Local partnership benefits regional disaster-relief effort

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A faith-based disaster-relief organization that depends on partnerships found one in the Hillsboro area that should help victims of natural calamities in this part of the country receive assistance more quickly and efficiently.

Kevin and Angy Jost of Jost Fabrication, Austin Jost of Jostrux and Lonnie Hamm, a Hillsboro-based sales representative for Iowa-based Aluma trailers?combined with a generous grant from the Margaret A. Car?gill Foundation?have helped provide Mennonite Disaster Service with two new tool trailers for use in the field.

MDS describes itself as ?a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that responds in Christian love to those affected by disasters in Canada and the United States.?

The two trailers have already been dispatched to MDS units in Missouri and Arkansas, which combined with Kansas and 11 other midwestern states comprise Region 3 of MDS.

The local partnership began with an inquiry from the MAC Foundation, based in Eden Prairie, Minn.

?They found out about Mennonite Disaster Service, they liked our mission, they liked what we were all about and chose to partner with us,? said Al Kroeker. He and wife Jan direct Region 3?s volunteer-based efforts.

Region 3 was awarded a $100,000 grant from the foundation, to be used to acquire and equip trailers for carrying tools and other equipment needed for initial response as well as long-term assistance.

Kroeker said he sent out bid requests for aluminum trailers to a variety of manufacturers, including Hillsboro Industries. When HI company officials said their policy requires customers to buy products through a distributor, Kroeker gave Jost Fabrication a call.

?Kevin called me back and said there?s a salesman here who has the Aluma trailer,? Kroeker said. ?He said, ?I?m impressed with that trailer and I?d like for you to see it.??

The salesman was Hamm, who hitched one of the trailers to his truck and towed it to Hesston so Kroeker could look at it.

?Lonnie was committed,? Kroeker said. ?He understood what we were about.?

Hamm helped broker price concessions on the two trailers, which were then delivered to Jost Fabrication, located two miles west of Hillsboro, for the installation of brackets for adjustable shelving as well as hooks and racks to store a variety of tools and equipment.

Austin Jost was called in to do the graphics work on the trailers? exteriors.

?Mennonite Disaster Service has been part of our heritage,? Kevin said. ?I just really felt like it would be a good deal to be a part of making something happen.?

Kroeker said the price concessions the local partners initiated enabled MDS to increase the value of its grant dollars by 30 percent.

?Cargill was impressed by that,? Kroeker said. ?They like to see stewardship of their money and want to see it used wisely?just like we do.?

Each of the two trailers is valued at around $10,000, Kroeker said, and each will be loaded with a selection of quality tools and equipment?including air compressors and electric generators?valued at $22,000.

The tools will enable MDS volunteers to make a difference immediately when they arrive at a disaster site, and when they stay for extended assistance.

?We provide every tool our volunteers need to build a house from start to finish,? Kroeker said.

It?s been a full season for Region 3 this spring and summer, ranging from flooding in North Dakota and communities along the Missouri River, to tornadoes in a variety of locations, including Joplin, Mo., to range fires in Texas.

?The water along the Missouri River has been in flood stage for three months,? Kroeker said. ?It?s unbelievable.?

With the new trailers in tow, he said MDS volunteers will be better equipped to pursue the organization?s goal of ?responding, rebuilding and restoring.?

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