Sebeka school transforms into relief shelter during Green Valley Fire
When a massive fire threatened the citizens of Menahga Tuesday evening, Sebeka Public Schools, the Red Cross and an assortment of average Sebekans stepped up to give shelter, food and comfort to their neighbors from the north, working late into the night and early Wednesday morning to make sure evacuees’ needs were met during the crisis.
“I was very proud of our community coming together,” said Sebeka Public Schools Superintendent Dave Fjeldheim. “A lot of people came to help support.”
For Fjeldheim the mission to provide aid began during a school board meeting he was attending when a nearby phone just wouldn’t stop ringing. After someone at the meeting finally picked up, word reached Fjeldhelm that there was a wildfire raging north of Menahga. Minutes later, the school board meeting was interrupted again by Fjeldheim’s wife coming in to say that the police had arrived at their home looking for someone to open the school for evacuees from the Green Pine Acres nursing home. Fjeldheim had the front and back doors opened, and by the time the school board meeting finished up, there were already evacuees and volunteers arriving, he said.
Food service staff from the school stayed until the early morning hours Wednesday serving sandwiches and cookies to the evacuees, and then came back after daybreak to serve them breakfast, Fjeldheim said. There were custodians that stayed the entire night, he added. Students from the school and other Sebeka residents also helped care for the evacuees. Fjeldheim said the Green Pine Acres residents were returned to Menahga starting at about 8:30 Wednesday. Between the elders from Green Pine Acres and other citizens from the Menahga area, about 125 people used the shelter, he said.
Carol Barthel, one of the Red Cross aid workers, said there were already about 50 local volunteers waiting to help unload the trucks when the Red Cross first got there in force. Randy Schatz, also of the Red Cross, arrived at Sebeka during the early morning hours Wednesday. Despite it being in the middle of the night, there were still about 25 local volunteers working at the shelter, he said.
Fjeldheim himself only got four hours of sleep Tuesday night.
“I’m ready to go home and take a nap,” he said Wednesday.