April is National Volunteer Month and UNO Alumni Month of Service. To continue UNO’s legacy of community service, alumni and friends make pledges to volunteer throughout the month. 

This year, 191 UNO alumni and friends donated 1,874 hours of community service!

You helped us crush our goal of 1,000 hours! Read stories from Mavericks about their projects and why they volunteer below. Together, we are continuing UNO’s legacy of community service.



Phoenix Mavericks

Members of the UNO Alumni Chapter in Phoenix helped pack emergency food boxes at St. Mary’s Food Bank. The boxes will be distributed throughout Arizona to families experiencing food insecurity. 




Matt McMaster

Matt McMaster (BS, 1998) is a volunteer facilitator at The Family Room Church Food Pantry. In April, they hosted a community resource fair featuring a free workshop by a national speaker and author. The event also included 15 community partners offering free resources to those in need and a warm meal. McMaster helped coordinate, schedule, promote and provide hours of manual labor to execute the event.  

“I continue to volunteer because we are all in need of something; rich or poor, young or old,” said McMaster. “Whether it is tangible needs like food and shelter or more intangibles like friendship or a listening ear.” 

Fellow alum, Michael Monico (BS, 2023), and McMaster’s daughter, Ayana, a sophomore at UNO also volunteered their time.  

“We aren’t designed to do life alone, so what I have, I freely give so others don’t feel alone in the challenges they face.”

Emily Geest

Emily Geest (MS, 2017) volunteers at Insect Adventure, an extension insect-themed science center inStillwater, Oklahoma. Geest helps create outreach activities like making insect headband name tags, creating lady beetle walking stones for a garden and stir-frying some mealworms for an edible insect activity. 

“My favorite part of volunteering is watching people develop an interest in science and become less fearful of insects,” said Geest.  



Gene Kathol

Since retiring, Gene Kathol (BS, 1969) served on the Board of Directors of Nebraska Trout Unlimited for 16 years including two as President. He is now a volunteer Youth Education Coordinator helping teach school-aged children about raising trout, their food sources and how to fly fish throughout the state of Nebraska. He travels to outdoor events hosted by the Nebraska Game and Parks to share his appreciation and expertise. 

“I have volunteered to teach youth hunter safety, fishing and flyfishing for the last 49+ years, for a couple of reasons…first I want kids to learn about and appreciate the outdoors so there will still be advocates for the appreciation of the outdoor resources that we have for future generations, and second, that kids will develop an appreciation of the outdoors that can turn into a lifetime activity that they can personally enjoy for their entire lives,” said Kathol.   


Kelly Gomez Johnson 

Kelly Gomez Johnson (PhD, 2017; MA, 2011; MS, 2007; BS, 2006) and friends began the HOPE Blood and Shoe Drive ten years ago after losing their friend, Meighan Johansen, following an 18-month battle with cancer.  

“To honor her memory, we organized an annual event to share her legacy of hope through blood and shoe donation (she LOVED shoes!). We want our drive to be one where people stay a while to talk and feel welcome with food, childcare, activities and lots of HOPE.” 

Over the last 10 years, the HOPE Blood and Shoe Drive has collected 746 units of blood for the American Red Cross and over 14,000 pairs of shoes to Soles4Souls, International. During UNO Alumni Month of Service, Gomez Johnson and friends each volunteered 20 hours of their time.  

"I volunteer because as a community, we need each other,” said Gomez Johnson. “It is incredibly motivating knowing that hope is spreading in big and small ways each day and we get to be a part of it. It’s a blessing.”  

Photo (left to right): Carissa Husbands, Shannon Tolstedt (MS, 2014; BS, 2008), Caitlin Gruis, Kelly Gomez Johnson (PhD, 2017; MA, 2011; MS, 2007; BS, 2006) and Samantha Deck. 

Jane Tooley 

During Alumni Month of Service, Jane Tooley (BA, 1969) donated 20 hours of community service to Camp Pawnee, a nonprofit camp that provides youth activities in Columbus, Neb.  
“I went to Camp Pawnee as a Girl Scout. As a student at UNO, Pete Kuchel, an instructor, talked about the Omaha Police Camp in juvenile delinquency class. The camp was held in Columbus at Camp Pawnee. After graduation, I volunteered at the Omaha Police Camp as director of the girls program. When I retired after 44 years of law enforcement, I returned to Columbus and became a member of the camp board. I hope that we provide a great camping experience for many people. I think that by volunteering, I get more than I give.” 

Greg Snyder  

Greg Snyder (BS, 1978) volunteers more than 300 hours a year with Travelers Aid at Reagan National and Dulles International airports! He works at various Information Desks throughout the airports. He's an experienced traveler, having been to all seven continents, including Antarctica. But he also knows that airports can be confusing and disorienting.  

“I love airports and enjoy helping them function well so that air travel is safe, timely and enjoyable,” said Greg. “I particularly enjoy the challenge of assisting differently-abled passengers or non-English speakers.” 

Heike Langdon  

During Alumni Month of Service, Heike Langdon (MPA, 2019; MS, 2022) volunteered six hours with Blue Bucket Project.  

“Blue Bucket Project encourages people to realize that small things matter, whether we drop a piece of litter, or bend down to pick one up, we can all make a difference,” said Heike. 

Heike shared that on Earth Day, Blue Bucket Project had a table, volunteers and an interactive display of garbage and tools for cleaning up. “Kids especially loved using the grabbers to grasp at things and immediately connected with what a difference they could make in just a few minutes.”  

Lacey Merica 

“I volunteer because it’s fun!” 

Lacey Merica (BS, 2006; MBA, 2011; MS, 2021) volunteered 50 hours with the Omaha Sports Commission and the Omaha Equestrian Foundation for the FEI World Cup Finals 2023. She managed volunteer check-ins, trained volunteers, gave tours to students and repaired toy horse “wounds they received from being played with by hundreds of kids over the week!”  

Lacey said it is a great opportunity to meet new people and build connections. “I also love being an ambassador for Omaha. Through volunteering at FEI, and with the past Swimming Olympic Trials Omaha has hosted, I’ve met people from around the country, and the world! It’s rewarding to be part of making sure their experience in Omaha is a great one!”  

UNO Advancement Team

The UNO Advancement team collectively volunteered more than 20 hours for Alumni Month of Service making 350 sack lunches that were donated to the Siena Francis House and the Stephen Center.

“One of the UNO Alumni Association’s core values is to support community engagement and volunteerism. This stems directly from the university and its mission,” said Anthony Flott (BA, 1990; MA, 1999), executive director, UNO alumni engagement. “I am proud to be a part of a team of individuals who lead by example and help further UNO’s impact in our community.”