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Community resilient after tornado

Damage to the community

 Michigan United Methodists are encouraged to contribute to the Conference Disaster Response Fund as the community leaders in Gaylord assess property damage and recovery needs from the May 20 tornado.

Senior Content Editor

May 24, 2022 | LANSING — Just three days after an F-3 tornado struck Gaylord, MI, Dan O’Malley reports that the community has shown great resiliency, mobilizing local resources and volunteers. Local leaders continue to request that no outside volunteers come in at this time.

Dan O’Malley, Michigan Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, said today, “The incident is moving from rescue-response phase to relief and recovery.” He added, “Net out is the local folks are handling the relief and initial recovery phase themselves with local United Way managing volunteers.”

A major focus at the present time is debris management and consideration of long-term recovery needs. Community leaders are beginning property damage assessments to determine the needs of residents as they seek to repair and rebuild their homes and begin their long-term recovery journey.

Damage to homes in the community
Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Tuesday, May 24, that FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will fast track the assessment of damage from the May 20 EF3 tornado. ~ photo courtesy Paul Gruenberg

The United Methodist Committee on Relief has approved a $10,000 Solidarity Grant for the Gaylord community. According to the Rev. Paul Perez, Director of Connectional Ministry for the Michigan Conference, “The purpose of Solidarity Grants is to address basic human needs during the early stages of disaster response. Conference Disaster Ministry leaders will work with United Methodist local leaders to determine how to best use these funds.”

The Rev. Rich Burstall, the pastor of Michelson Memorial UMC in Grayling, was authorized to purchase and distribute gift cards using some of these funds. The cards will be used to meet immediate needs.

O’Malley reports that there has been an outpouring of support from the community members and local organizations. Among them is the Gaylord First United Methodist Church. The church was not damaged by the storm.

Pastor Paul Gruenberg shared that a group of volunteers from Gaylord First went to two different places on Sunday afternoon, May 22, to unload wood and limbs from trailers as people brought them to be dumped. “It was people continually reaching out and helping others they do not know without some kind of recompense for their time or gas used to help others,” he said. Their efforts kept the flow of vehicles from backing up at the dump site.

Community clean-up effort
Pastor Paul Gruenberg and a team of volunteers from Gaylord First UMC spent Sunday afternoon at the dumpsite helping unload trailer loads of wood and debris from the tornado damage of Friday evening’s storm. “It was people continually reaching out to help others they do not know,” the pastor said. ~ photo courtesy Paul Gruenberg

Gruenberg noted that he was astounded by two things since the storm hit town. “The more I see, the more I understand the absolute power and respect we should give to tornadoes. Trees and telephone poles snapped like toothpicks, homes damaged, businesses flattened, a mobile home park destroyed, and roofs gone. Just an incredible amount of damage.” On the other hand, he added, “I’m continually amazed at the humanity in people helping others unknown to them.” 

Still, life and ministry go on. “We had a wedding on Saturday at our church with no power. This couple will remember this day in ways others do not.”

Earlier on Saturday, Gruenberg and his worship leader took 36 cleaning buckets, 50 tarps, and 20 packages of trash bags to a drop-off point downtown. The supplies had been delivered to Gaylord from DRAW (Disaster Relief At Work) in Waterford within hours of the tornado touching down.

The newly formed Michigan Disaster Response and Recovery non-profit (Mi-DRR) is standing by according to O’Malley. “Mi-DRR and the Mi-VOAD are ready to help as unmet needs get posted or requested through the local Emergency Manager or local government,” O’Malley explained.

In the meantime, Michigan United Methodists are encouraged to give to the Michigan Conference Disaster Response Fund. To donate by check, please mail to Michigan Conference at 1161 East Clark Road, Suite 212, DeWitt MI 48820. It is important to include this exact language in the memo: #4407 Michigan Area Disaster Response. To give online, click here.


Last Updated on September 20, 2022

The Michigan Conference