Three weeks ago, a local farmer sent 34 bales of hay to a ranch in Kansas to help folks who had lost nearly everything from wildfires. He then called for help in getting more trucks, hay, straw and other necessities to keep their Midwestern colleagues going. And what a response it was.
Truckers, farmers and everyday folk from the Tri-State area responded to the Dave Traxler’s call and in the end shipped out 37 semi-trailers of hay, straw, feed and fencing from Montpelier.
To a driver, the reason for helping was because farmers in another state had lost everything and wanted to help.
The wildfires still aren’t getting much national attention from the media, but the farming community and the trucking community have come together to respond to those in need. While most of the donors will never meet the recipients, the givers believe the suffering are like family.
The situation is dire, Traxler said. The fires swept through 2 million acres, or twice the size of Williams, Fulton, Defiance and Henry counties. More than 17,000 head of cattle were lost to the flames. That’s enough to feed 100,000 people for a year, Traxler said. That kind of loss will impact dinner tables this summer, he said.
The response, while great, is only a band-aid on the problem. The 34 bales Traxler sent with trucker Daisy Delaney was only enough to feed 100 cows for a week, he said.
Still the response is more than Traxler ever thought possible.
“It exploded,” Traxler said.
He got together with people such as Logan Reese, Steve Knecht, Ward Gamboe, Adam and Alison Dauer and Joshua Meyer, to put together this latest convoy.
“At first, we thought we were going to have four trucks,” Traxler said, describing how quickly the response grew. The ring of giving expanded to some feed mills and, between some fund raising and donations from the mills, 20,000 pounds of feed were sent west.
“We had 23 semis lined up when we met (April 2),” Traxler said. “We ended up with 37 and we still had people calling offering to help.”
The night before the first convoy left, Traxler and some other went south to get some donated fencing, he said.
Area groups have been helping, including the 4-H and FFA. Traxler said. One FFA chapter had a small animal sale and kids were donating their change to the cause.
The outpouring of support shows no sign of letting up as Traxler said goods are still coming in.
There is enough supply for another run, but Traxler wants to talk to the truckers who have returned to see if there are enough to make another go.
The truckers donated their time and paid for their fuel, so donations could go to the relief efforts, Steve Knecht, a trucker from Montpelier said.
The time commitment for Traxler is adding up. Between his work and his farm, he figures he’s only been getting about two hours of sleep per night.
The main feed store supplying the convoy is four hours away, adding to his burden. But he’s not complaining.
The need for feed can be met if they can raise the money, Traxler said. A new problem for the victims has begun to creep up and that has him worried.
“People are getting down,” Traxler said. “They have to start getting their lives together.”
There are Facebook pages for the local effort and for the victims, but Traxler would like to see a letter-writing campaign to the victims start. These notes should be of encouragement and prayer, he said. “They need moral support,” Traxler said.
It’s interesting to note all the support so far has been a grassroots effort. The government doesn’t have a presence so far. The local farmers and truckers have led the way. “We just put on our boots and go,” Traxler said.
The relief effort’s successes can be credited to God as Traxler said he has put his faith in God.
While he has enough supplies to fill 5-10 trailers, he said the focus of the effort is moving into a new phase.
“Our goal now is getting them back on their feet,” Traxler said.
Anyone who would like to donate can contact Traxler at Basswood Farms or they can donate to a fund set up at First Federal. Checks should be made out to Traxler with Kansas Fire in the note line. “We need cash,” Traxler said.