Devastation in Gaylord: Four Months Later

“I think that progress is happening and we're just trying to hear what people need.” – Erin Mann

Four months after a deadly tornado tore through Otsego County, the community of Gaylord says they’re making progress. That storm touched down on the afternoon of May 20, but even four months later, Gaylord is still working to get things back to normal.

Gaylord StrongKarin Beyer is the Director of Community Philanthropy at the Otsego Community Foundation. “I’ve learned that we’re strong,” she says. And it’s become the village motto: Gaylord Strong.

Disaster Recovery Coordinator Erin Mann says, “That’s really been the Gaylord Strong motto, is resiliency. Getting to work and helping people get back on their feet.”

Gaylord Four MonthsGaylord is bouncing back, but there are still many neighbors with basic needs, like food, transportation, and housing. Mann says, “We have a shortage of materials and supplies, so things aren’t moving as fast as some might think. But actually we’re right on target to helping people get back to some sort of normalcy.” She says they’ve been mentored by other communities across the country that have also worked through their own disasters.

At the former Goodwill location in Gaylord, all the trash has been picked up, and the inside of what was the store is cleared out. But just like many places in this community there is still more work to be done. Beyer says, “Yes we’re getting buildings redone and getting them cleaned up if they were totally gone… and there’s open space.”

Habitat for Humanity is helping rebuild almost two dozen homes. But after four months, even homes left standing have been exposed to the elements. And some new problems are popping up.  Beyer says, “Some people are like, ‘I didn’t know I really was impacted. But I really am impacted’. So we’re telling them ‘get a hold of the case managers’ … and we’ll get you what you need.”

Gaylord Goodwill Four MonthsAnd there are unmet needs you can’t see just by passing through town. Mann says, “The group that I’m working with is ‘big picture’ so we’re looking at wellness and unmet needs.Beyer adds, “There’s some mental health issues. Children are afraid, they’re afraid of storms. At first they’re like ‘oh we’ve got this covered, we can build. We’re strong.’ But now they’re seeing triggers for their mental health.”

Mann, who comes to her new role from the United Way at the time of the storm, says, “We’ve always said this is going to be a marathon not a sprint. So we’re looking ahead making sure that all survivors are getting unmet needs taken care of.”

Four months later, there are also increasing signs of lifted spirits and positive attitudes. “I really see that transition in the community and the people,” Beyer says. And Mann sees it too. “The community wants to help and they want to be involved and want to help their friends and neighbors,” she says.

“Yes it is tough for any community that’s gone through disaster, it’s a long process. It is slow. But we are on the right path,” Beyer adds. The right path is an optimistic one – that runs parallel to the path of devastation here. “You know what I’ve seen the whole time is smiles. There’s been tears, I have people that come and hug me but they have smiles on their faces because of the help they’re receiving,” she says. “They’ve learned that now, it will be my time soon to give back. They’re receiving and now they feel passion for this community even more and they’re like ‘where can I help now that I’ve been helped?’”

If you live in Gaylord and still need help, you can reach out to the United Way. Call (989)732-8929 and press extension 1.

To donate to the needs in Gaylord, you can click here.

Categories: Gaylord Tornado