When a deadly EF4 tornado swept through Wood and Ottawa counties in the late-night hours of June 5, 2010 the 170-175 mile per hour winds ripped a path of destruction that devastated families, neighborhoods and a school district. Even before the dust could settle, emergency workers, individuals and relief organizations began stepping up to help victims.
The Red Cross and the Salvation Army mobilized to offer immediate help in the form of food, water, clothing and shelter to those who needed it.
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 charitable organization called for “bucket brigades” to collect cleaning and emergency supplies that victims would need. Churches, community groups, businesses and individuals also stepped in to do what they could.
Northwest Ohioans opened not only their hearts but their wallets too, donating directly to community organizations and holding and attending fundraisers that included a daylong concert event at Metcalf Airport, T-shirt sales, spaghetti dinners, bake sales and more.
In the months that followed, ISOH/IMPACT received $91,087.70 in donations for the NW Ohio & SE Michigan tornado relief effort and subsequently distributed relief 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 has been distributed directly to families, according to 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 has been distributed to Allen Township to assist with cleanup costs associated with the disaster.
In addition to meeting immediate and long-term recovery needs of the families, the Recovery Team felt it was important to help residents be better prepared for future weather emergencies, Kowal said, adding that the committee has opted to use $15,000 to purchase weather emergency radios to be distributed to residents impacted by the storm, as well as others in the Allen/Clay Township area. The radios will be distributed in March by the fire district in conjunction with Severe Weather Week.
To date, the Wood County Long Term Recovery Committee has distributed more than $270,000 to 120-plus cases (case could be one person or a whole family).
“The majority of funds have been distributed,” said Michael George, director of United Way in Wood County and outgoing committee chair, “the distribution center for goods has closed, and survivors’ immediate and short-term needs have been addressed to the best of our ability.”
The needs of the community are still being addressed, and the LTRC envisions being involved well past the one-year anniversary of the tornado, according to Kelli Kreps, spokesperson for United Way of Greater Toledo.
The committee will continue to meet and there will still be help available for those who come forward with appropriate needs. Ron Sims, Lake Township Trustee, will take over as the committee chair.
The Lake Township Ministerial Association has committed to staying active and involved in the efforts. Local charities including the Red Cross and United Way will still be available for support.
“I think I speak on behalf of all tornado survivors when I say a gigantic thank you to everyone who stepped up to help their neighbors during this difficult time,” George said. “Nearly a quarter-million dollars, countless goods and supplies, and 14,000 hours of service from 3,500 community volunteers is an absolutely incredible showing of support.”
As always, people can dial United Way 2-1-1 to get connected not only to tornado relief needs, but any health or human service resource in the community, Kreps noted.
Dial 2-1-1 at any time or visit www.unitedwaytoledo.org/211 to get connected.