Significant progress made a year after Portland tornado

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jun 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-22 21:33:20-04

PORTLAND, Mich. -- The city of Portland suffered millions of dollars in damage during last year's tornado. Exactly one year later, significant progress has been made for many.

"Our store is twice the size it was," said Jill Wallace, a spokesperson for Goodwill.

Wallace gave FOX 17 a tour of the newly rebuilt store. The previous structure was damaged by an EF-1 tornado that ripped through town on June 22, 2015.

"Obviously when the tornado hit we had a lot of decisions to make. Do we rebuild? Do we build bigger or smaller? What does our footprint look like here?" Wallace said.

She said community members gave input. Not only did they want the Goodwill rebuilt, they wanted a job training center. It's an added bonus for a community that's shown resilience since day one.

"A year ago today, I was here. And I saw everybody working so hard immediately after the tornado. Cutting trees, ya know, just picking up things in the street," Wallace said.  She everyone being in good spirits and looking out for each other.

FOX 17 also spoke with Ron Nelson of Portland First Congregational Church.

"The goal was to not duplicate but to replicate," he said of the new sanctuary,

Nelson said the building is 95 percent complete.  The tornado destroyed the historic sanctuary, which was built back in 1877. The storm brought down the church bell and steeple which landed in the pews. But Nelson said architects managed to bring back that 19th century design of the sanctuary with better use of space.

"So the bell is back in its place. It's working very well. In fact, it will be rung tonight is the plan," Nelson said.

The community is gathering on Bridge Street at 7 p.m. to commemorate the storm and look at how far they've come since then.

Goodwill is holding a grand opening on Saturday, June 25 at 9 a.m.