GMRC employees aid families following Greenfield tornado

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GMRC Tornado Cleanup 1 - Six employees with Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company (GMRC) traveled to Greenfield on Friday, May 24 to help families cleanup and piece their lives back together following an EF-4 tornado that struck the community on May 21. Group members said the experience was heartfelt and humbling. Pictured are, from left: Dana Desrochers, Montezuma; Amanda Menninga, Newton; Ashley Millard, Des Moines; Traci Taylor, Malcom; Morgan Gallentine, Iowa City and Lindsey Warnick, Guernsey.

Scroll down for more pictures with captions.

by;  J.O. Parker

It was a heartfelt and humbling day for six employees of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company (GRMC) and one that they will never forget.

Lindsey Warnick, Guernsey; Amanda Menninga, Newton; Morgan Gallentine, Iowa City; Ashley Millard, Des Moines; Traci Taylor, Malcom; and Dana Desrochers, Montezuma recently traveled to Greenfield to do their part to help residents piece their lives back together following the EF-4 tornado that struck there on Tuesday, May 21.

“It was a very humbling experience,” said Desrochers. “We all saw the news stories and knew the tornado hit the town hard and wide, but until you see it firsthand, it’s hard to comprehend.”

The group left Grinnell early on the morning of Friday, May 24 to make the nearly two- hour trek to Greenfield.

“When we came into town, it was stormy looking and there was just such an eerie feel,” said Desrochers. “I can’t describe it. The smell in the air reminded me of our house fire (that my family experienced a few years ago).”

“I’m sure the tornado caused electrical fires and they had places where they were burning what they could,” added Desrochers. “It just gave me chills.”

When the group arrived in town, the Iowa State Patrol directed them to the Red Cross at the Catholic church where they were given rakes and directed to the fairgrounds to help there.

“When we got there, someone had already cleaned the fairgrounds up, so we decided to set off just looking for people who looked like they could use our help,” said Desrochers. “We ended up helping two households in an eight-hour day.”

The first stop was that of a single woman whose house was completely gone. Desrochers said the woman told them she was at work when the tornado hit and was thankful because she would have been buried in her basement if she had been home.

“It was just full of boards, debris, and tree limbs,” said Desrochers. “Right behind her property was a mechanic’s shop and vehicles were thrown onto her property, including an RV. With winds up to 175 mph, there were boards hurled into the ground at least a foot deep.”

The team of ladies jumped right in with the woman’s brother and his coworkers, dragging limbs and boards to the curb and filling buckets and wheelbarrows with debris.

Around noon, the group stopped for lunch and it was decided that they were going to move on to another home with less helpers.

The group stopped at an older lady’s house, who Desrochers said seemed overwhelmed. She thanked them for offering to help, saying that her insurance agent was there and that she didn’t get hit as bad as others.

            The group then walked around the block and saw an older couple sitting on what was left of their porch.

            “Their daughter and granddaughter were out by the curb looking a bit lost so we offered to help them and their eyes lit up,” recalled Desrochers. “’That would be great’,” the daughter said.”

Desrochers said the family told them that they had to have the things on the curb sorted by tree branches, household debris/trash and metal.

            “So, we began sorting,” said Desrochers. “We did so for a few hours and then they had help on the way with skid loaders and dump trucks to load it all up.”

            “Traci (Taylor) spoke with the owner of the property and she told her, in tears, that her neighbor and best friend a couple houses down was killed in the tornado,” Desrochers added. “So many are just thankful for their lives and know these things can be replaced.”

            The group ended their day by walking up a couple blocks and looking at the devastation and the path left by the tornado before returning to their vehicle for the trip home.

            “I’d seen pictures online prior to going to Greenfield, but pulling into town that day was indescribable and nothing that one could mentally prepare for,” said Taylor. “People were everywhere. They were organizing donations, cleaning up debris and running food around to helpers. It was pretty heart-warming to see. It reassures a person that even in some of the worst situations, people show up for you.”

Desrochers said she noticed very few vehicles in town that were not totaled, and that she wondered all weekend where those people were staying.

            “Someone told us they had to clear rooms at the school for a triage for injured but they didn’t say if they had set up hoteling stations as well,” said Desrochers. “I also didn’t see many pets. I did learn that AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport had visited the town and were helping many residents, even two misplaced baby raccoons.”

            Desrochers said she and the others were so thankful for an employer who allowed them to spend their workday volunteering in Greenfield.

             “I’m a busy mom, so after work hours get busy in a hurry with baseball games, practices and concessions stands,” she said. “To be able to do this during the workday was a definite yes from me and for the others.”

            Desrochers went on to say that she and her family have been on the other side of things when their house caught fire, “and the way people rally together is amazing.”

            “There is so much of a divide in the country right now and while you never want to see such a tragedy occur, it brings out and allows you to see the good in people,” Desrochers said.

            Taylor added that she and the group made a tiny dent in the cleanup efforts that day and that the team listened and hugged complete strangers, reassuring them that they will get through this.

“Overall, it was an incredibly emotional and moving experience,” said Taylor. “I’m so grateful to work for a company that recognizes the importance of taking care of our fellow people and showing up for them in their time of need. It’s truly a prime example of “The Grinnell Mutual Way.”

 

GMRC Tornado Cleanup 1 – Six employees with Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company (GMRC) traveled to Greenfield on Friday, May 24 to help families cleanup and piece their lives back together following an EF-4 tornado that struck the community on May 21. Group members said the experience was heartfelt and humbling. Pictured are, from left: Dana Desrochers, Montezuma; Amanda Menninga, Newton; Ashley Millard, Des Moines; Traci Taylor, Malcom; Morgan Gallentine, Iowa City and Lindsey
Warnick, Guernsey.
GMRC Tornado Cleanup 2 – GMRC volunteers spent Friday, May 24 helping Greenfield residents piece their lives back together by cleaning up tree limbs, trash, household debris and metal from the EF-4 tornado that struck the town on Tuesday, May 21. The group also talked with town residents, gave hugs and encouragement that things will get better.
GMRC Tornado Cleanup 3 – Traci Taylor, one of six GMRC employees, help with cleanup efforts in Greenfield on Friday, May 24, three days after an EF-4 tornado struck the town. “Overall, it was an incredibly emotional and moving experience,” said Taylor. “I’m so grateful to work for a company that recognizes the importance of taking care of our fellow people and showing up for them in their time of need.”
GMRC Tornado Cleanup 4 – Lindsey Warnick with GMRC helps with cleanup efforts in Greenfield following an EF-4 tornado that struck the town on Tuesday, May 21. Warnick was one of six GMRC employees who spent Friday, May 24 in Greenfield volunteering to help residents piece their lives back together.
GMRC Tornado Cleanup 5 – Ashley Millard with GMRC helps with cleanup efforts in Greenfield following an EF-4 tornado that struck the town on Tuesday, May 21. Millard was one of six GMRC employees who spent Friday, May 24 in Greenfield volunteering to help residents piece their lives back together.
GMRC Tornado Cleanup 6 – GMRC employees survey the damage to Greenfield following an EF-4 tornado that struck the town on Tuesday, May 21. Six GMRC employees traveled to Greenfield on Friday, May 24 where they spent the day helping two families as well as sharing lots of hugs and encouraging words with those they talked with.