Nebraska Floods & Disaster Response

 

Latest News: The evening of July 8, rains of up to 9 inches fell across central Nebraska. Already saturated by above average moisture since the March bomb cyclone, the ground couldn't absorb much more. The area south of I-80 also received crop-damaging hail. Towns, fields, homes, and businesses flooded. Roads are impassable, closed, or washed away. Sandbagging and evacuations are under way in some communities as the rivers and creeks swell after the deluge. Late planting this spring, years of low commodity prices, and now flooding are combining to create significant economic concerns in both town and countryside.

Synod staff are in touch with ministers and leaders in the impacted area. The synod’s disaster team will be meeting to consider needs, resources, and responses to this latest flood. Your prayers for the people impacted and for favorable weather are appreciated. As the waters recede and recovery assistance needs become known, more information will be available here and on the synod social media pages. 

 

The Nebraska Synod is coordinating with Lutheran Disaster Response to prepare for recovery efforts following March's flooding and blizzard. 

Individuals and congregations wanting to support the cleanup efforts, can send donations to the Nebraska Synod Disaster Fund. If you give by check, please include “Nebraska Floods” in the memo line and mail it to:
Nebraska Synod ELCA
6757 Newport Avenue, Suite 200
Omaha, NE 68152

You can also give online at https://nebraskasynod.org/giving/give-now.html.
Click on the fourth option, "Hunger & Disaster," then scroll down the list to Hunger & Disaster, and enter your donation amount in the line for Synod Disaster Fund.

 

Be mindful that it is not uncommon for individuals and organizations to appear in the aftermath of disasters to solicit funds for less-than-legitimate purposes. Be sure to confirm that efforts to which you contribute are reputable and are accountable for their use of donations. When in doubt, contact the synod office, Lutheran Disaster Response or its local affiliate, Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, or an agency like Charity Navigator for more information.

 

Resources for Volunteers

https://www.nebraskaimpact.com/
 

You are invited to the Nebraska Bound Mission Trip to Lynch on October 16-19, 2019.  Lynch and Bristow residents will provide lodging at the community building and meals.  Work may include hanging sheet rock, painting, etc. More specific work plans will be shared later.  For more information, please contact Pastor Becky Beckmann at 402-841-1063 or dbbeckmann@cableone.net.

The Nebraska Synod Disaster Response Team has been in touch with many organizations across the state and plans to share information regarding service opportunities as they become available. 

If you are looking to plan a mission trip or service trip/day in the near future, your current best option is working through the United Way Fremont. Below is contact information for the volunteer coordinator, who will work with you directly to schedule and plan a service opportunity, should you wish to reach out.

Jacki Trujillo
Volunteer Coordinator
Fremont Area United Way
445 E. 1st St #1
Fremont, NE 68025
402-721-4157

We also have a connection in Columbus, NE, if that is closer to where you’d like to serve:

Jill Goedeken
University of Nebraska Extension Service in Columbus, NE
402-563-4901
jgoedeken2@unl.edu 

For this opportunity, there is still much work to do, but no planned workdays as of yet. Please contact her with your information, availability, and if you are volunteering alone or with a group. The work would include everything from clean-up to installing fencing.

In Southwest Iowa, there is still a great deal of flooding. AmeriCorps are setup there and leading the response efforts. The best contact there is the volunteer coordination center - 515.444.2390. It is staffed by AmeriCorps volunteers, and they can let you know how your congregation can best be of assistance.

If these opportunities are not what you are seeking, or are not near where you're able to serve, please know we are working to put together other opportunities. At present, many areas are still in the organizing phase - putting together oversight committees and really figuring out what it is their community needs and how to manage volunteers to assist in meeting those needs. As more opportunities materialize, details and contacts will be shared with all those who have reached out to the synod wishing to serve.

United Way of the Midlands, in conjunction with AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams, is partnering with voluntary and faith-based organizations to host statewide flood relief volunteer opportunities. These opportunities will be listed on United Way of the Midlands’ Get Connected Volunteer Platform at this link. For flood relief volunteer opportunities, look for the white heart in the blue circle icon.  For current information volunteers can also dial 2-1-1 and press 6 to learn about flood relief volunteer opportunities. If calling from outside Nebraska, please call 402-444-6666 before pressing 6. An operator will be available to assist you weekdays from 7 am to 8 pm and Saturdays 8 am to 5 pm.

MILLS COUNTY, IOWA - Volunteer Resource Center (VRC) – This group is staffed by AmeriCorps members and can assist with volunteers who want to help – call 515.444.2390. This covers the SW Iowa areas most impacted. 
Material donations:  Glenwood Resource Center 'Store' CONTACT: Kori Kenkel – 402.960.2465. 
Furniture donations: Lana Duyson at 402.917.7074 or email at ljdred@q.com
Monetary Donations: Omaha Community Foundation

Other Resources (from UNL Extension Site)

American Red Cross - Donations 
Phone: 1-800-RED CROSS 
Text: Text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation 

American Red Cross – Volunteering 

Salvation Army Omaha 

Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska 
or mail check to them at 2241 O St, Lincoln, NE 68510 and put “flood relief” in the memo. 

Nebraska Farm Bureau 

United Way of the Midlands 

Great Plains United Methodist Conference 
Donations can be made to the Great Plains Disaster Response Fund.

Lutheran Family Services

Nebraska Preparedness Partnership 
Call Sandra Hobson at 402-979-7207 or email shobson@neprep.org for information about making a donation. 

Legal Aid of Nebraska – Offering free legal help for Nebraska’s low-income flood survivors
call 1-844-268-5627

COUNTY CONTACTS: For those looking to serve in a particular area, contact the local emergency manager

 

*Tracking volunteer hours is crucial in the recovery process.  Wherever you volunteer, please complete a Volunteer Registration Form and sign in and out to capture the total hours of service at each opportunity.

 

Resources for Those Impacted

Flood Assistance /Resources:​​

Farmers in need of hay, feed stuffs, fencing materials, volunteer help, equipment, etc. should call the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at: 1-800-831-0550.

Businesses can call the U.S. Chamber’s Disaster Help Desk for Business at 1-888-692-4943.

Lutheran Family Services

Realtors Disaster Relief Effort: The Nebraska REALTORS® Association and the Home Buyer's Assistance Foundation have partnered with the REALTORS® Relief Foundation to help with mortgage payment assistance or rental cost due to displacement for up to $1000 for those affected by the Nebraska flood. More information and application on webpage.

IMN Rural Response Hotline

AFTER THE STORM– A Healing Book and Workbook for Children and Adults Whose Lives Have Been Affected by Severe Weather. 

Nebraska Energy Office:  Emergency Dollar and Energy Saving Loans & Weatherization Assistance for Low-Income Households 

Nebraska Department of Agriculture Blizzard/Flooding Resources 

Nebraska Department of Agriculture Disaster Relief Information Sheet 

Nebraska Extension Flood Resources

Nebraska Extension Spanish Resources

Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska is the recipient of grant funds from Farm Aid and the Center for Rural Affairs totaling $30,000.00. Beginning April 15 they will begin taking applications for $500.00 block grants to farmers and ranchers affected by the blizzard and flooding in March. To access this assistance farmers and ranchers must complete an application by phone at the Rural Response Hotline (800)464-0258. This is a simple, straight forward application process. All applications will be reviewed by a review panel. Awards will be made within 10 days of receiving the application. Farmers and ranchers who have lost personal or household property from the blizzard or flooding are eligible to apply. 

For organizations looking for volunteers or those interested in hosting volunteer opportunities, please contact the 2-1-1 AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordination Team at 402-235-8262 weekdays from 7 am to 8 pm and Saturdays from 8 am to 5 pm or by email at nebraskafloodresponse2019@gmail.com

Questions & Answers about FEMA Disaster Assistance click this link.

New Every Day-A 40-day devotional guide book for survivors of natural disaster

Disaster resources related to the needs of children and their caregivers (in English & Spanish)

Resources for Congregations

Emotional & Spiritual Care in Disasters Course at the Salvation Army Omaha Kroc Center on July 16-17, 2019

Grief Following Trauma Course at the Salvation Army Omaha Kroc Center on July 18-19, 2019

Additional Resources

Latest News For Flood Response

Thursday, October 17

Nebraska Floods: a Journey With a Dollar

Baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, we live inside the best story ever - God’s story - a  story of renewal, healing, and new life for all the world.  In turn, we have stories to tell about our part in God’s story. One that stands out right now is the story of the ELCA’s Lutheran Disaster Response and the Nebraska Synod Disaster Fund and how we as the Church are bringing healing and new life to flooded communities in Nebraska through those ministries.

Last spring, a disastrous combination of a “bomb cyclone” winter storm followed by rapid melting on still-frozen ground led to epic flooding along five of Nebraska’s major rivers. Both Zion and Bethlehem responded by donating to the Nebraska Synod Disaster Fund. In the past, we have donated to Lutheran Disaster Response when other calamities have struck elsewhere. But how do those branches of the Church’s ministry work? How does the money get to the people who need it?

Nebraska Synod Disaster Fund

Let’sgo on a little trip with a dollar. What happens when you send off a check, or click that donate button?

The first stop for our dollar is the office of Stephanie Lucienski. Stephanie manages the Nebraska Synod Disaster Fund account. The Nebraska Synod has a disaster relief team which was activated with the flood. The team reached out to pastors of churches in the communities affected. The pastors were invited to apply for up to $2500 in grant money from the Synod Fund for use in their communities. 

From Stephanie’s office, our dollar was on the move again. 

Checks were made out and as of my visit, $48,000 had been distributed to churches in 11 communities and to the United Way in Fremont. 

I spoke to two pastors in affected communities. People pride themselves in self-sufficiency and are reluctant to admit they need help. Out of respect for that sentiment, I’ll leave the pastors’ names and towns anonymous but tell their stories. 

One of the pastors serves two churches in affected communities. She had an elderly woman in her congregation who was getting her house ready to sell to supplement her social security income. A flooded basement sidelined that plan. Her pastor requested Synod Disaster Relief money. She said the process was very easy and within a few weeks she had the money. It enabled the elderly woman to get her basement cleaned up and fixed so she could move ahead with her plan.

Another pastor in a different community requested $2500. He identified two families in the community whose basements had caved in and were struggling to find ways to get them fixed. He split the money and sent two equal checks to the bank to be sent anonymously to the families. 

This pastor elaborated a bit on why he chose to do it anonymously. He said for the first few weeks after a disaster everyone pulls together to help each other out. Then, for a lot of people things kind of get back to normal and life goes on. But some are still suffering, and are ashamed to ask for help. The anonymous gifts helped people in those situations.

Lutheran Disaster Response

On a lovely August afternoon I rode the Chicago Transit Authority blue line train from the Loop to the ELCA Churchwide offices on Higgins Road. There I met with Sharei Green, Lutheran Disaster Response Program Communicator, and Joseph Chu, Associate Program Director for Domestic Disasters.

As part of the ELCA, both Sharei and Joe emphasized on behalf of LDR, “We ARE the church.” They serve in Christ’s name in some of the most difficult things people face. Lutheran Disaster Response is led by a small staff that is part of the ELCA Churchwide staff.

Their mission has two aims – financial relief in the form of grants, and accompaniment. They are the stewards of resources and they help make connections. Actual implementation happens at the level of local congregations, the synod and social ministries in the affected area. 

Immediately after the floods in Nebraska there was a flurry of conference calls between Nebraska Synod staff and Lutheran Disaster Response staff. In the beginning the conference calls happened nearly weekly, connecting people in Nebraska with others who had experience and resources.

Lutheran Disaster Response puts out pastoral and congregational resources to help people cope with what’s happened. But they also provide financial resources. Our dollar is on the move again. 

Lisa Kramme, who is on Nebraska Synod Staff and coordinates the Synod disaster response team, applied for and received a $17,000 grant from Lutheran Disaster Response. This came in the form of Hy Vee and Visa gift cards sent to the Synod to be distributed in affected areas. 

Some of those gift cards made their way to one of the pastors I talked to. He received 20 Hy Vee gift cards and 20 Visa gift cards. He identified nine families in the community who were especially struggling and, again, anonymously through the bank, sent two Hy Vee and two Visa gift cards to each family.

After the initial response, then what?

Full recovery is estimated to be a three to five year process. The Nebraska Synod Disaster Relief Fund still has money to help with the recovery process, and the Synod as well as individual congregations are making plans and heading to affected areas to work. The need for funds to buy supplies, tools, and so on will continue. Stephanie said that in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, money pours in, then after six months it tends to slow to a trickle. But the need doesn’t stop just because the floods have fallen off the news cycle.

Lutheran Disaster Response coordinates with other disaster relief organizations that become increasingly vital in the long term recovery. One is the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and another is a coalition called National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Often the long-term recovery work happens through social ministries in the affected areas, in our case Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. 

Lutheran Family Services has asked Lutheran Disaster Response to match funds from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to staff three positions to begin a culturally focused approach to disaster recovery. The worst toll in disasters is often on those already vulnerable…especially some of the immigrant communities in Nebraska. LFS plans to provide interpretation services, help with the mental health fallout, and a cultural planner to help communities develop their own disaster plan.

Our church has done and continues to do good work towards long term recovery. Giving money can sometimes seem a little removed from the action. But this little journey with a dollar is a good reminder that it is a vitally important act of love, and will continue to be so. 

 

Article written by Rev. Kris Bohac

 

 

 

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