500+ volunteers help with storm cleanup

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BARRON COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) -- As the storm cleanup continues in Barron and Rusk Counties, volunteers were in the hundreds helping Friday to clear some of the damage.

“One day at a time,” is how Robert Black, who lost his trailer in Prairie Lake Estates Mobile Home Park in Chetek during the storms Tuesday afternoon, is trying to get by.

Robert and his wife, Shelly, were in their trailer when the tornado hit.

“We could help the people that didn’t have nothing and were wandering outside,” Robert said. “We brought them in and helped them as much as we could. We’re just thankful to be alive and not scratched up.”

And that help they gave others that night was reciprocated by surrounding communities coming together Friday night.

“Just to help people that’s in trouble,” Harold Aebly of Menomonie said. “It may happen to me some day and I hope someone would help me.”

“These are people, these are families, these are kids, somebody’s mom, dad, grandma, children, pets – it could’ve been me,” Laurie Carlsen of Rice Lake said. “I just feel like as a community, we need to come together and support as much as we can.”

Belongings of those affected were scattered throughout the mobile home park. Letitia Crisler-Koppa of Rice Lake says she came to try and reunite those belongings with their owners.

“This was somebody’s home and I wanted to find their belongings for them and put them aside,” Crisler-Koppa said. “Just to help out.”

Volunteers didn’t just come from the area – they came from Southern Wisconsin and even Minnesota.

“There was a need,” Alex Elder of Shoreview, Minnesota said. “I just feel like I’m able-bodied and these guys have more to worry about than cleaning up their yards.”

Barron County Sheriff, Chris Fitzgerald, agrees the help of over 500 volunteers showcases how special Western Wisconsin is as a community.

“This whole community came together,” Fitzgerald said. “That's what Barron County's about. That's why I'm proud to be their sheriff."

The devastation was wide-reaching. For some, it was mild, but for others, life-changing. The help they received from organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army went above and beyond what they expected.

“If it wouldn’t have been for this help center, I don’t know where I’d be at,” Shelly Black said. “I was so traumatized. I don’t know where a lot of other people would be at. It’s the comfort that you need. You really need it.”

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