Fire Relief

Fire Victim Support
Posted on 04/18/2022

Phase 1:

We have completed the first Phase of Phase 1 of the support plan: Immediate Needs.

I have gathered a great team of Furnas County Residents that have volunteered to tackle this challenge. Sally Farquhar, Natasha Carpenter and Molly Blickenstaff. There have also been several people who are regularly helping me with the grunt work, hauling loads, delivering donations, moving furniture, and helping me gather donations. These ladies have been the best help anyone could ever ask for and are some of the smartest people I have had the privilege to know. I couldn’t do all of this without them.

Greg Scheivelbein and his crew in Arapahoe have been VERY supportive and are helping me with storage and other logistics. I also have some pretty great citizens lending me trailers for storing smaller donations.

We believe that we have identified most of those impacted if not all. Unless someone is intentionally making an effort to not be identified, we have obtained their names. However, we are still on the lookout and we have asked for the public’s help in continuing to identify and get contact info for those affected. Note, No State Agency had this information. The Red Cross called me when the fire started to ask if I knew the houses that burned down.

To date, my team has Identified 14 fire Victims whom were impacted by the fire and lost homes. Of these, only 3 families have asked for help. Due to other circumstances, we are assisting in basically setting up 4 new homes for this group of people.

Some victims do not want the help. In these cases they are either affluent enough or too proud to ask for help. For this, we have asked help from family members to encourage them to seek me out for assistance. We have low expectations that any more of the 14 with be open to assistance.

To date, we have identified at least 20 additional people who were affected by fire that were producers. These losses include: Pasture, livestock, Fence, Hay, Outbuildings, Machinery, Gear and many other ag supplies.

Early on, we saw a tremendous outpouring of support by the farmers and ranchers themselves. This included Cody Helms working to coordinate a Hay drop off point and Cammie Kerner helping to organize impacted fire victims needing Ag Support. There were also people offering up pasture and other help. I am sure there were many other people helping to support the Ag side of things.

While my portion of the Fire Victims Relief does not have the capacity to assist Producers, other than with the household items and other donations needed for a home, we did offer them these items and I directed them to the Fire Victims Fund at First Central Bank to see what options they had there. I am not managing the funds, nor am I a part of the operations there and as of last night the bank had not decided on a process on how to disperse the funds. Terry Polsten at First Central said they are working on it and should have some processes in place in the next few days hopefully. I refer all money donations to the bank.

At this point, we are referring the producers to the Furnas County Farm Services Agency as we have been instructed to do going forward. However, we remain available to assist with food, replacement items for trailers or cabins lost on property should they need the help.

Phase 2:

We are nearly through Phase 2 of the support plan: Intermediate Needs.

Our next challenge is the coordination of the transfer of donated furniture that will be coming in from all over central Nebraska. I am coordinating these so that they go directly to the homes of the victims that request furniture.

Currently, not counting the community members, we have the help of 4 thrift stores, 7 Churches from here to Lincoln, 3 charities, 5 misc. organizations and Tri Valley Health System. We have plenty of food, water, personal hygiene items, and next Wednesday I have coordinated a Semi Delivery from Catholic Social Services consisting of furniture, home furnishing and misc. household items that are more situated for furnishing a home.

Currently, our victims are receiving help with food, gas money, rent, utilities, deposits, places to sleep until they move, and feel that all of their immediate, critical needs are being met.

Several organizations have volunteered and have been tasked with gathering specific categories of items, boxing them up and getting them to me for distribution.

We have asked for more donations than what was have for people who have currently come forward so that we can help more people as they change their minds.

Phase 3:

We have just begun parts of Phase 3 of the support plan: Long Term Needs.

One of our families moved into their new place yesterday permanently, and the other is due to move into their place by middle of next week. We are hoping a third allows us to help after they secure their new home.

The Mission Mall reports that individual Victims have come in and claimed some items intermittently, and has received a lot of donations. Oxford Thrift Store is still Available to victims free of charge but has asked that no clothing donations be dropped off by donors. I have not had a chance to call Tri Valley or Methodist Helping Hand In McCook.

We are working with our donors to get the victims set up and stable through tangible items, food, and all of the small items in a house that are important that can destroy an budget in an instant.

We posted a sign up genius online that will allow for people to sign up for items on a list that includes critical items and quality of life items, such as tv, toys, decorations, etc. So far this list has been filling up. Already items have been dropped of at my house.

We are coordinating with churches and charities to help victims pay their rent, utilities, deposits and other items that we do not get donated or items that pop up that we did not anticipate. Those organizations will decide how much and how long they will support their adopted family.

Finally, I want to just say that over all, the effort is going very well. We feel confident that we will be able to prop up and stabilize the victims that have come forward and even more should they change their minds. We are grateful to our organizations, churches and the entire county community for the donation support.

We are very proud and thankful of our Responders in the County and Cities/Villages and we would like to thank all of them for their service. This includes Roger Powell and any other County/City employee or volunteer that assisted in the fight either directly or indirectly since last Thursday.

Erick Lee
President, Arapahoe Public Schools Music Boosters, Inc. a 501(C)3 Organization