Erin Pulec sat at her home in Seward, watching online as the raging Niobrara River attacked Knox County on March 14. And then the Spencer Dam collapsed, sending even more devastation through the area.
Pulec, a 2007 graduate of Creighton High School and a 2012 graduate of Bryan College of Health Sciences, was immediately determined to help the area she called home growing up.
“Even then she called me saying she wanted to help people back home,” said her mother, Tracy Thompson. “It was still happening, and she was already talking about getting things together to help Knox County.”
Thompson was one of many who made the trek on Saturday from the Omaha/Lincoln area with a semi and small trailer packed full of donated items and delivered to Verdigre.
Erin Pulec, and her mother-in-law, Julie Pulec, organized the mammoth fundraiser with cooperation from the Seward Fire Department and Southview Christian Church in Lincoln.
“Hearing about the flooding in Knox County, it really pulled at my heart strings since I’m from here,” Erin said. “This was a wonderful place to grow up, and I know it’s super rural and over an hour from any major town with resources. I just felt a drive to want to come back and help.”
As soon as Julie heard Erin’s ideas, she was all in — and quickly enlisted the help of members of her congregation. Everyone wanted to help, she said, and quickly businesses jumped on board as well, making the donation even larger than they hoped for.
“I’m so amazed at the outpouring of help and support we got from the Lincoln community. The donations were overwhelming and the truck was full,” Julie said. “People are truly good and genuinely care about each other. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking.”
Erin, who is the daughter of Tom and Tracy Thompson and Brad and Dianna Best, said they hoped to fill a semi lengthwise but quickly filled it top to bottom and needed a second trailer. Julie said there will be a second trip in the future since even more items are being donated.
“It’s an amazing problem to have,” Erin said. “It’s incredibly overwhelming in the best way possible. I think we’re still amazed and in shock ourselves, and seeing people’s faces full of gratitude just makes us feel so good to help.”
Lines of people stood behind the semi on Saturday, carrying items into the Bohemian Lounge, which was being used to store the donations — toiletries, houseware, baby items, cleaning supplies, beds, sofas, tools, appliances and more were carried inside.
As if that wasn’t enough, Southview Christian Church members also served a hot lunch for people in Verdigre after unloading the truck.
“We have some amazing people from our church who put together a meal. We have a hot spaghetti dinner or loose meat sandwiches and lots of pies,” Julie said. “We have an older congregation and there's not a lot some of them could do, but they can cook and serve. That was their way, besides donating products, to help out.”