Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Arkansas on Monday presented Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst with a check for $5,000 to put toward the city’s post-flood cleanup efforts.

Van Buren is one of eight cities in Arkansas receiving financial support for the cleanup effort. Arkansas Blue Cross also is donating $5,000 checks to mayor’s offices or city governments in Conway, Dardanelle, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Morrilton, North Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

“This means a lot to us to be able to do this,” said Andy Karabinos, the regional retail sales and operations manager for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, after giving the check to Hurst. “We’re very happy to contribute to various communities across the state. We’re thrilled to be a part of the recovery effort.”

Hurst said, “As the mayor it makes you see that we are all a community here. We’ve talked about regionalism, and ‘River Valley Strong,’ like (Fort Smith) Mayor (George) McGill said during the flood, but just knowing we’ve got friends over the river … we can all share in this together. It just makes us one big community and I love seeing that.”

Curtis Barnett, president and chief executive officer for Arkansas Blue Cross, said in a press release, “Arkansas Blue Cross is doing several things to assist the individual victims of the recent flooding, but we also wanted to assist the cities that were so deeply impacted.”

Karabinos said one thing the company is doing is matching funds raised by its employees to give to the American Red Cross on behalf of flood victims in the state.

“Our employees have personally donated more than $11,000 to the American Red Cross and that amount will be matched by the company,” he said. “A check for more than $22,000 will be presented to the American Red Cross in July.”

Arkansas Blue Cross is also collecting equipment and supplies needed for the cleanup and assisting flood victims in obtaining needed medications.

“The well being of the people of our state is our primary focus,” said Barnett. “So when we see a natural disaster of this magnitude, the natural instinct of our company and our employees is to reach out and assist our friends and neighbors in their time of need. I am particularly proud of our employees’ response. It shows their compassion and their deep commitment to the people and communities we serve.”

Hurst said Van Buren is still working to clean up areas damaged by the flood and this check will go right into that cleanup effort.

“We’ve had a lot of stuff going on because of the flood,” he said. “Once you’re inside (the mayor’s office) and actually see what’s going on in the city … from the outside it’s one thing, but actually seeing it from the inside is something else.

He continued, “It’s a big cost, and it’s not a cost you really plan for necessarily. We’ve got a lot of work going on now and still have some locations where we’re spending a lot of time cleaning up. So this money will be a big help as it goes directly into that cleanup effort.”