Sunday, May 27, 2007

Auction firm still standing in Greensburg

From the day of this terrible tornado our thoughts have been with Scott Brown and his company.

Here is a post from the Antique Trader Blog by Mark Moran

GREENSBURG, Kan. — News reports following the devastating F5 tornado that flattened this little Kansas town often cited the estimate that 95 percent of the community is gone. As the owner of one of only three businesses still standing, auctioneer Scott Brown said that figure is about right.

“My sign got ripped up, but the building is OK,” said Brown, whose facility is located on the east end of Greensburg. A bulk oil dealer next door and a tire shop are the only other going concerns in a town whose population once numbered 1,400, he said.

greensburg1.jpgA heavily damaged motel across the street serves as shelter for volunteers working to help victims of the May 4 tornado, which killed 10 people. Damage estimates are in the millions of dollars, but Brown has a simpler way to gauge the devastation.

“There’s a grain elevator on the west end of town, about a mile away,” Brown told Antique trader. “I’m looking at it right now — I could never see it before this.”

After determining his building was still habitable, Brown cancelled all auctions scheduled for the facility and added 20 phones lines. Local residents, businesses, government and emergency officials used Brown’s building as a meeting and communications center in the days after the disaster. Brown, 56, has lived in Greensburg all his life. His family’s business, Brown Auction & Real Estate, has been around for 67 years.

“At first you’d walk around town and say, ‘There’s a house that made it through,’” recalled Brown, “until you looked around back and saw that most of it had been torn away.

“They had to paint street names on the road because there are no more points of reference,” he added, “and every day the scene changes as more buildings are torn down.”

“We haven’t had water service since the day of the storm,” Brown said on May 21, “but that may change tomorrow.”

Greensburg2.jpgBrown lives in Mullinville, Kan., a few miles away, but had purchased a home in Greensburg two days before the tornado hit. “The house was secluded, set in this square of tall cedar trees,” he said. “We drove by to see the place, and there wasn’t one tree left.”

Brown said the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. “When you get people from all over the country sending clothes … well, let’s just say we have plenty of clothes on hand for the next disaster.” In addition to FEMA, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and numerous church and service groups have pitched in to help survivors.

The South Central Community Foundation in Pratt, Kan., has established the Greensburg Future Fund for the purpose of helping Greensburg rebuild.

“We recognize that many organizations are providing disaster relief for Greensburg,” said Jack Galle, chairman of the foundation’s board. “However, this fund is different because it is designed to help the community rebuild. This will be a long and painful process. Kansans want to help their neighbors, and we believe this fund will provide a vehicle for all of us to stand by our friends at Greensburg as they rebuild their town, their schools, their livelihoods and their way of life.”

SCCF Executive Director Denise Unruh said the Greensburg Future Fund is a “pass-through” fund, and 100 percent of the donated dollars would go to Greensburg projects.

Checks should be made to “South Central Community Foundation” with a memo to “Greensburg Future Fund.” Donors can also earmark the contributions for education, health care or community rebuilding. The mailing address is South Central Community Foundation, P.O. Box 8624, Pratt, KS, 67124. Donations are eligible for charitable income tax deductions, Unruh said.

Disaster relief funds may also be sent directly to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and similar programs, Unruh said. For more information, contact Unruh at 620-672-7929. Scott Brown may be reached at 620-723-2111. As of May 21, Brown had no Internet service.

Images courtesy Denise Unruh, SCCF Executive Director