CEDAR RAPIDS — Melissa Ruzicka and her6-year-old son Gage were in a car wash when the derecho hit Cedar Rapids Monday afternoon.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “We thought we were going to die. My son was curled up on the floor in the back seat, praying we’d survive.”
As with many others in Cedar Rapids, Ruzicka lost everything to the storm. Her house and garage sustained significant damage, three cars were smashed and, because the power was out in much of the city, all the food in her refrigerator and deep freezer had to be thrown away.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “We’re all just trying to take it day by day and figure out where we can find gas, supplies and food.”
Food is what brought her to Taylor Elementary School in southwest Cedar Rapids Thursday afternoon where the Hy-Vee grocery chain and the Hawkeye Area Community Assistance Program, in connection with the city of Cedar Rapids, joined to hand out food and water to those who need it.
Both organizations will hand out food again at 11 a.m. Friday at the Veterans Memorial Stadium Parking Lot — 950 Rockford Rd. SW in Cedar Rapids — and both organizations said they expect to have more supplies to offer.
Hy-Vee Community Relations Director Kristy Stake said the grocery chain was able to provide 140,000 bottle of water and 80,000 protein granola bars, which were distributed Thursday at four locations — the Oakhill-Jackson neighborhood, Taylor Elementary School neighborhood, the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s Ladd Library and the Marion Village in Marion.
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HACAP also handed out bags of fresh apples and oranges, boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios and gallons of milk.
The biggest frustration is no hot water, Macie Davis, who lives on C Street SW and 14th SW, said as she was waiting to get fruit, water and fresh veggies during a food distribution Thursday at Jane Boyd Community House.
“I’m spending too much money on ice to keep food,” Davis said. “We do have a deep freeze at a friend’s house who has a generator.
She and daughter, Ariah Adams, were hoping to obtain a few food items and a contact list of resources that the city is handing out during the event.
The first event Thursday was at the Jane Boyd Community House. Families could drive through and receive fresh fruit, milk and cereal from HACAP, while Hy-Vee was providing water and snacks and Feed Iowa First was handing out fresh veggies from its 26 urban gardens — all locally grown.
Emmaly Renshaw with Feed Iowa First said they came to Jane Boyd at the last minute. They were out on a daily distribution and learned of this city event. She said it worked out well because one of their coolers was out, so they needed get the vegetables out before they go bad.
Many driving through said this was a “godsend” because they are running low on food and some said they couldn’t afford what they’ve lost due to the power outage.
Stacey Hunt, who live in Jane Boyd neighborhood, said she the food situation has been especially tough because she has a two-year-old daughter.
“She is sick of eating canned peaches and pears,” Hunt said.
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She and her mother were hoping to find out how to get a hot meal. She didn’t know what kind of food was being distributed Thursday.
Addressing the food insecurity of her clients was a No. 1 priority for Angel Burns. A social worker, Burns tends to the needs of many families and individuals.
“I’ve just been running around, checking in on my clients and trying to get them what they need since this happened,” Burns said.
“I’m OK, my house is OK, my family is safe and uninjured, that’s what natters to me,” she said. “There are lot of people who got it a lot worse than I did, so I’m just to help where I can.”
And for Michelle Monahan, her boyfriend, Cody Marquette, and her four children who range in age from 4 to 10 years old, things did get a lot worse.
“We just survived a house fire on Friday and now this,” she said.
Monahan and her family were staying in a motel when the storm hit.
“The hotel had lost power and it was severely damaged in the storm so they kicked us out,” she said.
The family of six, plus their dog, are now staying a Marquette’s mother’s home — a one-bedroom apartment.
“We’re making it work,” Monahan said. “We’re just doing the best we can day by day.”
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