Everyday Hero: Ashley Sturm stepping up to help her community in the floodfight

Everyday Hero: Ashley Sturm

EAST CAPE GIRARDEAU, Ill. (KFVS) - When high water threatened the homes and businesses of East Cape Girardeau, Illinois many people stepped up to help in the floodfight. This month’s Everyday Hero, Ashley Sturm, was among them.

Sturm used all of her time off for the year accrued as a mail sorter with the United States Postal Service to stay home and save her home and help her neighbors.

The flood fight is far from over for Sturm personally. The saturated ground beneath her home’s foundation has caused it to sink. Large cracks span the concrete floor of her garage, and her basement is filled with several feet of water.

Sturm says she was far from the only person who stepped up to help the small town survive as the water rose.

“There are so many people involved just in the sand bagging efforts and just taking care of people getting out doing their part,” Sturm said. “It hasn’t been a one-man show over here definitely a community effort.”

Sandbag levees surround the town of East Cape Girardeau as seep water rose threatening homes and businesses.
Sandbag levees surround the town of East Cape Girardeau as seep water rose threatening homes and businesses.

From filling sandbags, to building sandbag levees, to pumping water out, Sturm says nearly everyone in town pitched in somehow.

But when the water came up, Sturm says she saw a need that wasn’t being met.

“We were boating in and out at that point,” Sturm said. “I went over and stocked up on groceries, and within one day I had given away all of my extra supplies to just my neighbors. So, I knew I needed to get out in the community and see what the needs were.”

Sturm's basement was filled with six feet of water when KFVS visited her home in mid-July.
Sturm's basement was filled with six feet of water when KFVS visited her home in mid-July.

That kind of kicked off a chain reaction of kindness that rippled through the waterlogged town.

“God put it on my heart to help,” said Sturm. “I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew if God put it on my heart to help – when there’s a will there’s a way.”

The way was provided through the kindness of other community members.

“I talked to Marlene Freeman. She used to run a community watch group. They had a petty cash box in the basement for a disastrous situation,” said Sturm. “There was $700 in there. So, they donated that, and I got Walmart to donate the meat for all the people who stayed. So, I was able to supply all 42 families who stayed with basic supplies to get them through.”

In going door-to-door to meet the need and hand out all those supplies, Sturm met Karl Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer moved to East Cape a couple years ago and had never been through a flood before. His home on the north side of East Cape wasn’t severely impacted by the flood, but he was still compelled to do something.

When Sturm came to Pfeiffer’s door, he had a special request for supplies.

“I had them bring me baking supplies for two weeks,” said Pfeiffer. “They brought me flour and sugar – whatever I needed for basking supplies.”

Then Pfeiffer paid that kindness forward by baking cookies for the National Guard members and the community.

Pfeiffer baked and baked to sweeten the soggy and sometimes miserable conditions the soldiers, volunteers, and his neighbors faced as the flood fight wore on for weeks.

“I usually bake about 10 dozen cookies a day for them – gives them a taste of home,” Pfeiffer said.

Through all those cookies, all those supplies, and all those sandbags – strangers became more than just neighbors.

“People are working together to help other people,” said Pfeiffer. “People just share more things than they did before. Everybody was kind of by themselves before. Now everybody feels that they need someone else.”

Leaning on one another has made East Cape Girardeau more than just a community in name.

“It’s brought us all a lot closer together,” said Sturm.

Now the ties that bind the small town together are stronger for having work together to save the place they call home.

“If it wasn’t for a lot of us community members and of course our National Guard and all of our help we wouldn’t have a town to come home to,” said Sturm. “It was a really scary situation, but we all pulled together and I think it made us a lot stronger as a community.”

East Cape Girardeau will need that shared strength, and a lot of outside help, as it works to recover. Once the water goes down, unseen damage will be revealed. Thousands of sandbags must be cleaned up. Mold is already starting to develop in homes. Sturm says she plans to help families fumigate their vents to keep dangerous black mold at bay and keep fighting for her community long after the water goes down.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” said Sturm. “I have faith, and that gets us a long way in this life.”

Sturm would like to personally recognize everyone who is helping:

  • Her fiancé Earl Cronenbold
  • Daughter Abigail Cronenbold
  • Sister Elisha Belt and her family
  • Skip, Jay, & Mark and Sue Carney with the National American Postal Workers Union
  • The Gilpin Family and Toby Warner
  • Shawn Merritt, Michele Dudley & Matt Porter
  • Marlene Freeman
  • Rick & Mary Smith
  • Chris & Karsynne Livingston
  • Rick Farris
  • Ron Ashworth
  • Vickey & Steve Stroud
  • Eddie Moore
  • Tommy Sawyer
  • Mike Smith
  • Phil Salzman
  • Colton & Jason Ross
  • Betty Pennington
  • Amy & Greg Reynolds
  • Susan Cox
  • Karl Pfieffer
  • Karen Tatum
  • Becky & Terry Glodo
  • Jason Tubbs
  • Dante
  • Dillon Prader
  • Randy Rodgers
  • Trudy Peeler
  • Mellissa Dunkin
  • National Guard, Air Force and Army
  • American Red Cross
  • The Bridge Church -Rocky & Laura Strand and Mike Rushing
  • Rock Springs Baptist Church -Terry McGee
  • The Spark Ministries - Jamie & Jessica Myers, Leslie Stovall, Vesper Hawkins, Rachel & Sarah
  • Previous Watch Group Village of East Cape - Marlene Freeman, Carolyn Ralls, Karen Suggs, Karen Tatum, Donnie Smith, Cindy Layman, Bill McHughs, Brian Winans, Chuck Schmidt, and Betty Dunn
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Huck’s
  • Southern Illinois Electric Coop( Chris & John)
  • Lowe’s
  • Menard’s
  • Walmart
  • Ol’ Hickory Pitt
  • Kroger in Anna
  • Shawnee Student’s & Faculty
  • Lambert’s
  • Subway
  • Burger King
  • Chic Fil A
  • Dominoes

If you know someone who should be recognized as an Everyday Hero, click here to make your nomination.

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