DANNEBROG — “Nebraska Strong, Dannebrog Determined” is the motto Dannebrog residents have been following in their recovery from a flood that swept through the town in March.
Lori Larsen, resident and flood coordinator of Dannebrog, said that Dannebrog has recovered well from the floods, but there are still people living in campers and some businesses are still rebuilding. Even with the recent rain, Dannebrog has managed to maintain itself and continue recovering.
“I know there’s a lot left to do, and it will be a long-time recovering,” Larsen said. “I think Dannebrog is a survivor.”
The village of Dannebrog, dubbed “the Danish capital of Nebraska,” was heavily flooded in March. The damage included several downtown businesses and over 50 houses with flooded basements. It was estimated that businesses such as the Danish Baker and the Dansk Hall had about 18 inches of water on their main levels.
With the assistance of volunteers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Grand Island Community Foundation, Aurora Cooperative and the Christian Disaster Relief Fund, Dannebrog has been able to recover enough for its residents to continue their everyday tasks.
Larsen started the command center in Dannebrog at the Oak Street Manor where she maintained communication during the flood with Dannebrog residents, local and out-of-town volunteers and the village leaders. Larsen said she and her daughter run the Dannebrog Facebook page and that was useful during the flood to get information sent to everyone connected.
After a month of being reconstructed, the Danish Baker and Kerry’s Grocery both reopened their businesses on April 11. Tom Schroeder, owner of the Danish Baker, said he got new flooring and the walls were repainted. Schroeder said he had over 100 different people helping him recover his business during March.
Schroeder said locals from Dannebrog have worked endlessly to repair the village such as a local family that decided to clean up and organize the park. The village’s cemetery was submerged under water when the levee that was above the cemetery breached. A man in town took it upon himself to repair the cemetery that had many tombstones underwater during the flooding.
“The Memorial Day service was Monday and it looked good,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said support from outside visitors has been generous and helpful. He said one man donated $20,000 to Dannebrog from an online fundraiser he was doing for the flood-affected towns.
“It’s amazing how many people came out of the woodwork to donate,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder’s wife and Dannebrog’s mayor, Carol Schroeder, said that monetary donations sent to Dannebrog totaled $61,025.
“We have made a lot of progress,” Carol Schroeder said. “We are ‘Nebraska Strong and Dannebrog Determined.’”
Kerry Lauritsen, owner of Kerry’s Grocery, said everyone who volunteered to repair his store was very generous for stepping up and helping. His basement flooded and his cooling compressors were damaged. He said the only reason his store was closed for a month was because his compressor was backordered.
“Right after the flood, so many volunteers helped clean up,” Lauritsen said. “It’s everybody combined and I’d like to thank everybody.”
Unlike the Danish Baker and Kerry’s Grocery, the Archer Cooperative Credit Union branch in Dannebrog was reopened one week after the flooding in a temporary office to start helping residents with disaster loans. The assistant vice president of the Dannebrog branch, Jason McIntyre, said they offered very low interest loans so that people could get back on their feet.
“We opened for two hours a day just to take deposits and transactions for people during that second week,” McIntyre said. “Then the following week, we were able to get all of our electrical and plumbing back, all repaired.”
McIntyre said business is back to normal and they are just waiting for the contractors to finish the last repairs. Since many surrounding towns were also affected by the floods, it has been difficult to get contractors to Dannebrog.
“We appreciate all of the support from volunteers who came and helped us clean everything up at the time,” McIntyre said. “It’s been tough on everyone financially and emotionally, so we are here and we are here to stay.”
Despite the successes of recovered buildings and businesses, the post office, the community center and the Pawnee Arts Center are still striving toward being reopened soon.
Misty Garcia, the village clerk and treasurer, said her office has officially been transferred from the Archer Cooperative Credit Union to Dansk Hall, the community center. Garcia says the recovery has been a long process and it may take up to years, but volunteers and donations have been very helpful.
“We were able to qualify for individual assistance through FEMA, so they’ve been in and out of here helping setting up a station where people can go and talk to them,” Garcia said. “NEMA has been in and out of here helping with things too.”
Garcia said these past months have been a learning experience that she has not experienced until now and does not hope to experience again. She said that people can help out by sending monetary donations to the Archer Cooperative Credit Union.
The Pawnee Arts Center that was thought to not be reopening, may have the possibility of reopening. Although the center is still full of water and the windows are visibly humid, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma is still considering what they will do.
Gale Pemberton, the manager of the Pawnee Arts Center, said the Pawnee Nation is in charge of the Pawnee Arts Center and is waiting until their elections to determine the ultimate fate of the center. Pemberton said only about 20% of the artwork in the center was destroyed and the rest was either returned to the artists or donated to the center.
Pemberton said the Pawnee Arts Center will continue having programs in the summer and is having Walter R. Echo-Hawk do a presentation and book signing in August.
“We have established ourselves so well in the community and people come from all over for our programs,” Pemberton said.
Despite the flooding and recovering process, Dannebrog will still hold its 2019 Grundlovsfest this weekend. Larsen said this year’s Grundlovsfest is special because it is not only a celebration of the town’s Danish heritage, it’s also a celebration of survival.
“We talked about doing a butterfly release before the flood and now that has turned into a pretty good symbol of survival,” Larsen said.
As with the addition of the butterfly release, the festival will have a reunion of anyone who attended or graduated from the Dannebrog School. Larsen said there will be people from the older graduating classes and the youngest graduating classes.
Larsen said there will also be a food drive for the Howard-Greeley Food Pantry at the festival, so visitors can take non-perishable food items to the Archer Cooperative Credit Union. She said this is a way of Dannebrog giving back to the communities and people who helped rebuild Dannebrog when it was most needed.
Larsen said the residents of Dannebrog are grateful for the volunteers because they brought more than just assistance.
“They brought a spirit of happiness,” she said.
If anyone would like to volunteer or help with the Dannebrog flooding recovery, contact Lori Larsen at email@example.com.