Doesn’t it just seem like one thing after another?
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than one thousand Iowans, and then we get hit by a derecho.
It’s been a trying year for folks across Iowa. The challenges we’re facing as a state, and a nation, are some of the toughest in a lifetime. But it’s in these dark times that the light can shine through. I believe in Iowans. I’ve seen your grit and determination throughout this pandemic and as we start to recover from the devastating storms.
I was over in Grinnell last week visiting with some community leaders about how COVID-19 and the derecho has impacted their work and lives. I got to hear the story of Julie Gosselink, a single mom of three who is the president and CEO of a local nonprofit, the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation. The Ahrens Foundation is focused on lifting up folks in the Grinnell community, with the motto: “Leave it better than you found it.” Julie’s passion was so apparent in the way she spoke about her work and emphasized the need to support organizations like hers. Whether it’s helping with food insecurity or creating new places of recreation in the community or just connecting Iowans with resources following the derecho and during COVID-19, local organizations across our state are always ready to lend a hand. It’s why I fought hard to make sure Iowa’s nonprofits were eligible for relief under the Paycheck Protection Program.
Over in Marshalltown—a community that is no stranger to natural disasters—I met with some volunteers at the local Salvation Army. These men and women truly do God’s work, volunteering their time to package and deliver meals to ensure their neighbors get a decent meal. And during this same visit to Marshall County, I got to thank some of our front line workers – our line men – who have literally been working around the clock to restore power to Iowans. Some folks have even traveled from out of state to help out. It’s remarkable how people come together during tragedy.
This same spirit of volunteerism is something I witnessed during the 2008 floods when I was on the ground in Cedar Rapids with the Iowa National Guard. Folks came together for the good of their neighbors and community, and they did it with a smile on their face. And that’s true of Iowans near my home in Montgomery, Mills, and Fremont Counties. We’ve faced significant flooding and damage – and while at the federal level I’ve been working with the Army Corps on recovery efforts and flood mitigation projects—my neighbors were taking meals to folks and just checking in on one another to make sure they were okay.
Folks, in times of need, Iowans will always help out their fellow Iowans. I’m so proud of our state and the way we respond to challenges.
Certainly, the federal and state governments play a key role in getting resources to communities and individuals to help with recovery. It’s what I’m working to do right now in the face of these storms and during this ongoing pandemic. But it’s individual Iowans who are lifting one another up. You make me proud to be an Iowan and humbled by the opportunity to share your stories, concerns, and challenges on the national level.
We might get knocked down, but us Iowans, we get back up, and we keep fighting, day after day.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.