Flooding that struck Nebraska in early spring of 2019 changed a lot of lives – mainly for the worse. But one group of young people took the opportunity to rise to the challenge and make the worse better.
Upon hearing of the tragedy befalling families in the flood-struck areas near them, Lively Livestock 4-H of Cross County Public Schools in Stromsburg, Nebraska decided to honor the 4-H pledge in the most literal sense.
The first value they demonstrated was the Heart. They showed that they were concerned for others.
“The flood was being talked about in church,” said Colby Bolton, vice-president of the Lively Livestock chapter. “People were talking about what was going on and what needed to be done. We took it from there.”
Bolton said he heard about a family that had their cattle operation flooded out. He said the ranch had to have hay airdropped and they were feeding their cattle by airboat. That family became the focus of the club’s efforts.
Another 4-H value is to use the Head for decision-making, planning, organizing and problem-solving. Chapter president Amy Pohl, Bolton and 4-H member Haley Hirschfeld spoke to their families about their goal of organizing a relief effort to solve problems the family was facing.
The club members decided to contact local businesses for support. They planned to gather donations at the Tractor Supply store in town and fill trailers with those donations.
Several other groups came forward to offer assistance, Bolton said. The FFA chapters from Centennial School in Utica, Heartland in Henderson, and FFA members from Osceola, McCool and York made themselves available. Even players from the York football team helped load the collected donations .
The outpouring of support was awesome. Not only did local businesses and citizens help, contributions came in from across the country, Bolton said.
“Donations came from all over; Texas, Ohio, Kansas and Kentucky,” he said. “We had a couple of calls from Sweden.”
In addition to Tractor Supply, Orschlen Farm and Home Store and the Aurora Cooperative made large gifts including more than $4,000 in fencing supplies. Chances “R” restaurant and lounge in York donated lunch to the hard workers.
“The job they did was huge,” said Amanda Hackenkamp, the Cross County High School agriculture teachers and 4-H faculty advisor. “It took less than a month to get it all together.”
The next value the club members displayed was Hands. Literally and figuratively. They volunteered their time to load the multiple trailers needed to carry all of the donated supplies.
Even while the students were loading the supplies, donations were rolling in.
“People shopping that day would also buy stuff for us and drop it off as they left,” Bolton said. “They would just push up a cart full of things and leave it.”
The Lively Livestockers eventually filled two semi-truck trailers with pallets of feed, five cargo trailers and flatbeds with hay and one 36-foot and one 20-foot Wilson trailer full of fence posts and supplies. There were also numerous pick-ups with odds and ends and car loads of students in the mile-long convoy that made its way to the Wolfe Ranch in Richland.
After unloading the supplies, the students stayed on the help the ranchers repair fencing, remove debris and store the massive amount of hay and feed. Later that summer, Bolton and a crew went back to the ranch and clipped their 4-H calves.
Overall, the group raised tens of thousands of dollars that went into helping the Wolfe operation as well as the Verdel and Ruzicka families in Verdigre. The club held another fundraiser after the York County Fair that year.
That would complete the cycle with the value of Health: The demonstration of character and ethics.
“People are still dealing with problems from that flood,” Bolton said. “We still have a few donations. In fact, we just got another check.”
To contact the Lively Livestock 4-H Club, visit their Facebook page.
Jon Burleson can be reached at email@example.com.