Progress 2011: Flood FightersPublished 2:00pm Monday, February 28, 2011
NEW RICHLAND — The results from fundraising efforts to help folks in need after floodwaters ravaged the town of New Richland still astonishes Pam and Larry Goehring to this day.
Pam, chairwoman of the New Richland Benefit Committee, and her husband and right-hand-man of operations, Larry, spearheaded fundraising efforts, which have now topped $49,000.
“You can never underestimate the power of a community binding together to help each other,” said Pam.
Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, is a day most people of New Richland will never forget.
Twelve inches of rain fell that day, causing a drainage ditch that runs through the town to overflow. That same ditch flows into Boot Creek two miles west of town, and Boot Creek empties into the Le Sueur River three miles northwest of town. But the system wasn’t meant to carry this much water away from the city at once, resulting in flooding.
More than 125 homes were damaged, the New Richland Care Center was evacuated and several other businesses in town were temporarily shut down. Damages were estimated at $2 million.
Because the town is not considered a flood zone, neither the residents nor the businesses had flood insurance. Because insurance typically won’t cover damages from floods, this meant homeowners and small business owners would be paying for these damages out of pocket.
“We immediatedly thought people are going to need help with this,” Pam said.
The following Monday, she and Larry set up a flood-relief fund account at the State Bank of New Richland.
“Pam said we need to do a benefit,” Larry said.
The planning for the New Richland Flood Relief Benefit started immediately. Pam, who had assisted in only one other benefit for an ill classmate the prior year, got on her e-mail and Facebook accounts and began sending messages for help.
About a week later, Pam had formed a committee of people to help plan a benefit.
“From the very first meeting, we had a lot of individuals volunteer to help get food because they worked at Kwik Trip, Hy-Vee, Walmart and Mrs. Gerry’s,” Larry said. “By the second meeting, they had talked to their bosses, and we had all of the food donated.”
People who weren’t getting food donations were getting items donated for the auction and money donated to help.
“People just knew people who just knew people,” said Pam.
And while their efforts were to benefit the people and businesses of New Richland, they had local businesses in turn trying to help out.
“I said, ‘No, we’re trying to raise money to help you; we don’t want your donation,’ but they insisted,” said Pam. “It was just stunning to see the generosity.”
One local resident, an over-the-road trucker, solicited donations on his runs back and forth to the East Coast. The Facebook messages and e-mail messages begging people to donate “from the bottoms of our soggy hearts” resulted in donations and silent auction items from Florida to Washington, New York to Colorado and even California.
“We had a lot of items from the professional sports teams in the Twin Cities,” Larry said.
By the time of the benefit, Nov. 6, everything was in place, and everything from the food to the silent auction, live auction and bake sale items were donated. Pam said they ended up paying $200 for expenses incurred.
The surprises came all night long. More than 700 people attended the event. The bake sale alone raised more than $1,000.
At the end of the night, the Goehrings were astonished when they learned the event had raised $23,000.
“We were just shocked. We thought maybe $10,000 if we were lucky, but never dreamed it would be what it was,” Pam said.
The flood-relief fund set up at the State Bank of New Richland has topped $20,000 and continues to receive donations.
To date, the total money raised exceeds $49,000.
Pam said that 116 checks ranging from $115 to $1,000 have been doled out to people and businesses in New Richland. The New Richland Ministerial Association is in charge of divvying up the funds.
Looking back, they remember all of the work involved in getting everyone organized and coordinated.
When asked if they will head up another benefit in the future, Pam and Larry both let out hearty chuckles, in unison.
“If it’s for the right cause, we’d definitely do another one,” said Larry.
Heroes: Pam and Larry Goehring
Secret Identities: Pam is the chairwoman of New Richland Benefit Committee; Larry is retired and Pam’s right-hand man with the committee
Base of operations: 211 First St. NW, New Richland
Superpowers: They know a lot of people and were good at getting them all together for the New Richland Flood Relief Benefit in October.
Kryptonite: They had little experience with putting on a benefit.
Origin: Pam is originally from New Richland. Together, they have lived in the community for years and know many people through their involvement with a number of organizations, including the local food shelf. In just over one month’s time, Pam and Larry formed a flood-relief fund and organized the benefit to help those whose homes and businesses were damaged in the flooding on Sept. 22. Although the benefit was in November, they still receive donations to the flood relief fund. To date, their efforts have raised $42,200 to help the people of New Richland.