their families.”

WIN Grants Committee Chair Cassie Kohl of Omaha said 85 grant seekers submitted letters of inquiry to WIN in January, and 16 were invited to submit full proposals. Through proposal review and select site visits, the committee narrowed the field to four projects placed before all WIN members for a vote.

Legal Aid of Nebraska bolsters veterans’ legal, financial stability

Legal Aid of Nebraska and its Health, Education and Law Project (HELP) provide legal assistance to veterans being treated at the Department of Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System in Omaha, who may need a legal guardian, legal action to avoid eviction while hospitalized or access to benefits they have earned.

Ann Mangiameli, managing attorney for HELP at Legal Aid of Nebraska, leads the project that currently partners with health care systems and hospitals in Omaha, Lincoln and Columbus with plans to expand to Grand Island and Kearney.

Because VA regulations prohibit the use of federal funds to provide civil legal services for veterans, receiving the $84,000 grant from WIN is especially important.

“Over the last year or so, we have been looking for funding so that we could provide veterans the services they so badly need to be healthy,” Mangiameli said. “This grant has been a huge opportunity to provide services for people who have served our country and who otherwise are going to have legal needs that would go unmet.”

As Legal Aid of Nebraska assists veterans in need of guardians, they will also be recruiting other veterans to volunteer for those who do not have family available to help, which could be the first such program with that focus.

Kohl said that kind of problem solving is appealing to WIN members.

“One of the reasons this project stood out to WIN was the innovative aspect of veterans acting as power of attorney for other veterans. In addition, this would be the first medical-legal partnership benefiting veterans in Nebraska and one of only 29 in the country,” Kohl said.

University’s program lessens textbook costs for undergraduate students

WIN’s grant of $84,000 to the University of Nebraska supports a program that helps to reduce the costs students incur for textbooks and other learning resources. The program provides access to open educational resources — digital materials available freely or at reduced cost — as well as assistance for faculty members who seek the appropriate academic materials for their classes at lower costs for students.

The Inclusive Access and Open Educational Resources Program began in 2017 with a series of initial grants from the university and has saved students an estimated $2.5 million.

In addition to the grant from WIN, the University of Nebraska office of the executive vice president and provost will match the grant with another $84,000 to support the program. With this combined support, it’s estimated the program will reach its goal to save students and families $10 million by 2023.

Jaci Lindburg, University of Nebraska assistant vice president for IT strategy and learning technology, leads the program’s partnership between academic affairs, libraries and information technology efforts across the university to leverage free and lower cost digital resources.

“This is such an exciting program for us, one that we are so eager to rally around even more with this additional funding, because it’s all about the students,” Lindburg said. “First, of course, it impacts their ability to be successful in a class, because they have access to the materials they need in the course to complete readings, assignments and exams. The cost savings also allow students to redirect these funds to take additional courses they need toward their degrees.”

The opportunity to support a program that would benefit so many University of Nebraska students appealed to WIN members, Kohl said about the grant awarded.

“This project was specifically exciting for WIN, because it involves three campuses — the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the University of Nebraska at Omaha,” Kohl said. “One of the goals of WIN is to reach as much of the state with our dollars as possible. In addition, with the pandemic and a lot of the world switching to remote options, this is a very timely issue and solution.”

In 2018, the average U.S. college student paid about $1,200 a year for standard textbooks according to College Board, and Lindburg said about two-thirds of college students are not buying the textbooks they need because of high costs. With the University of Nebraska program, a student’s personal financial responsibility for textbooks could drop below $40 per class and provide immediate access to course materials each semester.

About Women Investing in Nebraska

WIN engages, educates and empowers philanthropists by collectively awarding annual grants to bold University of Nebraska and nonprofit initiatives addressing important issues in Nebraska. It operates in partnership with the University of Nebraska Foundation and the UNF Charitable Gift Fund to support women philanthropists. Each year, members’ gifts are pooled and divided equally between a Nebraska nonprofit organization and a University of Nebraska program or organization. To learn more visit womeninvestinginnebraska.org.

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