By D.P. Heard, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 26, 2019
Members of the community stock shelves at the Sarpy-Cass Disaster Resource Center April 4, 2019, in Bellevue, Nebraska. The counties were heavily impacted by flooding in early March. (U.S. Air Force photo by D. P. Heard)
While one-third of the installation was impacted by flooding, countless community members lost their homes and two Sailors from U.S. Strategic Command have made it their mission to help.
Petty Officer First Class Erick Tellin was approached by Petty Officer Second Class Joseph Sousa III who had seen the devastation of the flood waters in the local community and wanted to aid the victims - Tellin was on board.
They started by reaching out to several helping organizations in the community to see if they could provide manual labor assistance. The newly formed Sarpy-Cass County Disaster Resource Center in Bellevue said they had enough volunteers in that aspect but could use help with gathering donations.
The Sailors quickly changed their plan and got to work. A co-worker donated a moving truck and their goal became to fill it.
They placed donation boxes in every entrance of USSTRATCOM. Within one week, they collected approximately $2,000 worth of donated goods from push brooms to diapers to freezers.
Although they only managed to fill half the truck on their first trip, they haven’t given up and plan to make a mass drop–off to the center once a month as community members will be in need for a long time to come.
Their next drop-off date is May 15 and the Sailors are looking to expand their operations outside of USSTRATCOM in order to reach their goals.
“Our biggest hang-up right now is spreading awareness beyond USSTRATCOM to the other units on base,” Tellin said. “I believe that by spreading the word, we can make a bigger difference than we are right now.”
Initially, the center’s need was for water, food, diapers and other baby items. During their first drop off, the Sailors were told shovels and brooms were also in demand.
It was during that same visit that they saw some of the community members the donations were going to and they said it was a humbling experience for both of them.
“It was hard watching members of his community in dirty, torn up clothes going through the aisles,” Sousa said. “Some were in tears as they picked items they needed from the shelves.”
To make a donation outside of USSTRATCOM, call (402) 294-3400. The donation truck is located in USSTRATCOM’s lot six and the Sailors will unload vehicles.
For direct donations, the Sarpy-Cass Disaster Resource Center is located inside the former JC Penney store, on the southern of the Southroads shopping center at 1001 Fort Crook Road, suite 250. It also serves as a flood-relief distribution center for those who are in need of supplies to aid in clean-up efforts.