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Group takes the reigns of long-term recovery effort

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After all the tornado chaos, Wadena community leaders and agencies are getting organized.

The Rev. Rob Nelson, the senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, was elected chair of Wadena's long-term recovery team at its third meeting at St. Ann's Catholic Church on Tuesday, July 6. The Rev. Del Moen of Messiah Lutheran is the vice chair, the Rev. Shirley Nelson of Wadena United Methodist is the secretary, and Jeff Browne from Wadena State Bank is the treasurer.

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With some of the most immediate recovery efforts behind them, the group has defined its mission.

"It is our goal to coordinate management of long-term recovery and to assist individuals affected by the disaster who do not have adequate personal resources for basic needs," Nelson said.

City, state, and even federal support will go to Wadena, but not all affected by the June 17 tornado may qualify for or receive adequate aid. Nelson emphasized the use of funding to help where public money is not sufficient, along with assessing the needs of individuals and families who are uninsured or under-insured.

"We're the conduit for [the tornado fund]," Nelson said, "and it will all be very confidential."

The long-term recovery team is part of the transition between what the meetings termed the "Heroic" stage immediately after the disaster and the "Recovery" or "Rebuild" stage of taking time to assess specific needs.

"During the immediate disaster everyone was working and volunteering and on high gear," Nelson said. "Now we've slowed down a bit, but the emotional level is greater."

People are coming to terms with the impact of the tornado on their lives, but Nelson added that they are still "very hopeful."

Area churches and organizations have worked at the front lines of recovery, and Immanuel Lutheran Church is no exception. They have partnered with Lutheran Disaster Relief and the Red Cross to bring aid to the community.

Additionally, staff at Immanuel have created T-shirts to sell as a fundraiser for tornado recovery. The T-shirts have a caption "Hurt * Hope * Heal."

"We've all been hurt here," said Nelson. "But we are not without hope."

Young people are especially vulnerable to the effects of the tornado. Christie Meier, associate in ministry at Immanuel, is working to bring Camp Noah to Wadena. The camp is designed to help elementary children deal with the disaster and will take place from Aug. 9-13 at a location to be announced in Wadena.

Camp Noah (www.lssmn.org/camp_noah/) originated after the Red River Valley floods of 1997 and is part of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. However, Nelson said the camp's focus is non-denominational.

Inclusiveness is important to the long-term recovery team as well. The group "will be meeting regularly and we will be keeping the communities informed about what's available."

Nelson encouraged volunteers to join the team and asks for those interested to contact him.

"We want as many people at the table as possible," he said.

The long-term recovery team is placing volunteers especially in rural areas where hard-hit farms still need help. People can also make financial gifts locally to the Wadena Tornado Relief Fund or through the website www.givemn.org

To reach Nelson, call the church office at (218) 631-2738. Immanuel Lutheran Church is at 403 SE 2nd St. in Wadena.

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