Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

A Tireless Hunger Justice Leader in Nebraska

Kaela_v_HJLBy Zach Schmidt

For Bread for the World organizers, there is a difference between our work in “remote” states and our work in the states in which we live. Understandably, we are able to be more present, more of the time, in our home cities and states. Our grassroots leaders in our various districts and states are our most valuable asset, and we identify, build, strengthen, and depend on them—especially in places we are not able to visit often.

In states like Nebraska, local leaders do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to building relationships, organizing teams, and engaging their senators and representatives. When our advocacy efforts succeed in a state like Nebraska, it is abundantly clear that much of the credit goes to these local leaders. One such local leader is Omaha resident Kaela Volkmer, a mother of three and one of this year’s Hunger Justice Leaders.

Kaela has taken a lead role in our work to build Bread’s presence in Omaha and to build our relationship with Nebraska’s congressional delegation, especially Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight.”


Kaela has taken to heart what she learned at the Hunger Justice Leaders training in June, and she has jumped in and gotten her hands dirty. She has made phone calls to people on our member list to gauge their current capacity and interest, and to invite them to engage in Bread’s advocacy. She has reached out to her own contacts, inviting them to think strategically about how to work together.

She has led her Social Justice Committee at St. Wenceslaus to engage the whole parish in an Offering of Letters in October. She invited, prepared and led teams to meet with staff at the Omaha offices of Sen. Johanns and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) this fall. Shortly after her meeting with Nancy Johner, Sen. Johanns’ state director, Kaela was already telling me about her “follow-up plan.”

And Kaela was a core leader in our statewide call-in day on Halloween, in which we delivered a record 67 calls to Sen. Johanns, urging him to protect funding for poor and hungry people. For this effort, Kaela played the role of motivational speaker on our conference call, and her outreach led to at least ten phone calls.

Kaela has consistently gone above and beyond what she has committed to doing. She has a passion for justice, a keen intellect, and a gift for organizing people. A diligent worker, Kaela is the kind of person we depend on to help lead our organizing in “remote” states. She exemplifies what it means to be a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader.

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Photo: Kaela Volkmer of Omaha, Neb., fills out a survey at the end of a June 2012 Hunger Justice Leader meeting with the White House Office of Public Engagement. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

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I am very proud to know Kaela. I have been ignited by her enthusiastic ability to bring people together for Bread for the World. Omaha is indeed blessed with this hard-working and courageous young woman.

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