Bethel UCC disaster aid aims to help Iowans

Kirt Manion
Nebraska City News-Press

Nebraska City area residents and businesses responded to a call for help with a disaster aid drive organized through the Bethel United Church of Christ, 2400 Central Ave, Nebraska City.

   Pastor Keith Valenzuela said he followed news of the derecho storm, which devastated Central Iowa, and felt compelled to do something to help the people.

The derecho, which hit Aug. 10-11, resulted in wind gusts estimated to be over 130 mph for a period of over 40 minutes leading to devastation in Iowa towns like Marion and Davenport, leaving residents without power and in need of assistance.

Pastor Valenzuela said he felt media wasn’t covering the disaster as they should and that the residents of Central Iowa were forgotten as a result.

“I felt led to do something about it,” said Valenzuela.

The congregation of the Bethel United Church of Christ rallied together and spread the word of a donation drive through social media chanels. Other local churches responded. Area residents responded.

So did businesses, with Fareway and Walmart making donations.

All of the supplies filled an 8.5x16 foot trailer at the church. Among the donated items were everything from food and water to toiletries and all sorts of other items essential to people recovering from a disaster like the ones faced by Central Iowans.

Valenzuela said he was particularly touched by the donation of what could be best described as clean up buckets—buckets which contain a broom and various supplies for cleaning up. The donation was made by someone affected by the devastating Missouri River flood of 2019. Valenzuela said the resident told him that the Bethel United Church of Christ helped with flood relief meals at a time when help was desperately needed. That resident didn’t forget, Valenzuela said, and when the opportunity to donate arose, this resident wanted nothing more than to help and to pay it forward.

Once gathered, the donations were driven to Marian, Iowa, on Friday, Aug. 28, for distribution to residents in need. Valenzuela said the Bethel United Church of Christ was working with an organization in Marion called Eight Days of Hope.

The donations will be richly appreciated by a citizenry that will be in recovery mode for some time.

There are many examples of the devastation at Marion. A WMT (AM) radio tower north of Marion was brought down by what the National Weather Service estimated to be sustained winds of 130 mph.

Marion estimated to have lost half or more of their tree canopy from the storm. Professional arborists and state foresters urged residents to seek professional help for their tree damage, saying it could take months to clean up.

Many local businesses were forced to close, some indefinitely, due to damage.

Most of the city's roads to became impassible due to storm debris.

Without electrical refrigeration, food spoiled en masse while trash and recycling pickup has been halted until Aug. 31 due to impassible streets causing bags of rotting trash to line curbside, subjecting them to scavengers.