Long before evacuees ever walked through the door, members of First Lutheran Church were preparing to serve as a shelter team.
Melting snow and ice, along with some rain, has caused flooding throughout Dodge County, leading to evacuations and road and school closures.
The Rev. Marty Tollefson, lead pastor, said more than 30 church members are part of a shelter team. Members are trained to help in cases of emergency.
Tollefson said he got a call at about 1 a.m. Thursday from Region 5-6 Emergency Manager Thomas Smith, saying the church was needed as a shelter. Tollefson began calling volunteer shelter team members.
“We opened here at about 1:30 a.m.,” Tollefson said.
Approximately 36 evacuees would come to the church’s mission center, which includes a large gym. Firemen brought a few people from the Emerson Estates area. Others came from Inglewood.
Evacuees were asked to fill out a form with pertinent information about themselves and asked to sign out if they left.
At about 11 a.m., only 15 people were in the gym.
Shelter team member Judi McKenzie said one evacuee went home. Others went to work or to stay with relatives.
Rita Christianson, a shelter team member, said they learned Katie the Comfort Dog would be available if the shelter needed her.
Christianson also said the shelter will call the Dodge County Humane Society for evacuees bringing in pets.
“Some of the earlier ones (evacuees) brought their pets and we had to take them to the Humane Society,” said shelter team member Rick Strong.
The shelter team has been in place for about three years.
McKenzie and Christianson said shelter team members attend training sessions to help out in case of a disaster and are CPR-certified.
This is the first time the shelter team has been utilized.
“We’ve had all the training, but never used it until today,” Strong said.
McKenzie said she got a call at 7:45 a.m., asking if she could help out.
“I showed up for another activity here at the church this morning and pastor asked me then if I could take a shift as long as I was here,” Christianson said.
Shelter team members work anywhere from two- to four-hour shifts.
“They’ve already got overnight people,” Christianson said.
HyVee Food Store was scheduled on Thursday to bring 30 meals for lunch and dinner, paid for by the Red Cross.
Strong said he believes the shelter team effort is working well.
“You feel sorry for these people, because they had no place to go,” he said.
“Somebody even came in with a jug of their own milk,” Christianson added.
Strong noted something else.
Shelter team members aren’t sure how long they’ll be needed but will help out until all evacuees leave.
Tollefson said he had no trouble getting the shelter team members to come in to help, adding that the mission center primarily was built to be a blessing for the community.
“We’ve been preparing for this moment,” Tollefson said. “It’s hard to call people at 1:30 in the morning, but we signed up for this – for such a time as this. That’s what you do when people need you. We’re here for the community.”