Disaster relief gets a storefront

The Wadena-Otter Tail Long-Term Recovery Committee has set up a tornado recovery center in the old Borealis Bookstore, and committee chair Pastor Rob Nelson said the need for disaster relief is still great.

The Wadena-Otter Tail Long-Term Recovery Committee has set up a tornado recovery center in the old Borealis Bookstore, and committee chair Pastor Rob Nelson said the need for disaster relief is still great.

"One of the things they say when a tornado or disaster happens, you're first in the heroic stage. People step up and do all kinds of work. Now we are in the long-term recovery, and I think there the two words 'long term' really says it," he said.

Nelson said that while FEMA has been working with businesses, the Wadena-Otter tail Long-Term Recovery Committee works with individuals and families.

He gave some statistics on the current state of households affected by the tornado.

"There were approximately 480 families affected by the June 17 tornadoes. Only about 35 percent of those were adequately insured," he said. "And we still know that our estimated loss from the greater Wadena area is about $32 million dollars."


He added that for families and individuals interviewing with case workers, the average uncompensated need is $16,062 per household.

"So to reach out to do our job we need to raise $1.5 million dollars. Jeff Browne from Wadena State Bank is taking the lead as treasurer to secure funding. The more [money] we raise means the more we can help these individuals. Right now we've set a maximum of $2,000 per household," he said.

Nelson said that mattresses and deep freezes were two of the biggest identifiable needs.

"We are making arrangements to hopefully purchase some of those, and again, our goal always is to purchase locally."

Nelson said that the Long-Term Recovery Committee is helping people from outside the city of Wadena.

"We have one case manager that is strictly working rural," he said.

Nelson also emphasized that donations to the Wadena-Otter Tail County Tornado Fund go directly to tornado-affected households unless otherwise specified.

While the organization has hired two case managers, a construction coordinator and a volunteer coordinator, their salaries and the funds to run the office come from the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and the Lutheran Church, he said.


"So individual donations are not being used to employ and/or run an office," he said.

Nelson said the Long-Term Recovery Committee may hire additional case workers before winter as long as they can get more funding from organizations like churches and gifts specifically designated for staffing and the office.

He said their goal was to hire currently unemployed people in the area who are qualified in their field.

"The construction supervisor that we hired had to be knowledgeable in the trades, and I think one of the greatest attributes of a case manager is a good listener and how you can network with other organizations to help people," Nelson said.

Aside from the staff members, the committee also has volunteers.

"I know some of our volunteers are experiencing volunteer compassion fatigue. But it's up to all of us just to lift them up, thank them for what they're doing, and keep moving ahead with hope," he said.

He said that if one is experiencing compassion fatigue, one should find someone to talk to, seek professional help and consider taking a break.

"A good rest is not a sign of weakness," he said.


Nelson said that the recent southern Minnesota flooding was a reminder of how disasters happen and cause need among people.

He read the committee's revised mission statement: "With a spirit of transparency, accountability, and collaboration, our goal is to strengthen those in need of home, health and hope."

Nelson said the Long-Term Recovery Committee is trying to raise money outside of Otter Tail and Wadena counties.

"We're doing letters to various organizations and foundations, and if there are people in the greater Otter Tail-Wadena areas that belong to a statewide association, please give us some contacts and we will approach them for funds. Phone calls, letters and personal visits is what we're doing," Nelson said.

He said that people who have needs should stop by the tornado recovery office.

The office is at 119 Jefferson St. S. and the mailing address is P.O. Box 326, Wadena, MN 56482.

The committee does not yet have a published phone number as of press time.

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