More than 800 cases of people struggling to recover 1 year after tornadoes

A Year of Recovery

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — In the weeks after the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes, the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group was formed to help people rebuild and recover. While some progress has been in the last year, some communities still have a long way to go.

“I mean, I was sitting in a corner scared to death,” recalls Jeff Vincke. “I called my sister, and I said I don’t know what’s going on, but hey, if I’m not here tomorrow I love you all.”

Jeff’s Troy Street home sustained major damage in the tornadoes.

“Glass breaking everywhere. I mean, down in the basement, windows, all these front windows, glass was shattering everywhere. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know if my house was gone or whatever,” remembers Jeff. “I was picking out pieces of glass from the walls where it just threw it into the walls.”

Jeff was uninsured and received a little more than $4,000 from FEMA, but it was going to take much more to repair his home.

“I think I got 3-4 estimates and every one of them was about $30,000-$35,000 to repair my house.”

A year later, there are finally signs of progress with repairs to his roof, windows, and siding.

“The tornado actually picked up the roof and set it back down on the house,” describes Ben Deacon the Construction Manager for County Corp.

Jeff’s home is one of about 70 County Corp is working on.

“Basements were flooded, roofs were removed or damaged, gutters pulled off, siding repairs,” lists Deacon.

County Corp is one of more than two dozen organizations working with the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group and The Dayton Foundation, helping those uninsured and under-insured.

“People thought they had good homeowner’s insurance only to find out the damage that they had was not covered,” states Vice President of Housing for County Corp, Adam Blake. “A lot of families simply couldn’t afford the deductible that came with the insurance.”

The Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group is handling more than 800 cases. About $2.6 million dollars has been contributed to the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund.

“Whatever that gap is we can fill with one of three things,” says Laura Mercer, Executive Director of the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group.

The group is helping struggling families to bridge the gap with muscle, material, and money.

The challenge has always been getting people into the system. Some homes sit as shells, untouched with many not knowing where to turn. The Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group has been placing signs in yards where they are working to let people know help is still out there.

“We found that when we’re working on homes, people will stop by and say hey what are your doing, who are you with, how do I get help?” says Mercer.

Those needing help are urged to call United Way’s 211 number. The Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group is making a final push to get those people in the system by August 1.

“We still know there’s a number of households out there that have not reached out,” admits Jeanne Holihan, the Vice President of Operations for The Dayton Foundation.

“I think that people have been reticent to ask for help. A lot of it is pride,” says Mercer. “They’re used to taking care of themselves. Asking for help is not easy for everybody.”

In the last year, progress has been made clearing debris, but there are still pockets within the community that haven’t changed.

“If you don’t live in those areas you may forget, but if you drive through some of the impacted areas, it’s clear that there still will be a lot of need,” states Holihan.

The overall recovery could take a decade, and while time can improve the damage etched in the landscape, years cannot erase the memory.

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