When a community close to his hometown of Gretna was in deep water — literally — Ben Rhodes stepped up to the plate.
Rhodes spent six weeks this summer working to repair damage caused by spring flooding of the Platte River at RV campground Linoma Beach, now doing business as Linoma Lighthouse, located on Highway 6 near Ashland.
“When the flood waters came through in March, they ripped up most of the 160 campsites there,” Rhodes said. “When I got there in June, 60 were operational. We had 100 still to go.”
He had his hands full, taking on any task asked of him, whether it be power blasting muddy cabin walls or picking up debris, digging trenches for pipes or assisting an electrician with destroyed power lines and boxes.
“I had never seen a natural disaster firsthand,” Rhodes said. “It was like a war zone, just total devastation.”
Rhodes’ flood relief efforts were part of a new summer serviceship program created at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln this year in the wake of devastating spring flooding.
The serviceship provided full-time hours and pay, with a possibility to earn college credit, to the 24 students who participated in its efforts throughout the state of Nebraska.
As a junior math and political science major at UNL, this type of work was a new experience for Rhodes, a 2017 graduate of Gretna High School.
“I really learned the value of getting dirty and putting yourself out there, physically, as a job,” he said.
“It’s difficult work, but it’s very fulfilling. All the people that worked out there, these are the unsung heroes of our world today. They keep our TVs on and the water in our sinks moving. I had never appreciated that before. What they do is valuable, valuable work. I have a whole new perspective on that and how it plays in to my daily life.”
Along with a newfound respect for more physically taxing professions, Rhodes said he also gained a lesson in patience and progress.
“Every day we would fix one thing that was broken, taking it one day and one step at a time,” Rhodes said. “A few weeks later, you would look back and you could really see the progress.”