Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Minnesota Flood Relief

This has absolutely nothing to do with wine, but some things are more important than staying on topic. I spent this past weekend on a fly fishing trip in Wisconsin. While most of the trip was focused on relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, I crossed the Mississippi River for a day to assist in the flood relief efforts in Rushford, MN.

I'm not sharing this story to point out my do-goodiness, but rather to focus some attention on the plight of this river town along the Root. I went to Rushford thinking I would help clear up some downed trees, maybe help dry out a basement, or replace some moldy drywall. What I did instead was come to the realization that Rushford was in utter ruins.

Rushford is a small river town along the Root River in Minnesota, and it is not unlike any other small midwestern town. Main Street looks like every other Main Street I've ever driven down, in most ways it is a perfect picture of Americana.

I drove down a block where every single home on the street was condemned. Piles of trash (and by trash I mean everything the family owned) reached 8 feet tall in front of every home. Water heaters, pictures, beds, everything was trashed. As I understand it, most of these homes don't have flood insurance, and are relying on FEMA, volunteers, and other relief organizations for their recovery. While my overall impressions of the FEMA coordination center were very positive, I don't think recovery will happen without help. Chicago got hit with some of the same rain that Rushford did, and we felt some minor effects from the storms, but the people of Rushford lost their homes, their businesses, and in many cases their cars. These people are devastated.

Despite the devastation the spirit of the people in Rushford was strong. The man who owned the house we were demoing seemed to be in disbelief when I arrived. I asked him how high the water came, he responded that it "came over the hood of the truck", but noted that "it could have been worse". Overall the people displayed a resilience and a determination to move on.

If you want to help visit the United Way of Olmstead County. If you want to volunteer, but don't know where to start, call Nechama. They have the tools, the leadership, and the coordination to put a team of volunteers on the ground. They are a Jewish organization, but will take volunteers from all walks of life. This is not as massive a disaster as New Orleans, but on an individual level, it is just as devestating. I encourage you to help in any way you can.

Thanks for your attention, and we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.


Anonymous said...

I was impressed with your comments. We suffered severe damage to our home in Rushford from the August, 2007, Flood, and our home was demolished 4 weeks ago. We are now trying to figure out how we can afford to rebuild. Without the Volunteers who came and helped our in Rushford, things would not have been done as quickly as they were. A thank you is not enough, however, most of us have little more to give at this time other than saying THANKS.
The new saying in town is NEVER EVER GIVE UP!

razmaspaz said...

I'm sorry to hear about your home. From what I saw, I know you aren't the only one in the situation you describe. It sounds like you are in for a long winter, but I'm sure you'll be kept warm by the spirits of the others around you.

Your sentiments are right on. NEVER EVER GIVE UP. I'm sure the community will come through just fine, it will just take some time to heal.

I appreciate the thanks, and you should know that a thank you is more than enough. The experience I had was rewarding and enriching enough as it was, and your thank you is encouragement to do it again soon.