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Driftless Area shows generosity in flood relief fundraising
SG flood benefit Julie and Jeannine
JEANNINE HAMMEL AND JULIE RUEF of the Soldiers Grove American Legion were major organizers of a flood relief meal benefit held on Saturday, Sept. 22 at the Soldiers Grove American Legion Post #220.

DRIFTLESS - A number of area communities have gone into high gear raising funds for relief for local residents, who have suffered due to recent historic flooding.

A story like this can never begin to capture the countless ways so many individuals and organizations have contributed to flood relief. Here are just a few of thousands of untold stories of generosity.

All or most of the area communities impacted by flooding or nearby hosted drop-off locations where concerned citizens could donate cleaning supplies, food, water, clothing and more for families in need.

Ryan Campbell, who now with his wife Crystal owns the gas station in Soldiers Grove, started a GoFundMe site for flood relief donations after the first of the two ‘Labor Day 2018’ floods. He raised $5,600, so $5,300 (the amount less fees charged by the website provider) have been divided equally between Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove Volunteer Fire Departments.

A consortium of groups put together a multi-band and informational presenter benefit at the Historic Temple Theater in Viroqua. Funds raised for flood relief at the event totaled more than $42,000. Potential recipients can fill out a one-page application to receive a $400 cash grant.

Residents from the nine most affected communities of the recent flooding — determined by damage reports — have been targeted for assistance. Those include the ZIP codes of Chaseburg, Coon Valley, rural Westby, La Farge, Ontario, Readstown, Viola, Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills.

Applications for the grants have been distributed to key personnel in each community at village and town halls, libraries, churches, community centers and other such community gathering places. Applications are also available from and at where donations are still being accepted.

The ‘Fight the Flood’ concert event featuring two-dozen acts at the Oktoberfest Grounds on Friday, September 14, exceeded their $150,000 fundraising goal by $50,000 at last count.

Proceeds from the Fight the Flood effort will be distributed through the Rotary Works Foundation, and flooding victims can apply for funding through their local Rotary Clubs. Here is the contact information for clubs in the western Wisconsin counties hit hard by flooding:

Vernon County: 608-619-0011;

Crawford County: 608-412-3110;

Monroe County: 608-633-0627;

Richland County: 847-274-9063;

On Saturday, Sept. 22, a ‘Soldiers Grove People Helping People Fundraiser’ was hosted by American Legion Post 220 in Soldiers Grove. The State Lions Club donated the entire cost of food for the event, so all proceeds will go directly to families in need.

Proceeds from the event were “a little more than $11,000 as of Tuesday, Sept. 25, with more expected to come in yet,” according to American Legion member Julie Ruef. About 250 chicken and hot dog meals were served. Julie Ruef and Jeannine Hammel were credited with being the major organizers of the event. Ruef said the proceeds would be distributed by consensus of the organizing committee to hard hit families in Readstown, Soldiers Grove and Gays Mills.

The Liberty Bar held a benefit meal on Sunday, Sept. 8. The event featured free food and a free will donation for those who could afford to donate to flood relief. The event not only raised $94.15, but fed flood-weary residents of Viola and surrounding rural areas on a beautiful sunny day.

The funds raised by the event have been donated to the Viola Volunteer Fire Department.

The Vernon County Fair Board made the decision to make both Wednesday and Sunday of this year’s fair a free gate admission day to allow everyone in the community, especially those families that were impacted by the flooding and those that helped them, have an opportunity to have a couple of enjoyable days at the fair.

Driftless Brewing of Soldiers Grove has made donations to the Gays Mills and Soldiers Grove Fire Department, and plans to contribute a gift basket for the flood benefit coming up on September 22 in Soldiers Grove.

The Community Kitchen in Gays Mills, led by Jill Riggs, has been providing meals for area residents impacted by flooding. In addition, they have been preparing and sending meals out to other communities that also suffered in the floods, demonstrating what an excellent community resource shared use kitchen is.

Upcoming events

On Saturday, Oct. 13, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Readstown, there will be a flood relief benefit featuring three or four musical acts, food, raffles, live and silent auction and kids games.

Jay Hoffman and John Ward of Soldiers Grove will head up the musical lineup, followed by a country band, tbd, Joe Cody, and then Annie & the Champ (High Mileage plus a few more).

Food will be served by Pat’s Corner Bar, and will include a roasted hog, grilled chicken, brats, hot dogs and salads.

A free will donation will be asked.

WDRT radio in Viroqua (91.9 fm) is holding a fall pledge drive Sept. 17-23. Five percent of funds raised will be donated to Bethel Buttik for flood relief. To pledge, go to, or call 608-638-9378.