More than 150 people volunteered to help with storm cleanup in Barron County through the Volunteer Reception Center, set up on Friday and Saturday, July 26 and 27.
A total of 213 requests were made for help with cleanup and 187 were completed over the weekend. The remaining 26 jobs were forwarded to the respective townships. The volunteered hours will be counted toward disaster relief funding from the state.
On Friday, Dave Swanson, of Rice Lake, was volunteering in the Chetek area with Curtis Kemmitz, of Rice Lake, and Larry French, of Prairie Farm. They were working in a crew led by Department of Natural Resources Forestry Technicians Kristina Wells and Rebecca Gregory.
“We helped neighbors in Rice Lake last week, so it was time to come down and help our neighbors in Chetek,” Swanson said, adding he was blessed with no damage from the storm.
Kemmitz said he lived in Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. “No one questioned. Everyone came to help,” he said, recalling that many volunteers had traveled from the Midwest. “I have no problem giving back.”
“Something to do. People need help,” said French. The damage he’s seen is too much for one person to handle, he said.
“We can’t do everything, but we can do something,” Swanson added.
The crew of five were working at Luther Park on Friday morning. At midday, they headed out to Miranda Olson’s farm, west of Chetek, and began cutting up downed trees.
“It’s really great,” Olson said of the help. They didn’t have chain saws to cut up the trees. “It’s a big help.”
Leland Solie, of Prairie Lake, and Dan Pearson, of Clear Lake, were clearing trees at Prairie Lake Evangelical Covenant Church on Friday. Solie had been clearing trees every day for two hours at a time as he could. The church got power back on July 26. A tree had fallen on it.
The parsonage suffered more damage, with a tree limb through the roof.
On Saturday at the brush site in Chetek, around six members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Hudson were volunteering with the VRC. They were helping residents unload their trailers of debris.
“It’s the Christian thing to do,” said Josh Carlson, of Hudson, when asked why he decided to volunteer. They were just trying to remedy someone’s pain, he said.
Nearby, Glen Page, of Stillwater, and Bryan Watson, of Hudson, helping unload brush.
The volunteers were unloading Zak Lagesse’s trailer. His aunt and uncle and parents have a cabin on Ten Mile Lake. It had five holes in the roof from trees and around a dozen trees down on the property.
The brush site was handy, Lagesse said, otherwise he would have had to haul the brush to Bloomer. Ed Lagesse said the had hauled five loads of brush and expected two more loads. There could be more if they started clearing their neighbor’s property.
Todd Wright has a house on Prairie Lake and the storm tipped over trees, causing his shoreline to roll up. It was ten feet high, he said. He lost 19 trees.
So far Wright had hauled nine loads of brush and two loads of chipped wood. He had at least one more load to haul.
Wright was thankful for the brush site. Without it, he’d have to pay a contractor to remove the brush, so it saved him money and was easier.
On Ten Mile Lake, Joe Scherer, of Weyerhaeuser, was donating the use of his trailer and vehicle to haul debris to the brush site. “I wanted to get out and help,” he said, adding the day before he was cutting trees with his chain saw. He figured he would work about six or seven hours on Friday and Saturday.
A man who went by “Jim Peters,” and Melissa Rose, of Haugen, were clearing brush near where Scherer was working. Rose said it was a great way to give back and help people in need. Peters added it was a good way to lose weight. They were working with DNR Forest Ranger Mark Diesen.