On September 27, the First Responders Foundation held our Inaugural Dinner of Honor. The Foundation inducted Ray Somberg, Nelson and Linda Gordman, and Mary West into the Honorable and Ancient Society of Saints Florian (patron saint of firefighters) and Michael (patron saint of defenders and protectors). These deserving honorees have demonstrated, over the years, generous support and exceptional service to the Foundation and to first responders and their families.
We would also like to recognize two companies for their dedication to and appreciation of first responders – our event sponsors Ortho Nebraska and Valmont Industries, Inc.
Ray Somberg is the co-founder and recently retired executive director of the First Responders Foundation. Ray has given countless hours to First Responders Foundation, including recruiting board members, raising money, managing programs and building special relationships with the police and firefighters.
When first responders needed help with equipment or had a personal tragedy – Ray and his board were there. They started the hashtag support blue campaign, they help pay for equipment for youth sports coached by first responders, they created scholarships for the graduates of police and firefighter families, and so much more.
Over $1.6 million has been donated by the Foundation since it was founded in 2008, to purchase equipment and provide programs for Omaha Fire and Police Departments to enhance public safety.
For his remarkable vision, his perseverance and his dedication to the first responders of greater Omaha we award this first medallion for the National Society of Saints Florian and Michael to Ray Somberg.
“I want to extend my congratulations to the other honorees. These folks have made extremely significant contributions to the success of the First Responders Foundation and it is a privilege for me to be recognized with them on this occasion.
I feel strongly that I have received far too much credit for what the Foundation has accomplished and the Board of Directors and Staff have received far too little credit. I am deeply indebted to past and present board members and staff for the passion and dedication they have exhibited in accomplishing the Foundation’s mission.”
Linda and Nelson Gordman
Hundreds of Omaha’s youth have been touched by the generosity of Linda and Nelson Gordman. They have been the benefactors of the Police Athletics for Community Engagement (PACE) program since January of 2015, a sports program with no cost to the kids started by police who wanted to improve relationships with youth.
In 2013, when Police Headquarters needed updating, including additional equipment for the fitness center, the Gordman’s again played a major role in making that effort happen. They also financed all the workout equipment for the new Southeast Police Precinct in 2016.
For their financial gifts and for their deep caring for youth we are proud to induct Linda and Nelson Gordman into the National Societyof Saints Florian and Michael.
“Linda and I have been partners for a long time, and that’s in spite of the fact that she was into horses almost her whole life, and that I almost never rode a horse. But it was this horse activity that started our appreciation of the police, and of all first responders, as she and I became supporters of the Mounted Patrol.
We got to know many of the Mounted Patrol officers and visited their barn — first at Aksarben and then at the new downtown facility. Our respect for our First Responders continued to grow.
Then six or seven years ago, our very good friends, Jerry Hoberman and Ray Somberg, put together their amazing sold-out event to honor the Police and Firefighters and start Omaha’s First Responders Foundation.
Ray continued to serve as its director for a few years and worked diligently and tirelessly on its fund-raising efforts to get vital and needed equipment for the Police and firefighters.
Linda and I were hooked.
During all of these activities and projects, including the renovation of the Main Police headquarters, the new Precinct facility in SW Omaha, and especially when our son, Kip, became active in the LPOA PACE off-shoot of the Foundation, we got to know many of the Police officers, Firefighters, and several of the behind-the-scene personnel.
We became more aware, and more in awe, of what they do each day.”
More than 30 years ago, entrepreneurs Gary and Mary West founded West Corporation, a technology-driven communications company based in Omaha, Nebraska.
After retiring, the Wests turned their passion and energy to philanthropic initiatives.
(Ms. Vyan Nguyen accepted the award on behalf of Mary West.)
Mrs. West has been a supporter of the First Responders Foundation since 2013 including major contributions to the Omaha Police Department’s K9 and Mounted Patrol units. For her passion toward the four-legged First Responders and her admiration of those who train and care for them, we induct Mary West into the National Society of Saints Florian and Michael.
“On behalf of Mrs. Mary West, thank you for this honor in recognition of her support for the First Responders Foundation. Although Mrs. West could not be here tonight in person to accept this award, she is grateful for the acknowledgement that her support of the First Responders Foundation has contributed to the safety and quality of life for the Omaha community. Through her philanthropic efforts, Mrs. West has been able to maintain a purposeful connection to the Omaha community, so thank you for allowing her contributions to have a meaningful impact.”
-Vyan Nguyen, accepting the award on behalf of Mary West
Deryl Hamann has donated over $100,000 since 2015 to help build the First Responders scholarship fund, programs for the emotional and mental health of police and firefighters and to sustain the fundamental programs of the Foundation.
For his respect and appreciation of our First Responders and his financial generosity we induct Deryl Hamann into the National Society of Saints Florian and Michael. Deryl was unable to join us on September 27 to accept the award, so we will personally present the medallion to Deryl in the near future.