Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sig Ep Steps in for Iowa Flood Relief

Deli meals nourish the flooded
By DAWN SAGARIO

Two thousand meals in four days.That's how many free meals Maccabee's Deli had donated from June 17 to June 20 to Des Moines-area flood victims and volunteers.

As the Red Cross planned to stop its feeding effort in Des Moines on June 21, those at Maccabee's Deli say they're prepared to help as long as they're needed.

"We are in it for the long haul," said Valerie Cohen, manager at the deli. "This is what we're here to do, as religious Jews. We believe that there are times that we are called to serve. We know that people need our help, and that's why we're here."

The work by Maccabee's Deli is just one extraordinary example of the countless ways Iowans are helping one another as a result of the flood.It's hard to quantify the magnitude of Iowans' willingness to help. But here's one statistic: About 3,470 volunteers have signed up so far on the United Way of Central Iowa's Web site, said Rachel Manuel, volunteer engagement coordinator with the United Way.

Approximately 1,800 volunteers were deployed to help sandbag in the Des Moines area from June 11 to June 14 alone, Manuel said.

"We definitely are excited about the number of people who responded," she said. "I wouldn't necessarily say surprised because we have a great community we live in.

"At Maccabee's Deli, workers and volunteers have been churning out complete meals every day by the hundreds, working with the Central Iowa Chapter of the American Red Cross to distribute them, Cohen said.

Other business have helped in the effort, she said, including donations from Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Rotella's Italian Bakery, Loffredo Fresh Produce Co. Inc., the Baking Company in Boone and Sam's Club.

More information about Maccabee's Deli work can be found at www.chabadfloodrelief.com.

Rabbi Yossi Jacobson, who runs Maccabee's Deli, said he hopes others will hear of their efforts and step up to help."If it keeps on going the way it's going, we're not talking about weeks, we're talking about ... to the end of the year," Jacobson said. "Food is not where it ends, but at least while people are watching their houses and lives fall apart, if they're eating something, it can touch their hearts. There are people who care."

AmeriCorps lodging
Kevin Teets of Sigma Phi Epsilon at Drake University got the call from the United Way of Central Iowa the afternoon of June 10. The agency was looking for lodging for about 20 AmeriCorps volunteers arriving the following day.

"The answer was immediately, 'Yes, we can house people,' " said Teets, house director and resident scholar.The fraternity was able to accommodate all of the volunteers, who stayed four days, Teets said. Teets cooked breakfast one morning for the crew, and Sigma Phi Epsilon also helped to pay for meals.

AmeriCorps member Nichole Nagl, who helped with sandbagging in the Des Moines area, stayed at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house for several days.

Having a place where the group could relax and rest was great, said Nagl, 23, from Huxley. "We were really thankful and happy that we did have somewhere to go."

Shelter for pets
Jeanette Olson got the call to evacuate her home on the southside of Des Moines the morning of June 12."The first thing I thought of was, 'What am I going to do with the dogs?' " said Olson, who has an Irish setter and two Jack Russell terriers. "I cannot leave them here."

Police officers told her that Greenbelt Kennels in Clive was taking in animals displaced by the floods.Olson, who is disable, said she called and talked to the business owner, explaining that it would be difficult for her to drop off her pets.

Employees from the kennels were at Olson's home by noon to pick up her dogs."It was wonderful that I knew that I at least didn't have to worry about them, and that they were safe," said Olson, 67.Her pets were returned to her on June 16. Olson paid $75 in fees. "For three dogs, I think that's very reasonable," she said.

The Animal Rescue League approached Greenbelt Kennels about taking in more animals after the rescue league got flooded, Greenbelt Kennels manager Mike Stahowick said.Stahowick said they took in 13 dogs and 10 cats from pet owners displaced by the flood. Those customers were given a 50 percent discount on the boarding fee."We were just happy to be able to be of assistance to people who were in dire need of it," Stahowick said. The Animal Rescue League also provided extra crates and assistance.

Jean Brown, owner of Greenbelt Kennels, said it took some extra work on the part of employees and herself, but she was grateful she could help. As of late last week, five dogs and two cats displaced by the flood were still at the kennels."There are times when I wished I could do it for nothing, but I had to pay the help for the dogs, at least," Brown said.