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A collaborative effort on Sunday is taking place in Columbus between several area and state organizations that are designed to assist those recovering from the state’s March flooding.

The Nebraska Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD) and its community partners are opening a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at the Columbus Fraternal Order of Eagles, 3205 12th St.

The MARC, from 1-8 p.m. on Sunday, is offering impacted residents additional aid and resources, including financial assistance for those who qualify, from multiple relief agencies.

“Our goal is to get resources and referrals to people in need, and anyone affected by the recent floods is welcome,” said Mark Lentz, community engagement and partnerships lead for the American Red Cross disaster relief effort, through a released statement.

The MARC brings relief resources and offers residents convenient access to agencies in one central location. The American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), The Salvation Army and the Nebraska Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NEVOAD) are just a few of the organizations that will be available at the MARC.

“It’s a place where people affected can come and get various types of aid,” Platte County Emergency Manager Tim Hofbauer said. “They can receive information on how to clean up, and just a lot of other good information … Some food boxes and cleaning supplies and other things will be handed out."

Hofbauer added that people in attendance will be eligible to apply for local benefits proved through the Columbus and Platte County Area Disaster Relief Fund.

In the upcoming weeks, FEMA Public Information Officer Thomas Kempton said that a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) will be erected in Columbus. With Platte County renters and homeowners on Wednesday becoming eligible for federal Individual Assistance aid, the DRC will serve as a site for people to apply for assistance, as well as have FEMA assessors scope their land to give them an idea of what they may be eligible to receive.

“We look at all of these communities affected and set up DRCs,” Kempton said. “The MARC is more about helping people get cleaning supplies, meeting volunteer agencies and receiving other food supplies. Our (FEMA’s) main focus is getting people registered (for assistance). There may be some Disaster Survivor Assistance teams there, though, who will be able to help with the registration process."

Those applying for Individual Assistance through FEMA have until the May 20 deadline. Kempton reiterated that the MARC isn’t only a resource for people whose properties were severely damaged.

“The MARC is not just for owners and renters, this is for everybody in the community,” he said. “Even if they just had their power out for a while of lost some food because of the flooding.”

Hofbauer said setting up sites like the MARC and DRC are natural steps communities take on their way to recovery.

“As disasters occur, you start seeing local response and other agencies and organizations coming together to start helping – that is the point we are at now,” the emergency manager said. “And as the cleanup finishes, we start rolling into long-term recovery."

That recovery, Hofbauer added, could take years to complete.

“I’ve talked to people who’ve been through severe flooding and they said they were dealing with issues five years after,” he said. “Us being so rural is a big deal, because we have so many people helping each other out and coming together. It’s something that’s very true for Nebraska in general.

“… So we really don’t know if it will take that long for us, but we do know that it will take multiple years to repair all of that farm ground that was damaged.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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