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Nebraska City News-Press - Nebraska City, NE
  • Locals lend a helping hand after Pilger twin tornadoes

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  • When the twin EF4 tornadoes hit Pilger, Nebraska, on the afternoon of June 16, first responders immediately arrived on the scene to help.  
    Within hours and over the course of the next few weeks, volunteers lined up to do what they could to help as well.  
    Several of those volunteers were from Nebraska City.
    Duane Koehlmoos, owner of the Nebraska City Brown’s Shoe Fit, took two days off work to travel to Pilger and help fit people for new shoes.“I had less than 24 hours of notice,” Koehlmoos said.  “I just packed up what I could in my truck and drove up there.”
    Koehlmoos, who figured out he is the fifth cousin to the Pilger Fire Chief, said Brown’s Shoe Fit recently started a charitable program called Shoes from an Angel.  
    Brown’s Shoe Fit partnered with SAS to provide more than 400 pairs of shoes and socks to tornado victims.
    “Some of these people lost everything,” Koehlmoos said.  “We heard unbelievable stories of survival.”
    Koehlmoos said Brown’s Shoe Fit and SAS were set to give out two pairs of shoes to each person, one dress pair and one work pair.  
    He said many of the Pilger residents declined the second pair, offering them to someone else in need.
    “We were able to outfit some of the volunteers with new shoes, too,” Koehlmoos said.
    Volunteers have spent the time since the tornado sifting through the debris left behind, sorting it into piles of wood, metal, and rubble.  
    Lourdes Central Catholic School football coaches Andy Fedoris and Mike Kearney took four students to Pilger during the last week in June.
    “I thought it would be a good experience for the boys, and it was,” said Fedoris.  “It was a good experience for me, too.  One boy said it was life-changing.”
    When asked to describe the experience, Lourdes senior Tylor Sturm said he saw a lot of destruction.
    “There were piles and piles of people’s belongings and houses just totaled,” Sturm recalled.  “But in that destruction, I saw hope and strength.  The people there were so kind and humble.  
    “It was also amazing to see what people can accomplish when they put aside their differences and work together.”
    Three members of the Otoe County Emergency Management team also volunteered.  
    They were stationed at the Wisner High School, registering volunteers and issuing ID cards for access into Pilger.
    Gregg Goebel, director of the Otoe County Emergency Management Agency, said his crew processed over 900 volunteers during their two days there.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Meeting all the volunteers, even if only for a short time, was very rewarding,” Goebel said.  “Volunteers from all over the country, young and old alike, showed up to help.”
    Koehlmoos summed up his experience by saying he would help again in a heartbeat.
    “I always feel you should give to your community as much as you can,” Koehlmoos said.  “Nebraska is just one big community.”

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