It’s been seven months since heavy rains produced a flood in the area. And people are still dealing with the damage and restoration of their homes and businesses.
The local Flood Relief Fund has provided monetary help to 85 homeowners and 12 renters from donations that have been sent in. A committee of three members meets weekly to distribute the funds to those that apply.
The members of the group represent the three largest churches in Moose Lake. Cindy Carlson represents Holy Angels Catholic Church and has experience with the Mercy Foundation, Pastor Reggie Denton represents Hope Lutheran Church, and Wendy Sorvik is the pastor of Family Life at the Moose Lake Evangelical Covenant Church.
“Just because it’s not front page news doesn’t mean that people aren’t dealing with it every single day,” said Carlson at the meeting on Thursday, January 24.
“A lot of people think that it is over but for a lot of people it is not,” added Pastor Denton.
Case managers have been hired by Lutheran Social Services to help the flood victims in the local region to secure funding and other assistance. Sorvik explained that the local Flood Relief group works with the case managers.
People have been generous in sending donations to the Flood Relief account at the First National Bank. The total amount in flood relief donations has been $88,000, said Pastor Denton.
He explained how the fund was started.
“The need was identified and the city got behind it, along with Jerome Bennett at the bank,” said Pastor Denton. “The fund was initially set up under the city’s accounts but the city didn’t want the responsibility. They approached me at Hope and asked if we could have it under our accounts to keep it under a tax-free status.”
That was in July last year. The flood waters had risen on June 19-20 and receded over the next few days, leaving behind water-filled basements, flooded homes and businesses and the school that had been surrounded by flood waters.
The pumping station for the sewer system in Moose Lake and Barnum also flooded and failed, resulting in sewage backing up into basements.
Appliances, including water heaters and furnaces that were in flooded basements, had to be replaced.
The newly-formed group wanted to help the flood victims and decided that they would use existing networks, such as the food shelf, to reach them.
They came up with an application process and made the applications available at places where the victims could pick one up, such as the bank and credit union, city hall and the area churches.
The group also decided that the Flood Relief Fund wasn’t just for people in the Moose Lake area, it was for victims from Rutledge to Cromwell, including Sturgeon Lake, Willow River, Kettle River and Barnum.
The donations started coming in.
“We started getting donations from various sources,” said Pastor Denton. “They came from all over the state and out of state. There were funds from organizations.”
People could also drop donations in jars at the local businesses.
The offenders at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Moose Lake also collected $108 for the fund. And $500 was received from the correctional facility in Red Wing because there was a correctional facility in Moose Lake.
The employees at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program also collected and sent in donations.
“We received lots of donations from people who said that Moose Lake holds a special place in their hearts,” said Carlson. “One woman sent $37 because she had been gone from Moose Lake for 37 years.”
“It added up,” said Pastor Denton. “Some only gave $5, others only gave a dollar. It added up to $88,000.”
The group defined their role in distributing the funds to the flood victims: To restore function and utility to homes, to keep the maximum number of living units in the area and, therefore, help area businesses.
In reviewing the applications, the group set the maximum donation at $750 for homeowners and $500 for the renters.
“The amount of $750 was nothing,” said Sorvik. “But people have been extremely grateful for that money. They say, ‘Thank you so much.’”
The funds are not given directly to the applicants.
“Whenever possible the checks have gone to the vendors,” said Pastor Denton. “That creates accountability for the funds and it helps the area businesses.”
Gift cards to stores in the local area were also purchased with the funds, if that was what the flood victims needed.
“We didn’t always give $750, we had to know the need,” said Pastor Denton. “We were keenly aware that it didn’t go very far.”
“We talked to people as much as we could,” said Sorvik. “We heard a lot of interesting stories. Some didn’t want to ask for help. The people that gave wanted to help.”
“People are still dealing with this a lot,” said Carlson. “It’s easy to forget that. We are humbled by how good people are.”
The balance in the fund is low. Donations are still being accepted. Send donations to the Flood Relief Fund at the First National Bank in Moose Lake.