For many in Northwest Ohio, news coverage of tornadoes that devastated parts of the nation’s mid-section seems like déjà vu – bringing back raw memories for Northwest Ohioans.
For Lake Schools, the tornadoes have inspired a desire to help. Last week, the district held a collection drive for cash, cleaning supplies, non-perishable food items and bottled water to help tornado victims of Joplin, Mo.
On Friday May 27 after school, the collected items were to be packed up and taken to ISOH Impact for transport to Missouri.
For students, faculty and staff members, it was just one way to give back for the outpouring of help and support offered in the year since the tornado destroyed Lake High School and damaged other school buildings and facilities. Fast and plentiful. That’s how emergency managers described help for the area’s tornado victims after the storm hit. In the hours, days, weeks and even months that followed, area residents stepped up, opening their hearts and wallets to those who suffered loss and damage from the twister.
Before the dust was settled, emergency workers, relief organizations and individuals mobilized to help victims. The United Way of Greater Toledo helped organize and dispatch close to 4,000 volunteers in Wood and Ottawa counties.
ISOH/IMPACT, a community-based, non-profit organization called for “bucket brigades” to collect much-needed cleaning and emergency supplies.
Churches, community groups, businesses and individuals also stepped in to provide comfort and support for victims.
Numerous fundraisers were organized. Looking for a way she could help, 10-year-old Kelsey Linkous, daughter of Rossford Police Officer Greg Linkous, held a car wash and cookie sale that raised $100. Asked which victims she wanted to help, she said, “all of them.”
T-shirt sales, chicken barbecues, spaghetti dinners, 5K races and other events brought in thousands of dollars. On a grander scale, a fundraiser/memorial service held July 11 at Toledo Executive Airport raised $57,000, and another $6,600 in gift card donations for victims.
In the months that followed, ISOH/IMPACT received $91,087.70 in donations for the NW Ohio & SE Michigan tornado relief effort. Relief was distributed in the form of cash, gift cards, food, water and services valued at $112,879.64 to an estimated 284 families, spokesperson Lori Kazmierczak said.
In Ottawa County, $93,353 was distributed directly to victims, said Stephanie Kowal, director of Ottawa County Department of Job and Family Services, who headed the county’s Long Term Recovery Committee. In addition, $5,000 went to Allen Township to help with cleanup costs associated with the disaster.
In addition to meeting immediate and long-term recovery needs of the families, the Recovery Team used $15,000 to purchase weather emergency radios that were distributed during Severe Weather Week in March to residents impacted by the storm, as well as others in the Allen/Clay Township area.
“About $1,300 that remained in the account was donated to Clay Center First Presbyterian Church to host a community feed to mark the anniversary of the tornado,” Kowal said.
To date, the Wood County Long Term Recovery Committee has distributed more than $289,826 to 135-plus cases (case could be one person or a whole family).
Local officials have taken over relief efforts. Those who still need assistance may be connected to available services by calling United Way 2-1-1 or visiting www.unitedwaytoledo.org/211.