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Lakes area storm focus shifts to long-term recovery efforts

While the most visible damage has been addressed, many Brainerd lakes area residents continue to struggle with property damage, tree removal, lost wages and the emotional and physical toll of the July 12 storm.

While the most visible damage has been addressed, many Brainerd lakes area residents continue to struggle with property damage, tree removal, lost wages and the emotional and physical toll of the July 12 storm.

The initial response to the massive wind storm that slashed through the area is winding down, but the need for continued financial and volunteer support remains essential, area relief organizers say.

"We continue to get calls from people who are experiencing significant stress," said Jana Shogren, executive director for Bridges of Hope, a Brainerd lakes area nonprofit that is partnering with other area agencies and local units of government to spearhead relief efforts. "We'll be following up on cases for weeks and maybe even months."

A $5,000 emergency matching grant provided to Bridges of Hope by the Initiative Foundation has been met, but donations are still welcome to meet ongoing needs. Visit the Bridges of Hope Response Fund page at https://app.mobilecause.com/f/i5g/n to make your contribution.

The financial support will help Bridges as it works to manage and dispatch volunteer crews, keep up with its call volume and meet individual needs such as rent and utilities assistance for those who missed work in the weeks following the storm.

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The storm with wind speeds estimated at up to 95 mph brought down thousands of trees, damaged buildings and left 17,000 people without power. The main damage path was 8 miles long and 3 miles wide between Brainerd and Nisswa.

Terry Sluss, volunteer services supervisor for the northern Minnesota branch of the American Red Cross, said a house-by-house assessment has found one home completely destroyed and eight others with major damage. Minor damage was reported at another 60 single-family homes.

"Tucked into the area there still is a lot of need that we haven't addressed yet," Sluss said.

Bridges of Hope continues to take calls at 218-825-7682 for assistance from those who lack the means to rebound from the disaster or who were set back by lost wages as a result of the storm. Of the 140 calls Bridges has logged since the storm, 90 have resulted in storm-related actions - from tree removal to mental health support to food-related needs. Bridges provided tree and debris removal information to the remaining callers.

The Salvation Army served 2,700 meals during the week immediately following the storm.

The Red Cross to date has provided 6,552 cases of water or bags of ice, and their mobile unit distributed 2,089 individual bottles of water and snacks to residents and volunteer workers.

The Minnesota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster continues to have several volunteer chainsaw crews dispatched in the area and will continue to work on jobs referred to them by Bridges of Hope.

"A sense of normalcy is returning to many of the more visible areas that were affected by the storm," said Dan Frank, senior program manager for community and economic development at the Initiative Foundation. "Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who may not have the means to recover from a disaster of this nature. They're still coming forward, and they still need help."

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To learn more about relief efforts and how to help, visit the Bridges of Hope blog at https://bridgesofhopemn.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/storm-2015-relief-effor... .

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