“Doing what we can:” Massive fundraiser in Kenosha Co. to help victims of historic flooding

KENOSHA COUNTY -- A massive fundraiser is underway to help raise tens of thousands of dollars for victims of historic flooding in July. This, as federal agencies are preparing to offer a preliminary damage assessment -- after looking at homes, infrastructure and farmlands.

By mid-August, we should have an idea whether the total damage across the impacted area in Kenosha County meets the threshold for FEMA funding, but residents in Kenosha County aren't waiting for the government's help. They're offering financial support to their neighbors -- out of their own pockets.

Bella Vita Banquet Hall

There were wall-to-wall crowds at Bella Vita Banquet Hall in New Munster Sunday, August 6th. The hall hosted a massive fundraiser for flood victims. Items donated by local businesses and groups were up for auction in an effort to help those whose lives were swept away in July's rising water.

"For five days straight, I had the Fox River flowing around my house," Allen Dunski said.

On August 6th, weeks later, Dunski said he's still cleaning up.

"We pumped as much water out as we could, but the foundation did sink a little bit," Dunski said.

Bella Vita Banquet Hall

Bella Vita Banquet Hall

Organizer Brian Boeckenstedt said he hopes to raise $50,000 auctioning off items like inflatables and gift baskets. Money raised from a gun raffle alone raised $6,000.

"We're doing what we can and everybody else is doing what they can," Boeckenstedt said.

Meanwhile, FEMA dollars could help some get back on their feet. Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem) said 25 homes in the area sustained permanent damage, with an additional 1,300 in Kenosha County impacted in other ways.

Kenosha Co. flooding

Kenosha Co. flooding

"In a number of those houses, water went to their main level -- their living level --18 inches up," Kerkman said.

FEMA officials toured the damage, and hope to have initial estimates prepared by mid-August. Kerkman said residential damage would have to total $8 million before federal aid would kick in.

"Their life, a lot of times, in those early days, was on their front lawn," Kerkman said.

During the fundraiser, flood victims said they were moved by the generosity of others. Every dollar and every neighbor made a difference.

"There are a lot of people out here that -- if you dig it out of them -- they care about people," Dunski said.

As of 9:00 p.m. Sunday, we learned $30,000 had been raised, and organizers were still tallying the funds.

The money raised will be placed in a pre-existing fund at The Sharing Center for victims specifically in western Kenosha County. If you'd like to donate online -- you can do so by CLICKING HERE.