The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Red Cross, locals helped to relocate families from 9th Street Apartments

 

After the 18 families living in the 9th Street Apartments were displaced by the storm last Monday, agencies both statewide and local came together to help them.

Ron Leal, region 21 emergency manager, contacted the Red Cross to let them know about the storm and that there was an apartment with 18 units which were not safe for residents.

"We responded by getting our emergency response vehicle, ERV," said Shelly Penner, Red Cross, spokesperson out of North Platte.

Penner's territory extends all the way to Wyoming. Penner and her volunteers arrived in Sidney around 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Leal contacted many of the residents of the condemned apartment to meet the Red Cross workers at the Days Inn in Sidney.

"We provided shelter and food and comfort to 10 of the 18 people that had apartments," Penner said. "They were able to get out their clothing and belongings and things like that but, it's kind of scary when a disaster hits, not knowing where you're gonna sleep that night. So providing shelter and food and then comfort and assistance is important."

The Red Cross has a strong presence around Nebraska, but communities forget that its service are available when those in that area haven't needed help for a while, Penner added.

"There's times that we're sorry that something had to happen, but it's also a good time for people to remember that we're here to assist those in need," Penner said.

On Wednesday morning, Penner and her team followed up with clients to help them decide what to do next.

"They're a little bit shell shocked," Penner said.

The city helped provide contact information for other apartments around town, so the building's residents could find a place to stay.

Penner praised the helpfulness of Leal and emergency manager John Hehnke during the storm.

"The city and region should realize what great teamwork they have in those two gentlemen," Penner said.

Many other individuals and organizations offered assistance last week as well.

"It always is heartwarming to see the people that come forward in a community," Penner said.

Sidney Regional Medical Center, the local Salvation Army and Cabela's have all provided assistance in some way.

"Red Cross always provides immediate shelter, and food and needs," Penner said. "And then we start partnering with the community, and this community has been one of the best we've ever worked with. We will leave knowing that they're in good hands."

The Days Inn allowed the Red Cross set up its center there.

"Our goal is to get everybody back in their own living space, back into their own apartment as quickly as possible so they can go on with their lives," Penner said.

All those displaced by the condemned building found shelter, but not all with the Red Cross. One of the families already had a location, but the Red Cross helped them with food. The organization made sure that everyone from the building was accounted for.

All of the Red Cross funding is through public donations, it doesn't receive any federal funding. Those assisted by the organization receive a client assistance card, which allows them to purchase food. Donations can be made at the Red Cross website or can be mailed to the local office.

"Our funding stays local," Penner said. "We keep track that it stays local. It's very important to me that people know that 92 cents out of every dollar donated goes back into the field for service delivery. That's huge for a nonprofit."

City officials determined that those from the 9th Street apartments were the only ones who needed Red Cross assistance in Sidney.

Penner helped out in the Sidney area in the past, mostly assisting victims of single family fires in Lodgepole and Chappell.

"Our number one disaster in America is single family fires," Penner said.

The Red Cross is trying to gain more members in this area.

"We are in the process of building a stronger volunteer team here," Penner said.

Sidney currently has two volunteer members and Chappell has two as well. These people can respond immediately until other team members can get to people who need assistance.

"Our Red Cross team, they are all so compassionate, they are all so willing to help, and lend a hand and be there in those times of need," Penner said. "We provide the shelter and the food and the clothing but sometimes they just need a friend to talk to, or somebody to help them plan what's going on or somebody to listen, a shoulder to cry on."

Red Cross volunteers need a varied skill set to function in all aspects of their jobs.

"So, a lot of heart and time given by these volunteers," Penner said. "And our hearts go out to the people who are displaced right now. Thankfully the community and the Red Cross have been able to partner to help them through this time."

Even if the owner is able to fix the apartment building, it won't happen overnight. These people will need a place to live for the near future and this is hard to deal with, especially around a work schedule, Penner said. Many of the displaced residents also have small children, she added.

"It's always hard when you're displaced," Penner said. "And not knowing what's happening right now."

The Red Cross set up shelter through last Friday and the Salvation Army was available help displaced persons if they didn't have a place to stay by that time.

"The Salvation Army's kind of like us," Penner said. "If somebody needs help, they're not gonna turn them down."

Lee Meyer, out of Hastings, was one of the ERV drivers who came to Sidney last week. She first started volunteering with the Red Cross after hurricane Katrina.

"It's been a very helpful community," Meyer said. "Everyone's coming out of the woodwork here."

Meyer responds locally, state wide and nationally to disasters.

The local Salvation Army is open to provide extra food and shelter for additional days, but those in need must come to the store and apply for assistance, said Sharon Torres, with the local office.

"We'll do as much as we can," Torres said.

The SRMC has also joined in the effort to help those displaced by the storm. The hospital had a large fundraising effort to collect donations for those affected by the tornado in Moore, Okla. that took place in May.

"Me and Susan thought we should give to our own community and take care of our own," said Tammy Durkee, one of those heading up the donation drive at SRMC.

The building manager at the 9th Street Apartment and various Cabela's groups have expressed interest in helping out with donations as well, Durkee said.

"We were thinking, we did it for the Oklahoma tornado victims and we should do it for our own backyard," said Susan Fullerton, who is also helping with donations at SRMC.

They decided to take up a collection of dry goods because those in the building probably lost electricity, and therefore most likely lost food, Fullerton added.

The drive will go through Thursday at 5 p.m. Donations can be dropped off at the entrance of SRMC. Any extra donations, not needed by those displaced by last Monday's storm will be left with the Salvation Army, to distribute to needy people in the area.

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