COSGROVE — Sometimes it’s easy to forget there are people in a worse situation than your own. For Joe and Misty Christner and their kids, life took a turn for the worse when they lost their house in July and took up living out of a camper. Watching Hurricane Ida ravaging Louisiana on TV gave them a stark reminder that while they may be homeless, many other people were literally losing everything they owned to the winds and flood waters.
They knew they had to do “something,” but didn’t quite know what it would be.
Mason Burnett, one of the kids, said they came up with the idea of taking critically needed supplies to the victims. The next morning (Tuesday, Aug. 31), Misty said the plan suddenly gelled.
“We (the family) were on our way to school Tuesday morning and my kids had seen on the news a person carrying a rabbit out of the flood waters, and they were like ‘Mom, how are they gonna feed it?’ and we said we didn’t know. So, they said, ‘Well, let’s find a way to help. Let’s do something, let’s make a trailer full of stuff to take down there and help because they need help.’ That’s kind of where it all started, and it’s been a mushroom cloud since then.” Misty said she initially had reservations, given their own situation. “But…we need to do something. So, we just kind of built on that and we’ve really put forth the effort to just try to help other people. Perspective is everything. They have less than we do, and it’s a necessity right now.”
Within hours fliers and Facebook postings were going up soliciting food, drinking water, clothing, pet supplies, and other essentials for a Sunday, Sept. 5 drop-off day. The kids are members of the Cosgrove Hustlers 4-H Club, and the organization quickly jumped onboard.
“The Cosgrove Hustlers are known for volunteering and helping out. They’ve helped a family who lost their father at fair time; we built them a showbox. They’ve been known for donating to people in need. They’ve done a homeless project (recycling plastic bags to make comfort items),” said Mary Trimpe, an adult leader with the Hustlers.
Trimpe and Mason staffed a donation point in front of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Cosgrove while Joe (and others) took up a position at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, and Misty, Hayden Christner, Madeline Downes, Jordan Garcia, and Jaelynn Osborn staffed a site at the Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin.
Joe and Misty planned to take a full trailer to St. Tammany Parish (County) near New Orleans. Joe, Misty said, has family north of there, and they have friends in a rural part of the Parish, which is home to Slidell.
“It’s a really small and secluded community, and they get passed over on a lot of the bigger resources, the Red Cross, and things like that” she said. “So, we felt like going for a smaller community that sometimes misses out, or gets overlooked, was more important. We wanted to focus on a place that really needed the help.”
The couple was to leave at 3 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 5 and drive straight through (with a few short breaks) for about a 15-16-hour, almost-1,000-mile trip. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, after a night spent in a tent, they were to distribute the items before returning to Iowa on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
In addition to what people dropped off on Sunday, Hy-Vee donated 40 cases of water with an additional 10 cases from Fareway. Theisen’s donated $100, which Misty said they used in the store to pick out the items they felt would be most helpful to the victims. Metro Harley Davidson in Cedar Rapids donated $200 toward travel expenses, Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust provided gift cards, and Agri-Way in Kalona donated animal feed.
“It’s hard,” said Mason, “because being homeless, we know how it feels. And knowing that others are going through the same thing it’s nice to know we’re helping them out a little bit.”
“There’s always not a lot of help out there, and when you live in the situation we live in, you know what it feels like to not always know that people care,” Misty said, “So my kids really wanted to work on showing them that we care and we think about them and we want them to have resources and help, and know that there’s people that love them and care about them, and really just want to help.”