Mustangs Aid in Flood Relief Efforts

When Mount Mercy students, faculty, and staff heard of the urgent need for sandbaggers in the small town of Palo, Iowa on June 11, they immediately began organizing teams to lend a hand to fight the rising flood waters bearing down on that local community.

Dressed in green Mount Mercy “service” t-shirts so they were easily identifiable, the volunteers caravanned to Palo. Shortly after their arrival, the town’s mayor issued a mandatory evacuation for all residents – but the volunteers stayed in order to fill more sandbags. In all, more than 25 Mount Mercy volunteers participated in flood relief efforts in Cedar Rapids and the small neighboring community of Palo. The team worked tirelessly alongside many other volunteers, including Army and Air National Guard troops and other emergency personnel.

Collette Nefzger, a sophomore biology major from Cedar Rapids, was thrilled for the opportunity to serve others. “I had wanted to help before, and so when Mount Mercy began sending people I was like ‘I’m going!’” says Nefzger, a work-study student who was on campus when the caravans began departing with Mount Mercy volunteers.

Although food and drinks were provided and handed out, many volunteers found it hard to stop working. Jen Larsen, an Advance @ Mount Mercy student, continued to move sandbags as she ate a sandwich. Larsen is new to the area and simply wanted to help where help was needed. “I know if it was me I’d love for people to help. It’s a great way to bring the community together,” she says.

Brenda Steinke, coordinator of recreation and wellness, helped sandbag with her husband, son, and nephew the previous day. For her, showing young people how to reach out to others is important. “We have to be of service to others, it’s just something we have to do,” says Steinke. “We wanted the kids to understand why we do these things.”

Other volunteers felt the call to serve for a different reason. Michelle Snitselaar’s parents were affected by the devastating tornado that ripped through Parkersburg and surrounding areas in May. Providing service to others is now a little more personal for her. “You should just be there to help people because they need it,” says Snitselaar, Mount Mercy’s nurse.

Despite the continuous rain, the Mount Mercy team stayed upbeat and positive, often competing with each other to see who could fill the most sandbags before all volunteers had to be evacuated due to the rising waters. The team headed back to campus in order to assist with preparations for the Air and Army National Guard members who would arrive on campus that afternoon to assist in the flood relief in downtown Cedar Rapids.