Traveling Samaritans help Portland community cleanup following tornado

Posted at 8:33 PM, Jun 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-24 21:36:10-04

PORTLAND, Mich. -- Dayna Gustafson said she was on the phone telling her son to drive safely because of the impending storm. Moments after that conversation, she said the weather turned bad and heavy rains and high winds swept in.

“I knew it was a tornado and just ran to the basement," Gustafson said.

She explained, “I maybe spent 30 seconds in the basement and when I came up, this is what you saw.”

Trees and tree branches were scattered everywhere in her yard. Mud is on the outside walls and pillars of her home on Warren Street. The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado had touched down.

“My yard was demolished,” she described.

The white church on the corner was destroyed. Gustafson said she's lived in Portland all of her life and this the first time she’s been through a storm of this magnitude. But dealing with the tornado’s aftermath has been bearable considering she has many helping hands.

Neighbors along with a group of 16 students from Chicago put their energy towards returning Warren Street to pre-tornado conditions. It was to Gustafson's surprise.

“Amazing, amazing what they’re doing. Cleaning this up," she said.

Father Nathan Caswell said, "I've never had so many people offer me water in one day. Haha. It's really great."

Seeing the damaged churches on the corner hits home with Caswell. He's here all the way from Chicago and said he and the group of boys happen to be staying at a farm near Paw Paw.

“We just heard it on the evening news yesterday, and one of the kids said, ‘We should go help them,’" Caswell recalled.

He added, "We were out on the farm working, I was like, ‘Yea.' It was hard to argue with that [because] we love it when they take initiative, and they do good stuff. So we got in the vans this morning and just came up.”

While the boys did a good deed and helped out in a time of need. Caswell said he's taking away a lesson he's learned about the city of Portland.

“It’s good to see when we’re out here, that there’s so many people from the town... united and everyone has such a positive spirit here, and it’s so worth it to come here," Caswell told FOX 17.

Tutt Gorman, Portland's city manager, said homeowners who need assistance will be able to check in with the Portland Community Fund for help.