The Merrill Chamber of Commerce Foundation is pleased to announce the Tornado Relief Fund has reached its initial goal of $150,000 that was set on April 11 when the fund was established. But much more will be needed in the months to come.
The Tornado Relief Fund was established to address long-term and unmet needs for families and businesses that have been affected by the April 10 tornado. The foundation established a Long-Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) and working with Emergency Management professionals developed a Merrill priority list that is used for determining the unmet needs locally. The priority list is frequently reviewed because the needs of those affected will change with time and as the various stages of disaster aftermath changes – from initial clean-up, assessment and rebuilding begins.
“We are so grateful to the hundreds of people from all over the country who have made donations to the relief fund,” said Debbe Kinsey, executive director. “We have been equally touched by the students who emptied their piggy banks to the sizable anonymous donations to the larger organization donations. Each one carries so much more importance than the donors will ever know and moves us emotionally time and time again.”
The foundation initially set a goal of $150,000 the morning after the storm, but acknowledged that so much more will be needed as we move forward and truly begin the rebuilding process. The foundation has now disbursed $10,000 to area families and continues to process applications on a daily basis. Kinsey said that in the first stage those affected were trying to clear the large trees so that they could get to their properties and then started the work of clearing out debris. During this period the foundation began paying for tipping fees at the landfill and dumpsters for debris removal. Now they are seeing requests for assistance with stump removal and the beginning stages of rebuilding costs.
The priority of the fund is for the unmet needs of the uninsured, under-insured and senior citizens. Categorical limits/thresholds have been established and funding will be dependent upon funds available at the time of application. The foundation’s LTRC is currently accepting applications for the following categories of assistance: Home Construction Repairs for primary residences, Home Appliance Repair/Replacement, House Mechanicals, Stump Removal, Debris Removal and Tipping Fees. They are also now accepting applications for Brush Removal and disposal.
Initially, applications were accepted for occupants in the designated “Tornado Path,” the 22-mile path as identified by the Lincoln County Emergency Management. Beginning May 20, the foundation will accept applications from residents that suffered wind damages from the city’s far west-side areas for “home construction repairs” only to primary residence structures. The LTRC also increased several of the capped thresholds for eligible claims.
“As we begin getting into the rebuilding stages, we felt it necessary to expand the eligible areas and threshold amounts to better serve those affected by the storm. We based our decision on what we were seeing as unmet needs from the under-insured and/or gaps in insurance coverage. Thanks to our donors, our relief fund made these changes possible,” concluded Kinsey. “But the need for funding is going to continue to grow over the next few months, so please keep us mind.”
To apply for assistance applications are available at the Chamber of Commerce office, 705 N. Center Avenue. There are no income guidelines for eligibility and 100% of all donated funds are disbursed for the purpose of identified unmet needs of those affected by the storm.
The Merrill Chamber of Commerce Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 and administers many community funds. All donations are tax-deductible. To make a donation to the Tornado Relief Fund please make checks payable to: Chamber Foundation Tornado Relief Fund and drop-off or mail to: Merrill Chamber of Commerce, 705 N. Center Ave., Merrill, WI 54452.
For information contact the Chamber at 715-536-9474.