The Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund has opened a second round of distributions. Applications are welcome and encouraged from both new and repeat applicants.
The Disaster Relief Fund has collected more than $2.5 million, with 100% of the funds going to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
Both new applicants and previous recipients who wish to be considered for additional assistance should complete the updated application form.
"During this second round, we will be asking for more detailed information to help us better evaluate remaining needs and where our fund can help the most," says Megahn Schafer, executive director of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation.
"I want to say thank you to all of the individuals, organizations and companies who have contributed to the fund," says Steve Nelson, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau. “Your generosity has helped hundreds of people all around Nebraska. We continue to seek financial donations to meet the growing number of requests coming into the Disaster Relief Fund."
To donate, apply for assistance or access other disaster resources, visit nefb.org/disaster. Farm Bureau membership is not required to apply for or receive assistance. For assistance accessing the online application, call 402-421-4747.
The Disaster Relief Fund has helped connect donors from across the country. Take the recent example, involving a 6-year-old Utah boy, a bridge in Virginia and farmers in Cedar County, Neb.
It started with 6-year-old Kai Baldwin of Vernal, Utah. He saw a news story about the flooding in Nebraska and could not hold back the tears. "How will they get home and save their animals without a bridge?" he asked his mom. "We have to send them our money!"
Kai's mom, Kristin Forbis, researched a reputable source where a donation could be sent, and the pair invited friends and family to empty their pockets and add their change to Kai's piggy bank donation of $3.21.
The donations would be sent to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund, knowing 100% of it would be used to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
Kai set an initial goal of $60, gathering donations locally, while Forbis posted the fundraiser on her Facebook page. Ultimately, Kai raised $285.28. The check was sent to the Nebraska Farm Bureau Disaster Relief Fund, along with Kai's 'Dear Nebraska, I'm sorry you got flooded …' card and his hope that a bridge could now be fixed.
This is where Jesse Wise, who raises hay on 200 acres and raises cow-calf pairs near Culpeper, Va., comes in. He also owns Wise Services and Recycling, a scrap metal recycling business. A customer recently had Wise scrap a functional temporary bridge, and Wise decided to find a home for the bridge in Nebraska.
"I knew people were hauling hay to Nebraska; I didn't have enough hay to share, but I wanted to help,” Wise says. “So, I wondered if Nebraska could use the bridge we scrapped. Believe me, I had a lot of dead silence on the phone as I tried to find the bridge a home. It's not every day you get a call saying, 'I have a bridge for you, can you use it?'"
After running into several roadblocks, Wise called the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, which manages the Nebraska Disaster Relief Fund. The foundation began working with Cedar County Commissioner Craig Bartels, who lives near Belden, Neb.
"There is a good chance that at least two bridges, if not more, will need to be replaced in Cedar County," Bartels says. "We have several miles of road in Cedar County that are completely washed out and in need of repair. With all the rain that continues to fall, and all the mud, it is hard to fix those well-traveled roads, and now the less traveled ones are in need of repair, too."
Three months after floods devastated Nebraska, causing billions of dollars of damage, road crews are working hard to repair 3,300 miles of roads that were closed because of flood damage. According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation website, it is estimated that 27 state bridges were washed out or damaged. The number of county bridges damaged still is unknown.
It costs a lot to load a bridge and transport it across the country, but Wise put the pieces together. The cost to get the bridge to Nebraska is being split by Wise Services and Recycling, which donated the bridge; Neff Crane Rental, which donated its crane time to load the bridge onto a truck; and Read Transportation, which transported the bridge from Virginia to Coleridge, Neb.
"We thank them for their generosity and support of our rural community needs," Nelson says.
Talk of bridges had died down in the weeks leading up to the day Kai received a thank-you card in the mail from the Nebraska Farm Bureau with a note attached to call for updates.
"I was told that just days after receiving Kai's donation, the Nebraska Farm Bureau staff received a call that Mr. Wise of Virginia had a bridge to donate," Forbis said. "They immediately thought of Kai and after a few seconds of silence said to me, 'It's Kai's bridge!' and that left me just speechless."