Emerging Leaders Help With Sandbagging Efforts


BY: GENEVA NODLAND, nodlandge@mnstate.edu

After a long and snow-heavy winter, the FM area is preparing for the rise of the Red River. Fargo started with a goal of 1 million sandbags, and Moorhead started at 150,000. Although those numbers seem large, they are quite minor compared to the goal of 6.5 million sandbags for the 2009 flood.

Until Friday, March 29 Moorhead planned on continuing with the sandbag effort into the next week, but with surprisingly effective melting of the snow, both Moorhead and Fargo are backing off a bit.

MSUM does play a part in this process, although the campus is not directly affected by the river itself. Ryan Nelson, director of Public Safety, said right now there is no flood threat to campus, but students are encouraged to support the area by volunteering.

“The river waters are not going to reach campus. All of the levees and dikes and sandbags that they’ll put in place will protect us from that,” Nelson said.

He said the concerns are with sump pumps not working or drains backing up, but they are ready to respond if those situations arise.

Beginning March 18, a group of officials began meeting to discuss the situation and the reaction. The group includes Nelson, Heather Philips (director of Housing & Residential Life), Brenda Norris (executive director of Facility Management), Dave Leonard (Physical Plant manager), Alan Breuer (safety administrator of Environmental Health and Safety) and Kirsten Jenson (chief marketing director).

“We meet regularly throughout the weeks until the flood event or the flood threat is over,” Nelson said. “We identified some things we would need to do on campus in reviewing the flood maps, and I’m in constant communications with the city officials and emergency managers for flooding here on campus.

”In addition to meetings up to three times a week, Nelson has been in contact with the City of Moorhead Emergency Manager Chad Stangeland, who is also the fire marshal; as well as the City Manager Christina M. Volkers. Nelson said he is in daily communication with these officials concerning what MSUM needs or what MSUM can do.

“Most of the flood preparations for the city that we really need are volunteers to help the city fight the flood,” Nelson said. “It’s one way to support the community—kind of giving back if you will.” Dragon Digest has included information on when and where sandbagging volunteers are needed, encouraging students to take part. Nelson also reached out to Steve Fox and student groups. In turn, Fox and the student groups then reached out to housing, athletics and other groups.

“If someone did see it on Dragon Digest, we just wanted to make sure we are getting the word out there,” Nelson said. “That’s really where our emphasis is now … trying to keep Sandbag Central open for the city and with enough volunteers.”

However, more volunteers may not be needed, as Fargo has suspended sandbagging as of Friday, March 29 at 7 p.m. Moorhead followed suit and decided to pause operations at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 30 according to a press release on the City of Moorhead’s website.

Even with fewer sandbags needed, the Emerging Leaders group at MSUM offered their time Saturday.

Spencer Van Beck works with Steve Fox in the office of Student Activities and is the student organization and leadership assistant, co-orchestrating Emerging Leaders this spring semester. Van Beck is a freshman majoring in elementary inclusive education at MSUM.

Monday March 25, they attempted to get a head count on how many of the group were planning on volunteering for March 30. By Friday afternoon they had four confirmed volunteers who RSVP’d online.

“Last time it was kind of the same thing, where not all RSVP’d and then they showed up, and it went really well,” Van Beck said. “They’re great people, they’re great students, they love to lead and show by example, so I’m really excited for that.”

Their Saturday was supposed to entail a volunteer opportunity elsewhere, but after falling through, Emerging Leaders decided to respond to the sand bag needs instead.

“We knew that the city was kind of in a crisis, so we decided to help out with sandbagging here,” Van Beck said.

The members from MSUM Emerging Leaders assisted with sandbagging from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, capping the first community sandbag response to the 2019 spring flood.

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