Volunteers and Donations Pour into Gaylord Community

Many in the Gaylord community are still reeling from the impacts of Friday’s tornado, where two people were killed, nearly 50 were injured and hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged.

It’s also bringing out a seemingly endless line of volunteers, just what the community needs at this point as people try to get back on their feet.

At last count, Gaylord was up to 1,500 volunteers, but that’s just the ones we know about. It doesn’t include those who show up in someone’s front yard to help, or people who just walk through the doors at the E-Free Church, to help collect and sort donations.

The need is great, and the E-Free Church is the clearinghouse for donations, a spot for many volunteers.

“The difference for me was it happened in Michigan,” said Lorri Beck, a volunteer from the Upper Peninsula. “So it’s like, okay these are my fellow Michiganders, so I wanted to come help. I had some vacation time and I said I’m going to come down and help. So I’m here for three days just helping out where I can.”

“The Red Cross came in and set up their emergency shelter,” said Brian Gerstenberger, community outreach for E-Free Church. “We have a great partnership with United Way, they came down, so we were able to take donations. The awesome thing about it is it was all in one place.”

Donations have been rolling in practically non-stop.

“People come from all over,” said Gerstenberger. “We had people come from Soo Canada with donations, and people from downstate wanting to help.”

For now, those donations are keeping up with demand.

“It was humbling to see people come in, with kind of a dazed look in their eye,” said Gerstenberger. “They don’t even know what they need.”

The Red Cross called on an eight-year volunteer who summers in Leelanau County to help run the shelter.

“People need help and I’m available,” said Lori Shader-Patterson, a Red Cross volunteer and shelter manager. “I’m retired but I’ve got lots of organizational experience. When people need help, they need somebody willing to provide for their needs and give them some comfort.”

“This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” said Gerstenberger. “There’s going to be some time in between these phases where we need different items.”

Donations are full in Gaylord. While they can still take monetary donations and can always use the volunteer hours, they have no room for donated items.

You can monitor social media for the United Way and E-Free Church where they’ll be constantly updating as needs arise.

Categories: Gaylord Tornado