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   from the issue of June 10, 2004


UNL workers Roger Simonsen of NET, left, and Bob Crisler of University Communications, right, help an unidentified volunteer carry an...
 UNL workers Roger Simonsen of NET, left, and Bob Crisler of University Communications, right, help an unidentified volunteer carry an organ from the site of the Hallam United Methodist Church on May 26.


Chancellor Harvey Perlman will host an informal reception for all who volunteered in the Hallam cleanup from 8-9 a.m. June 22 at the Champions Club. Anyone who joined the UNL cleanup efforts, assisted families and friends in their own cleanup, provided cookies and snacks for volunteers, drove UNL buses or helped staff the Emergency Volunteer Center is welcome to attend. Parking will be available at the Champions Club across from the West Stadium.

UNL helping with psychological healing

By Tom Hancock, University Communications

While volunteers have been clearing the way for Hallam’s physical recovery, Rose Esseks has been organizing resources to address the mental-health-care needs of those affected by the storm.

Esseks, who obtained her doctorate in psychology from UNL in August 2003, volunteers as mental health chair for the Lancaster County Chapter of the American Red Cross. She sends staff out each day to help storm victims and emergency responders deal with the storm’s aftermath.

On any day the team may consist of a psychiatrist, staff from Lutheran Family Services in Lincoln and Omaha, CenterPointe, a drug and alcohol treatment facility, the Lincoln Regional Center forensics unit, the Community Mental Health Center in Lincoln, and police and firefighter chaplains.

The mental-health volunteers help victims problem-solve and figure out how to connect to resources, Esseks said. They also let people know what the normal reactions to the storm are. Nightmares, being irritable, crying and having intrusive images at this early stage are normal, she said. However, many of the psychological effects on survivors and responders don’t surface immediately.

“You start out being very heroic and just being concerned with the people affected,” Esseks said. “Then you start realizing that no matter how badly you want to be there for everyone else, all of us can get by only so long on adrenaline and lack of sleep.”

The storm has also had an effect on those indirectly affected by the storm, such as relatives of victims.

“We have had some cases where a relative had his home destroyed, and the grandchildren or nieces and nephews are making the connection that this could have happened to them,” Esseks said.

The American Red Cross provides financial support and coordination, meeting needs for food, clothing and shelter, and they will remain in Hallam as long at there are open cases, Esseks said.

Esseks said she anticipates that the Lancaster County Chapter will continue its work after the national efforts end.

“The mental health response takes longer because at the beginning people are running on adrenaline. As time goes by, they then come to terms with what they lost. There will be people months or even years from now that will have the mental health effects, such as recurring nightmares.”

Other UNL faculty, students and staff helping in this effort are: Jim Cole, emeritus professor with the clinical psychology training program in the Department of Psychology; Mark Lukin, adjunct professor in psychology employed by the Lincoln Regional Center; and Srividya Iyer, Robin Chang and Carmen McLean, graduate students in the clinical psychology training program.

The Public Policy Center at UNL has applied for a grant on behalf of the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that support long-term counseling.

To donate, or to get help
The Lancaster County chapter of the American Red Cross is accepting donations for cleanup and rebuilding efforts. To make a donation, send checks payable to the American Red Cross to:

American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund
P.O. Box 83267
Lincoln, Neb., 68501-3267

Anyone needing more information, including anyone seeking help from the Lancaster County chapter of the American Red Cross, should call 441-7997.

Rewarding effort took teamwork

By David Fitzgibbon, University Communications

When Nebraska skies unleashed unimaginable fury May 22, Christine Jackson was supposed to be in Hawaii. Turns out she traded a tropical suntan for a warmed heart.

Jackson, UNL’s vice chancellor for business and finance, was to attend a meeting of her professional organization in Maui, but bad weather May 21 grounded some planes and a mechanical breakdown nixed the lone flight to the Denver hub.

It may have been serendipitous; after the tornados ravaged southeast Nebraska, Jackson was stuck at home pondering a big idea.

In the mid-1990s Jackson had just left a job at Oklahoma State University when a tornado hit Stillwater. She heard about her former colleagues pitching in to clean up the mess.

“I always remembered that wonderful gesture,” she said. So she wondered if UNL could do the same for our storm-stricken Nebraska neighbors.

Monday after the storm, Jackson visited Herb Howe, associate to the chancellor, with an idea: UNL would offer to send volunteer university employees to help with disaster recovery - on full pay. Howe caught Chancellor Perlman by phone in central Nebraska, where he was beginning a three-day speaking tour.

“This was the right thing to do and if our employees were willing we should support them in helping with the cleanup,” Perlman later said.

The governor’s office also liked the idea; the ball was rolling. UNL Police Chief Owen Yardley coordinated with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency. UNL Facilities Management and Planning and UNL Parking and Transit Services were brought on board.

The first call came late Monday afternoon: volunteers were needed Tuesday morning. Business & Finance staff quickly made calls, knocked on doors and sent messages on e-mail list-servs. At 8 a.m. Tuesday two buses left Lincoln with 75 volunteers.

Meanwhile, Perlman issued an e-mail detailing a plan, calling for help. The UNL community responded throughout the week, filling a Mail Services truck with Red Cross donations, arriving each morning with boots, gloves and tools, or bringing drinks and snacks for the workers. UNL buses shuttled workers south several times each day, then stayed to help move all volunteers where they were needed.

What surprised organizers was the great response, with no hesitation.

“I have never been prouder to be a part of this community than I am at this time,” Howe said. “Seeing the UNL community step out of its comfort zone to help our fellow Nebraskans says to me this is a community who is really engaged with our state.”

Jackson said she may have initially underestimated the impact the week would have on those who volunteered.

“It was uplifting to see UNL employees so thrilled and so proud of their university. I only had a simple idea and it took a zillion people after that to make it happen. It was fun to see everyone come together, really heartwarming,” Jackson said.

By the Numbers

UNL employees’ homes destroyed by tornadoes: 2
UNL employees’ homes with home damage from storms: 11
Cleanup volunteers: More than 400
People who volunteered three days straight: 19
People donating supplies: 49
People bringing cookies, drinks or snacks: 61
Miles accrued on UNL buses: 2,200
Cookies baked for volunteers: 2,400
Source: UNL Business and Finance estimates



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