Aplington-Parkersburg High School (bottom) is damaged with the rest of Parkersburg, Iowa, on Monday, May 26, 2008, a day after a tornado struck the town.
For Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman, the tornado that destroyed much of his high school hometown last weekend has affirmed what he already knew about the community there: that people would come together as one to rebuild.
Kampman had driven to Parkersburg, Iowa, early Monday morning from Kansas City with his wife, Linde, and other family members to see the devastation that Sunday afternoon's tornado had caused. Hundreds of homes, his high school, a grocery store and a gas station were just some of the victims to the destruction.
Seven people were killed and about 50 others were injured in the town of about 1,800, including Kampman's 81-year-old grandfather, Claas, who underwent surgery at a nearby hospital in Waterloo and is improving. Despite all of this tragedy, Kampman is seeing the positives emerge.
"There is a real sense I think after the dazed looks that were initially kind of there, which is to be expected, of somewhat of a determination to continue to say, 'Hey, we'll rebuild,'" Kampman said. "They are proud people there."
Kampman, a two-time all-state selection at Aplington-Parkersburg High, spent much of Monday and Tuesday working a chainsaw and helping to remove trees and debris. He said there is currently rain in the area, including tornado watches, which has temporarily put some of the efforts on hold and why he returned for OTAs in Green Bay on Wednesday.
"Everyone is probably going to be sitting tight, because everybody is really with family right now and friends because there are no homes to go back to and it's a muddy mess as it stands," Kampman said. "Once it clears up, we'll get a better feel during the week again of what kind of opportunities there are, and then we'll speak again next week and assess what we can do."
Kampman, who is known to teammates and fans for his humble nature despite his Pro Bowl status, acknowledged that his popularity in the area and elsewhere affords him the opportunity to assist even more at a time like this.
"I am real careful never to use the position that we have been put in, we try not to use it for our own gain necessarily, but when you can do something like this where you get a chance to really help some people that you care a lot about, it is neat," Kampman said. "You feel like you have been put in a position for a certain reason, so yeah, that's a good thing."
And Kampman knows he is not alone in his desire to help, witnessing people who have lost so much willing to lend a hand to their neighbors.
"They're resilient people in that community," Kampman said. "It's a tight-knit group, and I tell you, there was a real spirit of camaraderie. People are fighting back to back, rather than trying to do it on their own. Neighbors helping neighbors, and they get their yard cleaned up, and then they say, 'Hey, how can I help?' People just walking up a driveway and say, 'Hey, what do you need?' To me, that is pretty special and it allows people to pull together."
*There are two options for people interested in providing monetary assistance to the tornado victims in Iowa:
1) You can call 1-800-588-7551 and make a donation to a local foundation that will distribute the gathered funds to the necessary needs of the people there. Please include 'Parkersburg Relief Fund' in the memo line.
The address for the foundation is:
Lincoln Savings Bank
Attn: Dave Ragsdale
932 Parrott Street
Aplington, IA 50604
2) You can send a check to the Salvation Army here in Green Bay and put 'Iowa Disaster' on the memo line and 100 percent of your donation will go to the local Salvation Army chapter in the Parkersburg area for assistance to those in need. You can also give online at www.salvationarmyusa.org. Click on the red 'Donate Now' box and make sure to put 'Iowa Disaster' in the specific use field.
The contact information for the Salvation Army of Green Bay is:
The Salvation Army - Green Bay Corps
626 Union Court
Green Bay, WI 54303
Telephone: (920) 497-7053
Fax: (920) 497-1006