On July 19, an EF-1 tornado ripped through the historic downtown of McGregor, Iowa, tearing away the second floor of the Inkspiration tattoo studio, and raining bricks on cars parked nearby. Half a block away, the historic two-story Goedert Meat Market Building was reduced to a pile of debris. Lifelong residents had never seen such destruction in their hometown.
What happened next was a testament to the power of generosity. Immediately after the storm, Clayton County Emergency Services, the Salvation Army, volunteers and a crew of campers from an outdoor ministry in Minnesota jumped in to help with recovery efforts. “With power out, Kwik Star distributed fresh food to our volunteers and citizens,” says Lynette Sander, McGregor city clerk. “One older couple even arrived from out of town and offered to rake our parks.”
The Community Foundation was also ready to offer immediate assistance. In less than 24 hours, Foundation staff established the Restore McGregor 2017 Tornado Fund in coordination with McGregor officials, and spread the word through press releases and emails. In just two days, people from all over the country contributed $10,000 to the fund, which has since grown to $35,000.
"This fund will be part of our long-term strategy to come back stronger than ever." - Duane Boelman, McGregor Director of Economic Development
Community foundations frequently engage as philanthropic centers for disaster recovery because of their unique ability to bring together service providers, community-based organizations, businesses, government and others—as well as their capacity to distribute funds from donors.
Disaster preparedness is just one way that community foundations take the long view for their communities. Gifts to the Community Impact Fund, for example—a general fund dedicated to future community needs—help our community prepare for unknown challenges.
“We have no idea what issues our region will face in 10, 20 or 50 years,” says Nancy Van Milligen, CFGD president and CEO. “The greatest strength of a community foundation is its ability to ensure that the gifts you make today help future generations when they need them most.”
The citizens of McGregor are grateful for the help they received when they needed it most. Just ten days after the tornado, the community was already on the mend. Debris had been cleared away and antique and gift shops were open for business.
“We were very lucky,” says Sander. “No one was injured. Currently, our residents are all in safe housing and have food and basic needs fully met. This is an amazing community, and together I believe we will turn this storm into a growing opportunity.”
According to Duane Boelman, McGregor director of economic development, community members will decide how to use the funds raised through the Restore McGregor fund. “We are convening a citizen committee to determine the most important ways we can use these donations to leverage and accelerate our restoration. With the immediate human needs met, we are considering the Restore McGregor funds as match for historic building repairs and improvements. This fund will be part of our long-term strategy to come back stronger than ever.”
Learn more or make a gift online at www.dbqfoundation.org/mcgregor.
This story was featured in Giving Matters Summer 2017