A city -wide natural disaster rebuilding effort took place in Springfield Massachusetts Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of the June 1st tornadoes. The city was also awarded more federal funds to cover some of the costs to repair its tornado damaged infrastructure. WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
As the anniversary of the June 1st tornadoes in western Massachusetts approaches, the recovery has come a long way, but there are stark reminders there is still a long way to go.
Janice Brown, a single mother of five children has spent the last year living in a crowded apartment. Her Springfield home which was in the path of the tornado was condemned. Then a contractor took her insurance money and left before finishing the repairs.
Brown says she’s been given hope today that her fortunes are about to reverse because her’s was one of ten homes worked on by more than 300 volunteer laborers organized by the Springfield affiliate of the national non-profit Rebuilding Together.
The volunteers were to put vinyl siding on Brown’s home and do electrical and HVAC work inside. Other projects ranged from a wall raising of a destroyed garage, removing trees and stumps, painting exteriors, repairing roofs, replacing windows and doors, planting trees , shrubs, flowers and debris removal.
One group of volunteers from the Massachusetts chapter of AARP fixed up the home of 91 year old Doris Work so that she can continue to live in the house she and her late husband built nearly 60 years ago.
Colleen Loveless, the executive director of Springfield Rebuilding Together said the organization has repaired 37 homes using volunteers and donated supplies in the past year.
Before the volunteers set off to work, Masschusetts Lt Governor Timothy Murray announced $75 thousand for Rebuilding Toghether. He said the organization helps fill gaps that will always exist in government programs and insurance.
Murray also announced more tornado relief funding for Springfield. $1.3 million dollars to reimburse the city for emergency repairs that were made to streets and sidewalks damaged by the tornado.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city is still trying to recover financially from devastating blow it took a year ago.
State officials say that to date, individuals, businesses and homeowners have received more than $26.7 million in federal disaster assistance to cover uninsured losses from the tornadoes. The Division of Insurance says 98 percent of all tornado damage claims have been settled and insurance companies have paid out more than $200 million.