May 2015 was the wettest May in Nebraska history. On May 7, Southeast Nebraska recorded its largest single day rainfall in 110 years. In DeWitt, a small rural community of 570 residents 40 miles south of Lincoln, flood waters rose so quickly, the entire town was evacuated and sheltered overnight in a nearby school as nearly a foot of rain submerged roads, cars and homes.
More than 50 percent of the 250 homes in DeWitt were significantly damaged by the flood. This latest natural disaster follows a recent economic disaster. In late 2008, 300 people lost their jobs when the village’s largest employer, a manufacturing company started in 1924 by a Danish immigrant who invented the locking pliers known as Vise- Grips, shut down and moved their manufacturing facility to China.
But, like so many small towns in rural America, DeWitt is full of resilient, hard-working people committed to their land and their community. There was no question they would rebuild and just weeks after the floods, local community leaders met with state emergency and non-profit leadership to develop a long-term recovery committee known as DART (DeWitt Area Recovery Team).
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) Early Recovery Fund was on the ground in DeWitt by mid-June. Just a few weeks ago, one of the Early Recovery Fund’s former grantees, the Disaster Recovery Coordinator from Pilger, Nebraska, delivered two computers, a database and training, so local community members could input important confidential information about uninsured damages to homeowners and assess un-met needs.
The next step for this community, DART, and CDP was to fund a disaster case manager and supervisor who can now reach out to those families and individuals with un-met needs and help connect them to important resources. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, located in nearby Beatrice, Nebraska, received a grant from CDP’s Early Recovery Fund of $51,688 to begin disaster recovery work in DeWitt starting October 1, 2015.
This is only the beginning of DeWitt’s recovery journey. It will take many partners to restore this community and those who live there. Recently, DART sent out an urgent plea to state and regional partners to help them identify important resources needed to insure all those impacted by these devastating floods can be safe and secure in their homes before winter.
Much work needs to be done – many partners need to come forward – but no one doubts this town’s ability to get the job done!
To connect your resources to DART, please contact Gina Weise at firstname.lastname@example.org.