During the month of March, mid-western towns along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers battled unseasonably heavy rainfall and rising river levels. One area hit particularly hard by the flooding was northwest Missouri.
In late March, the Missouri River in the St. Joseph area crested at levels just below that of the historic 1993 flood. Heavy, above-average rainfall for the month coupled with snowmelt to the north were to blame. St. Joseph and Buchanan County issued mandatory evacuations near two levees that couldn’t hold back the waters.
I-29 in Missouri at mile marker 57 has been closed since March 19 because of the flooding in the area and subsequent repairs that the Iowa and Missouri Departments of Transportation have been doing along the border.
The last weekend in March, Special Olympics Missouri was set to host its largest state competition, the State Indoor Games, in St. Joseph. While the majority of the city was left untouched, many people in the surrounding areas were affected.
“While our pantry (in St. Joseph) didn’t see much of an increase (in people coming in because of the flooding), our pantries in Holt County and Atchison did see increases,” said Charity Tarr, food sourcing coordinator for Second Harvest Community Food Bank.
Special Olympics Missouri’s competition, March 29-30 in bowling and basketball, was set to bring in more than 3,000 athletes, coaches and family members to the area, when one coach from Hannibal, Kathy Butler, thought of a way her athletes could help people affected by the flooding.
Butler reached out to SOMO’s competition organizers and asked if it were possible to have everyone traveling into town from all over the state to bring at least one non-perishable food item with them.
“I kept thinking what SOMO could do to help as St. Joe has been so gracious to host our State Indoor Games,” Butler said. “Then I remembered the flood of 1993 and how my parents and I took donated food from central Indiana to Alton, Ill.
“My athletes, like all SOMO athletes, are very giving and loving people, so why not ask them to bring food to St. Joe to help others?”
Butler’s challenge to her athletes was communicated to everyone attending the State Indoor Games and in total, SOMO participants donated 662 pounds of food to the Second Harvest Community Food Bank.
“With this donation we were able to make disaster boxes for people who did come to the pantry,” Tarr said. “Because of your donation, 552 meals were donated to people displaced because of the flood. We greatly appreciate your support; thank you.”
Butler said she didn’t have any expectations in terms of how much food they would bring in, but when she heard the total, she was blown away.
“Special Olympics Missouri has touched so many lives through the athletes, volunteers, coaches and families,” she said. “How amazing that our SOMO family came together and gave back to a community who has had hard times.
“I hope we left an impact on the community, especially in our motto, ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’ Hopefully the area can be brave in the circumstances that they are in and overcome this situation.”