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Utah FFA students reach out to help Nebraska disaster victims

Utah FFA students reach out to help Nebraska disaster victims
By Robert Pore
The outpouring of disaster relief to help Nebraskans impacted by the recent natural disaster has been “heartwarming,” said Karen Rathke, president of the Heartland United Way, which serves Hall, Howard, Hamilton and Merrick counties.
Those four counties were all heavily impacted by the March flooding.
Not only has the help come from all ages of Nebraskans, but also from people outside the state.
For example, Rathke said Jared Storrs, an FFA adviser from Green Canyon High School in Utah, recently brought a load of supplies to Grand Island to be distributed to disaster victims across the state.
Storrs, along with his FFA students and other students and faculty at the Utah school, collected goods that they saw on a list of items needed by people impacted by the flooding in Nebraska. Storrs and his family then brought the items to Nebraska.
Rathke said Fonner Park has been a collection area for donated items. Once she learned that Storrs had collected items to help relief efforts, she directed him to Fonner Park, which is working with the Nebraska State Fair in coordinating disaster assistance.
“This is where the compassion for giving is so evident with everything we are seeing,” Rathke said.
Storrs said when his students learned about how the flooding had impacted so many families in Nebraska, they began to organize a relief effort.
“Our whole school was involved in bringing items to the school,” he said. “We then just loaded up.”
The items arrived in Grand Island this week to be distributed by organizations and agencies.
Storrs said his FFA students and others at the high school saw a need to help. He said they looked at it from the perspective of what they would need if they were in that position.
“We are all a storm or disaster away from being in need ourselves,” he said.
Storrs said a vital life lesson children learn is that they are part of a greater community, in which people are there for each other when events become greater than the ability to control them, like a natural disaster.
He said he took a drive around the area to get a sense of the part of the country he was visiting.
“It really reminds me of where we are from,” Storrs said. “Little small towns and farmhouses that are far away from each other. That is where my students come from, too. These kids stepping up to help out somebody, on a more personal level, says a lot for them. They really worked hard at this.”
He said when they were loading the supplies, the students told him that if they only had more time “they could have done more and made more of a load.”
“I told them that they did what they could with the time we had,” Storrs said. “I am very proud of my students.”
He said this life lesson goes beyond the basics students learn through their curriculum and becomes an ethic of the need for cooperation.
The items donated were mainly food and household and cleaning supplies. The donations also included 58 pairs of boots.
Rathke said Storrs is one example of the many people who have reached out to help others impacted by the floods.
“We (the United Way) are getting calls daily from people who have collected items to donate to the disaster victims,” she said.
Rathke said she and her Heartland United Way staff then connect those who are wanting to donate to the relief officials coordinating the disaster relief effort.
“It is a great way to help,” she said.
The outpouring of help has been overwhelming — from a trio of Girl Scouts from Grand Island helping disaster victims by handing out Girl Scout cookies to the disaster relief volunteers in Dannebrog, to 1-R students collecting more than $1,000 in disaster aid.
“It has been a heartwarming experience,” Rathke said. “It is why we do this.”
She said her office is directing people to donate to the various flood relief efforts underway across the state.
“It is what Nebraskans do,” Rathke said. “Nebraskans come together to help other Nebraskans.”
She said more than 80 Nebraska counties have been impacted by the recent natural disasters. It is a relief effort that will go on for some time, simply because of the huge scope and the economic impact many of the rural people were facing prior to the March storms.
Along with the tremendous outpouring of help from Nebraskans, Rathke is also grateful to Storrs and others from outside Nebraska who have been willing to lend a helping hand.
“We need it,” she said.