The scale of flood destruction that has struck the Midlands this year is almost beyond imagining. Families and communities in many parts of Nebraska and Iowa have suffered greatly. For many, the rebuilding continues.
On this holiday, it might seem that such heartache would leave little room for thanksgiving. But as terrible as the destruction and anxiety have been, this year’s disasters have also spurred remarkable displays of caring, generosity and solidarity. Here is a sampling of efforts that have brought hope this year to Midlands families and communities and, in the process, shown the best in the human spirit.
» Volunteers from national disaster recovery groups including the American Red Cross, AmeriCorps and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief logged more than 20,000 volunteer hours and helped clean out more than 700 flooded homes. Additional relief efforts were carried out by a wide range of organizations including houses of worship, food banks, community foundations, businesses and nonprofits such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way organizations.
» By early October, the Food Bank for the Heartland and its many partner organizations had distributed more than 570,000 disaster relief meals. The aid included delivered bottled water to Boyd County residents who lost their water supply in the wake of the flooding.
» Nearly 3,000 volunteers from more than 20 states, through the group Omaha Rapid Response, helped clean up, gut and rebuild houses in flood-affected Nebraska communities including Bellevue, Fremont, Columbus and King Lake in western Douglas County and, in Iowa, Pacific Junction.
» School districts provided transportation during the immediate crisis during the flooding. In Iowa, the Hamburg Community School District set up its gym as a general store and its shop area as a food bank.
» The United Way of the Midlands, Kellogg Co. and Boxed, an online wholesale retailer, partnered with Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium so Nebraska and Iowa families affected by the flooding could enjoy a free day at the zoo. Nonprofit agencies were on hand to answer questions about their services.
» Numerous funds were created this year in Nebraska and Iowa to help fund relief efforts. Just one of the examples: First National Bank of Omaha and the Nebraska Community Foundation partnered to establish the Rebuild the Heartland Community Fund, to support recovery efforts in flooding-impacted communities in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.
» The Nebraska Humane Society collected donations for flood victims with pets, providing items including collars, leashes, bowls and pet food.
» Organizers of Omaha’s first One Community Cultural Festival raised money for flood relief distributed through the Salvation Army.
» Bassett and Springview student athletes raised about $5,000 this year for their annual spring trip. But in the wake of the flooding, they made an admirable choice: They decided to forgo the trip and instead donated the entirety of the funds to a family in the Niobrara-Verdigre area who lost everything.
These and the many other flood relief efforts have demonstrated a generous spirit for which Midlands residents can rightly give thanks.