KEARNEY — With a clipboard in hand, Zully Harwood stood inside the door at the Salvation Army Wednesday afternoon to welcome people who suffered losses in the July 9 flood.
It was the first of three Multi-Agency Resource Center sessions held to answer questions, let flood victims know what help is available and sign them up for any disaster relief they may be eligible for. Sessions were coordinated by Buffalo County Emergency Management.
Sessions will be repeated noon-7 p.m. today in Lexington and noon-7 p.m. Friday at the Nebraskan Student Union at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Experts estimate that 400 Kearney homes were damaged by the flood, and many more were affected beyond city limits.
Wednesday’s event began at noon, but people began sprinkling in at 11 a.m. At times, lines formed as Harwood, who works for the Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska, wrote down their names and addresses and the type of help they needed. Based on their needs, she then directed them to tables staffed by people from 16 non-profits, businesses or other sources of help.
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Sandra Karsten, owner of Karsten Floors at 104 Landon St., sat down with Joe Schutt, executive director of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and a representative for Orphan Grain Train. Karsten, who had no flood insurance, lost $10,000 worth of carpet and more.
Schutt, regretfully, told her his non-profit assisted only homeowners, not businesses. He explained that Orphan Grain Train works with Mead Lumber to pay for up to 25 sheets of drywall. OGT also will repair or replace furnaces and water heaters, or pay up to $1,200 toward those costs.
Karsten said her business filled three dump trucks and a large utility trailer with flooded carpet, drywall and more. “We had a lot of loss, but at least it wasn’t loss of life. It’s fixable,” she said. “I know nobody can help me, but there was no harm in asking.”
Janette Payne, a member of Calvary Baptist Church at 322 W. 22nd St., came representing the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. That agency will, at no charge, muck out basements and do other tasks to get a damaged home ready to be rebuilt. There are no income guidelines.
By 2 p.m. Payne had 10 people interested in the KNCRSDR services. “We work with volunteers, so we can’t guarantee when we’ll come,” she said, adding, “I’m finding that many people here have already done the cleanup, but they have not sprayed for mold.” She was distributing cans of Shockwave, which inhibits the growth of mold. “It’s more effective than bleach and it doesn’t smell like chlorine,” she said.
Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska had staffers at three tables, including Sara Frias and Jean Harms. Frias is quality assurance coordinator. Harms is a community services coordinator. They had information on furnace repairs or replacements for flood victims who fell within income guidelines.
Kerry Oliva, also of CAPMN, reminded people to take detailed photos of flood damage, and keep every receipt for repairs or items purchased for repairs. “If people didn’t take pictures or keep receipts, it may be hard to get reimbursed, if they qualify,” she said.
Nikki Erickson, executive director of United Way of the Kearney Area, was spreading the word about the Dobytown Kiwanis Club’s Back-2-School backpack program, which is supported by United Way. It provides free backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged children each August, and the deadline to sign up is Friday. Erickson wanted to be sure that eligible residents, especially those affected by flooding, were signed up.
Meanwhile, people kept streaming in. All ages came, from babies to rambunctious children to teenagers to young parents to a few people with walkers or wheelchairs.
Hot Meals USA provided free hamburgers, hot dogs and potato chips, thanks to the generosity of Heartland Bank. Fresh sweet corn was available in the evening.
“I see everything,” Harwood said, when, for a brief period, the lines thinned out. She is bilingual and was able to assist the Spanish-speaking people who came in seeking help.
“I feel so bad for these people,” she said. “For many of them, this is the second time they’re registering for assistance. They suffered damage in March, too. At the same time, I’m seeing that Kearney does all it can to help people in need.”