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Communication is key

Over the last two months, representatives from a few dozen local organizations have connected regularly for quick teleconference meetings.

Mayor Corey Stutte refers to these remote gatherings as emergency operations center meetings.

Initially, the meetings took place six days a week.

Over time, the frequency slowed to once a week, on Wednesday mornings.

Michele Bever, executive director of the South Heartland District Health Department, said the communication is key and creates efficiencies.

“It’s really an important opportunity because not only are we able to share with a lot of key leaders and organizations that participate in a lot of different aspects of our community, but also hear from them what things they have been working on,” she said. “When we started out it was especially important then as we were ramping up in understanding what the disease was and what things we needed to do and to have consistent messages and to be on the same page was a really important opportunity for the health department, government officials and our community organizations.”

Stutte said when COVID-19 first became an issue in Hastings, there were a lot of questions.

“Working with the health department has been good in that respect as far as they’ve been able provide information regularly to this group of people,” he said. “Having nonprofits and having government folks as well as schools — everyone involved, I think, has really helped provide a sound response to the pandemic and brought some needed organization to what it looks like moving forward for our community.”

Phase 3 of directed health measures, released Monday by Gov. Pete Ricketts and set to take effect in the South Heartland District Health Department on June 22, was a major topic at the stakeholders meeting Wednesday.

Mikki Shafer, president of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce, had questions about how best to proceed with Business After Hours.

The chamber’s last Business After Hours event was in February. Since then, those already scheduled were canceled and the whole chamber calendar was put on hold because of COVID-19.

With the announcement of phase 3 of directed health measurers, which further relaxes restrictions, businesses began contacting Shafer and the chamber about once again holding Business After Hours.

“Each of the chamber members that were wanting to host functions were calling in making sure they were complying with the guidelines and making sure they were doing everything right,” she said.

She said Bever was a great asset.

Businesses want to do ribbon cuttings.

“We want to be there to help them but we need to be able to do it safely and by the directed health measures,” Shafer said.

She said when the stakeholder meetings first started they were invaluable because the situation changed so rapidly, every day.

It’s still good to hold the meetings, she said, to remain educated about changes such as actions coming out of the city or new rules from Mary Lanning Healthcare.

“Having that information available and making sure we’re giving it out correctly and not having to say ‘I didn’t know about that,’ that was the best part. We were in the know of pretty much every business leader that was making the decisions for our community,” she said.

Stutte said it’s been good to work with other community leaders to move things forward and discuss issues.

“We haven’t had a pandemic in our country in a long time,” he said. “Not since really the Spanish flu. So it’s been 100 years and it’s been one of those things where you’ve got to learn on the fly. We’ve tied it together and I think we’ve done a great job. I appreciate all of our community leaders standing together to make that happen. There will be a lot of lessons learned coming out of this. It’ll be interesting to see how things move forward after this is all done.”

Relay for Life goes online

Organizers for the Relay for Life of Adams County are hosting a week of virtual events to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

Shawna Crawford, event lead for the Relay for Life of Adams County, said they have changed this year’s theme to “Cancer hasn’t stopped and neither have we,” referring to the lack of public gatherings due to the novel coronavirus disease. The original event had been scheduled for June 5 at the Hastings College track.

“Cancer patients need us more than ever,” she said. “It is still very important. Yes, it looks different, but we can still have a lot of fun with it.”

Due to the pandemic, the American Cancer Society called off its live events and asked relay organizers to transition to online activities. Crawford said holding a live event may have put people at risk.

“Our people are very immunocompromised,” she said. “We at no way want to put anyone at risk.”

Organizers planned online activities for each day of the week, with some ideas coming from similar events held across the country.

“We’ve got a lot of opportunities for people to participate,” Crawford said.

On Monday, the virtual silent action went live on 32auctions.com. The Relay for Life of Adams County’s silent auction page can be found at www.32auctions.com/organizations/65089/auctions/81420?t=all.

This site allows users to set a maximum bid for an item, mark items as a favorite and more. Bids will close Friday at 5 p.m. Winning bidders will pay by going to relayforlife.org/adamscone and making a donation button to the Auction Team.

The Virtual Campsite Contest began Monday, inviting participants to decorate their yard, a room in their house, or some other area in a Relay theme. Participants can post pictures of their campsites and decorations to the group’s Facebook page until Friday. The Event Leadership Team will announce a winner the week after the event and a prize will be awarded to the winner.

Photos of previous Relay gear are being collected for the Vintage Relay Gear Contest that began Monday. Participants post photos of themselves wearing their oldest Relay shirts, pins, hats or other items, or a photo of the gear by Thursday for a chance to win prizes. The person with the oldest gear photo will win, or a winner will be chosen randomly if there are several pictures entered for the same year.

On Monday, organizers also asked for photos of people involved in the fight against cancer to highlight the American Cancer Society’s mission.

Team Challenge Tuesday invited participants to post pictures of teams from previous years Relay events.

Tuesday was also the start of the 72 hours of Giving Challenge where everyone was challenged to raise at least $72 in 72 hours.

For Walk a Lap Wednesday, participants were asked to take videos walking a lap and post it to the Relay Facebook page. The walk could be outdoors or inside a house.

Crawford said the walk is normally a large part of the event and they wanted to make sure to include it even though they weren’t able to get together in person.

“Walk your lap wherever you feel comfortable doing it,” she said.

They also hosted an Online Kahoot Trivia Fundraising event where anyone who donated could play for a chance to win prizes. Trivia questions focused on Hastings and the American Cancer Society.

For Throwback Thursday, they are asking people to share favorite photos from previous Relay events and explain why they participate in the event.

For Fundraising Friday, teams are asked to share fundraisers on their event page.

The Virtual Luminaria Ceremony will begin at 9 p.m. Friday on the event Facebook page. A video of the ceremony will be emailed out to all participants the week following the event. People with bags from previous years are invited to take photos or video of them and share them to the group’s Facebook page. They invite everyone to place luminaria on their porch or simply turn on a porch light at 9:15 p.m. as a symbol of remembrance, honor and hope for a future cure.

People can dedicate a Luminaria Bag or Song through https://secure.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=97107&pg=informational&sid=212807&name=virtual-luminaria.

Crawford said the Luminaria Ceremony is an important part of each year’s Relay For Life event because it provides the opportunity to remember those lost to cancer and honor survivors.

She said 25th anniversary commemorative T-shirts will be available through July 24 from the local business Small Town Famous at https://shopstf.com/products/relay.

Crawford said they hope to have a normal Relay event in August.

“If we are able to have an in-person event, participants will be able to have their shirts in time,” she said.

Fire destroys rural home near Ayr

RURAL AYR — Fire destroyed a home in rural Adams County early Wednesday morning after its two occupants escaped through a bedroom window.

Roseland Fire Chief Randy Klein said the couple was awoken around 12:20 a.m. by smoke detectors in a single-story home at 11735 Osage Avenue, about two miles west of Ayr. The smoke inside the home was too thick, so the couple had to leave the burning house through a bedroom window.

The couple called 911, but when Roseland Fire Department arrived, visible flames were seen coming out of the roof.

“By the time we got to the house, it was fully involved,” Klein said.

Roseland Fire was assisted by Blue Hill Fire Department and Hastings Rural Fire Department stationed in Ayr. The fire was under control by 3 a.m.

Firefighters were called back to the home shortly after 8 a.m. when the fire rekindled but were again able to extinguish it.

Klein described the home as a total loss.

There were no injuries reported in the incident. The fire was contained to the home and didn’t involve any other structures.

The Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office is investigating to determine the cause of the fire.

Adams County treasurer's office reopens

After closing June 4 when one of the employees tested positive for COVID-19, the Adams County Treasurer’s Office reopened Thursday, June 18.

The area surrounding the office is well marked to promote social distancing.

The June 4 closure came one day after the treasurer’s office reopened for the first time since March 27, when the county temporarily suspended public access.

At the Adams County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Supervisor Scott Thomsen, who chairs the county’s buildings, grounds and equipment committee, said the courthouse was running like a clock during that one day of operations.

Two lines extended to the street of customers waiting to do business at the treasurer’s office.

Thomsen gave county maintenance supervisor Tom Reichert and his employees a lot of credit for the efficiency of the operation.

“Tom and his crew just did an amazing job to keep those lines moving,” Thomsen said. “The treasurer’s office will reopen again and we will be prepared again, so things run as smoothly as possible.”