ZUMBRO FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) — Many of the victims of the severe flooding in southern Minnesota this past September wish they could be home for the holidays, but three months after the devastation, most still have no place to go.
This holiday season a new non-profit organization called Zumbro Valley Disaster Recovery (ZVDR) set out to offer hope to families who’ve lost everything. The organization raises money and gives grants to homeowners who are suffering.
At the Millville American Legion Saturday, Christmas came early for more than a dozen families, where volunteers provided a turkey dinner, a visit from Santa and gifts for all the children. Many shared stories of grief, loss and support.
“We are trying to help people to have a new normal Christmas,” said ZVDR Co-Chair Kara Wallerich. “People need to move forward and need to see there is hope out there.”
Wallerich is speaking for herself, too. The flood damaged her photography business, “Moments by Kara,” on the main street of Zumbro Falls, which she opened exactly two months before the flooding.
Wallerich says only three people are living back in the town of Zumbro Falls, which was once home to more than 170 people. The town of Hammond reports around 10 residents currently, with a former population of about 150 people.
So Wallerich and many others went out to help people make new memories.
“It will be first year we haven’t had Christmas at our house,” said Sandy Heimerman of Jarrett. “I have been on the giving end for years and to receive is just awesome.”
Heimerman still hasn’t been able to move back into her house. The water rose to the second floor and her family was rescued by a boat.
“The problem is life goes on, it doesn’t stop, but we all came to a screeching halt that night,” said Heimerman.
Volunteers say 350 families in Wabasha County are working with disaster case managers from Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, who also helped sponsor the event. The agency reports nearly 80 families are still in temporary housing, many are waiting for loan approvals or buy-outs. They also estimate one third of the families have lost more than $100,000 in damages.
They say organizations are in dire need of donations for the flood victims still suffering. People who want to help can mail donations to the organizations below.
Zumbro Valley Disaster Recovery
P.O. Box 106
Zumbro Falls, MN 55991
(Serving all of Wabasha County)
Pine Island-Oronoco Long-Term Disaster Recovery Committee
c/o LSSMN Disaster Response Team
PO Box 7082
(Serving Olmsted and Goodhue Counties)
Gift cards for food, gas, personal needs and building materials can be sent to:
LSSMN Disaster Response Team
PO Box 7082
Rochester, MN 55906
These gift cards will be distributed by disaster case managers on a case by case basis and will be distributed to clients with the greatest needs.
All donations are tax deductible.
WCCO-TV’s Lindsey Seavert Reports