As storms down trees, helping hands step up

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Fr. Thomas Thompson, fifth from left, stands with friends and volunteers who, with the help of Catholic United Financial’s Response Mobile Unit, cleaned up damage from the July 21 storm at Fr. Thompson’s mother’s home in Comstock. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff
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Several communities in the Diocese of Superior suffered storm damage in July. The Comstock area was particularly hard hit by the July 19 storm.

Fr. Thomas Thompson’s mother, Ozzie Thompson, needed assistance after her garage and LP tank sustained damage. Fr. Thompson spent two days cutting trees just to get in her driveway. He said he was grateful no one was hurt.

He called on a good friend, a Knight of Columbus, who came from Balsam Lake with his wife, their son and daughter-in-law to help for about five hours.

“There was a lot of that going around the lake my Mom is on,” Fr. Thompson said. “Everyone helping everyone.”

The priest, who is the diocesan Director of Vocations and Seminarians and serves the Cumberland-Almena-Turtle Lake cluster, informed the Catholic United Financial Foundation, as he knew they had a disaster response trailer and team based in St. Paul.

Although the foundation has to wait to be “invited” into an area by the state, executive director Robert Heuermann said their team “would be ready if asked.”

On July 26, 20 people, including Heuermann, aided Fr. Thompson with clean-up at his mother’s home. They came from the area and as far away as St. Paul, Lino Lakes and Woodbury in Minnesota, in addition to Ozzie’s fellow parishioners at Our Lady of the Lakes in Balsam Lake.

Fr. Thompson said, “All were a great and wonderful help.” Some of the parish ladies even “took charge of the kitchen” and prepared a wonderful meal for all the volunteers.

The Catholic Communities of St. Anthony Abbot, Sacred Heart and St. Ann announced on their Facebook page that Cumberland’s Northern Lakes Church was offering a hot meal for those without power after the storm hit.

Barron Electric Cooperative, which serves the area, announced more than 9,500 members reported power outages and more than 100 power poles were down.

Paul Altmann, claims and risk manager for Catholic Mutual Group, which serves the region, reported the storms had not done any major damage to churches. However, he had received a lot of calls regarding downed trees in cemeteries and on church grounds.

“Thanks be to God, no ‘people damage,’” said Chris Newkirk, a diocesan employee based in Tony. She’s heard about parishioners and others in the Chetek, Almena, Barron, Turtle Lake, Ojibwa and Winter areas who were affected.

Newkirk is heartened by community members’ outreach when local needs arise.

“We really do have some great communities in our diocese who are always willing to serve their neighbors in need,” she said.

More on the mobile response unit is at www.catholicunitedfinancial.org/giving/foundation/catholic-united-response/.

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