Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of the April 10, 2011 tornado that left a swath of destruction through the Merrill area. As the community rallied to recover from the tornado, the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation established a Tornado Relief Fund and the donations poured in.
Now, five years later, after granting more than $150,000 in funds to Merrill residents affected by the 2011 tornado, that fund has completed the processing of all claims.
“We have finally fulfilled all the applications that came through,” said Chamber Executive Director Debbe Kinsey. “When we started that fund, we had no idea how much money we would take in or how much we would end up spending. We serviced a tremendous number of people with it.”
With just over $19,000 remaining in the Tornado Relief Fund, the foundation has closed that fund and rolled the money into a new Catastrophic Relief Fund.
“Rather than have the money sit there, we felt it was time to start an emergency fund and put that money to work in the community,” Kinsey said.
This fund is designated to assist Merrill area residents with financial burdens incurred by a catastrophic event that has impacted the community. A qualifying event may be, but is not limited to, one that potentially displaces or affects multiple households. Financial assistance from this fund is for needs not met by any other means.
Kinsey said the funds likely won’t be used for individual circumstances.
“We would be looking more at things that affect multiple families,” she said. “It could be a fire, a storm, or lots of different things.”
Guidelines for disbursement will be determined at the time of the event. The Merrill Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Board of Directors will determine when a catastrophic event meets criteria. All requests will be considered based on the funds available at the time of application and the board has the final determination.
Tax deductible donations can be made to this fund at any time in order for it to live on and continue to serve those in need in the Merrill community well into the future.
“We would love to see it grow,” Kinsey said. “You never know what’s going to hit or when it’s going to hit. If anyone is looking for a fund to benefit the community and receive a tax deduction, this is one way to do that.”