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'Our community is so hopeful': Michiganders rally to support Gaylord community after deadly tornado

Two people died in the EF-3 tornado. As the town rebuilds, people are coming to help from hours away.

GAYLORD, Mich. — Sunday was the first time many families were able to see their destroyed homes following an EF-3 tornado in Gaylord, Michigan. While survivors combed through the rubble, they were joined by volunteers from all over the state compelled to lend a hand.

"I’m here with my daughters and just wanted to come be of service," said Mark Drinkall, who drove in from Petoskey. "From what I’ve heard, many hands make light work, and people want to come and help out."

According to Megan Hacker, assistant executive director of the Otsego County United Way, those many hands have come from every corner of the state, including Lansing, Holland and Saginaw. 

"Our community is so hopeful and so full of love, I think everybody feels it," Hacker said. "The people who have been affected have gotten overwhelming support even with just cleaning up debris in the yard."

RELATED: Residents of mobile home park destroyed by tornado return to damage

Hacker and her United Way team had been operating out of the E-Free Church in the days following the tornado, but by Sunday, they had been overwhelmed with donations to the point where they moved everything other than clothing out of the church and over to their headquarters elsewhere in Gaylord—which Hacker says is where people know to find them.

Early on, Hacker said batteries, chargers, blankets and other immediate need items were top priority. In the next few days, she says food will become the most important, as the power outage caused people in town to lose anything they had in refrigerators. She also mentioned the importance of totes and garbage bags to assist with cleanup efforts.

They have been giving out gift cards for gas and grocery stores, as well as prepaid cell phones to help displaced community members contact their families. 

RELATED: What makes the Gaylord tornado so rare

They also got a hefty donation of $500 from a group of local kids. Ben, Ezra, Addison, Hannah and Carson sold painted rocks to neighbors and family members to raise money.

"We went around the neighborhood seeing how the houses are destroyed and we felt so sad. We went around giving them waters with mini heart rocks that we made," Addison said. "We just wanted to make people feel good and we wanted to do a good thing."

To donate to relief efforts in Gaylord, support the Otsego County United Way here

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