Catholic organizations, parishes respond to damaging storms

Even with much work already done, helping hands remain extended after storms tore through southeastern Nebraska June 16.

Parishioners, members of the Knights of Columbus, Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) and Catholic Charities first sprang into action June 17, cleaning up homes and yards, providing places to rest and collecting money, one day after a windstorm and tornadoes struck Bellevue, Springfield, Omaha and other communities across 30 counties.

The food pantry at Catholic Charities’ Juan Diego Center in south Omaha helped seven families meet their needs after power outages destroyed food in their refrigerators.

And offers of assistance continue.

"If you’re affected by the storms, call us," said Deacon David Klein, disaster response coordinator and director of facilities for Catholic Charities in Omaha, which helps people of all faiths. "We’ll complete an application and see if we can help."

That help remains available months after a disaster, after insurance settlements and other aid is taken into account, he said.

Continued assistance also is available through SVDP, said Deacon John Huck, spiritual director and a longtime leader of the society’s efforts at St. Mary Parish in Bellevue.

People of any faith who lost appliances, furniture or other items to the storm, or are struggling to pay utility and other bills in the face of costly repairs to fences or other damage can get help from the society by contacting their local parish, Deacon Huck said.

And society members at St. Mary Parish have about $4,200 set aside for storm relief, after the parish held a special collection at weekend Masses, Deacon Huck said.

That collection came even as the parish opened its parish center and helped more than two dozen storm victims June 17-18 with donuts, other snacks and coffee, lunches and a place to charge cell phones, use personal computers and cool off in air conditioning, said Collette Borland, the parish’s business manager.

The president of the Ladies Guild, Kathie Bickerstaff, and members of a parish support group for mothers helped spark and staff the assistance, Borland said.

Volunteers remain available at the parish to help families as need arises, she said.

"It was a community coming together," Borland said. "I think we’ll keep coming together for a while."

Members of the Knights of Columbus at St. Joseph Parish in Springfield joined forces to help a brother Knight clean up after the storm destroyed part of the roof and a recently completed addition to his farm home, said Ralph Meister of Knights Council 10894.

Bob Green and his wife, Amy, also had extensive damage to trees, four grain bins and two large sheds holding a tractor, combine and other farm equipment, Meister said. Six Knights and the Green family spent all day June 24 straightening up the farm yard and taking tree limbs and metal out of nearby corn and soybean fields, he said.

Green said the Knights were the first group to show up and the last to leave, and he appreciated their help.

"It’s kind of who the Knights are," Meister said of helping. "I get a fulfilling feeling out of it. I’m sure the other guys do, too."

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