My Experience with Families in Action Community Health and Service Learning: A Volunteer Perspective

Families in Action has undoubtedly touched my life. Although my schedule has become exceedingly hectic with work and academics, I can truthfully say that my time volunteering has become the highlight of my week. It makes all the difference in my ability to reflect upon my week with a pure sense of joy and fulfillment.

Each week, I look forward to the precious time I get to spend with the beautiful children of the community and with the staff members of Families in Action, and each week I am reminded of the meaning of my life: to impact the lives of those around me in a positive way and to learn from them in the process.

Not only is it a stress relief from college life to run and play outside with the children, other volunteers and FIA adult leaders, but also, it continually reminds me of what I am most passionate about in my own life. It is easy to foster my desire to become a nurse by observing and participating in the health education that Families in Action provides, and even easier to integrate my desire to learn Spanish while conversing with Martha,Carmen or others on site.

However, for me the most meaningful part is the people who make up the program. Virginia, Gema, Alma, Consuelo, Irma, Martha, Kaela and the others in the community look out for each other on such a deep level. It is obvious how much the women and children care about each other as they go out of their way to welcome new guests and, as staff does, facilitate carpooling each week for those who do not have cars.

There in an undeniable sense of community within Families in Action and I leave each week with a full heart knowing I am unbelievably lucky to be welcomed into such a loving group of people.

Annie Townley

Omaha, Nebraska

Creighton University, Accelerated Nursing Program

 BA: Spanish

Methodist College Mobile Clinic Visits Families in Action Site

Families in Action was pleased to host Methodist College Mobile Clinic and nursing students last month at our 32 and K site.  The eight nursing students, accompanied by Dr. Kelly Zinn, MSN, RN, Nursing Professor, provided blood sugar screenings, height and weight measurements, bmi, and blood pressure checks.  Our literacy students, along with our Families in Action participants and staff, were honored to work with such an amazing group of students and faculty.

Our participants, men, women and children credit regular participation in educational, nutritional and exercise programs conducted via FIA with meeting their health and wellness needs.  As a result of the mobile clinic visit, additional information was requested by participants concerning elevated blood sugar levels in children and adults and FIA will facilitate a brief question and answer forum on this topic with one of our Creighton physician volunteers and Dr. Cristina Fernandez (Board member).



Congratulations to Virginia!!

Recently, Virginia McGill received the Tri-state area Lifetime Achievement Award for service to the Latino Community.

This award recognizes a non Latino(a)/Hispanic individual or business who has exhibited outstanding leadership in improving the lives of Latinos/Hispanics in Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.

Congratulations and a huge Thank You to Virginia for all she has done!!!!

Families in Action Summary


Families in Action Fast Facts

What is Families in Action?
Founded in 1997 under Interfaith Health Service
Mission: Promote education, health and well being for children and women
Programs include: Health and wellness education and activities, Sewing, Micro-business, Youth mentoring, Academic support, Art, and other services based on identified and documented needs of participants
Partners include: Elementary schools, high schools, universities, colleges, health providers, churches, neighborhood associations and community organizations
Annual Budget: $130,000; low overall budget is possible because In-Kind donations of programming spaces, office sites, technology, volunteers and internships which comprise 65% of organization’s structure.
Supported by: The William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, The Lozier Foundation, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, FIA Board and participants and others

Who does Families in Action serve?
At-risk Latino families (men, women & children) in South Omaha
over 8000 contacts annually
62% of sewing participants are domestic violence survivors
30% of program participants are teens with a 90% graduation rate (vs. 40% for Latinos nationally)
80% of  adult participants work outside the home
90% of participants have more than one child

What are some of the important demographics that make Families in Action so critical in our city?
The rate of increase of the Latino population in NE over the past decade was 110%
Nearly 14% of Latinos in the Omaha metro are younger than 5 years old
The median age of Latinos in NE is 23 years old
The Omaha Latino population remains concentrated in zip codes 68105, 68107, and 68108 where Families in Action programs are housed and available
Poverty rates in these zip codes range from 25% to almost 43%
Needs assessment data indicates that the majority of respondents desire access to programming and information on education, health and nutrition
Some of the barriers to health and wellness cited by Latino families in South Omaha include: poor eating habits, lack of transportation, lack of motivation, limited safe places to exercise, social isolation and depression. Families in Action strives to remove these barriers
By 2040, the Latino population will make up more than a quarter of the metro area population

What are some of the successful outcomes achieved by Families in Action?
Program attendance is at an all-time high and all sites are at-capacity
More than 90% of participants who visit once continue to participate
Each year new community partners are requesting collaborations with Families in Action
100% of returning core participants report at least one positive life change due to program participation
Youth participants stay in school, graduate from high school, earn scholarships, volunteer in the community, and seek higher education (Maria Reyes, 9 year participant and volunteer, received the 2014 Outstanding Latino Youth Leader Award for Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska based entirely on her work with Families in Action, and continues to volunteer with programs)
With a 15-year history, Families in Action builds long-term, supportive, inter-generational relationships with participants that foster success in families in an at-risk part of our city. The trust we have built up, and continue to expand upon, is the cornerstone of our organization

“I joined Families in Action because it has programs where I can spend time with my mom and sister and brother. I made friends with the other participants my age who are now like part of my family. The staff takes a real interest in how I am doing each week and that makes me feel at home. Families in Action is a big part of my life and a big part of my family’s life, too.” Theresa, age 15, Families in Action Participant

FAMILIES IN ACTION; dba, Interfaith Health Service
1326 South 26th Street – Omaha, NE, 68105 Tax ID No: 47-08326633

Continue reading ‘Families in Action Summary’

Families in Action/Interfaith Health Service Receives Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Grant

We are delighted to share that Families in Action via Interfaith Health Service received a grant again this year (2015) to address Childhood Obesity with our partner, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center!

According to the 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment, co-sponsored by Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, childhood obesity ranked as the number one concern of parents in the greater Omaha Metropolitan area. Childhood obesity is a health crisis on the national level, as well, affecting 17 percent of children and teens in the United States. Obese children are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is committed to preventing childhood obesity through proactive programs focused on education. Children’s dedication stems from its mission—“so that all children may have a better chance to live”—and its responsiveness to the health concerns of Heartland families. Children’s is uniquely positioned in the area to be an effective leader for change on this critical issue. By providing leadership and support to the community, Children’s hope to achieve the vision of eliminating childhood obesity. In 2013, Children’s teamed up with five community partners to reverse the dangerous trend of childhood obesity through the first-ever Preventing Childhood Obesity Community Grants.

Families in Action was again awarded a grant from Children’s, to be used in our multi-faced programs impacting the health and well-being of Latino children, youth and their families living in South Omaha in bringing the Ninos Activos programs (formerly with Mujeres Activas and Douglas County) under our umbrella.

We are deeply grateful for the support of the amazing Children’s Marketing team and the,commitment and dedication of Children’s in working with our organization, participants and community to address childhood obesity. Without their efforts, our work and the differences we see in the lives of our children (and their parents), would not be possible.


By: Families in Action
Where: FIA
1326 S 26th Street, Omaha

When: Friday, May 5th

Time: 6 to 8:30pm

Cost: $ 5.00 Suggested donation for adults, as always, children are free and welcome.
Costo: $ 5.00 donación sugerida por adulto, y como siempre los niños son gratis y bienvenidos

Please join our Creighton students and sponsors from Delta Delta Delta and our Families in Action participants as we celebrate Summer with an evening of family dance!

Por favor ven a celebrar el Verano con los estudiantes de Creighton, Delta Delta Delta y Familias en Acción con una hermosa tarde de baile (Zumba).
Made possible through our partnership with Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.
Hecho posible gracias a nuestra asociación con Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.
More information:
Gema 402-616-4721 or FIA 402-660-6689

Photo from the Creighton Zumbathon with Tri Delta

Families in Action Recognized Nationally

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognized Families in Action with a National Award for Innovation in Health Prevention and Promotion.


Latinas in Action Micro Business Begins!

Interfaith Health Services, through Latinas in Action, launched a hands-on micro-business and sewing program. It is rare that a project of this nature succeeds from the beginning, and we believe our demonstrated success speaks to the trust we have built up in the community over the years. Our track record demonstrates commitment to the community at large and to forging new and innovative partnerships while serving a record number of families each month.

Our micro-business initiative started with the initial donation of twelve high-end wedding dresses from a Vice-President at Wells Fargo Bank who contacted us last Fall seeking a way to distribute the dresses in the community. Our participants worked together to re-bead and sell the dresses to women in the South Omaha and surrounding areas seeking affordable wedding dresses.

One of our participants, Ramona, offered to teach sewing classes to participants and women in the community interested in learning more about machine sewing, craft design and small business structuring. Many of our Latinas in Action participants have a knowledge of hand sewing but have never had the opportunity to sew using machines. Classes began with nine students signed up and attending, along with 7 children. Within a week that number doubled with over a dozen women attending (word of mouth spread and participants brought friends). There is a great deal of excitement as the women learn more about sewing and business plans. Our waiting list for future classes is full, as well. Several business leaders in the community will be speaking with future classes about their own perspectives on business.

Ramona is a highly skilled instructor and she shared with that she studied sewing in high school and that in the decades since then, she has developed her natural gift for creating dresses and clothing. Ramona opened her own business in South Omaha making formal dresses for quinceaneras and is well-respected throughout the community. Her skills are evident in her teaching and class preparations. She is professional, patient and able to demonstrate correct sewing methods to each student at some point during each two hour class. Her hands-on approach makes the subject matter easier to digest and “easier to learn“, according to participants.

It has been inspiring to see women in the community so enthused about joining together and learning together. One participant, Martha, walks several miles while pushing her year old daughter in a stroller to get to class each week. Martha invited us to her house, to get to know her and her family a bit more and talk with her about the class. At nineteen years of age, Martha has a dream of owning her own business some day. She shared that she is enjoying learning and being with other women. She is also grateful that children’s activities are provided on site since her husband works and she has no other family to help her take care of their son.

Over 50% of our women involved in the micro-business program are survivors of domestic violence. Classes provide a way for women to support one another, as well as continue their own journey toward self-sufficiency. The lead domestic violence advocate for the YWCA has conducted several site visits to classes and has notes it is “needed in the community“ and recommends it highly to her clients.

This latest program is helping participants learn more while provide concrete ideas regarding small business start-up and providing the tools for economic growth. At FIA, we rely on the support and hard work of so many collaborators, funders and participants. Without your support, our work would not be possible.
Virginia McGill y Gema Castillo Wolde

  • More info

    Families in Action - Omaha is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

    Donations are tax-deductible, and can be submitted online or sent to:
    Interfaith Health Service
    1326 S 26th St
    Omaha, NE 68105

    Families in Action can be found online at:

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