YANKTON, S.D. (AP) — Many teenagers would spend spring break catching up on sleep or spending time with friends.
However, 17-year-old Kylie Bos is spending it with her father, Jamie Bos, as the Michigan residents haul hay bales to various parts of flood-devastated areas of Nebraska.
Jamie Bos has performed previous runs for Farm Rescue, an org that benefits producers hit by major illness, major injury or natural disaster, the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reported.
For Kylie Bos, it’s a first-time experience. She was intrigued by her father’s commitment to help others. She also liked the idea of spending quality time with him.
“He made it sound fun,” Kylie Bos said. “I help him by making sure the hay is strapped tight to the semi.”
Jamie Bos sees his mission as helping those in need. “These producers have lost their machinery, livestock and buildings because of flooding,” he said.
So far, he has hauled hay from seven states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana and Nebraska. The names of the donor states are visible on signs and bales of hay.
On this trip, Verdigre has become the ground zero for collecting, transferring and transporting hay to hard-hit areas. Knox County, Nebraska, and its western neighbors have suffered tremendous losses of livestock, feed and fences, along with the prospect of little or no crop this year.
Initial estimates place Nebraska’s agricultural losses at $1 billion. However, that figure could soar as more losses are discovered and the full impact is realized for things like delayed or no planting.
Over the course of a week, the Boses have logged hundreds of miles, starting with their initial 12-hour trek from Michigan to North Dakota to pick up the first shipment of hay. They trucked it to Nebraska and have remained in the Cornhusker State for daily hauls of hay to hard-hit areas.
“We’ve gone to places like Hemingford and Fullerton,” Jamie Bos said. “At first, we were driving 700 miles a day. Now, we’re making shorter trips and are probably traveling 300 miles a day.”
Kylie Bos believes she has received rewards from the hay recipients far in excess of what the Boses have provided.
“The people are so friendly. If we stop to check our hay load, people ask if something is wrong,” she said. “And when we drop off the hay, the people are so appreciative of what we’re doing.”
The father-daughter duo are part of a staggering outpouring of support from across the nation. Tons of hay donations have poured onto the grounds of the Zim Metal and Welding business owned by Curt and Sherri Zimmerer. The business is located along Nebraska Highway 14 on the north end of Verdigre, a community of about 600 residents.
The Zimmerers are no strangers to the livestock industry. They owned the neighboring livestock sale barn for 23 years. The new Verdigre Stockyards owners have allowed use of their grounds for the arrival, transfer and transporting of hay rolling into the community.
The response has exceeded the Zimmerers’ wildest expectations. They enlisted the help of their daughter, Hannah Sucha, who teaches fourth grade at Creighton, Nebraska.
Sucha created a social media site that drew attention far beyond the original goal of reaching some local hay suppliers.
“Curt was looking for a few bales of hay to help (Verdigre farmer Willard Ruzicka and his family), and the whole thing blew up. I think it went viral,” Sherri Zimmerer said. “We started getting hay from all over the country. We were getting hay from Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas. I think the Kansas hay donations were (a repayment) because of the help that Nebraska gave them during the Kansas fires.”
One hay donation even came from Pennsylvania.
“We had a husband, wife, their baby and dog who were the first ones to come from Pennsylvania,” Sherri Zimmerer said. “Then we had another group who were part of (Lycoming County FFA alumni) group from that state. One of the trucks in their group blew a tire, and the hay started on fire. But they got it taken care of and arrived here a little after midnight Sunday.”
New Holland corporate members Koletzky Implement of Yankton and Dinkel Implement of Norfolk, Nebraska, paid for the freight and fuel to get the latter Pennsylvania hay to Verdigre.
Other groups arrived with more than hay, Sherri said.
“A Kansas group brought three envelopes with them and asked for the names of three individuals who had the greatest need around here,” she said. “When those three people opened the envelopes, each one contained $100 and a letter of encouragement.”
An Ohio group made the Nebraska trek after learning about it during their priest’s sermon, Sherri Zimmerer said.
“The priest talked about the Nebraska disaster and his own experiences growing up on a farm and seeing others hit by disaster,” she said. “The parish dedicated its offertory collection toward helping Nebraska flood victims, and they arrived with hay. They said, ‘There was something leading us here, and we came.'”
In another instance, a girl raised $4,500 within 24 hours to help the Nebraska farmers and ranchers. One man donated $5,000 directed toward the purchase of fencing.
The outpouring of support has become overwhelming and emotional, Sherri Zimmerer said.
“On Saturday, we had 25 semis in the parking lot at one time,” she said. “We found places for them. We had 10 trailers backed up, waiting to unload hay.”
The Zimmerers have also received loads of donations besides hay, requiring them to find storage locations on their property or in town.
“We started receiving supplies, things we didn’t even ask for. We were getting socks, boots, jeans and all sorts of other clothing,” she said. “We’ve even gotten veterinary supplies, pallets of dog and cat food, calf bottles and lick tubs. We could start our own veterinary supply store.”
For now, the Zimmerers are asking for donations to focus on hay, fencing, poles, barbed wire and cash for the purchase of such items.
Greg Rudoff works at the Zimmerers’ office and has kept track of the hay donations.
“We’re at 70 loads, which is what (Curt Zimmerer) wanted, and each load is averaging 30 bales,” Rudoff said.
The Zimmerers said they marvel at the non-stop volunteer efforts during the last three weeks. They pointed to Marvin Soucek, Kenny Vacok, Jeff Olerich and his dog, Ginger, as constant presences on the scene.
Sherri Zimmerer stopped for a moment of reflection, that perhaps the Zimmerers had been put in place to handle such an undertaking.
“We ran the sale barn for 23 years, and we sold it two months ago,” she said. “If we still owned the sale barn, we wouldn’t have been able to do any of it. It’s like there was a sign, telling us to sell the sale barn in order to make all this possible.”
Curt Zimmerer added that he has been inspired by others in the midst of disaster.
“There’s so much love being shown here, to total strangers. It’s hard to get your head around it,” he said. “We need to hear more stories of generosity like this.”
Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/