You can still smell smoke and see the scar of the wildfire on the west edge of Benkelman. The memory of the wildfire that came so close to spreading into Benkelman if not for the efforts of the Benkelman Rural Fire Department and 13 other departments answering the mutual aid call after midnight on January 15. You can imagine what the list of life and property could have been if all those volunteer firemen and emergency responders hadn’t stopped the flames. If you want to say thank you once again and give back, here is your chance.
A group of local community leaders and individuals have organized a fund raising initiative focused on helping the Benkelman Fire Department get new bunker gear for its volunteers and for a county wide radio system for emergency responders. They are also hoping to raise enough to gift some money to the other 13 fire departments coming to help that night. There are several ways to get involved in making a donation.
Shane Sis of Benkelman, who is representing the organizers of the initiative, says a local $30,000 challenge grant has been issued by a local family, meaning that if $30,000 is raised they will give another $30,000 to the initiative. That’s the goal to raise $30,000 in donations. Sis, who is an insurance agent with Edgewater Insurance in Benkelman, and Mary Deyle, the Pinnacle Bank Branch President in Benkelman, have gotten their respective businesses to donate $1,500 each. Sis says that’s ten percent, or $3,000 total needed for the matching grant. Sis says they hope to inspire other local businesses to step up and make a donation. “We know not every business can make that size of donation,” He said. “Every dollar counts, and whatever a business can give would be graciously accepted.”
A second way to give is targeted at Benkelman, Dundy County, and Dundy County Stratton High School Alumni. They are challenging alumni to give to the effort, special “Miracle of 34” tee-shirts will be provided for the class and those class members donating the most. The Alumni Challenge will continue through until the Memorial Holiday weekend and the annual Alumni Banquet in Benkelman. Rob Humphreys, a member of the Benkelman Class of 1975, who is also on the committee of people organizing the initiative says, “I feel this event is a great opportunity to help our home town. I’m challenging all alumni that does not live in the tri-state area to step up to the plate and donate to this great cause. We would like to offer some friendly competition (with bragging rights) between the class years. When you donate, please put your class year on your check. If your class has the largest dollar donation in the end, everyone in your class wins a free (Miracle on 34) teeshirt. Totals will be posted during this fund raising campaign. Good luck to all ! I’m sending my donation in this week!” Donations can go to: The Dundy County Community Foundation (DCCF), Attn: Shane Sis, P.O. Box 606, Benkelman, Ne, 69021-0606.
The third way promises to be a lot of fun. On March 20 there will be what is being promoted as an “old-time firemen’s ball. There will be a meal from 5PM to 7PM and live entertainment to follow. There will also be a silent auction as well as a live auction for bigger items that night. People will be able to get their meal as a carryout or delivery. The meal will be “free will offering” and includes barbecue pork donated by Tecker Pork. Retired fireman Jerry Kisela is donating his time and expense to smoke the hog. What goes better with barbecue than spaghetti. Dr. Mike Downey is making his family’s homemade spaghetti sauce passed down from generations. There will also be homemade salads, sides, and desserts. Starting at about 7:30PM there will be Live entertainment with the band “Next Tuezday”. Next Tüezday band members are Janelle Irwin and Chuck Huwa and they have been musically influenced by a great variety of genres. They perform cover songs and our own originals. During the event there will be a live auction with local auctioneer Kiley Roundtree and a silent auction. The list of donated items for the auctions is impressive. The live auction includes: two, quarters of beef donated by the Roundtree family, a grill and grill kit donated by Ace Hardware, Husker Items from Seize the Daisy, a custom made Benkelman Strong Corn Hole set from Paul Downey, four steak packages from Dimond J Wagyu beef of Benkelman, autographed football and helmet from the DCS State Champion Football team, commemorative special Benkelman Fire Department Helmets from Hot Brush, signed Husker memorabilia, three guns from Paradise Ammo, Pleasant Creek Arms, and Jaeden Ammo and Guns. The Hall Closet is donating two pair of Redwing boots. That’s just the start. There are also many smaller items from the silent auction. There is also an individual raffle for five other guns to benefit the initiative. If you can’t make the event of March 20, individual donations will also be accepted. For more information contact Shane Sis at 308-340-6639.