The Beaver Crossing tornado recovery site is now ready for and welcoming VIM Teams to help with repairs and rebuilding in those communities. So many of you have conveyed your willingness to assist and we thank you!
VIM teams are needed beginning in the end of July to help with repairs. Every house in this small town was affected by the May 11th tornado and case management is in process to line up jobs for volunteers. There will be both exterior and interior jobs to be done.
We encourage volunteers to bring whatever tools you can comfortably pack. Once you're scheduled, site leads will be in touch to outline your scope of work. There are a couple of nearby churches that have offered to house volunteer teams and more information on scheduling your team, contact the site manager, Dorothy Aspegren, at 402-641-9698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information on insurance for your team is available here: www.greatplainsumc.org/tripinsurance
God bless you for expressing an interest in making these sites your mission field!
|(Photo left to right) Drivers of the trailers for hot food distribution included Zach Winn, Fairview, Kan.; Lauren Alderson, Nickerson, Kan.; and Miles Hartman, Fairview, Kan.|
The Sunday, May 17, worship service at the Beaver Crossing United Methodist church is one of the most recent examples of people coming together in community. The nondenominational church Hope Center had significant damage to their church, so UM Pastor Tamara Holtz invited the congregation to collaborate and provide a community worship. Holtz and Hope Center Pastor Eric Wiezorek planned a worship that included Hope Center bringing the music and the generator that gave light to the UM sanctuary. The morning was topped off by area churches preparing and offering lunch for all following the service.
On a day that seemed like it might be quiet, Sunday afternoon turned into a day of people dropping things off, wanting case management and folks wanting to sign up to volunteer. All this while the Kansas Hot Food Trailers showed up (cooking, supplies and support) to get ready for the next week’s work.
Since the trailers’ arrival, United Methodist Women of the church have prepared 500 meals, twice per day. “Those boundaries once called Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska really don’t matter here in Beaver Crossing when it comes to serving people in the midst of destruction,” said Great Plains Disaster Response Coordinator Linda Stewart.
She noted that the former Kansas West trailer, coupled with United Methodist volunteers from Nebraska, Kansas West and Kansas East (Kansas City and Hillsboro) truly make this a Great Plains recovery effort.
Electricity was restored to the community on Tuesday, May 20. Red Cross and the Salvation Army left that day feeling they were no longer needed at the same level. The UM church has a new roof and air conditioning. Work on the parsonage continues.
The majority of the frantic first response clean-up work is ramping down with preparations being made for the long haul. On Wednesday, May 21, 31 people gathered representing the various disaster groups and community interests and homeowners to develop a long-term strategy.
Out of that meeting came the following:
Beaver Crossing United Methodist Church
708 West St.
Beaver Crossing, NE 68312
Their office will be located in the entryway of the church.
United Methodist Committee on Relief personnel working alongside local United Methodist volunteers will identify and train people in the surrounding communities to be volunteer case managers.
Linda Stewart said, “We have been blessed with Mike and Dorothy as Mike has a rich background in construction and Dorothy in pastoral care and social service work.”
After their retirement they became full-time RVers, volunteering with NOMADS. NOMADS is a United Methodist group of RVers who travel around the country doing volunteer construction, clean-up and other volunteer projects.
Once the last of clean-up activities end, there will be a lull while case managers are trained, families are met with and plans for repairs are made. An announcement and appeal will be made once long-term details are established.
Stewart said they have plenty of supplies, but that all should remember that there is not a single house in Beaver Crossing that did not sustain damage.
Contributions to the United Methodist Disaster Recovery Fund get used once a family’s personal resources are exhausted. The family puts together a plan and presents it to the case manager. Together they figure out the financial short fall between what the homeowner and volunteers can do and the need for professional services and other expenses to rebuild.
Case managers have already met with 75 households. Stewart said the community is positioned well to step into case management work. She added that 31 projects have been completed by United Methodist volunteers with another 21 projects referred to the Mennonite Disaster Services, Team Rubicon (former military with large deconstruction equipment) and the City of Beaver Crossing.
Needs assessment continues as United Methodists collaborate with Catholic Social Services, Hope Center chaplaincy, the Seward Veterans Service office, Red Cross and Church of Christ Disaster Services “to do Christ’s work,” said Stewart.
Contributions can be sent to the Great Plains Disaster Response Fund through the local church offering plate (with the number 975 in the memo line) or to the Great Plains Conference, c/o Topeka Office, P.O. Box 4187, Topeka, KS 66604. Please put the number 975 in the memo line of the check. Contributions can also be made online.
What a day! Sheri Balak and I just returned from Beaver Crossing. This morning (Thursday) we worked with other volunteers to sort and clear debris. On our work team included Pastor Scharleen Cross (Shickley and Ong), Tregg Reiss and Pastor Neil Kloppenborg (Eustis) and some women from Region V in Lincoln. We heard personal stories of how people weathered the storm, their losses, clean-up process and plans for the future. Salvation Army volunteers provided lunch to all volunteers. The local hardware store is providing free chain saw blades and oil to those doing chainsaw ministry.
After lunch, we made contact with Pastor Tamara Holtz; the volunteers from Kansas who are stationed at Beaver UMC providing food, blankets, etc.; the Church of Christ volunteers from York who are providing a semi-load of food boxes, boxes of toiletry/hygiene items, boxes of cleaning supplies and other household items that may have been lost; and the folks coordinating efforts out of the Beaver Crossing Fire Hall ... in particular, they are looking for someone who has a large grill/barbecue to cook the hamburgers that have become popular with the hard-working volunteers. As we walked back to our car, we saw that our Amish and Mennonite brothers and sisters are also onsite providing hands-on assistance. PGFWABF!
We also told folks that we would be coming back with a team next Tuesday. Please know that I will send a separate email tonight or tomorrow with details (and a permission/health history form for youth).
One more thing ... Pastor Lyn Seiser (Lincoln Prairie View) had told me earlier in the week about Tornado Totes, so Sheri and I took the contents (w/out the totes) to Beaver Crossing with us. If you would like to provide any of these items, the clean-up team will take the donations when they go back next Tuesday.
God is doing great things through the many folks who are providing assistance to our brothers and sisters in Beaver Crossing, but it will be a good while before the clean-up is completed. The command center is estimating they will be in operation for 6 weeks.
Please pray for those affected by the storms in Beaver Crossing, Cordova, Goehner, and Sutton, that they would be encouraged and filled with hope in the days and weeks ahead. And don't be afraid to ask how God might use you to provide some of that encouragement and hope. Grace and peace...
Pastor Pat Norris
Brainard-Rising City-Schuyler Christ UMCs
Beaver Crossing is still without power and reports are power should start coming into the town by late Saturday night, BUT each property will need an electrician to get the power checked and hooked up for use. It is a good and necessary step, but there will be a delay beyond just getting power into the community before everyone has the benefit of using it.
We continue to work closely with the local emergency managers and other agencies offering assistance. Team Rubicon brings heavy equipment and skills to handle demolition and debris removal projects that are beyond our volunteer abilities and have agreed to take some of the cases we’ve identified.
Beaver Crossing is still under limited access and badge identification into the site is required. It is expected that control troll be lifted on Tuesday. Red Cross and Salvation Army are leaving today; Red Cross has brought in MREs (meals ready to eat) for the residents since without power they will still be unable to cook.
Media came out onsite Wednesday for the first time to get a report on the damage. Surrounding towns of Sutton and Cordova were covered immediately after the storm, but little publicity has gone out about Beaver Crossing which received far more damage.
Farms in the surrounding area are hard hit and there is a focus on getting volunteers in to clean debris out of fields. We have not been able to find out who is coordinating that effort so are directing interested volunteers to the Beaver Crossing Fire Station.
Beaver Crossing has been receptive and most appreciative of the help we are able to offer. Our help is most definitely going to be needed for the long term recovery and we are networked with the emergency management team so they know what our volunteer teams can do.
Volunteers have been coming in from Hastings and the surrounding community and teams from Kansas have helped complete a long list of clean-up jobs so far. We anticipate being done with clean up at the end of next week.
We have walked the town to get intake information, coordinated clean-up teams at sites and been busy handing out relief supplies.
The effort now is building a team who can lead this disaster response operations, and it looks like God has already inspired some hearts to offer help over the summer months.
The church will hold a joint worship Sunday morning! Pastor Tamara Holtz has been involved in the leadership and helping to connect with volunteers and families – so appreciated.
At a time when the media seems to be focusing more on other areas of damage in Nebraska, disaster recovery workers in Beaver Crossing are on task. The damage to the area is much larger than previously announced. The entire county of Seward has no water or power, and no power is expected in Beaver Crossing for at least a week. For farmers the impact on their irrigation systems is devastating, plus their fields are full of debris that must be removed as soon as possible for farming to continue on schedule.
The Red Cross Multiple Agency Response Center (MARC) is headquartered in the Beaver Crossing UMC fellowship hall. From there volunteers will be coordinated, victims’ needs will be itemized and help deployed. Beaver Crossing-Utica Pastor Tamara Holtz has provided leadership and helped to establish the MARC at the United Methodist Church simply by saying yes to the request to host it there. She led clean-up efforts to the fellowship hall in preparation for establishing the MARC.
There is need for volunteers to staff the MARC. Additional volunteers are needed to help walk areas of town and continue to assess damage and extend information to townspeople on how to receive help.
Volunteers from the Utica UMC and a group of early responders from Hastings were at work on Tuesday. Great Plains Disaster Response Coordinator Linda Stewart said she is expecting volunteers from Lawrence and Hastings, Neb., Holton and Hutchinson, Kan., plus a chain saw group is forming at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection to come and help remove large debris.
A Mennonite Christian Aid group is collaborating alongside United Methodists and others to make a difference in Beaver Crossing.
Volunteers are needed to help farmers locate and remove debris from their fields.
United Methodist Committee on Relief Health Kits are needed as are blankets and towels with wash clothes. Items can be dropped off at the Beaver Crossing UMC. More than 227 area homes were impacted by the Sunday night storms and tornadoes, leaving many without much more than the clothes they were wearing. 16 homes were completely destroyed, and another 22 had major damage.
Stewart noted meeting one family whose modular home was completely destroyed along with about 30 trees on the property. She said when she asked the mother of the family for what they need, the woman responded that she didn’t think they’d need any help. Stewart seeing that the woman was completely overwhelmed and bewildered said, “Maybe you could use some help with debris removal.” To which the woman replied, “Yes, that would be wonderful.”
In another encounter, Stewart met a United Methodist family with whom they stood and prayed. Stewart said one of the most important things is to affirm with people that support is there for the long haul of recovery. Sometimes standing and offering prayer is enough, she said.
Those interested in volunteering should check in at the MARC located at the Beaver Crossing UMC or call 316-706-2384.
Director of Congregational Excellence the Rev. Evelyn Fisher drove to Lincoln today by way of Beaver Crossing, Neb., to check out tornado damage from Sunday night’s storms. The volunteer center is set up in Utica, Neb., at an old gymnasium located at 4th and F streets. It will open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and all volunteers are asked to check in at the location to get an assignment. Trained early responders (ERTs) are asked to report there before going anywhere to achieve maximum coordination. ERTs are those who have received special training for working in disaster situations.
Beaver Crossing, a town of about 550-600 people, has major damage. The Nebraska Emergency Service coordinator told Fisher that just about every house in town is damaged to some degree, though they are still trying to come up with numbers.
Pastor Tamara Holtz reported the United Methodist Church and the parsonage received extensive damage. Most of the damage both places appears to be broken glass and roof damage. The steeple of the church was blown away and has not yet been found. A team from the Utica church is in Beaver Crossing cleaning up debris at the parsonage and church, putting tarps on the roof, etc.
At least 6-8 church members had homes destroyed. The church basement sheltered about 20 people during the storm. One of the residents told Fisher the town was hit by two different tornadoes, lasting a total of 17 minutes (unverified.) A family from the church who has special needs foster children, is being housed at the youth house next door to the Utica church.
The city clerk said they hoped to have their phone working later today. Fisher exchanged phone numbers with several of the emergency management teams on site with the goal of coordination with our United Methodist disaster response team. Fisher said, “Local administrators were pleased to hear of possible United Methodist support and potential access to United Methodist Committee on Relief cleaning kits, etc.”
Pastor Harry Cross of Sutton Federated Church said two homes were completely destroyed and a third heavily damaged. Many businesses along Sutton’s main street sustained roof and other damage. Many trees and limbs are down across the town.
Cross said community people have come together and have already done a good job with some clean-up. The community will have a meeting at 8 a.m. tomorrow to determine how much additional support is needed. Cross said both the Red Cross and Salvation Army are at work to serve Sutton and surrounding rural area.
Cross said the best thing United Methodists can do for his community is to contribute to the Great Plains Disaster Relief Fund.
The “Omaha World Herald” reported on Governor Heineman’s tour of the damaged area and on the significant rainfall that came with the storm.
Great Plains Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Linda Stewart is on her way to the area to collaborate with the Rev. Buck Linton-Hendrick who is the regional coordinator for the area, to determine the best ways for United Methodists to engage in the long-term clean-up process.
United Methodists wanting to help can do so through your local church offering plate to the conference disaster response fund, with the number 975 in the memo line, or donate online. Funds are used to help in times of disaster across the Great Plains Conference.
GPconnect will continue to offer updates and information on ways for United Methodists to engage in disaster response.