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Projects of the Heartland Pioneers


For almost thirty years the group has been making Hug A Bears for children in crisis in the Metro.

Hooks and NeedlesHOOKS & NEEDLES

The group was formed many years ago as a Pioneer project and is still together knitting many items.


The Memorial Scholarships are awarded each year to help physically challenged students attend college.


LML’s are currently held three times a year for the retirees to gather and visit with coworkers and friends.


The Pioneers volunteer with the Salvation Army fixing Thanksgiving meals in the Omaha Metro.


The Heartland Pioneers ring bells every December at the Sam’s location at 132nd and L Street.


We volunteer with Star 104.5 FM and the Salvation Army bringing Christmas to those in need.


This newsletter was started twenty-five years ago by George Parkerson informing retirees.

Hug A Bears


Helping children in crisis…

Kelly Nybert of KMTV explains to the viewers about the Hug A Bears made by the Heartland Pioneers and distributed to children in crisis in the metro.  The group has been together for over 40 years.  in 1999, Steve Dawkins took over the bear project.  As of June 30, 2019, the project has made and delivered over 47,000 bears in the Omaha metro.  The Bear Den is open every Tuesday from 9 am to 1 pm with 12 to 16 retirees making bears.  A large basement room at Maple Ridge Retirement Center has donated the space for the group to continue when we had to leave the Omaha Works over 15 years ago.

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Hooks & Needles

Hooks & Needles

Knitting items for those in need…

The Hooks & Needles group has made many items for those in need in the Omaha community.  In 2018 the Hooks and Needles secretary Jean Belmudez retired.  Elaine Hobbs continued as the leader for the group in 2018.  The group kept right on where they left off from the previous year.  The chai, Elaine Hobbs, kept them on track throughout the year.  Everything the ladies make is donated to different organizations in the metra that then distributes the items to the needy.  The women continue to make all these things at home and meet once a month to turn in the things that they have made.  This year they displayed some of the Cancer Quilts made for children that have cancer.  Below is a list of the items that they made in 2018.

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Joe Cleres and Don Sage Memorial Scholarship

Scholarships for the physically challenged…

This scholarship is open to physically and/or mentally challenged students.  It is sponsored by New Outlook Pioneers which evolved from Western Electric, AT&T, AT&T Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies, Alcatel-Lucent Technologies, Agere Systems, and Avaya employees and retirees.  The application may be made by the student or someone on their behalf.  The current application is posted in January of each year.  The scholarship award is for tuition only and is paid directly to the school.  Students may apply for scholarship during the first quarter of the calendar year with awards published on this website in mid-May.  Awards are paid then during the school year.  The Joe Cleres and Don Sage Memorial Scholarship Committee issued 49 scholarships in 2019 ranging between $500 and $2,500.

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Life Member Luncheons

Life Member Luncheon

Life Member Retirees…

The Life Member Luncheon’s are held on Thursday’s three times a year.  The Christmas luncheon was attended by 98 retirees and spouces with five grocery carts of food for the Salvation Army.  Each luncheon is a combination luncheon and food drive for the Salvation Army.  The Omaha Works retirees gather three times a year to enjoy a good meal and share stories and good times from days gone by.   Over the years the Life Member Luncheons have been held at many different places and this year they are moving to the German American Society.  You will now find the Life Member Luncheons Flyer here by clicking on Read More.

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KMTV Kelly


Volunteers making Thanksgiving Dinners for those in need…

TurkeyFest started about thirty-five years ago in the 1980s when members of the Heartland Pioneers, a community service volunteer group of the Omaha Works would cook a turkey and the fixings and deliver them to the Salvation Army Kroc Center.  TurkeyFest has grown over the years from serving 300 meals 35 years ago, to more than 1,500 meals a year now.  The Heartland Pioneers developed a partnership over the years with the Salvation Army and they provided a place to fix everything to be boxed and delivered in the Omaha area by the Pioneers.

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Bell Ringing

Bell Ringing

Volunteering for those in need…

Ringing bells for the Salvation Army has been a tradition for many years for the Pioneers.  This year the Heartland Pioneers rang bells for the Salvation Army the first three Saturdays in December from 8 am to 6 pm at Sam’s Club on 132nd & L Street.  The shifts are broken up into two hours per each shift.  Dick Maxwell has been the project chair for many years.  This year he was co-chair with Darwin Fager.  Dick and Darwin have worked together on this project at different times over the years.  Dick thanks all who rang and hopes you will volunteer to ring again next year.  He would like to thank Darwin for opening and closing the ringing each Saturday.

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Adopt A Family

Adopt A Family

Bringing Christmas to those in need…

Through the partnership of The Salvation Army and Star 104.5 FM, hundreds of families in the metro area will have the chance to be “adopted” for the holidays.  Donors choosing to adopt must make three commitments: provide a toy or clothing for each child, provide a gift coupon for a holiday meal, and coordinate a time to deliver gifts to their assigned family by December 23rd.  Since the radiothon began in 2000, the Omaha community has helped more than 37,000 families and seniors through this program.

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Group Information Newsletter

Helping keep Life Members up to date…

A number of years ago (more thatn twenty) when George retired from the Omaha Works many of the retirees found it hard to find the benefit information that they needed about pension plans, health care plans and other information.  George started grathering email addresses of the retirees and created an email information newsletter trying to keep the retirees informed and helping them find the information they needed.  I was George’s backup and in the fall of 2017 George ran into problems with the Internet Service Providers bouncing the emails as spam and then blocking us.  George got tired of trying to get us unblocked with the ISP’s and asked me to take over for awhile.  I found that to continue the newsletter I would have to purchase an email service to continue the newsletter.  We named the newsletter the Western Electric Retirees Group as the majority of us started with Western Electic.

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Chapter Links

01 New Outlook Pioneers

The New Outlook Pioneers are an independent Pioneer group (no company sponsorship) comrpised of the employees and retirees of Western Electric, Lucent Technologies, Avaya Communication, and Agere.

02 Pioneers Volunteers

Pioneers is a network of volunteers in the U.S. and Canada who affect immediate, tangible change in local communities.  We focus our efforts in five major areas: helping military families, protecting the environment, education, life enrichment, and human service.  The Pioneers “answer the call of those in need.”

03 NRLN Website

The mission of the National Retiree Legislative Network is to develop, identify, and rally support for federal legislation that guarantees fair and equitable treatment of retirees and future retirees.  The NRLN works to protect employer-sponsored pensions and benefit plans as well as Medicare and Social Security.

04 Telephone Pioneer Museum

The museum’s telephone collection is the focal point.  The Telephone  Museum fosters enthusiasm  for engineering, remarkable telephone history and educatation, and compares modern day telecommunications to vintage technology.

Heartland Officers

Robert "Bob" Wolkins

Robert “Bob” Wolkins


Steven "Steve" Dawkins

Steven “Steve” Dawkins

1st Vice President

Joseph "Joe" Bonatino

Joeseph “Joe” Bonaiuto

2rd Vice President

Gordon "Gordy" Viner

Gordon “Gordy” Viner


Jerald "Jerry" Golmlanavich

Jerald “Jerry” Golmanavich

Past President

Carolyn Wolkins

Carolyn Wolkins


Raymond "Ray" Fugger

Raymond “Ray” Fugger

Life Member Representative/Electronic Maps

Virginia Fugger

Virginia Fugger

Life Member Representative

Debra "Deb" Grady

Debra “Deb” Grady

Project Coordinator

Judy Coffee

Judy Coffey

Project Chair LML

Betty Golmanavich

Betty Golmanavich

Co-Project Chair Hooks & Needles

Helen Loyd

Helen Loyd

Project Chair PALS