Neighbors help neighbors

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, June 22, 2010

As cleanup efforts continued Monday in the aftermath of last week’s tornadoes, property owners across Freeborn County are saying they are grateful for the help they’ve received thus far to clean up what otherwise might have taken much longer on their own.

“It’s nice,” said Jeremiah Mickelson, 24, whose home and farm were leveled last Thursday at 29587 County Road 24 in rural Clarks Grove. “I wouldn’t be able to do it by myself.”

Mickelson said since an EF3 tornado struck his property last Thursday, he’s had family, friends, neighbors and even people he doesn’t know stop by his property and ask if they can help.

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Even former owners of the property dropped by and wanted to pitch in.

At his farm, cleanup first included going through the debris and trying to collect any salvageable personal belongings. Then, volunteers and friends began dividing out unsalvageable debris into piles of broken trees and piles of debris from the buildings.

They’ve also started burn piles for the broken trees.

Mickelson said he has only owned the property for two or three years. He and his wife, Lindsey, 23, got married last year.

He said he has lost almost everything, including his home and four sheds. One of his neighbor’s grain bins came from a half a mile away and was slammed into a bunch of his trees.

One person out helping Monday at the Mickelson home was Cory Desmet of the Hartland area.

Desmet said his girlfriend works at the Gopher Stop in Clarks Grove and she knows Mickelson.

“It’s our closest neighbor,” Desmet said. “They have enough damage they could definitely use the help.”

Also helping since Thursday has been the family of Bruce and Sue Hansen.

Sue Hansen said she and her family were spotting on a farm west of Mickelson’s property when the tornado struck. They saw the tornado destroy Mickelson’s farm and then rushed over to help.

Daughter Kari Hansen said the family arrived at the house 30 seconds later.

Next door, the Bath Township meeting house sits damaged.

Spread across various areas in Freeborn County on Monday were also employees of AgStar, who had taken the day off work to help their clients and others in the community clean up their fields.

AgStar employee Deb Steinfeldt said there were 50 AgStar employees from different locations who came to volunteer during the cleanup efforts on Monday.

The company’s Blue Earth office closed so all employees there could participate.

“A lot of our clients are affected, and we’re part of the community,” she said. “That’s our philosophy — helping those we can.”

Steinfeldt said the employees met earlier in the morning and then dispersed to different locations.

One group was searching the fields of Steve Ladwig in rural Manchester Monday morning.

“What we’re trying to focus on now is getting the fields clean of debris,” she said.

That’s so the property owners can continue with their farming.

The group hopes to help as many people as possible, and some employees hope to volunteer through the week.

“You can see it on TV and in pictures, but until you’re out here and see it in person it’s different,” Steinfeldt said.

“Good times and bad times we’re there,” employee Nancy Lewis added.

So far the group had found dishes, a picture, and an electrical box mixed in with all the tree damage.

The volunteers continued working despite rain that fell.

To find out about similar volunteer opportunities, contact the Freeborn County Chapter of the American Red Cross at 373-4544.