Tornado anniversary events bring Dexter community members together
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Across town, more than 300 people participated in LaFontaine Chevrolet's One Year Strong , a second community-wide event on Friday that gave the Dexter area a chance to reflect on the first anniversary of the tornado that damaged hundreds of homes.
Organizers of both events said they showed that amid the damage caused by the tornado, one lasting effect was an even stronger sense of community.
"It was a nice first year," said Bob Jazwinski, who organized the run. "We did it because we knew we could make some money for the organizations that helped out with the tornado."
"With the turnout, we’re going to be able to give more people some type of money," Jazwinski said. He estimates at least $10,000 will go to groups helping with tornado damage.
Giving back was important to Jazwinski because over half of his home was destroyed by the tornado. He and his wife, Katie and their three children were able to move into their refinished house only within the last month.
"Everyone who lived in Dexter was affected by the tornado," Jazwinski said. "It’s not one person more than another. It was pretty traumatic for everyone."
Matt and Heather Leszczynski, who lost their home to the tornado but were able to rebuild it by November, both participated in the 5K.
"It was a great idea," Leszczynski said. "I’m really impressed and humbled by how many people showed up."
At LaFontaine, Quaila Pant, the dealership's business coordinator, said staff had to purchase a second box of hotdogs, because the first box of 250 wasn't enough to cater the event.
"We've had a big turnout," said Matt LaFontaine, the dealership's general manager.
Families were encouraged to bring in pictures for a community scrapbook, which will be displayed at the Dexter Area Historical Society and Museum.
"People seem to take a lot of comfort from getting together," said Nancy Paul, director of Faith In Action. "It really is emotional for people."
Dexter Relief Fund, which has distributed more than $300,000 worth of aid to affected families, was at the event accepting applications for trees to revitalize the lawns of affected families.
It was a reminder of how much the community has worked to recover from the tornado and how much left there is to do.
"There's still a handful of people who are not in their houses yet or who've gotten in them in the last few weeks, so that's pretty shocking," Paul said. Paul, who sits on the fund's committee, said it has about $37,000 left. Some of that money will be used for trees and some will be used to pay SunGlo to vacuum up debris that is embedded in people's yards.
"The best thing we can do is help people who've still got glass in their lawn," she said.
Urban Ashes was also at the event, selling $38 frames made from the wood of trees that fell during the tornado. Proceeds were to go to the fund.
At the entrance to the dealership, David Innis, a student at Dexter High School, stood with a video camera, inviting people to share testimonials of how the tornado affected them.
"A lot of them say where they were, who they were with, what they were feeling," he said. "A lot of them said it was scary. It was a really traumatic event for Dexter."
Erik and Julie Cabble, whose home suffered $60,000 worth of damages when the tornado hit, were at the One Year Strong event with their three daughters.
"I think it's really great," Cabble said. "LaFontaine is an example of what a great place Dexter is and how a community pulls together after an event like that."
At Hudson Mills, Jazwinski echos that theme.
Jazwinski said he wants to hold the 5K every year in order to continue support for the nonprofit organizations that help the Dexter community.
"We will always give back to the nonprofit organizations that stand up for everyone," he said.