Kickapoo cleanup brings community together
Hard times build strong communities
When the flooding that devastated Southwest Wisconsin hit last August, the Kickapoo River Valley was struck hard. The most recent in a slew of floods to hit the area has taken an emotional as well as physical toll on the community.
With water levels more than six feet higher than ever recorded in the small town of Ontario, over 75% of businesses had major water damage. The fire department/village office was under 18 inches of water. The Community Center had six feet of water in it and will most likely be torn down. Several commercial buildings will almost certainly need to be torn down as well. Multiple homes had major damage and one has already been torn down. Thanks to the actions of local emergency responders no human life was lost, but the mental cost of losing such key physical parts of the community is high.
Amid this destruction, Scott Lind, a Mead & Hunt employee from the area, was moved to action. Scott and his wife Marla had recently moved to the Kickapoo River Valley when the August flooding hit the area. Luckily, because their home was built over 100 feet above the river, they were not physically affected. However, as an involved member of the community, Scott could clearly see the toll the flood was taking. This strong sense of community is what ultimately drove Scott to act. The Mead & Hunt Cares program was the conduit through which he was able to affect change.
Strength in community
Mead & Hunt Cares was designed to allow the company to support employees in a cause for which they have a personal investment or passion. For Scott, this was a perfect fit—his passion for the community he is part of easily translated into a project to clean the Kickapoo River of debris from the flood.
Mark Sauer, another Mead & Hunt employee, took initiative to create a clean-up team—and the rest is history. The project quickly snowballed as more and more employees joined the cause to assist local community leaders. “I have a hard time not getting involved in things like this, regardless of whether or not it affects me personally—it’s the right thing to do”, says Mark. “If something needs to be cleaned up, someone needs to do it, and we have to start somewhere. We’re all connected, and it’s really amazing the way Mead & Hunt offers individuals like me a way to better our communities.”
Thanks to Mark’s efforts, the Mead & Hunt community became so invested that the project qualified for Team Up For a Cause, which meant it could receive a grant from the company. This funding allowed the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, public land within the valley that has been a central focus to the cleanup effort, to hire a local logging company to remove a large walk-in cooler from the center of the river and remove log jams to make the river passable for canoers and kayakers.
Rising above hardship
The Kickapoo River provides a path through truly beautiful country. It is the epitome of the Driftless Area of Wisconsin with rolling hills and lush valleys. The topography limits industrial business options, so summer visitors are a large source of income for the area. Keeping the river as beautiful as possible is therefore critical from a financial standpoint. In addition, seeing people come together to rise above the effects of the flooding to actively move forward is a vital morale boost for the community.
According to Marcy West, Executive Director for the Kickapoo Valley Reserve,
“Immediately after the flood, we saw a great outpouring of support and help. As time passed, attention waned, and once the snow melted, residents and businesses had to face the cleanup all over again. Having people from outside the area come to help and the donation from the Mead & Hunt Cares program gave us the proper equipment and morale boost we needed to get ready for the busy season.”
Through these programs, we seek to empower employees to enact positive change within their own communities. The fact that so many of our employees were willing to get involved speaks to our strong company culture of taking care of each other. We believe that our positive influence should extend beyond the bounds of our company to make meaningful changes in communities nationwide.
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