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Posted on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

Dexter tornado recovery continues as donations, volunteer offers pour in

By Cindy Heflin


A home destroyed during Thursday's tornado bears a message of thanks to the owner's insurance company

Melanie Maxwell |

Recovery efforts are moving into a new phase five days after a powerful tornado struck the Dexter area, leveling homes, uprooting trees and generally disrupting life for hundreds of residents.

The Red Cross, which had been operating a distribution and service center out of Creekside Intermediate School on Dexter Ann Arbor Road, said it was shutting that down at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Washtenaw-Lenawee Chapter of the American Red Cross will continue offering assistance from its headquarters, 4624 Packard Road, Ann Arbor. Anyone needing assistance can call 734-961-3009.

County expedites building permits

  • Washtenaw County officials said building permit applications for work on residences and businesses damaged by the storm will be processed as quickly as possible, moving ahead of other projects if necessary.
  • Residents of the Huron Farms subdivision and other Village of Dexter, Webster Township and Scio Township areas should contact the Washtenaw County Building Inspection Division at (734) 222-3900 for assistance in completing and submitting building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits. Residents concerned about the structural integrity of their homes are also encouraged to call.
  • Residents of the Carriage Hills subdivision and other Dexter Township areas should contact the Chelsea Area Construction Agency at (734) 475-4420 for assistance.
  • For more information, contact the Washtenaw County Building Inspection Division at (734) 222-3900 or visit its website.
Meanwhile, Washtenaw County said it would expedite building permits for tornado victims and the United Way of Washtenaw County as well as Dexter Township continued to act as clearinghouses for donations of food, clothing and services. Donations are being accepted through the United Way's website. Those who have in-kind donations or people seeking United Way assistance can call 211.

The township has established an online signup for volunteers.

United Way officials said they’ve been most impressed with the spirit of togetherness in the community and the way people and agencies have stepped up to help in any way they can.

“I think it does show how much Washtenaw County takes care of their own," said Sandra Rupp, president. “So many non-traditional plus traditional agencies responded.” Rupp praised the efforts of first responders as well as the Village of Dexter, Dexter Township and Dexter Community Schools. United Way has also been working with Faith In Action to provide relief.

She also noted that John Thorhauer, president of the Chelsea Retirement Community, stepped up to offer housing to people in need after the storm, and by Wednesday had arranged housing for 10 people.

Relief effort organizers have been flooded with offers of help. So far, there are many more volunteers than there are needs for volunteer services.

“We’re just overwhelmed with people that want to do something,” said Deb Bratkovich, fund development director for the Washtenaw County United Way. "I think it really says that we’re a good, tight-knit community.”

The United Way has collected more than $20,000, and other collections have gone on in the community as well, including at LaFontaine Automotive Group and Chelsea State Bank, Lake Trust Credit Union, Bank of Ann Arbor and United Bank and Trust.

Rupp noted that the need for volunteers and for temporary housing could change as damage assessments continue and rebuilding efforts begin.

So far, the Red Cross has served more than 130 meals to tornado victims, provided snacks and water to hundreds, utilized the services of more than 100 Red Cross volunteers and fielded more than 160 calls to its hotline.

Rupp said certain individuals might be able to qualify for assistance from the state Department of Human Services to help with home repairs and moving expenses if needed. She said the United Way hopes to have information about that assistance posted on its website soon.


Kirk Babcock

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

The Michigan Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization also has their trained chainsaw units working around the area if anyone is in need of tree help. There is never a cost for their service. They were one of the key Disaster Relief groups that helped out during last years wind storm in Battle Creek, MI and the floods in Dundee, MI. A lot of insurance agencies do not cover the cost of tree removal unless it causes damage to a structure on the property. For some this can be very costly to the point they just don't have the money. Email them at if you need any assistance or go to their state disaster relief website to get any other contact info.

Nancy Malone

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:50 a.m.

To make it perfectly clear, Hands of Light in Action 501(3)c is involved in the clean up. No payment is asked nor accepted and no solicitation of donations at beginning, middle or end of the job. Also not one of our volunteers have taken the wood. We have even separated it(soft/hard) for the homeowner to give it at their leisure. We do have a couple of volunteers that heat their homes with wood and expressed interest to me, but even after chainsawing 8 hours a day for 2 days last weekend, neither of them asked for the wood. They said it just didn't feel right. I saw a few postings about charging and about wood removal so I had to go on the record. We are gathering a large group of volunteers to help the homeowners who have contacted us for this weekend. If you need "hands on" assistance with the clean up, please email Thank you! Nancy Malone President/Founder Hands of Light in Action


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

They are charging people to remove the trees then selling the wood as firewood. When a lot of guys would be willing to just cut up the trees for the wood!


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 6:13 p.m.

Spiritual Well-being of Dexter tornado victims : I would like to express my concern about the spiritual well-being of tornado victims. No physical injuries have been reported and yet there must be a concern if the term 'health' is correctly defined. I define the term 'health' as the complete well-being of man; the physical, mental, social, moral, and spiritual well-being of man in his environment and community. A severe weather-related event by disrupting the living environment imposes stress affecting the well-being of man. It needs healing and recovery even when there are no physical injuries. Home repairs, tree removal, and other efforts are indeed needed for recovering from the damage caused by tornado. At the same time, I may suggest to the victims to heal themselves by simply knowing the tornado's impact on their well-being and seeking restoration of peace, tranquility, and harmony within themselves and in their relationship to the place and environment in which they live.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

I think the "i heart state farm" graffiti is suppose to be sarcastic. I mean has anyone on here ever had a POSITIVE experience with insurance claims?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

I've had probably 15 claims with State Farm and every one was a good experience. In fact, I've probably come out slightly ahead in each time. I think you'd find most State Farm customers have the same experience. Great company.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:55 a.m.

I've heard State Farm was amazing. I'd be quite interested to hear how Allstate treated their customers.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

no its not sarcastic, they have done a great job and have been there every step of the way and continue to be each day, how many people can say there insurance agent was on site immediately after the tornado hit and I mean within 3 hours.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 1:58 p.m. - please remember that the neighborhood behind Busch's includes *two* home owners associations. The larger of the the two is Huron Farms, with 260-odd homes. The homes at the front of the subdivision (down behind Busch's and up along the park) are mostly in Orchard River Hills, with 60-odd homes. Almost all of the homes in ORH have been damaged or destroyed. The many people in ORH are in need of extensive assistance, particularly in the cleaning of yards. Insurance does not generally cover such cleanup and yards are contaminated with broken glass and fiberglass shreds such that our children cannot safely go outside.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

I don't understand why people need to donate. If it were my house my INSURANCE woud pay for me to stay in a hotel, apartment or house. I would receive $1000 per person for clothes and misc immediatley. Yes I have at least $100 in the bank to buy food until I am reimbursed for the food lost.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

Even if you had home owner's insurance, and specifically tornado coverage, you still need to file a claim and wait for it to disperse, and in the case of a friend's house fire, I know it can take weeks, months and potentially years to get your dispersal.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:02 p.m.

bet your opinion would be a little different if it was your house or a family member


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Insurance does not pay for things like tree removal and other cleanup activities. A friend who lives in Carriage Hills got an estimate of $7,000 for the tree removal from their yard, which is NOT covered by insurance. Glad you are not my neighbor ....


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.

Fabulous -- it is great to see how so many have come forward to assist at this difficult time. My best to all who have lost so much.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 3:07 a.m.

"So far, there are many more volunteers than there are needs for volunteer services." Perhaps with handing out clothes, food, etc but NOT with the cleanup! Carriage Hills subdivision and Dexter Pinckney Rd. still have thousands of trees down and insurance companies do not cover the cleanup of these unless homeowners have a rider or the tree falls on a structure. Most do not and are getting bids in the thousands and tens of thousands for lawn clean up. Anyone who wants to help with a chainsaw cutting or dragging stuff out of the way should contact They have done an AWESOME job of helping my community! Thank you Nancy and crew!


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:52 a.m. And most specifically:

Nancy Malone

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:56 a.m.

Thanks! I thought the same when I read that statement. Unless things have changed in the last 3 days, there is a TON of trees still needed cut up and brush cleaned out. Takes a HUGE weight off of the homeowner and allows them a chance to work on "normal". We are out in MAJOR force at Carriage Hills and Dexter Pinckney Road Saturday and Sunday. Have your neighbors send me an email if they need assistance at


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

There are several volunteer crew. Facebook has a page for people who need help with that - I think its Chainsaw Posse. You can also find a link to it through the page on facebook called Friends of Dexter Tornado Victims. Try Dexter United Methodist Church - they also seem to have managed a lot of people with chainsaws to get rid of their trees as well.

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

I wonder if they did the Discount Double Check......... If not, methinks they may be happy paying full price.