Omaha nonprofits rely on firework sales for funding

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 3:04 PM CDT
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The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing many area nonprofits to lean a little harder on funds raised from the sale of fireworks this year.

The people who operate firework tents in Omaha are doing much more than helping people with their 4th of July celebrations.

For many nonprofits, the explosions and bright lights mean money for their organizations.

For decades, the Omaha Community Playhouse has entertained those interested in live theatre. Countless numbers of performers have taken to the Playhouse's stage.

But this year is different. The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn the curtain on many of the scheduled performances.

Now the Playhouse is hoping sales from fireworks will help them through the crisis.

"50 percent of the fireworks sales come back to us. It's really helpful right now because we've had to cancel like 70 performances because of COVID. I know things are tough all over but this is a way to bring in some money. A little bit of money to the Playhouse and we appreciate every cent we get," said Jim Boggess, music director for the Playhouse.

This firework tent on Saddle Creek Road helps raise money for Meals on Wheels. The Dirty Eagles Wrestling Club, a group that supports the Central High School wrestling team, also raises funds by providing the muscle and the sales staff.

"We'll unload the truck to load up the tent. We'll do that on the day before we open sales and then we'll man this tent 24 hours until the 4th," said Jimmie Foster, Central High School's head wrestling coach.

Foster said sales from fireworks are very important to the school's wrestling program.

"This takes care of everything for us. We buy workout gear, we buy shoes that kids need, wrestling knee pads that they might need, anything that a kid would need for wrestling we would purchase that based on the money we earned from here," Foster said.

Foster added fireworks sales also take some of the pressure off the school to find funding for their sport.

"We want to buy and do a lot of things and you just can't keep going to the (administration) going 'give me some money, give me some money,' that's ridiculous. Get off your butt and earn it. THat's what we do," Foster explained.

From wrestling to the arts, a lot of Omaha area nonprofits are depending on what goes up into the air of the 4th of July holiday to raise money.

This tent near 90th and West Center Streets is operated by Just Dance Inc. The group started out helping children pay for competitive dance.

“Because it’s very expensive and then they started branching out because they were like, why are we just singling out the kids that are doing dance, then they started helping kids pay, getting scholarships for college academic events, anything,” said Amanda Hill, a community volunteer with Just Dance.

Kimberly Symmonds and her family are buying fireworks because a lot of the shows were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They plan to put on their own firework show.

“I think everybody will be more out in their neighborhood, watching what everybody is lighting off. Social distancing is what we’re all about, so staying at home would be a lot safer,” Symmonds said.

Hill said their nonprofit is depending heavily on firework sales this year because a lot of their other fundraising events were canceled.

“Normally, we do the College World Series, we do events over at TD Ameritrade and CHI. Now with the coronavirus, everything has been shut down. So this is basically our sole fundraiser this year so without this, we wouldn’t be able to help kids. We normally do a couple of hundred, thousand dollars in scholarships each year and we help an average of 50 to 60 families each year,” Hill said.

Hill hopes for more sales this year so they help more children reach their goals.

In Omaha, firework tents opened June 28. Omaha police said residents can discharge fireworks from July 2 to July 4 from noon until 11 p.m.