Local volunteers collecting funds to purchase needed items for Nebraska flooding victims

By : 
Melissa Vander Plas
News Leader

Seeing images of animals struggling in mud and deep water and hearing stories about farms being flooded in Nebraska has inspired several Mabel-area residents to collaborate on a supply drive that will help these Midwest neighbors recover from recent devastation.

Heather Kleiboer noted, “I can’t hardly stand to look at the flooding pictures of dead livestock. It makes me just sob.”

She said she contemplated the problems farmers and residents of Nebraska were dealing with and began trying to find a way to help.

“I came up with an idea to get our FFA kids hooked up to do something about it and help out,” she said.

Kleiboer then talked with the Mabel-Canton agriculture teacher, John Dahle, about getting the kids out collecting donations to send to Nebraska. The FFA members immediately agreed and began distributing flyers about the collections and seeking donations for the efforts.

The organization itself donated $750 to the fund before setting out to hang flyers and ask for donations.

Kleiboer also found a website dedicated to helping the farmers, www.nefb.org, and when she began reading how to help, she found a list of people who were willing to donate transportation or supplies.

“I saw our own Nick Stortz from Canton on the list, offering to haul supplies down there,” she said. “I jumped on it and called him to see what I could do to help.”

From there, she and Nick teamed up with their spouses and started a local collection and fundraising drive that has grown with success in just a few days.

Nick and his wife, Jenny, already have a semi-trailer loaded with hay and corn stalks ready to go to Nebraska and hope to gather more feed, farm and daily living supplies to take with.

“We have had donations already of six pallets of water, possibly a tanker of water, not yet confirmed, all of Nick’s hay and straw and I have seen some financial donations on our list already too,” Kleiboer said Tuesday.

Accounts have been set up to collect funds at Bank of the West in Mabel and First Southeast Bank in Canton and Village Farm and Home in Mabel will accept funds to purchase items to send to Nebraska with Stortz and other truck drivers who are now starting to volunteer.

Nick Stortz’s father, Craig, was so proud of his son that he was also inspired to help, so he talked to Joan Manning at Village Farm and Home and set up an account so people could donate money to the relief efforts.

“They can go out and pay for fencing supplies,” Kleiboer explained. “Craig also has access to hay if people want to put money towards sponsoring a bale and he said he would write their name/address on the bale wrap if they want and maybe they would get a thank you back from the farmer receiving the donation.”

Kleiboer explained that they are collecting cash or check donations only – to be used to purchase supplies from local businesses, including Village Farm and Home and Farmers Winn Co-Op in Mabel and Preston Dairy & Farm in Canton. Checks can be written out to Nebraska Strong Benefit Fund.

Because Kleiboer and Stortz want to take only what is needed and listed on various relief websites, they feel the financial support is what is most needed from local residents.

“We don’t want to disappoint or offend anyone by turning away donations that may not be something they need,” Kleiboer said.

In addition to the farmers that are in need of assistance, residents in Nebraska are facing water shortages.

Kleiboer explained that she has discovered one of Mabel-Canton’s former students, Heather Burmester Gothberg, is a school counselor at Red Oak School, which is located in Iowa. She and her husband, however, live just over the border in Glenwood, Neb., and their school in Glenwood is in danger of shutting down because they don’t have water for the sprinklers. So, Kleiboer would like to try and take water and other supplies to residents and students struggling with meeting their basic needs.

“The schools down there are really desperate for water and supplies as well since the water sources have been compromised,” Kleiboer reiterated.

So, to help with those efforts, Mabel-Canton’s elementary students are collecting things like bottles of hand sanitizer and other small items they can box up at the school and send with the drivers to Nebraska.

“It is important to Nick and I that we make personal connections to where the donations are going and not just dropping off at a location and not know where things end up,” she said. “We also want to be very transparent about what is brought in gets spent here locally and hauled down so the business end of it stays here to support our community as well.”

Mike and Heather Kleiboer, Nick and Jenny Stortz and other Mabel-area volunteers hope to drive collected donations to Nebraska within the next two weeks, as the need is immediate, so they are asking donations be made by April 5.