GAYLORD, MICH-Saturday, August 20, marks three months since the Alpine Village of Gaylord experienced an unforeseen, powerful, and crushing EF-3 tornado. This tornado devastated homes and businesses, killed two people, and injured forty-four. Three months after the disaster the community searches for the silver lining. The Gaylord community has seized this opportunity to step-up and maintain their tenacity and strength and choose recovery despite the long road ahead.
At the foundation of this recovery has been volunteers and nonprofit organizations. These nonprofits were working at a limited capacity prior to the tornado and have been stretching themselves thinner for their love of Otsego County. Organizations that have been at the core of recovery have been the Otsego Community Foundation (OCF), Otsego County United Way (OCUW), Otsego-Antrim Habitat for Humanity, The Refuge, Veterans Education, Training & Support (VETS), Inc., E-Free Church and our new partners Michigan Disaster Response and Recovery. Support agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency, Otsego County Commission on Aging, 211 of Northeast Michigan and The Salvation Army have offered important aid to survivors too. Faith based communities statewide have been generous with their time, talent, and treasures. Governmental agencies at a state and local level have helped rebuild community infrastructure.
After navigating a global pandemic where social distancing was encouraged, this tornado has given the community the opportunity to cultivate one-on-one relationships. “A survivor came into the United Way not wanting help, only wanting tarps to cover their roof. They were anxious, did not want anyone on their property because there was risk of injury and they were hesitant to receive support,” said Erin Mann, Disaster Recovery Coordinator. “Because of the experience and reputation Habitat for Humanity has, their builder Skip (Ken Monroe) was able to gain the trust of this person and then ultimately repair their home.”
Disaster Case Managers (funded by the OCF Tornado Response Fund and supervised by Michigan Disaster Response and Recovery) have been putting their boots on the ground for outreach. “This disaster has heightened the value of knowing your neighbors. Crossing the boundaries of culture, age, and disability. Together is how we are going to rise above this crisis,” said Mann.
Support is not just local. Manpower, materials, and money have come from all over the country. “It is a seller’s market, access to the individuals and supplies with specialized trades such as plumbing and HVAC, metal roofing, aluminum siding and flooring has added challenges to doing repairs,” said Aini Abukar, Executive Director, Otsego-Antrim Habitat for Humanity, “Skip has managed to find people in other states and cities to make bids on the jobs and find supplies.”
To continue to build community resilience, the Gaylord Long Term Recovery Group (LTRG) was formed operating with six subcommittees: Unmet Needs, Public Relations, Wellness, Community Assessment, Construction & Volunteer Management and Case Management. Their goal is to address and evaluate local needs; nurture and access available resources; and promote community support with accountability and transparency.
“We want the community to feel empowered to help one another after this disaster and continue to be involved in one another's life by fostering social connectedness. These meaningful relationships will allow us to be even more prepared, God forbid, another disaster strikes,” said Mann.
If you would like to learn more about the Gaylord LTRG follow them on Facebook @GaylordLTRG. Over the next week they will be highlighting how the community is recovering three months post tornado. To be a part of the collective community recovery please note these upcoming activities. The OCUW is hosting their annual volunteer service event, “Day of Caring,” on September 9, call 989.732.8929 for more info. Otsego Antrim Habitat for Humanity is also hosting a block party in Nottingham on September 10, call 989.731.4506 for more info.