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When the March floods hit the area, the Norfolk Area Salvation Army was there to help people struggling in the aftermath.

People like Kathy Chatham, who lives north of Hadar with her husband. After their house became flooded, they called the Salvation Army and were promptly provided with food and Menards gift cards “to help put things back together,” she said. The Chathams had to be rescued by airboat and were without heat or water for three days.

“We lost everything in the basement, it was flooded,” she said. “We’ve lived there 20 years. This is the first time we’ve ever had anything like this. It was two months before we could move back in. We lived in a motel.”

The Norfolk Salvation Army, founded in 1989, serves Norfolkans in need five days a week with its free community meal program, and it helps dozens more with its other initiatives. It’s a local chapter of the Salvation Army, a worldwide organization providing basic and spiritual services since 1865, according to its website.

The Norfolk Salvation Army always tries to stay nimble when it comes to addressing community needs as they arise, said Jesus Trejo, captain.

“We’re always looking at what the need is so that we can tailor services to the community,” he said. “As we see those needs rise, we’re purposefully looking at ways we can utilize those resources, whether it’s food items or financial resources to meet those needs.”

Now there’s a local need for transportation-related funding assistance, he said.

“Especially with floods, a lot had to go a longer ways to get their kids to school,” he said. “A lot of people are spending more on transportation.”

The Norfolk Salvation Army addresses many needs with its diverse array of programs, which include lunchtime meals, a backpack program, Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas utility assistance, after-school programs, a thrift store and USDA summer feeding services program.

Trejo said dozens of community members are affected every day by programs like the food pantry.

“Right now we are seeing 30 to 35 families served every day through our food pantry,” he said. “There are about 60 to 65 individuals served in our hot meal program Monday through Friday … we’re seeing a lot of need.”

The United Way in Norfolk is an important community partner for the Salvation Army, Trejo said.

“I don’t want to say the number amount (for yearly funding); they help us out when it comes to helping families stay in their homes, pay bills, mortgages. They help fund our food programs,” he said. “In those two areas, if it wasn’t for their support, we’d continue to do those but it would be very difficult for us to do that.”

He implored Northeast Nebraskans to support the United Way if possible.

“Their money goes a long way when they give to the United Way because it stays local. It helps meet those needs,” he said. “Especially in a crisis like the Chathams. … United Way funding helps us take that burden off their shoulders.”

Donations make sure that the Norfolk Salvation Army can continue to help people who are dealing with the impacts of flooding long after the waters recede.

“It usually takes about 1 to 2 years to recover from a flood — wow, that’s a long time,” Trejo said. “You can’t just brush water away when it’s done so much damage.”

In other news

Two speakers at the Nebraska Farmers Union state convention at Divots Conference Center on Friday afternoon offered visions of the future of Norfolk and Nebraska, one highlighting positive change and another painting a potentially grim outlook.