We tend to think of heroes as the ones in the spotlight getting all the praise. But sometimes, the real heroes are harder to spot. They’d rather go unnoticed and not seek out fame or applause. They are the humble heroes that do their good deeds quietly and consistently.
Valley Disaster Relief (VDR), located in central Iowa and specifically the Des Moines metro area, is a group of humble heroes that don’t seek the spotlight. Instead, they help those who need it most by providing assistance for families who can’t afford tree or clean-up services. It doesn’t matter if it’s from a natural disaster or an isolated incident; Valley Disaster Relief shows up to help.
VDR started with a hurricane. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, a group of volunteers from Valley Church in West Des Moines, Iowa, joined forces with the Poplar Bluff Chainsaw Unit and traveled down south to help with cleanup efforts.
“We loved what Poplar Bluff was doing, so after partnering with them on that trip, we were fortunate enough to fundraise enough money to buy some saws and other equipment,” said Dirk Roghair, director of VDR. “Two years after we went to help with Hurricane Katrina, VDR was officially up and running.”
For the first couple of years, VDR was sponsored by Valley Church, but for the past 14 years, they’ve been self-supported through annual fundraising and donations.
“If there was ever a need we had, like a need for a Vermeer mini skid steer, in just a couple of weeks, we’d have enough raised for it,” said Roghair. “In terms of monetary donation, it’s been over the top, and we are very grateful.”
Today, VDR is run by Roghair and co-Director R. Kim Dreher, and they have a consistent group of 30 – 40 people that help out with weekly projects in central Iowa. While they still offer disaster relief help, the majority of their projects include tree trimming and removal/cleanup.
“We did over 392 projects last year, which is the most we’ve ever done in a year, and our people are out helping almost every day and tackling multiple projects a week,” said Roghair.
Saving the day
With VDR handling tree trimming and removal, their number one priority is safety.
“We don’t want to compete with tree care companies,” explained Roghair. “They actually help support us by doing their specialty, whether it’s climbing or bucket work. Then we do the rest.”
VDR also makes sure that their team members are properly trained for the job at hand. “We require training on our Vermeer mini skid steer, Vermeer brush chipper and other areas so operators can cut, move and chip the debris properly,” said Roghair.
One of the stories that VDR likes to tell is of a man that just had double shoulder surgery, and there was a tree limb hanging down over his part of the sidewalk. A police officer came to his house to give him a fine for the tree limb obstruction, but when the officer learned about the situation, he was compassionate and didn’t issue a fine. VDR talked with the code enforcement office and were able to take care of the limb obstruction.
“It’s stories like these that show how the community can come together and help someone,” said Roghair. “We’re a Christian-based organization that loves our community and loves God, and at the end of the day, it’s more important that we lay a saw down and talk to the person than cut that tree.”
As they serve central Iowa, VDR sends out their team with the necessary tools and supplies to get the job done for each project. Most of the time, that includes two Vermeer machines, an S925TX mini skid steer and a BC1200XL brush chipper.
“When we were looking at equipment, what led us to choose Vermeer was that their values mirror ours,” explained Roghair. “It’s great to work alongside a company that has the same type of mission, where the focus is on the relationship.”
Roghair has also seen the value of having a Vermeer dealership close by to handle any issues. “Our dealer representative, Cody Mecham from Vermeer Iowa, is a super guy and always takes care of us,” said Roghair. “Any issues we’ve had equipment-wise, he’s gracious and helps get us back up and running if we need it.”
Overall, VDR has been impressed with their Vermeer equipment. “Vermeer makes such a good, quality product,” said Roghair. “We could’ve had a lot more issues if we were working with a different company.”
Ready to help
“When we say we’re going to do something, we want to do it,” said Roghair. “We try to be realistic with the manpower and capabilities we have.”
What ends up happening once a project gets underway is other little jobs pop up, as well. “We’ll start the job and then before you know it, we’re picking up two to three jobs in addition to the one we’re at,” explained Roghair. “Neighbors will see what we’re doing and ask if we can help them, too, so we usually do it onsite while we’re there.”
VDR isn’t picky about their volunteers either. “If you like hard work, we can use your help,” said Roghair. “It’s all pretty straightforward. We’re picking up a lot of debris which takes manpower, rakes and tarps, and we have these nice pieces of machinery that chip it up and take it to community gardens. Anyone can help, and we always like having more volunteers.”
With Vermeer equipment powering its project, VDR is eager to help their community however they can. “If there’s anything we can help you or your family with, let us know,” offered Roghair. “Trees are pretty amazing, but they can be pretty tricky, too.”
If you want to request assistance from VDR or learn more information about them, visit their website.
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