Picture a rainy, cloudy day. The sky is a pale gray. Torrents pelt down like ball peen hammers. Suddenly, a man twirling fire walks through the rain, then a clown parades through the puddles. A line of cars slowly forms to watch the performance.
This is not a dreamscape; this is the positive change that we envision at Nebraska Children, of which we’re delighted to take part. This scene is Fremont, Nebraska’s Reverse Parade, one of their COVID-19 Task Force’s efforts to organize an essential item drop-off while entertaining the community, come rain or shine.
We’re glad to be a part of the Task Force! As believers in change occurring through community engagement, we’re among the partners who contributed to this effort.
Steph Gardeman, the Fremont Family Coalition Central Navigator, is among those involved in this ongoing initiative as well. Steph is one of many Central Navigators across Nebraska. Steph’s responsibilities extend beyond even the recent task force.
People like Steph are responsible for meeting with families and youth who are facing challenges. Thanks to her and other Central Navigators across the state, Steph puts families and youth in touch with the right resources so that they can thrive. As you can imagine, this streamlined process is much easier and more personable than families having to contact multiple services and organizations.
For Steph, the Reverse Parade held significance. This event featured a drive-through parade and performers including a fire-twirler and clown. As families drove through, they also dropped off essential items while volunteers picked them up for later distribution.
“The Reverse Parade was huge,” said Steph. “It was a horrible, wet, sopping, rainy Friday afternoon, and there was a line of cars! Everyone stepped up to contribute,” said Steph.
Steph went on to say that community’s pooling of resources was truly impressive.
“Everyone of every socioeconomic class was there,” said Steph. Whether a family dropped off one can or a dozen, Steph said that everyone stepped up.
“They dropped off everything,” said Steph. “Food, diapers, and puzzle books.”
The task force originated as a much smaller group which sought to replicate the design of 2019’s collaborative flood relief efforts. We’ve since jumped on board with the partners to meet via Zoom once a week and address the following opportunities:
- The availability of public health, federal resources, and funding
- Discern the number of people and families utilizing nonprofit supports
- Discuss and address emerging needs and programs
A drive-in carnival was one of the task force’s efforts. This event speaks to a community’s innovative and strategic thinking, while creating a better Nebraska.
We and the task force continue to do more. They have leveraged community resources to gather material to create surgical gowns to address the needs at hospitals. Can openers have been provided for food boxes and grant funds have been allocated to help residents meet rent and utility costs and to restock LifeHouse’s food pantry.
Steph envisions a productive future for her community. “I would like to see our community doing what we’ve been doing, with people stepping up to help out. Some families live like this every day – if we can sustain these efforts for one, or even five years down the road, we will become a Giving Community!”