The Otsego County United Way says they’re still helping victims of the Gaylord tornado more than a month after the tornado touched down.
They have shifted from cleanup efforts to helping people get back in their homes, find new homes, or file insurance claims though they said they’re still a ton of cleanup efforts underway.
“One of the roles that the United Way is playing with the donations that we got is to help people get set up so we got some washers some dryers, the hot water heater,” said Executive Director Erin Mann. “We put some of these case management systems in place during the pandemic, so its just kind of transitioned to tornado survivors.”
Mann said the donation of gift cards to the victims have been valuable.
“We’ve given about $40,000 in gift cards. The combination of the price of gas and this disaster has been a pretty tumultuous for our community so those gift cards have been really helpful,” she said. “We have people that are still going to doctor appointments, people that have been staying with family from far away.”
One thing Mann said that people may not realize is they’re still trying to clean up and get people’s lives back in order.
“I think that people don’t realize that this is going to be a long time to recover, people have asked why everything isn’t cleaned up yet, but it’s a process,” Mann said. “There’s a lot of red tape for things like insurance – whether or not insurance or will insurance cover it.”
Mann said there was a silver lining to all of the resources and help provided for the tornado victims.
“There was a big light shown on what our problems are in our community like the housing defect, lack of access to mental health and physical healthcare, and generational poverty,” Mann said. “It’s a silver lining in some ways because we will be able to start addressing those problems, because the tornado kind of served awesome leverage to kind of start some of those conversations.”
Right now, Mann said gift card donations, and especially volunteers, are still needed.
“I described it as a funeral,” Mann said. “A lot of people showed up right away and it was incredible. I understand it’s summer and it’s our first summer back from Covid, but we still have a lot of work that needs to be done.”
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