Developer Noddle Cos. offers boost during pandemic; Inner Rail businesses among those benefiting

As the coronavirus ramped up, Omaha real estate developer Noddle Companies got busy launching a new project. Employees call their effort Noddle Cares.

It started when management gave each employee a stipend — along with a challenge to use the money on a worthy cause. Most matched the amount (which the company declined to reveal) with their own personal donation before doing things like: replenishing a community food pantry, donating to a shelter, buying pizzas for front-line nurses, paying a bill for a family whose breadwinner is laid off.

Noddle construction manager Victor Baez and his wife, Theresa, for example, teamed up with PACE (Police Athletics for Community Engagement) to deliver grocery gift cards to a couple dozen PACE families hit hard by the pandemic. (The nonprofit provides free sports programs for local youths.)

Paul Dietsch’s family bought e-books and digital audio books for the Omaha Public Library. He said that with schools and libraries closed, circulation of books is limited to electronic materials that are in short supply and are often the only reading option for those short on money.

In all, the 30 or so Noddle employees touched about 30 organizations or families with the “pay it forward” gesture, said spokeswoman Lisa Bockman.

That outreach led to another phase that has helped food vendors of Aksarben Village’s Inner Rail food hall — and hundreds of others in the community who have fallen on tough times.

Jay Noddle, chief executive, said the company is covering costs for vendors to prepare 350 meals a day (that’s about $9 a meal). The meals are boxed and promptly delivered to various community groups that distribute them to members or clients.

Among participating sites: Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Intercultural Senior Center, Completely Kids, Heartland Family Services, Heart Ministries and Kountze Pantry.

The Rev. Carl Zoucha of Guadalupe said the program, which runs through May, has been so well received that 175 meal boxes delivered to the South Omaha parish on certain days of the week disappear within 20 minutes. Families drive up to the church hall, where helpers greet those in line and hand them their free boxed food. Some without homes or cars walk to pick up their meal.

“People are appreciative,” Zoucha said. “It’s been a good ministry.”

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