Once news broke of a fire burning through the Tyson meatpacking plant in Holcomb, locals sought out ways to aid those affected, many turning to local nonprofits.

Three weeks later, those organizations — Finney County United Way, the Garden City Salvation Army and Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas — are still offering services or determining the best way to help.

In the aftermath of the fire, many groups and individuals have sent funds to United Way meant to aid employees and their families, said Deb Oyler, executive director of Finney County United Way.

A local Girl Scout raised about $600 at a lemonade stand and the Garden City High School football team raised a little over $1,100 at a car wash, which was then matched by Wichita attorney Devaughn James. The Hawk Pantry at Horace Good Middle School held a fundraiser the week following the fire, ultimately raising $1,125 for Tyson families, said coordinator Deanna Clark.

All the groups donated the funds to the United Way in order to help those affected by the fire, Oyler said. Including additional individual donations and $700 that United Way raised on Facebook, the organization received more than $6,000 for the cause, she said.

Now, she said, the next step is determining how the funds help locals the most. Since Tyson is paying its full-time employees their normal rate for 40 hours a week, that may mean using the money to help other affected residents, like families connected to local feed yard and trucking industries.

“We’ve talked with different representatives out at Tyson and some of the other businesses and at this point, I think we’re still trying to identify what the needs are … ” Oyler said. “It’s more than just the Tyson employees. It’s everybody who is affiliated with Tyson in some way. So, I think as the rebuild continues to happen, the needs will present themselves. I think what we’ll do is then work with some of the other nonprofits in town to distribute the funds.”

Until that need and action plan is identified, the United Way will not collect additional funds for those affected, she said.

In the meantime, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army are still carrying out emergency relief to employees. Marci Smith, of Catholic Charities, said the local organization received a small grant from Catholic Charities USA to be used for rental and utility assistance for locals affected by the Tyson fire. The funds will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until the grant is used up, she said.

“They do not have to be Tyson employees. They just have to work somewhere that is affected by Tyson and can show that their hours have been affected,” Smith said in an email.

The organization has not taken any community donations thus far, Smith said. For more information about the services, call Catholic Charities at 620-272-0010 or visit the Garden City location at 705 Ballinger St,.

The Salvation Army partnered with the United Way in the initial aftermath of the fire, the United Way accepting monetary donations and the Army accepting food, said Lt. Chelsea Barnes, of the Garden City Salvation Army.

While there is no program in place specifically for Tyson employees or those affected by the fire, locals can take advantage of the organization's food bag programs, as well as fresh produce on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Barnes said. Since the fire, she said she’s noticed many Tyson employees attend the programs, potentially because of a temporary loss of overtime hours.

Locals can learn more by calling the Salvation Army at 620-276-4027 or visiting the office at 216 N. Ninth St.

“We’re just making sure that our pantry is stocked so that we’re fully able to serve Tyson and everyone else in our community … ” Barnes said. “It’s been really awesome seeing how the community has really come together during this time and continues to support and encourage one another.”

The nonprofit is still accepting food donations, Barnes said.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.